To the picturesque seaside resort of Carbis Bay, Cornwall, on the weekend of 11-13 June, the leaders of the “G7” group of seven of the world’s richest states flock. Fossil-fuelled reboot to an even more unequal, exploitative, violent and destructive world continues. It’s building back bleaker, as vaccine nationalism and pursuit of private profit permit this pandemic to tear onwards through societies, and to compound the evils of pre-Covid capitalism.
Cornwall is seen as central to the UK’s green tech sector, so the choice of location is an attempt to flaunt green credentials. But a thin one. Homeless people are losing their beds in Carbis Bay, so that thousands of police, and the politicians they protect, can put on a show.
The G7 — the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the USA, Japan, and Canada — house 10% of the world’s population but 60% of global net wealth. The G7 can trace its roots back to “unofficial” meetings of the leaders of select rich western countries in the 1970s, dealing with the “first oil shock”, among other things. Through a series of metamorphoses the G7 (with invited guest representatives from the EU, India, South Korea, and Australia this time) remains important to calibrating the wheels of global economies premised on greater and yet greater fossil fuel use and environmental destruction.
The report narrows in on the particularly polluting G7 member and participant states. It shows that the majority of new support to “energy-intensive sectors” approved between January 2020 and March 2021 went to fossil-intensive activities: “more than US$189 billion to support coal, oil and gas, while clean forms of energy received only $147 billion”.
“G7 nations also missed major opportunities to make their response to Covid-19 greener. More than eight in every ten dollars committed to fossil fuels came with no ‘green strings’ attached: they benefited fossil-fuel intensive activities without requirements for any climate targets or reductions in pollution. Meanwhile only one in every ten dollars committed to the Covid-19 response benefited the ‘cleanest’ energies measures, like renewables or energy efficiency.”
Building back badly
Seven of the 11 countries’ Covid recovery plans are likely to cause more environmental harm than good, compared with no recovery plan! None of the plans meet their stated climate commitments, let alone what is needed to limit serious climate catastrophe.
Arctic sea ice is thinning nearly twice as fast in key coastal regions than previously calculated, new research published 4 June argues. Through considerably improved methods and modelling, they believe they are more accurately able to interpret satellite data.
Polar Bears risk drowning or starving as a result. And the ice-thinning has serious knock-on effects for the whole world. The ice, and the snow that can settle upon it, acts as a blanket that slows down the flow of heat between the ocean and the atmosphere: influencing weather patterns around the northern hemisphere. Heatwaves, floods, storms, erosion, and other extreme weather will likely become more frequent and severe.
The disappearance of sea ice also accelerates global warming. White ice and snow reflects most of the sun’s rays, whereas the darker ocean absorbs almost all of them. This increased warming causes more ice to melt in turn, and the vicious cycle goes on.
For capital, however, there are boons. The thinning ice opens up or makes cheaper a northern shipping route from China to Europe, around Siberia. And it opens up wider areas to new oil and gas extraction, and thus yet another climatic vicious cycle, this time directly mediated by capital.
A rational and democratic global social and economic system would respond by taking bold action to limit, halt, and reverse the global warming behind this ice melting and protecting those most impacted by the destruction and extreme weather it is already causing and is sure to cause in coming years.
But we don’t live in a rational or democratic world. The working class, the great majority now in many societies, survive by selling our ability to work to our bosses and the capitalist ruling class. Of the work we do for them, the work which makes society function, they give us back just enough to live by, to allow us to return and do yet more work for them. They take the rest, and consolidating, and pursue a relentless drive for profit — competing against other capitalists and corporations. Their amassed wealth gives them an immense social power not just over economy but politics. Their governments and states in turn pursue a relentless drive for economic growth, competing against other states in this and to be as attractive as possible to footloose capital.
Profit is paramount
The environment, workers’ rights and well-being, economic equality and global health, democracy and freedom, peace and pandemic preparedness — all this must be secondary to insatiable imperatives for profit and growth.
Our “age of pandemics”, with an increasing rate of pathogens spilling over from animals to humans fuelled by climate change, environmental destruction, and intensive global animal agriculture. Our vulnerability to such spill-over is heightened by insufficient funding for scientific research, pharmaceutical development, and robust healthcare — in a world where these sectors are primarily driven by short-term profit seeking.
Covid-19 is far from the first recent spill-over, and the necessary lessons were not learned previously. Indeed, they still are resolutely not being learnt. While few deny that this pandemic must be tackled globally, vaccine nationalism and the right of pharmaceutical corporations and their owners to continue rake in billions of dollars take precedence.
The G7 is an undemocratic elite clique without even the limited and one-dimensional political accountability that elected governments have.
It remains legitimate and at times necessary for working-class and social movements to make demands of “G7”, via demands on governments represented there — waiving vaccine patents, expanding vaccine production and donating to poorer countries, countering corporate tax evasion, and more. If nothing else, we do that to counter their greenwashing, their spin, and their bad policies. We counterpose our own positive vision.
And even the G7 are not immune to pressure — direct or indirect — from the working-class and social movements.
The G7 as such is little more than another forum for the representatives of a some of the richer capitalist states to come together, discuss and make deals, and seize the PR opportunities. The problems are with the system, not with this or that individual, groups of individuals, or institution. A narrow focus on the G7 as if it were a conspiracy secretly blighting an otherwise good system would be to miss the point.
Workers’ Liberty activists and Solidarity supporters are participating in the “Resist G7” protests in Carbis Bay and beyond. We raise the need for class struggle, for workplace and labour movement organising, in the fight against climate crises, the pandemic, inequality, and capitalism — and for international socialism.
We must organise — at work, UK-wide, and globally — to win public ownership and democratic control of major industries and finance: for an adequately funded and as rapid as possible transition away from fossil fuels, for an expansion of green jobs and public services, to win social equality globally, to vaccinate the world and take steps to pandemic-proof it going forward.