G7 makes a stuttering start on climate change but neglect plight of the poor

By Oxfam

The G7 have made a stuttering start on climate change but have largely neglected the plight of people living in poverty, said Oxfam at the close of the annual leaders’ summit in Germany today.

Jorn Kalinski, Oxfam’s G7 spokesperson, made the following statement in reaction:

“G7 leaders have indicated that fossil fuels are on their way out.  However you would not know it by looking at the national emissions reduction pledges they have put on the table for the crucial climate conference in Paris. G7 leaders are starting to talk the right language but they must now live up to their own rhetoric and kick their dirty coal habit.  They must also reassure developing countries that they will keep their promise to deliver $100 billion by 2020 for climate action in developing countries, and provide the additional predictable funding needed in the longer term.

“G7 leaders have copped out of delivering any real change for more than one billion people who live in poverty. They are offering a smattering of largely unfunded initiatives to tackle the huge global challenges of hunger, inequality, and disease. This is a slap in the face for millions of people who don’t have enough to eat or who can’t afford to pay for vital healthcare.   

“Fortunately, there are plenty of upcoming opportunities for G7 leaders to make amends for this lackluster performance in Germany. They can start next month by attending the Finance for Development Summit in Addis where they must agree ambitious reforms to the global tax system and set out how they will deliver on decades old aid promises.  These two measures would help unlock the money needed to pay for the Sustainable Development Goals.”



The G7 have endorsed a long term goal to phase out fossil fuels and set a global long term target for cutting all greenhouse gas emissions towards the higher end of what science says is needed. They have also said they will strive to transform their own energy systems by 2050. These are new and significant steps. However individually the pledges they have put on the table for Paris are woefully inadequate and show that the G7 are not pulling their weight.  To put words into action, G7 countries must now get their act together and phase-out coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.

G7 leaders still aren't spelling out how they will keep their promise to deliver $100billion in climate finance by 2020 and failed to commit to provide more of this money from public funds - a vital foundation for success in Paris at the end of the year. Developing countries need a credible financial roadmap, not a set of accounting tricks. Thankfully Angela Merkel has bucked the trend. Her pledge to double climate finance from Germany has set the bar for the others - now the rest must follow suit. Currently rich countries provide just 2 percent of what poor countries need to adapt to a changing climate.


The G7’s willingness to learn lessons from the Ebola crisis and provide assistance to countries dealing with disease outbreaks is to be commended. However, effectively tackling pandemics such as Ebola requires more than simply putting the emergency services on standby.  Oxfam is calling on G7 leaders to commit to the goal of universal health coverage and back this up with the finance that is needed make it happen. This will provide poor communities with access to affordable health care and poor countries with the medical capacity they need to prevent and contain future disease outbreaks.


The G7’s statements on food and nutrition will do nothing to help the 2 billion people globally who are hungry or malnourished people.  The final communique makes reference to the goal of lifting 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition – pushed by the German Chancellor ahead of the Summit – but does not commit the G7 to either delivering on this target or providing any money to achieve it.  Likewise, the G7 did not take steps to address environmental challenges facing agriculture or the critical need to improve the livelihood of hundreds of millions of small farmers in developing countries. 


G7 discussions on economic growth failed to address the growing global inequality gap – with extreme inequality threatening the fight against poverty and future economic growth this is a serious omission. 

G7 measures to tackle corporate tax dodgers and support tax administrations in poor countries are welcome but will only do half the job.  Effective international tax reforms cannot be delivered by exclusive clubs such as the G7.  Poor countries, which are being cheated out of $105 billion a year in unpaid taxes, need a seat at the table.  There are international bodies for health, trade and even football – we now need a new UN intergovernmental tax bodies to ensure corporate tax cheats pay what they owe.  


The G7 strong support for the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights is welcome and the fact that they have urged the private sector to implement ‘human rights due diligence’ – for example through human rights impact assessments. However, the G7 overly relies on the good will of companies. They should instead introduce legally binding rules on labor standards based on the UN guiding principles on business and human rights.


Oxfam welcomes the commitment for a Sustainable Development Goals framework that that leaves no one behind, reduces inequality and is planet sensitive. We also welcome the constructive role G7 members have been playing in the crafting of the new goals at the UN in New York. However we will struggle to meet the new goals if action is not taken to unlock the money to pay for them. A key opportunity to do this is at the Finance for Development Meeting in Addis next month.


Measures aimed at increasing the economic empowerment of women through vocational training are important but without action to promote free education for women the impact will be limited. This must be accompanied by measures to address power imbalances, gender stereotypes and discrimination against women in the workplace.


The Greek crisis, which has dominated this year’s G7 summit, will not be resolved by austerity measures which bear a striking resemblance to the ruinous structural adjustment policies imposed across the developing world in the 1980s and 90s. These policies were a failure: a medicine that sought to cure the disease by killing the patient. Oxfam calls on the G7 to do more than merely adjust existing austerity measures. For a start, Greece should be given the option of debt relief or long term debt restructuring.

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