The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

A dissatisfactory G7

Vanya Walker-Leigh Thursday, 8 June 2017, 12:49 Last update: about 3 years ago

"Difficult not to say dissatisfactory" was  Chancellor Angela Merkel's much quoted take on last week's two-day Taormina G7 summit's failed tussle on climate change ‒  pitting President Trump vs the leaders of Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and the UK.

"Here we have a situation of six against one, meaning there is still no sign of whether the US will remain in the Paris accord (on climate change) or not," she added in off the cuff remarks to the German media. On returning home, she stated at a public meeting that the US and the UK were no longer "reliable partners".

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As host of the G20 summit in Hamburg (6-7 July), the Chancellor will be tabling an ambitious "climate and energy plan" for adoption by political leaders - or by 19 of them if President Trump again refuses to sign on.

Escalating the attack on the US President, Germany's foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday that "anyone who accelerates climate change by weakening environmental protection, who sells more weapons in conflict zones and who does not want to politically resolve religious conflicts is putting peace in Europe at risk. The short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union. We Europeans must fight for more climate protection, fewer weapons and against religious [fanaticism], otherwise the Middle East and Africa will be further destabilised."

Hopes that President Trump's private conversations on 25 May with Pope Francis and the Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin might inspire him towards a positive decision on the Paris Agreement in time for the G7 meeting proved unfounded.

The final G7 communiqué stated that "the United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics. Understanding this process, the Heads of State and Government of Canada, France, Germany Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom and the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement as previously stated at the Shima Summit (in 2016)."

The US is the world's second largest greenhouse gas emitter after China - together accounting for over 40% of global emissions. The US withdrawal from the Agreement and consequent non-implementation of emission reduction commitments made under its Nationally Determined Contribution would seriously reduce collective efforts to limit global warming to a maximum of 2C above pre-industrial levels while "pursuing efforts" as per the Agreement to achieve 1.5c - deemed a "survival frontier" by dozens of vulnerable developing nations.

Other issues dividing the US from the other six included trade and migration.

On trade, Trump's support for protectionism, harsh criticism of other nations' trading practices and intention to negotiate new deals "fairer" to the US were opposed by the other leaders' strong advocacy of continued free trade. The final communiqué balances the two, stating that "we reiterate our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight protectionism while standing firm against all unfair trade practices".

On migration, the communiqué called for an "emergency and long-term" approach to migrant flows. Greater focus on migration drivers in countries of origin (such as poverty and political instability) while emphasising (seen as a concession to the US and the UK) "the sovereign rights of states, individually and collectively, to control their own borders and to establish policies in their own national interest and national security".

The six-page final communiqué (as compared to 32 pages at last year's G7 hosted by Japan)  indicated agreements on foreign policy issues (including Libya, Syria, Ukraine, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons) commitments to "achieve strong sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth", increased energy security, (but no mention of ending inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 as per last year's G7). Greater support to Africa's development and lifting 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. (Nearly 900 million are currently estimated to be chronically hungry).

Two separate documents were also endorsed namely G7 roadmap for a gender-responsive economic environment and G7 people-centred action plan on innovation, skills and labour.


 


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