As the leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations wrapped up their first in-person summit since the outbreak of the pandemic, they released a joint communiqué on Sunday, underscoring areas of solidarity — and the differences that remain — when it comes to tackling a host of global crises.
The group, including President Biden, did not reach agreement on a timeline to eliminate the use of coal for generating electric power, a failure that climate activists said was a deep disappointment ahead of a global climate conference later this year.
The leaders sought to present a united front even as it remained to be seen how the plans would be executed.
The agreement represented a dramatic return of America’s postwar international diplomacy, and Mr. Biden said it was evidence of the strength of the world’s democracies in tackling hard problems.
Speaking to reporters after the summit, Mr. Biden said the leaders’ endorsement of a global minimum tax would help ensure global equity and a proposal to finance infrastructure projects in the developing world would counter the influence of China, providing what he said was a “democratic alternative.”
Those initiatives, he said, would promote democratic values and not an “autocratic lack of values.”
“Everyone at the table understood and understands both the seriousness and the challenges that we are up against and the responsibility of our proud democracies to step up and deliver to the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, who hosted the summit, said that the gathering was an opportunity to demonstrate “the benefits of democracy.”
That would start, he said, with agreements to speed up the effort to vaccinate the world, which he called “the greatest feat in medical history.”
Asked about the failure to go further on climate policy by setting firm timelines, Mr. Johnson said that the general criticism was misplaced and failed to take into account the full scope of what was achieved during the summit.
“I think it has been a highly productive few days,” he said.
Mr. Biden hoped to use his first trip abroad to show that democracy, as a system of government, remained capable of addressing the world’s most pressing challenges.
The communiqué issued on Sunday fleshed out some of the proposals that have dominated the summit and was explicit in the need to counter the rise of China.
“Three years ago, China wasn’t even mentioned in the G7 communiqué,” according to an administration official who briefed reporters on its contents. “This year, there is a section on China that speaks to the importance of coordinating on and responding to China’s nonmarket economic practices and the need to speak out against human rights abuses, including in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.”
The communiqué promised “action against forced labor practices in the agricultural, solar, and garment sectors.”
It also noted the need for “supply chain resilience and technology standards so that democracies are aligned and supporting each other.”
At the same time, the nations agreed to an overhaul of international tax laws, unveiling a broad agreement that aims to stop large multinational companies from seeking out tax havens.
The administration official called it a “historic endorsement to end the race to the bottom in corporate taxation with a global minimum tax that will help fund domestic renewal and grow the middle class.”
But for all the good will and declarations of unity, there were questions about how the proposals would be translated into real-world action.
For instance, on the tax laws, a number of hurdles have yet to be overcome.
The biggest obstacle to getting a deal finished could come from the United States. The Biden administration must win approval from a narrowly divided Congress to make changes to the tax code, and Republicans have shown resistance to Mr. Biden’s plans.
President Biden emphasized the need to provide a “democratic alternative” to the rising influence of China and committed to challenging President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, speaking at a news briefing with reporters on Sunday that capped a summit of the world’s wealthiest nations.
During the first in-person summit since the outbreak of the pandemic, the leaders of the seven nations tried to present a united front against global threats, issuing a joint communiqué pledging to tackle the pandemic and defend human rights, specifically in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, China.
Mr. Biden told reporters after the meeting that he was “satisfied” with how the joint statement addressed China.
“I think China has to start to act more responsibly in terms of international norms on human rights and transparency,” Mr. Biden said. “Transparency matters across the board.”
In the statement, the seven leaders also described the importance of investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in China. Mr. Biden, noting that he has not reached a conclusion on the origin of the outbreak, told reporters such a study would require access from China.
Mr. Biden emphasized the need to have an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s overseas lending and investment push, which has now spread across Africa, Latin America and into Europe. Mr. Biden said such a plan would need to prioritize “high standards for climate-friendly, transparent alternatives to the Belt and Road Initiative.”
It is far from clear how the wealthy democracies will be able to muster a comprehensive response. The plan appeared to stitch together existing projects in the United States, Europe and Japan, along with an encouragement of private financing.
China downplayed the summit’s actions. “The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London said in a statement.
Noting Russia’s interference in U.S. elections, Mr. Biden said relations with Moscow were at a “low point” and committed to being “very straightforward” with Mr. Putin on his concerns during their planned meeting on Wednesday in Geneva.
But he also raised areas for potential compromise, including providing food and humanitarian assistance to people in Syria.
“Russia has engaged in activities which we believe are contrary to international norms, but they have also bitten off some real problems they’re going to have trouble chewing on,” Mr. Biden said.
He also indicated he was open to Mr. Putin’s proposal to extradite Russian cybercriminals to the United States, on the condition that the Biden administration do the same.
Mr. Biden said that if there are those who have committed crimes against Russia, “I’m committed to holding them accountable.”
“I think that’s potentially a good sign of progress,” Mr. Biden said.
In ways both spoken and unspoken, one nation not present at the meeting of industrial powers has loomed larger than any other: China.
And China, through its embassy in London, offered a warning to the Group of 7.
“The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London said in a statement.
President Biden has made challenging China the centerpiece of a foreign policy designed to build up democracies around the world as a bulwark against creeping authoritarianism.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who is traveling here with Mr. Biden, told his Chinese counterpart in a phone call that the United States would actively oppose “ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing” against Muslims in Xinjiang, in China’s far western territory, and “the deterioration of democratic norms” in Hong Kong. European leaders have largely avoided that terminology.
Throughout the G7 meeting, how to counter China’s growing economic and security influence has been a central theme.
But even as the United States and its allies pressed China on human rights and outlined policies clearly aimed at stemming Chinese influence, the country’s cooperation is also essential in combating climate change, a major focus of the summit.
Beijing, for its part, has pointed to the poor U.S. response to the pandemic and America’s divisive domestic politics as signs that democracy is failing.
The embassy spokesman condemned “pseudo-multilateralism serving the interests of a small clique or political bloc.”
After the G7 leaders outlined plans to offer developing nations hundreds of billions of dollars in financing as an alternative to relying on Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, the spokesman condemned “those fanning confrontation.”
“Ganging up, pursuing bloc politics and forming small cliques are unpopular and doomed to fail,” the spokesman said.
President Biden, who pledged to lead the world in tackling climate change, failed along with the leaders of the world’s other wealthiest nations to set a firm end date on the use of coal, the burning of which is one of the biggest contributors to global warming.
The Group of 7 did promise to end by 2022 international funding for coal projects that do not include technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, promised to achieve an “overwhelmingly decarbonized” electricity sector by the end of the decade, and said they would deliver $2 billion to help nations pivot away from fossil fuels, major steps in what leaders hope will be a global transition to wind, solar and other energy that does not produce planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.
But energy experts said the inability of the G7 nations, which together produce about a quarter of the world’s climate pollution, to agree on a specific end date on the use of coal in their home countries weakens the ability of those same nations to lean on China to curb its own coal use.
At the same time, leaders also agreed to raise their contributions and meet an overdue pledge of mobilizing $100 billion a year to help poorer countries cut emissions and cope with the consequences of climate change.
Firm dollar figures, however, were not on the table.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. “This was a moment when the G7 could have shown historic leadership, and instead they left a massive void.”
She said the United States in particular had a chance to lead countries in stronger language pivoting away from fossil fuels this decade. But, she said, of the Biden administration, “It doesn’t seem like they were the ambition setters at this G7.”
Diplomats and leading advocates of action against climate change called the overall climate package a mixed bag. Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, who served as France’s chief climate ambassador during the 2015 Paris negotiations, said she was pleased that nations would end international coal financing.
“That leaves China to decide now if they want to still be the backers of coal globally because they will be the only one,” she said. But she called the financing package for vulnerable countries lacking. “In the face of the perfect storm of planetary crises — climate, Covid, injustice and ecosystem collapse — the world’s richest democracies have responded with a plan to make a plan, not yet a plan of action,” she said.
In a video message to the leaders on Sunday as they met to discuss climate issues, the naturalist Sir David Attenborough said the decisions the richest nations are making today were “the most important in human history.”
“The natural world today is greatly diminished,” he said. “Our climate is warming fast. That is beyond doubt. Our societies and nations are unequal and that is sadly plain to see.”
Only the most urgent action, he said, could stave off catastrophe.
“We have the skills to address climate change in time,” he said. “All we need is the global will to do so.”
There was a promise of a comprehensive effort to bring the pandemic to and end. And discussion about how to address President Biden’s call to counter China’s growing influence. And hours of negotiations between leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies on how to confront the global threat posed by climate change.
While it remains to be seen what comes of the sweeping promises and grand ambitions laid out during the summit of the Group of 7 industrialized nations, the gathering on the Cornish coast marked a dramatic return of international diplomacy.
“It is great to have a U.S. president who’s part of the club and very willing to cooperate,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said after meeting Mr. Biden. “What you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, speaking to reporters at the end of the summit, noted the return of a more traditional American foreign policy after four years of President Donald J. Trump’s disregard for international alliances.
“Joe Biden being elected to the White House doesn’t mean the world doesn’t have any problems any more,” she said. “But we can now look for solutions to these problems with more zest, and I think that it was great that, at this G7, we were able to make things more concrete.”
As if to underscore the evolving nature of the challenges facing the leaders as they gathered in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic, all internet and Wi-Fi links around the room where the they met on Saturday were cut off out of concern about pervasive surveillance.
After wrapping up his visit to Britain, Mr. Biden will travel to Brussels on Sunday for a NATO summit where some of the issues raised at the G7 meeting will be on the agenda once again, but viewed through the lens of the collective defense of the alliance — including dealing with emerging technological threats.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in advance of the meeting that he expected a new cyber defense policy. “It will recognize that cyberspace is contested at all times,” he said.
After the NATO summit, Mr. Biden will meet with leaders of the European Union before he sits down on Wednesday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
One of the animating themes of Mr. Biden’s foreign policy has been that the United States and its allies are engaged in an existential battle between democracy and autocracy — and that democracies must prove they can meet the challenges of the moment.
The president began his trip on Wednesday by telling American troops in Britain that the future of the world depends on restoring the longstanding alliances with European countries that had been “hardened in the fire of war” and built by “generations of Americans.”
Speaking at R.A.F. Mildenhall, he vowed to stand up to adversaries like China and Russia, pledging to to tell Mr. Putin “what I want him to know.”
The “sausage wars” between Britain and the European Union escalated on Sunday when a senior British official accused the bloc’s leaders of holding “offensive” views about the status of Northern Ireland.
The comments by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab followed a report in the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph that President Emmanuel Macron of France had suggested that Northern Ireland was not part of the same country as mainland Britain.
That version of events was disputed by Mr. Macron’s office, though it did not deny that he had discussed the status of Northern Ireland with the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, at the Group of 7 summit in Cornwall, England.
The rift stems from something called the Northern Ireland protocol, which was designed to avoid a hard border after Brexit between Northern Ireland and Ireland, an E.U. member country. But the protocol left Northern Ireland straddling the British and E.U. trading systems, and that could lead to shortages of some products in Northern Ireland, particularly chilled meats like sausages, when some of its provisions are scheduled to take full effect at the end of the month.
The two sides have been trying for months to find a more workable arrangement, but as the deadline approaches things have grown increasingly heated, with each accusing the other of bad faith and seeking to claim whatever high ground there is in the dispute.
Mr. Johnson argues that the European Union is being overzealous in its enforcement demands and inflexible in seeking solutions. The bloc’s officials have accused Britain of failing to implement the terms of a treaty Mr. Johnson himself agreed to and ratified.
The current bickering appears to have arisen when Mr. Johnson questioned how Mr. Macron would react if shipments of Toulouse sausages to Paris were impeded.
Asked in a BBC interview to confirm Mr. Macron’s comments, Mr. Raab said he would not “divulge the detail of what was discussed behind closed doors,” but then took the opportunity to criticize the European Union’s leadership.
“What I can tell you is various E.U. figures here, but frankly for months now, and years have characterized Northern Ireland as somehow a separate country and that is wrong.”
He added: “It is a failure to understand the facts.”
Mr. Macron’s office said that the exchange with Mr. Johnson took place but said the French president was talking about Toulouse and Paris being part of a “single geographic area,” not about whether Northern Ireland was legally part of the United Kingdom.
Speaking at a news conference later, Mr. Macron tried to make light of the affair, saying that France has “many cities, many regions” with excellent sausages. He added: “Let us not waste time with controversies that are often created in corridors and antechambers.”
The dispute has widened in recent months, with President Biden warning Mr. Johnson in quite blunt terms not to undermine or renounce the protocol. That, in turn, might lead to a hard land border that could threaten the landmark 1998 Good Friday agreement that ended three decades of sectarian strife in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s unionist and loyalist parties, which favor remaining in the United Kingdom, were outraged by the protocol, calling it a “betrayal” because Mr. Johnson broke a promise never to accept a border between them and the rest of Britain. That has provoked angry protests already in Northern Ireland, and could spark more in the summer’s “marching season.”
Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.
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Pool photo by Dominic Liplinski
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Pool photo by Victoria Jones
Even as the Group of 7 announced during its summit this week that its member nations would donate one billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer nations, the gathering’s host country, Britain, is facing a reminder that it isn’t out of the woods yet on the pandemic either.
The news media call June 21 “freedom day” — the fast-approaching moment when England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions are scheduled to be cast off, allowing pubs to fill to capacity, nightclubs to open their doors and the curtain to rise in theaters around the country.
But a recent spike in cases of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant called Delta has prompted such alarm among scientists and health professionals that the country now seems destined to wait a little longer for its liberty.
For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, oft accused of doing too little, too late to combat the virus, the stakes are high. The question is not so much whether to postpone “freedom day,” but to what degree. Four weeks seems to be the maximum under consideration, with some advocating a limited version of the full opening and others favoring a two-week delay.
An announcement on the next steps is scheduled for Monday, and Mr. Johnson planned to study the data this weekend. But many health professionals have already made up their minds over the seriousness of the threat from the Delta variant, first detected in India.
The concern is that a surge of cases caused by the new variant could translate into a sharper uptick in hospitalizations and risk the virus once again overwhelming the National Health Service.
President Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain signed a new version of the 80-year-old Atlantic Charter on Thursday, using their first meeting to redefine the Western alliance and accentuate what they said was a growing divide between battered democracies and their autocratic rivals, led by Russia and China.
The two leaders unveiled the new charter as they sought to focus the world’s attention on emerging threats from cyber attacks, the Covid-19 pandemic that has upended the global economy, and climate change, using language about reinforcing NATO and international institutions that Mr. Biden hoped would make clear that the Trump era of America First was over.
The new charter, a 604-word declaration, was an effort to stake out a grand vision for global relationships in the 21st century, just as the original, first drafted by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a declaration of a Western commitment to democracy and territorial integrity just months before the United States entered World War II.
“It was a statement of first principles, a promise that the United Kingdom and the United States would meet the challenges of their age and that we’d meet it together,” Mr. Biden said after his private meeting with Mr. Johnson. “Today, we build on that commitment, with a revitalized Atlantic Charter, updated to reaffirm that promise while speaking directly to the key challenges of this century.”
For three days, beginning Friday, some of the world’s most powerful leaders have descended on a small Cornish village for a series of meetings as part of the Group of 7 summit, which brings together the heads of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
So what exactly is the G7, and why does it matter?
The nations belonging to the club are the world’s wealthiest large democracies, close allies and major trading partners that account for about half of the global economy.
With broadly similar views on trade, political pluralism, security and human rights, they can — when they agree — wield enormous collective influence. Their heads of government meet, along with representatives of the European Union, to discuss economic issues and major international policies.
Those attending this year’s gathering include leaders from the G7 member countries plus the European Union and guests Australia, South Africa and South Korea, along with India via video link.
The group, whose origins go back to the 1973 oil crisis, grew out of an informal gathering of finance ministers from Britain, the United States, France, Japan and what was then West Germany — initially known as the Big Five — as they tried to agree on a way forward.
Since the 1970s, the group and its later additional members have met dozens of times to work on major global issues that affect the international economy, security, trade, equality and climate change. In 2015, the summit paved the way for the Paris agreement to limit global emissions, which was decided later that year.
For a time, the group had eight members — remember the G8? — but Russia, always something of an outlier, was kicked out in 2014 amid international condemnation of President Vladimir V. Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Last year, President Donald J. Trump said he believed Russia should be reinstated.
Atop the agenda this year will be the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the global economy, with a focus on worldwide recovery and vaccination.
This summit, hosted by Britain, which currently holds the group’s presidency, is the 47th of its kind and will continue through Sunday. Last year’s summit was canceled because of the pandemic, making this gathering the first in-person G7 leaders’ summit in almost two years. The last was in August 2019 in Biarritz, France.