Democratic leaders make themselves comfortable in Bavaria

The signs are everywhere: African and Asian abstentions at the UN General Assembly over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Solomon Islands signing a security pact with China, and India regularly threatening to do derail trade negotiations.

A new G-7 target, announced on Sunday, of injecting $600 billion into infrastructure in emerging economies by 2027 is unlikely to change that calculation.

That’s both because China is way ahead in infrastructure diplomacy — spending $50 billion to $100 billion a year on foreign infrastructure for a decade now — and because the G-7 plan is an old one. news. The 2021 G-7 summit promised a Rebuilding a Better World initiative, and failed to deliver.

The EU announced a $315 billion Global Gateway plan in December, money that has yet to be spent but was recycled in Sunday’s announcement. The Biden administration wants to “mobilize” $200 billion in public and private money – but hasn’t asked Congress to do it.

Reinhard Butikofer, member of the European Parliament and former leader of the German Greens, is not impressed: “To commit 200 billion dollars without knowing if Congress will sign his initiative is a rather empty gesture on the part of POTUS”, he said. he told POLITICO. .

G-7 versus G-20

The broader G-20 group was elevated to a leaders’ summit in 2008 to bring more emerging economies and middle powers to the global decision-making table.

Instead of prioritizing this more complicated group of the G-20, with its mix of democracies and autocracies, the Biden administration is doubling down on the G-7. A senior Biden administration official said Wednesday that “President Biden and his administration’s focus on the G-7 has elevated it to a primary vehicle for multilateral engagement.”

In recent years, however, summit organizers have come to realize that the G-7 feels empty when limited to its seven principal governments.

In 2021, that prompted summit host Boris Johnson to invite India, South Africa, South Korea and Australia to the party. This year, the German government has invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa again, and added Indonesian Joko Widodo, Argentinian Alberto Fernández and African Union President Macky Sall.

While the guests of 2022 represent almost 3 billion people, dwarfing the roughly 700 million inhabitants of the G-7 countries, they play only minor roles. The guests didn’t even make the cut for Sunday dinner. They were instead entertained separately by the Bavarian state premier, nearly two hours from Schloss Elmau, the main venue.

On the other hand, the EU receives two permanent observer seats at the G-7 table and is fully integrated into the summit programme.

There’s an undeniable sense of elitism here in the Wetterstein Mountains of Upper Bavaria. Elmau is guarded like Davos: around 18,000 police keep the leaders locked away safely away from the plebs.

Most journalists and all protesters are kept away from the leaders – a mountain separates the summit’s main press center and Schloss Elmau. Access to Elmau involves a three-hour wait and a trip by climate-unfriendly military helicopter.

Protesters spent Sunday parked in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, their anti-G-7 songs battling the noise of helicopters throughout the afternoon. Neighbors are frustrated.

In political terms, G-7 members make an elaborate demonstration of their commitments and compliance. But it looks like a corporate ESG report that misses the point.

The University of Toronto’s G-7 research group says G-7 members achieved a record 90% compliance rate in the past year, even as they chaired to soaring inflation, fell behind on their climate commitments, mismanaged the withdrawal from Afghanistan and failed to prevent Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The dangers of overpromising

The biggest risk of this G-7 summit is that leaders remain buried in micro-commitments and vague promises, instead of working to deal with the consequences of their impact on the world. But budget concerns and issues at home — especially in Washington — threaten to distract from urgent needs..

Russia has provoked harsh Western sanctions, but these sanctions policies are also driving up food and energy costs in places that cannot afford such disruptions, in part because Covid costs have wrecked federal budgets in the whole world.

The UN Secretary-General’s Global Crisis Response Panel on Food, Energy and Finance concludes that around 1.7 billion people in 107 countries are significantly affected by this dynamic.

The G-7 is taking action where more flexible formats like the World Economic Forum have failed to intervene, via a “Global Alliance for Food Security”, promoted by the United States, Germany’s G- 7 and the World Bank.

But no financial commitments or specific deadlines have been announced, and the alliance does not touch the Black Sea sea lanes closed by the Russian navy.

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt is scathing the absence of urgent discussions between the G-7 and NATO around a military operation to reopen the Ukrainian port of Odessa to allow food exports.

“Relying solely on UN talks to unblock the port of Odessa is hardly realistic, because Russia will not give in until it sees that the US, EU and UK are ready to intervene and escort. [ships carrying grain]” he said.

The German government said in a written statement that the recent negotiations were “guided by the belief that short- and medium-term support must be programmed in such a way as to lead to a long-term sustainable transformation of agricultural and food systems”.

A story of inaction

The G-7 has already taken this route.

In 2012, President Barack Obama asked the leaders of the G-8 (Russia was then still a member) to adopt a new alliance for food security and nutrition. The objective is then to stimulate local producers, lift 50 million people out of poverty and ensure that Africa once again becomes a major exporter rather than a recipient of food aid.

Only 10 of the 55 member countries of the African Union have joined the alliance, and France withdrew in 2018. A decade after Obama’s initiative, Africa’s dependence on Russian and Ukrainian food products shows how little food systems have changed.

Along with food sustainability concerns, NGOs worry that G-7 governments are prioritizing their climate commitments.

As the world’s major democratic economies struggle to contain the price of oil while punishing Russia for invading Ukraine, they are accused of undermining their own efforts to get poorer countries to switch to green energy.

Developing countries have long pointed out that they have historically contributed little to today’s global warming and extreme weather. Now they can push back when Western envoys urge them to speed up costly transitions to clean energy: why would they, when even Germany is firing up shuttered coal plants?

Mary Robinson, chair of The Elders and former president of Ireland, said this summit “must be the time when rich nations finally deliver on the climate finance promises they have made” to developing countries.

A document commissioned by the German government – ​​members of Think7, a group of climate research institutions from G-7 member countries – told the G-7 to look up.

Their main recommendation is to open the doors of the party: “preserve the G-20 as an effective forum for the resolution of global problems”, arguing that wealthy democracies will only achieve climate success when they “come together”. with other G-20 countries.

European Council President Charles Michel told reporters on Sunday that he would not rule out sitting down at the G-20 table with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this year, and was looking for ways to express its disapproval without destroying the prospects of multilateral summits.

A senior EU official said the growing gap between G-7 countries and developing economies means the G-20 is more important than ever: “Diplomacy is not just about having nice conversations with your like-minded friends,” the EU official said. .

David Herszenhorn and Karl Mathiesen contributed to this report.

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