Mixed reaction in wake of G7 summit

The conclusion of the G7 summit on Cornwall has left business leaders and campaigners in the UK agreeing with many of the leaders' sentiments but questioning if sufficient practical steps had been agreed.

The final communique from the summit late on Sunday said the leaders had agreed a plan to donate a billion Covid-19 vaccinations to poorer nations, and establish a programme to phase out coal-fired power stations without carbon capture technology, while raising $100 billion to help developing nations cut emissions.Under the 'build back better' campaign, the G7 agreed to set up a rival to the Chinese 'belt and road' initiative by offering developing countries a transparent green route to investment in ports, roads and digital infrastructure. Details about how such a scheme would operate, how much financing would be offered and when it might happen, have not been agreed.The leaders also agreed to "respond" to China's impact on world trade and challenge practices that "undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy".Jennifer Hillman, from the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, told the Guardian on Monday that the White House last week produced a report on “building resilient supply chains, revitalising manufacturing and fostering broad-based growth”. The paper was not just a blueprint to revive the US economy, she said, but was about getting American and European capitalism fit enough to compete with state-sponsored Chinese capitalism.The report focused on semi-conductor manufacturing; large-capacity batteries, such as those for electric vehicles; critical minerals and materials; and pharmaceuticals and advanced pharmaceutical ingredients.Ms Hillman said that in every product sector, the White House made explicit reference to “working with Europe”. This, she added, “is not all about decoupling from China but instead adding resilience to supply chains and ending sole sourcing. It’s less about shutting down trade, but being more competitive".Lord Bilimoria, the president of the UK's largest business organisation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that, for too long, the pursuit of protectionism in some parts of the world has been allowed to escalate.Now, he added: “The G7 has drawn a line in the sand by reaffirming the benefits of free and fair trade, while recognizing the urgent need for reform at the WTO (World Trade Organisation). This can be built on as we head to the G20 later in the year."On climate and biodiversity commitments, Lord Bilimoria said that commitments by the G7 represented "a key piece of the puzzle, but only one piece" and there must now be "concrete action on the ground, using legislation as the tool for change and utilising the force of business".He added: “The B7 (leading business groups across the G7) committed to further develop a set of specific principles for understanding business activity on biodiversity and supports business in quantifying their impact on nature and how to value natural assets and services. A lot of work is underway already.   “After this weekend, the UK must now lead the charge, building up momentum to wider agreements this year at the G20 and COP26 in Glasgow. Businesses have a significant role to play in protecting biodiversity and creating a sustainable future for all."Although the CBI welcomed the pledge of a billion vaccinations for poorer nations from the G7 - half of them from the US and 100 million expected from both the UK and Canada - charities said the commitment did not go nearly far enough.UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres agreed. "We need more than that," he said. "We need a global vaccination plan. We need to act with a logic, with a sense of urgency, and with the priorities of a war economy, and we are still far from getting that."Kirsty McNeill from Crack the Crises - a coalition of charities and NGOs including Save the Children and Oxfam - went further, telling the BBC that the G7 summit had been a "historic missed opportunity" as far as both Covid-19 and climate change were concerned.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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