As Scott Morrison flies to Europe for the G7 summit, here's what's on the agenda

  • Jun 10, 2021
  • SBS

The Group of Seven wealthy democracies is meeting in England from 11-13 June, hoping to show the West still leads when it comes to tackling major global crises.

Among the other countries invited to the summit is Australia, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison arriving via Singapore for talks with leader Lee Hsien Loong. He'll attend three sessions at the G7 - on health, the economy and climate - and meet with leaders individually on the sidelines.

This year's summit will be the first in two years after the 2020 meeting - scheduled for Camp David in the United States - was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the world a very different place now than it was when leaders last met in 2019 in Biarritz, here are the key issues set to be discussed in Cornwall this weekend.

The US and UK are miles ahead of most countries when it comes to getting COVID-19 jabs into arms.

But with vaccine inequality rife, the US has only recently started donating excess vials to nations in need and Britain’s health secretary says the UK doesn’t currently have any to spare.

The UN's children's charity is asking the G7 countries - Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US - to donate 20 per cent of their vaccine stocks to developing nations by August.

“In some countries, we’ve seen health systems collapsing because all of the healthcare workers who are treating COVID patients are not getting vaccinated themselves,” UNICEF vaccine advocacy lead Lily Caprani told SBS News.

“It’s not a choice that you have to either protect your people or protect others across the world. We’re only going to be safe when everyone’s safe. It’s a global pandemic which needs a global solution.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he hopes to secure another one billion vaccine doses for poorer nations by the conclusion of the summit.

With the Cornwall coast as a backdrop, the presidents and prime ministers will discuss new climate commitments, some of which are already known.

G7 environment ministers agreed last month to revised targets, designed to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celcius, rather than the previous goal of 2 degrees.

Environmental activists have praised the move, but are eager to hear more.

“Setting those long-term targets is necessary, but not sufficient,” said Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group.

“Now you’ve got to establish long-term plans about how you’re going to do it. We need to see some detail behind it.”

G7 nations will also commit to stop the direct funding of coal-fired power stations in poorer nations by the end of this year.

Mr Morrison’s resistance to set more ambitious climate commitments is likely to be challenged by other leaders, albeit in a private setting.

“[Australia's is] a real outlier position now that the US has a president in place who puts climate at the centre of his platform,” Ms Clarkson said.

As a guest nation, however, Australia will not be required to agree with decisions made by full members.

In a foreign policy speech on Wednesday ahead of his trip to England, Mr Morrison did not make any new commitments to lift Australia's climate targets, saying "ambition alone won't solve the problem of actually reducing emissions".

China has previously warned the G7 not to meddle in its internal affairs, but confronting Beijing’s economic might as the world emerges from the pandemic will be a key topic of discussion behind closed doors.

Russia was once part of the G8, before being kicked out following the annexation of Crimea.

US Predident Joe Biden will be meeting one-on-one with Vladimir Putin in Geneva next week and will be seeking the support of like-minded leaders keen to confront Russian aggression - both in Eastern Europe and online.

As Mr Biden put it before boarding Air Force One for the first foreign trip of his presidency, he wants to “make clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight”.

During his time in office, former US president Donald Trump upended plenty of these global summits.

He would often refuse to discuss agenda items, make his displeasure about other leaders publicly known and once threatened to leave the NATO alliance during a fight over funding.

Carefully written communique would be discarded due to last-minute objections from the US leader, causing frustration among other nations.

Joe Biden will be seeking to assure old allies the ‘America First’ days are over.

But European leaders, who grew accustomed to acting without buy-in from the United States, may feel the international order has shifted for good.