The European Union and the United States have agreed to work together on a series of climate, technology, and sustainable investment initiatives, possibly including a carbon border adjustment, just days after a G7 summit that is being written off as a failure on the two biggest crises the world’s wealthiest countries face—climate change, and COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told media yesterday, following a meeting with European Council president Charles Michel and U.S. President Joe Biden. “We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that [the World Trade Organization] might facilitate this.”
The statement showed up in the very last paragraph of the commission’s published statement on the summit. Earlier paragraphs declared the EU and the U.S. “natural partners in the fight for our planet’s future” and offered further work on climate diplomacy ahead of this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP 26, along with a focus on sustainable technologies and investment.
“We saw on both sides that there is a lot of private capital out there that is looking for true green investment—not greenwashing, but true green investment,” von der Leyen said. “And to work on such a global framework that defines it, as we have done and started it with our taxonomy here in the European Union, this is a common goal. Because we know that the private sector can play a decisive role and will play a decisive role in our fight against climate change.”
But an EU border levy “could still cause friction,” Reuters reports. “A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminum, and fertilizers,” with the EU looking to put European firms “on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies”.
While the EU and the U.S. laid bold plans to carry on their discussions, European Climate Foundation CEO Laurence Tubiana was urging rich countries to “come forward with detailed plans on how they hope to meet their climate targets,” the Guardian reports. She also called on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as host of both the G7 gathering and COP 26, to “forge much closer relationships with developing countries to bring about the breakthrough needed on the climate crisis this year.”
The G7 summit over the weekend “achieved much less than campaigners had hoped, with no significant new cash forthcoming for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, on the front lines of climate breakdown,” the paper adds. “There were promises by the world’s richest economies to halt funding for coal, but they fell short of the pledge to end all new fossil fuel development that experts have said will be needed.”
That left Tubiana, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement, urging countries to pick up the pace in the 20 weeks remaining before this year’s conference.
“COP 26 will be a moment of truth,” she told the Guardian. That means it’s time for national leaders to “crack on with fleshing out the details of this global Marshall Plan for green recovery and getting everyone everywhere vaccinated—and crucially, that means putting up the investment to make all this possible.”
The U.S.-EU summit and Tubiana’s comments played out as developing countries on the front lines of both the climate crisis and the pandemic absorbed the outcome of the G7 summit—and declared it a failure.
“Only Canada and Germany set out new climate finance pledges, which were insufficient to plug the gap,” Climate Home News writes, and “experts warn that without that money on the table, November’s COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK, will flop.”
Pakistan climate minister Malik Amin Aslam told Climate Home the G7’s climate finance announcement was “a huge disappointment” and “peanuts in the face of an existential catastrophe,” adding that “countries responsible for this inescapable crisis need to live up to their stated commitments.” If they don’t, “the upcoming climate negotiations could well become an exercise in futility.”
“If the 100 billion [goal] is not delivered before COP 26 then cancel it!” tweeted Saleemul Huq, of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development.
“Trust is at stake,” added Diann Black-Layne of Antigua and Bermuda, the lead climate negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). “The Paris Agreement was built on trust, and can fall apart just as easily if that trust is broken. It will only get harder from here on in to achieve the kind of political consensus required to send as strong a signal as the G7 could have.”
Climate Home has more reaction to the G7 result, while UK Green Party MP Caroline Lucas points to the summit’s dual failure on climate and vaccines. “If the G7 is to remain relevant (and there are plenty of voices saying it isn’t), it had to show leadership on the key challenges facing our world – most urgently, the global distribution of COVID vaccines and a strategy to tackle the climate emergency at the speed and scale the science demands,” she writes for iNews. “On both, it fell short.”
Biden and the other G7 leaders “styled themselves as champions in the war against the coronavirus,” agrees the Washington Post’s Today’s WorldView newsletter. “But public health advocates and international organizations are adamant that the steps outlined this past weekend in Cornwall are not big enough. For months, the United States, Britain, and Canada practiced vaccine hoarding, amassing stockpiles that helped get more than 50% of their populations at least partially inoculated, even as poorer nations elsewhere had yet to even distribute doses to their medical workers on the front lines of the pandemic.”
In the days leading up to the G7 meeting, Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland and International Chamber of Commerce Chair Paul Polman were among the voices warning that the Paris climate deal could fall apart if poorer countries can’t get fast, equitable access to vaccines. But the leaders of the world’s seven richest economies only came up with a billion doses, against an estimated need for 11 billion.
“There is an obvious link between equitable access to vaccines and action on climate change,” Scotland said last week. “Only if we invest in equitable vaccine access and stand against vaccine nationalism will we beat COVID-19. Only if we ensure every country is able to afford to deal with its climate challenges will we be able to reach a meaningful agreement on a way forward.”
“We can’t have global solidarity and trust around tackling climate change if we do not show solidarity around vaccines,” agreed Polman, a former CEO of consumer products conglomerate Unilever. “Developing countries will not come with more ambitious (climate) targets if they do not see developed countries showing some solidarity on vaccines, and climate funding.”