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UK’s G-7 gives a taste of upcoming climate conference

By AFP - Jun 12,2021 - Last updated at Jun 12,2021

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and US President Joe Biden attend a working session at the G-7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, on Saturday (AFP photo)

CARBIS BAY, United Kingdom — Britain is using its G-7 summit to mobilise allies ahead of the COP26 conference in November in Glasgow amid pressure from environmental groups to make the meeting count.

The climate emergency, with the COVID-19 pandemic, is high on the agenda at the summit for wealthy nations in bucolic Cornwall in southwest England this weekend.

On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson restated his aim of a “green industrial revolution” to meet environmental challenges and create jobs after the global health crisis.

Both the optics of the summit as well as its politics are important for Britain, which hosts the UN climate change conference in Scotland in November.

“The UK has a serious moral responsibility to lead the way on climate and nature both as a big historical emitter of carbon but also as the host of those big conferences,” Greenpeace UK’s head of politics Rebecca Newsom told AFP.

“We need to see proper action, otherwise our world leaders are failing us,” she said.

Greenpeace released a striking video for the occasion, deploying 300 drones to form animal shapes in the sky and urge action on biodiversity as well as the climate.


Halving carbon emissions 


The summit also played host to a series of demonstrations with protesters vying for attention.

Oxfam activists wore masks showing the faces of the summit’s leaders while others, urging Japan to stop burning coal, dressed as giant Pokemon character Pikachu.

Overwhelmingly, strict security measures kept the demonstrators away from the leaders’ meetings in the seaside resort of Carbis Bay.

Only Extinction Rebellion protesters briefly breached one police cordon.

“We’re hopeful that [US] President Biden has changed the dynamic on climate change and that we will see the ambitious targets that we need from the G-7,” said Oxfam campaigner Max Lawson.

Johnson is pushing for G-7 countries to halve their carbon emissions by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5ºC.

The commitment was one of the major advances made by the United States at a US climate conference in April.

G-7 environment ministers subsequently committed to end public support for coal-fired power stations this year.

In Cornwall, the leaders might also adopt a common position on new polluting cars, following Britain’s example, which has pledged to ban the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

However, they are not expected to make any high-profile announcements on fossil fuels, despite calls by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to halt extraction projects.

Britain has continued to allow new drilling in the North Sea.

Johnson has been criticised for sending mixed signals on climate change, even though the country has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050.


‘Climate justice’ 


Johnson flew to Cornwall from London in less than an hour instead of taking a four-hour train ride, to the ire of environmentalists.

“What impression does flying from London to Cornwall give at the outset of climate talks?” Friends of the Earth asked on Twitter, urging the prime minister to take the issues seriously.

Johnson is also looking to push the G-7 for progress on biodiversity, and a commitment to protect at least 30 per cent of the globe’s land and oceans.

Ali Tabriz, director of the hit Netflix documentary “Seaspiracy”, said action was needed to tackle the impact of industrial fishing.

“The oceans, for many years, have been the neglected environmental issue, and this is why the plundering has been allowed to continue,” he said.

“We’ve lost 90 per cent of the large fish in our oceans in just the last several decades, and many species are on the brink of extinction.”

For climate activists, financing to encourage developing countries to act on the environment is a key issue that must be resolved if the Paris climate agreements are to be met.

French NGO Réseau Action Climat (Climate Action Network) wants major countries to meet commitments to provide $100 billion a year in aid for the energy transition, saying the G-7 could commit to “green” infrastructure funding.

“Without an announcement of increased funding, the chances of success for the climate negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow in November are diminishing,” Network member Aurore Mathieu warned, adding that action was “about climate justice”.

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