Following the G7 summit, Greens are asking: where is the British leadership we need to make sure that we build back better, greener and fairer after the coronavirus pandemic?
Jonathan Bartley writes in The Independent that ‘the UK has been exposed as a country without a vision for its geopolitical future’. He continues:
‘The image of Boris Johnson arriving at St Ives says it all. While promising to “build back greener”, he stands waving from the door of the private jet he’d taken to get to the coast of his own country, as oblivious to irony as he is to shame. While France is making moves to ban short-haul domestic flights, our prime minister uses them for photo ops.
This sets the tone for the days ahead, as seven world leaders get together to discuss some of the most important international issues of the day, and the UK is given the chance to grandstand on the global stage for the first time since leaving the European Union. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine a prime minister less suited to meeting this moment.
As most of us agree, ensuring we have a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic should be a key theme of this summit, and one on which the UK should be leading given that we are hosting the Cop26 climate summit at the end of the year. Currently, even the relatively moderate Joe Biden is already outflanking the UK on climate in terms of both ambition and action, just months after wresting the White House from Donald Trump, revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and a nearly $3 trillion (£2.1 trillion) jobs plan.
What consumate action could Johnson bring to the table to show real leadership on climate? One thing he could do is advocate a carbon tax so big polluters pay the real cost of the damage they do to the climate. In 2021 alone, we can expect the UK to emit 800 million tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). A carbon tax of £100 a tonne would raise £80bn a year, which could be partly paid to the public as a dividend, and partly used to fund the massive transformations across all sectors of our economy needed to go net zero by 2030.
This was a proposal that we put forward in our 2019 general election manifesto, but it would be even better if it went beyond our borders. The G7 and the upcoming Cop26 are the ideal forums in which to begin laying the groundwork for a mutually-agreed, global carbon tax, where we work towards an international framework of taxation which would accelerate the transition from a high carbon economy to the zero carbon world we need to arrive at within decades.’
Meanwhile, Caroline Lucas writes in inews that the G7 fell short at both vaccine equality and climate change, saying:
‘The first face-to-face meeting of the G7 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic needed to deliver more than photo opportunities on a Cornish beach and fly-pasts by the Red Arrows.
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.
On both, it fell short.
The rollout of Covid vaccines has been shockingly inequitable. The G7’s promise to donate one billion Covid vaccines with the aim of vaccinating the world by the end of 2022 will not significantly close the vast gap. It’s less than 10 percent of the vaccine doses the World Health Organisation says are needed if coronavirus is to be brought under control, and it’s not clear when or how these vaccines will be delivered.
The UK, which has many more doses than we need for our population, has pledged 100 million doses for poorer countries but only five million by the end of September. Professor Andrew Pollard, who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, has warned that many millions could die between now and September unless vaccines are urgently provided to lower- and middle-income countries.
It is not only morally right, it is in our own self-interest that vaccines are made available to as many people as possible across the world, and as quickly as possible.
The longer it takes, the higher the chances that the virus will spread and new, potentially more dangerous variants emerge. In recent weeks, we have seen how quickly a new variant can spread to our shores and take root in our communities.
The UK should be donating one dose of the vaccine to the WHO’s vaccine-sharing Covax scheme for every dose imported into the UK.’