The G7 summit begins this Friday, and it seems like it is already off to a – quite literally – flying start, although not in the way we’d hope. Prime Minister Boris Johnson chose to travel to Cornwall (a location chosen because it’s seen as central to the UK’s green energy sector) by private jet, despite the fact that aviation accounts for 2.5 per cent of CO2 emissions. This is a good indicator of how the summit will inevitably pan out.
Composed of the world’s seven so-called largest “advanced” economies, the G7 is an organisation that regularly conducts meetings, makes agreements and publishes joint statements on global affairs. Despite having enriched themselves over decades with resources gained through colonial empire, the G7 countries have shown themselves to care only about their own interests, denying a seat at the table to the colonised and previously colonised nations most impacted by their decisions.
With many of the constituents of the G7 having used their veto power time and time again to block idiosyncratic treaties on climate disaster, it seems inevitable that the G7 will again use this summit to promote high-carbon “free trade” whilst using the language of saving the planet.
This exclusionary behaviour is replicated at the G7’s own decision-making table. Just one of the leaders present will be female at a summit that will shape how the world responds to the ongoing climate and ecological emergency, even though 80 per cent of people displaced by climate change are women.
Furthering this, women are 14 times more likely than men to die of natural disaster. To make matters worse, the Cop26 leadership team comprises only three women, compared to nine men; establishing a clear gender imbalance. It is clear that those most impacted by the climate crisis are consistently excluded from every level of the decision-making process, and without those on the frontlines having agency, resources, and self-determination, the status quo of rich countries accounting their way out of responsibility will inexorably continue.
In recent days, words from the prime minister urging the G7 to adopt a “Marshall Plan on climate” might seem to provide a glimmer of hope for the massive global changes needed to mitigate the worst impacts of climate catastrophe. Yet the picture below the surface is less than inspiring. With the Bank of England scaling up its quantitative easing programme to an unprecedented scale, banks such as HSBC and Barclays continue to use this liquidity to finance new fossil fuel projects, constituting a wrecking ball for both climate targets and welfare in the countries where such infrastructure is built.
A recent Greenpeace report found that with its bloated financial sector, the City of London’s contribution to global heating would be the 9th biggest in the world; were it a country. To have any chance of averting course, the robust mutualism and destructive power of big finance and fossil capital must be rapidly suppressed.
Despite the UK government’s perennial tendency to follow up green platitudes with regressive deeds, there is another course they could chart. The treasury should unlock the full potential of the Bank of England, attaching real conditions to its asset purchasing to end the government’s support for fossil financing banks. Instead, the money should flow into a publicly controlled Green Investment Bank, to bring sorely needed funds to areas and sectors of the UK damaged by neglect and deindustrialisation.
The UK can kick off a global green revolution, restructuring the UK’s export finance facility to pay down our colonial debt instead of building a new coal mine in Mozambique. In partnership with the most powerful economies in the world, the G7 could tackle this emergency with ambition and imagination; building a global green development facility, where wealthier nations donate research and materials to raise the living standards of the world’s poorest sustainably.
Britain is entering this summit in the untenable position of being determined to present as a global leader on climate, whilst wilfully underwriting the worst of its impacts. That’s why young climate activists from across the UK have gathered in Cornwall to show these world leaders that their climate destruction won’t be met without protest.
What we are calling for is simple; it’s global debt cancellation in place of the UK deciding to cut development aid, it’s providing green technology like the infrastructure Cornwall is famed for producing to countries in the so-called “global south” so we can ensure a just transition for all instead of exploiting those nations resources for our own green tech, it’s public ownership of public services and it’s about climate justice; not western-centric, mediocre climate action.
The choice at this summit is simple: it’s deciding between fuelling corporate monopolies or saving the planet, and the two are most certainly mutually exclusive. Young people may not be at the decision-making table, but our presence in Cornwall and across the world is not going to be unnoticed as we continue to speak out for people and the planet.
Even though this summit is sure to be a letdown, the prospect of a global green economy being attained isn’t that far fetched when you consider just how many people are advocating for social and climate justice. After all, democracy means “people power”, not polluting power, and the people want a green new deal for all.