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Scott Morrison says pandemic and climate change are key issues for Australia as G7 leaders meet

Australia’s Prime Minister has arrived in the UK for the G7-plus dialogue, which he said will focus on Boris Johnson’s plan to “vaccinate the world”, climate change and peace in the Indo-Pacific.

“The G7 plus isn’t about a club, it is about ensuring a world that favours freedom and inclusive world order that ensure that all countries can engage, trade with each other – and all countries can do so without coercion and so do consistent with their sovereign issues.”

He said leaders would be making the most of the opportunity to meet in-person for the time in nearly two years. 

“We have spent the past 18 months communicating over screens. There is no substitute for leaders getting together and doing what we’re doing now.

“This is the third occasion that we have had the privilege to be invited to be part of these discussions.

“There has never been a more important time for Australia to be sitting at such a table dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recession that it has caused and the recovery that we are building, particularly at home in Australia.”

G7 leaders are expected pledge to donate one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries on the agenda in a show of Western democratic cohesion.

The club of leading economies – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and United States – say a joint approach is the world’s best chance for recovering from the global health crisis, and tackling climate change.

President Joe Biden has set the tone, ditching Donald Trump’s isolationist stance to ram home a message of resolve by the G7 and NATO against both Beijing and Moscow, as he heads into his first sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Geneva.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden during their bilateral meeting in Carbis Bay, Britain, 10 June 2021.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden during their bilateral meeting in Carbis Bay, Britain, 10 June 2021.

AAP

“The driving animating purpose of this G7 summit is to show that democracy can deliver against the biggest challenges we’re facing in the world,” a senior US administration official said.

Campaigners say the G7’s vaccine donations pledge for this year and next – including 500 million US doses – is far too little, too late to end a pandemic that has claimed over 3.7 million lives worldwide.

“If the best G7 leaders can manage is to donate one billion vaccine doses then this summit will have been a failure,” Oxfam said, insisting the world needs 11 billion doses.

But the G7 has recognised it needs to rise to competing “vaccine diplomacy” efforts launched by China and Russia, with the Biden administration stressing it expects nothing in return for its donated jabs.

G7 leaders meeting at the seaside resort of Carbis Bay in Cornwall, southwest England, are also expected to outline more help for developing nations to build up infrastructure, as a counterpoint to the debt-fuelled spending by China in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The initiative “will embrace a high standards, transparent, climate friendly, non-corrupt mechanism” for infrastructure investment in the developing world, the US official said.

“It will be an alternative to that which other countries, including China, are offering.”

‘Indestructible relationship’

Underpinning the US-led diplomatic revival, Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday adopted a new “Atlantic Charter”, modelled on the pact signed by their World War II predecessors to help build a new world order.

Mr Johnson dislikes the decades-old phrase “special relationship”, arguing it makes Britain look subservient to Washington, telling the BBC instead that it should be viewed as “indestructible”.

He also played down any differences with Biden over the restive British province of Northern Ireland, ahead of showdown talks between Johnson and EU chiefs on Saturday to tackle deep fissures opened up by Brexit.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hit back Friday after French President Emmanuel Macron launched a broadside over UK backpedalling regarding special post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Mr Raab told Sky News that “change must come from the European Commission side” and that “we are not negotiating or haggling the integrity of the United Kingdom”.

Late Thursday, more than 3,000 pro-UK loyalists staged a protest in Belfast against the “protocol” that effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU customs union and single market.

Marshmallows by the sea

Mr Johnson will hope to lighten the mood at a beach barbecue on Saturday, joined by his new wife Carrie and other G7 spouses, with a sea shanty band and toasted marshmallows around fire pits.

That will follow a reception for the G7 leaders Friday evening hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Cornwall’s Eden Project, an exhibition that showcases the world’s ecological riches.

Safeguarding global biodiversity is another G7 theme this weekend, with the leaders set on an agreement to protect at least 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans by 2030.

They will also debate aiding poorer nations to transition out of fossil fuels, in the build-up to the UN’s COP26 climate summit in November in Scotland.

Like the G7, Britain wants COP26 to be held in-person, and announced that it plans to offer vaccinations to delegates from poorer nations if they cannot get them otherwise.

Climate activists demonstrate near the G7 meeting taking place in St. Ives, Cornwall, England.

Climate activists demonstrate near the G7 meeting taking place in St. Ives, Cornwall, England.

AAP

Greenpeace UK released a video shot with 300 illuminated drones over Cornwall, creating a startling display of endangered animals, to urge G7 leaders to stop mass extinctions.

“We need to see action, not just warm words, to tackle the climate and nature emergency,” Rebecca Newsom, head of politics for the environmental group, told AFP.

“We need to see those tangible commitments this weekend — otherwise our world leaders are failing us,” she said.

The G7 is also expected to adopt a UK plan to ensure schooling for another 40 million girls by 2025, after the pandemic destroyed educational opportunities for many around the world.

The G7 chiefs will be joined over the weekend by the leaders of Australia, South Africa, South Korea, the United Nations and European Union, with India joining remotely.

“This is a compelling agenda for global recovery, ambitious yet achievable, provided we summon the will and the ingenuity,” Johnson said in an appeal to “kindred democracies”.

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