But World Events have since surpassed their best efforts, and it’s far from clear if they’ll be able to build on those goals this year. Russia’s impromptu invasion of Ukraine is one big, singular cloud, but other thunderclaps are also gathering.
Over the next few days, leaders from Japan, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the European Union and host Germany will meet in isolation of Bavaria’s luxurious Schloss Elmau hideaway.
The spa, nestled in a peaceful valley, usually offers well-heeled visitors a brief chance to escape the cares of the world – but not even Schloss Elmau can shield world leaders from the troubles looming on their horizon.
Russian President Vladmir Putin’s officials hint at nuclear Armageddon, China has become increasingly assertive, a global food crisis is on the way, oil prices are skyrocketing, and a global economic slowdown and crisis in cost of living are looming. Climate change aspirations are also confounded and supply chain issues are hampering hopes for a return to normality after the pandemic.
And on top of all that, last year’s summit host, the UK, is threatening to break international laws over its Brexit deal with the EU – not to mention its controversial plan to expel asylum seekers to Rwanda – despite the risk of upsetting the world order he helped to build, and diluting the already limited effectiveness of the G7.
While G7 leaders can look back with some satisfaction at their unity in the face of Russia’s unprecedented aggression – as evidenced by that “strengthening partnerships” goal set at Carbis Bay – the scale of the impending crises eclipses even that.
Putin is not entirely to blame for the coming storm, but its unwarranted war in Ukraine is inextricably linked to many brewing crises. Without it, the patches required would be easier and fewer, their impact less pernicious.
The global food crisis is a good example. This can be blamed, in part, on global post-pandemic supply chain issues, but Russia’s theft of Ukrainian wheat and its blockade of Ukrainian shipping in the Black Sea, which prevents wheat and other Ukrainian agricultural products to reach international markets, are also playing a major role.
According to the UN World Food Program (WFP), Ukraine normally supplies 40% of its wheat; The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says Ukraine provides 16% of global corn exports and more than 40% of global sunflower oil.
The global NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC) recently stated that “98% of Ukraine’s grain and wheat exports remain under blockade”, adding that “world food prices have risen by 41% and that an additional 47 million people are expected to suffer from acute hunger this year”. year.”
Traditionally, Ukraine’s wheat and grain exports have gone to some of the neediest countries in the world: Libya, Lebanon, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
To improve the situation, the G7 will have to roll back Putin on some of his war goals, such as ending the conflict or restoring Kyiv’s control over all of Donbass – but so far there is no indication that he is about to do so. this.
The energy crisis threatens climate commitments
Rising oil prices are another by-product of Putin’s war – albeit complicated by the fact that oil production does not match post-pandemic increases in consumption. To solve this problem, the G7 will have to convince Russia’s OPEC+ partners, including Saudi Arabia, to turn their backs on Putin and increase oil production.
US President Joe Biden’s trip to Jeddah, scheduled for mid-July, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s trip to Riyadh in March hint that the G7 may be making progress on this, but there is no more guarantees. Saudi Arabia — like Russia — benefits massively from high oil prices; their gain is a pain for the billions of people who have to foot the bill for getting food to market.
Last year’s G7 was all about net zero and a green pandemic recovery, but the scramble by Western countries this year to wean themselves off Russian oil and gas has given the biggest contributor to the crisis a boost: the coal.
G7 host Germany is now in crisis mode as Russia cuts gas supplies to the country, weaponizing energy for influence as feared – it now says it will ignite more coal-fired power plants. It’s a reversal from last November, when Germany brought forward its deadline to phase out coal to 2030, eight years ahead of schedule. After the Russian invasion, it also accelerated plans to transition its electricity sector to 100% renewable energy within five years.
Johnson – who said last year that the world had reached a tipping point in phasing out coal – this week suggested the UK go back to exploiting the fossil fuel for steelmaking . The country will also delay a plan to shut down more existing coal-fired power plants before winter.
And to deal with the oil crisis, Biden is offering a fuel tax exemption as prices at the pump soar.
In their Carbis Bay goal to ‘build back better’, the G7 nations have never understood the stuttering return to pre-Covid normality. Canceled flights and travel chaos across Europe and beyond this summer are just the visible tip of an iceberg-sized problem that defies quick fixes.
China’s insistence on continuing to pursue a ‘zero Covid’ strategy is not only baffling its return to the status quo, but is also rippling through global supply chains, with shutdowns preventing workers from milling and, in worst-case scenario, shutting down production. Despite growing tensions with G7 countries, China shows no sign of aligning with their new post-Covid standards.
In the G7 countries and beyond, inflation is rising, central banks are raising lending rates and a global economic slowdown looks much more likely this year than last. The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, predicts that a US recession is “inevitable”.
The problems overlap in a way somewhat reminiscent of the global economic downturn of 2008.
At the time, central bankers rallied and halted the economic rot, but the geopolitical repercussions reverberated for years.
The Arab Spring signaled that economic pain had crossed a threshold. When impoverished Tunisian street trader Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, he ignited passions across the Middle East; protesters took to the streets, toppling two governments and shaking up many others, before calm was partially restored to the region later the following year.
It is not impossible that another global economic crisis will trigger an even wider wave of unrest. In recent months, Sri Lanka has seen economic turmoil spill into the streets. Rising prices have also sparked popular unrest in Pakistan and Peru.
Putin is betting on a failing consensus
What G7 leaders can do to avert a season of desperation may well be limited by the global divisions that Russia is intentionally exploiting.
Just weeks before Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine, he visited China and met with President Xi Jinping; the pair promised deeper cooperation and, despite warnings from G7 countries and others, Xi doubled down on that pledge and became more assertive about Taiwan’s future.
The consensus at the UN and the G20, two other deep-pocketed global crisis firefighters, is in tatters. The votes in the UN Security Council show that Russia and China, exercising their veto power, will prevent any censorship of Putin’s invasion; Meanwhile, the United States has hinted that it will not attend the G20 leaders’ summit in Indonesia in November if Russia goes there, and the United Kingdom has followed suit.
China has refused to expose Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and the two have become belligerent towards what they see as the vested interests of the world’s major democracies – the G7 nations – against them.
They know that the problems of the developing world impact the G7 countries before them – as most migrants choose to go to developed countries that will protect their rights – and seem willing to use global crises to their advantage. , leaving the G7 alone to weather the coming storm.
But so far, despite diverging relations with Russia, the G7 is holding firm.
Frenchman Emmanuel Macron has spoken to Putin more than any other G7 leader in the past year and insists Russia “should not be humiliated”, while Biden accuses Russia of “fueling a global energy crisis” by invading Ukraine and its defense chief. Lloyd Austin says Putin should be ‘weakened’.
What is clear is that this G7 matters more than previous meetings: success will come from mitigating crises, not stopping them. Failure is exactly what Putin wants.