Opinion: G7 leaders must rise to challenge of climate change

The G7 group of rich countries’ leaders is meeting in Cornwall.

Why care what’s happening with some bigwigs at the other end of this country?

It’s true that, just as East Anglia is as far east as you can get in England, Cornwall is the furthest point west. But I figure it’s worth travelling all the way. Because this is the world come to England. Because this is the first time the G7 has been held here for 16 years. And because this is a year like no other…

Later this year, the most important global climate conference in many years will take place, again in the UK; the ‘CoP’. The G7 is a vital ‘prequel’ to it. What’s more, what’s taking shape right now is the post-Covid ‘reset’; the way the world will be reshaped by how we choose to begin again as we gradually get the better of this coronavirus.

Scientists, including close colleagues of mine at UEA, are very clear now that this decade will be decisive for the course of the century. If we are to rein in our collective destruction of nature and of our very climate, the last chance for doing so is now.

This year, with these international conferences and the post-Covid reset, will be decisive for shaping the decade – and so, of the century. Of the entire milieu in which our children will live.

Now perhaps you see the importance potentially of this G7 meeting.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think the G7 is going to get everything sorted.

But with the new Biden administration in the USA, there’s some hope at last that they might make positive changes: such as taxing internationally the digital giants that have profited so greatly in the pandemic period.

Crazily, unlike you and me, Amazon pay no tax! If the G7 acting together were to change that, then we might even have enough money to save the Amazon…

The chances are slim that the G7 won’t fail us. But we have no choice but to try to put pressure on them not to fail us; because the stakes are so high. That’s why it’s worth bothering to care.

Put it this way: The G7 will fail us so long as they refuse to really rise to the challenge. Until, that is, they follow the lead of the people. I’m thinking of the amazing way our young people have inspired us in the last few years, with the school climate strikes initiated by my young colleague Greta Thunberg.

During the Covid pause, we’ve made sacrifices to seek to save the old. Young people have sacrificed some of their freedom and education. It’s time the favour were repaid.

We need to pull together to save the young. Their future is on the line, this year. If there isn’t a massive shift toward real action to stabilise the climate and restore nature, we’re giving our children the worst of all legacies.

That shift means things like stopping coal-mining; investing much more in renewable energy; and making permanent the reduction in business travel, commuting and flying that Covid kicked off. We need to tell our politicians we don’t just want a knee-jerk ‘return to normal’: We want a transformed normal…

This is why it’s important for some of us to be at the G7, as voices for this policy-shift and these truths.

We can’t outsource this any more; it’s too crucial to be left up to politicians alone. After the weirded weather we’ve seen in the last few years, we can’t pretend that this crisis is far away in space or time. We’ve experienced our collective vulnerability vividly with Covid.

That’s just a small taste of what’s to come, if we fail to prevent the coming climate disasters.

Because there’s no self-isolation from the collapse of nature, I’ll be in Cornwall.

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