Follow the green belt and road The G7’s response to the climate crisis

The G7 summit, hosted by our Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Cornwall last weekend, emphasised the importance of international collaboration. The discussions were centred around working together, ‘building back better’, and collectively addressing policy priorities such as COVID-19 recovery, trade, and the environment.

In that spirit, they revealed a democratic focused ‘Green Belt and Road Initiative’, which, while being suspiciously similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is designed to increase climate funding across the continents. The sphere of international relations considers competing ideologies to be inevitable. East versus West. Capitalism versus Socialism. Democracy versus Autocracy. But climate change is a phenomenon that affects everybody. It doesn’t distinguish between political philosophies. The only way forward is global cooperation.

During the summit, the G7 made a whole host of commitments to the climate change battle. These included the reaffirmation of the Paris Agreement and the promise to progress its implementation; rapidly scaling up technologies and policies that will accelerate the race to net zero; ensuring the sustainable conservation and regeneration of ecosystems; championing ambitious and effective global biodiversity targets such as conserving or protecting at least 30% of the global ocean and land by 2030.

The seven leaders also agreed to phase out the most polluting energy sources, the worst of which is coal. In doing so, they have said they will scale up investment in technology and infrastructure to facilitate this green transition, as well as ending all funding of new coal generation, and offering up to £2 billion to stop using the fuel in developing countries. They have urged other countries to join them in this.

A large proportion of the strategy is about increasing international climate finance. The G7 pledged to mobilise $100 billion a year from rich countries to help poor countries support green growth. Under the title Build Back Better World (B3W), they will seek to invest $40 million in infrastructure required for low and middle income countries to adapt to and slow the impacts of climate change.

Sceptics and protestors have called for greater evidence of the ‘how’ in these promises, as some of the details are slightly lacking. But while we add these new titles to the list of slogans being bandied around by the government, it is reassuring to see that leaders are committed to addressing these problems, and are prepared to see their promises through.

The funding, directed at developing countries, has been called the Green Belt and Road Initiative, so named to be a play at rivalling China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI was unveiled in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and is a ‘transcontinental long term policy and investment programme which aims at infrastructure development and acceleration of the economic integration of countries along the route of the Silk Road’. It aims to promote connectivity of the Asian, European and African continents, based on five cooperation priorities:

  1. Policy coordination – intergovernmental cooperation
  2. Facilities Connectivity – improvement of connectivity of infrastructure
  3. Unimpeded Trade – reduction of trade barriers
  4. Financial Integration
  5. People to People Bonds – cultural and academic exchange.

Almost entirely funded by Chinese banks, the BRI has been criticised by some as being a method of spreading Chinese soft power, and the Green Belt and Road Initiative is designed to be a democratic alternative. China responded to the G7 saying, ‘the days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone’. Muscles flexed.

But this anti-China rhetoric is predominantly dictated by President Biden. Most of the G7 are wary of antagonising China and are in favour of working with them on issues like climate change, which ultimately should be a joint global effort. Boris Johnson argued that western economies ‘should show what we are for, not who we are against’. Italy is even a member of the BRI, and China is a signatory to the Paris Agreement.

The US may be prioritising ways to counter to China’s influence. But tickling the dragon’s tail when we are on the same side in battling climate change is unnecessarily inflammatory. After all, you can’t promote global collaboration while engaging in cold war.

By Emma Rowland, Media and Policy Intern

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