27 August 2019: Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, comprising the Group of 7 (G7), have concluded a three-day Summit during which they discussed, among other things: fighting inequality; development in Africa; gender issues; trade; climate change, biodiversity and oceans; and the digital transformation.

The 2019 G7 Summit convened in Biarritz, France, from 24-26 August 2019, under an overarching theme, ‘Fight Against Inequalities,’ set by the French Presidency, and undertook an innovative format for the G7, involving partner countries, particularly African countries, and members of civil society to explore concrete solutions to combat inequality in all its forms. French President Emmanuel Macron invited: four partner countries, which promote democracy and have significant regional influence (Australia, Chile, India and South Africa); five African partners (Burkina Faso, Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa, and the African Union Commission (AUC) Chair Moussa Faki); and civil society representatives.

The French Presidency also set five related priorities for the Summit:

  • fighting inequality of opportunity, promoting gender equality and access to education and high-quality health services, in particular;
  • reducing environmental inequality by protecting the planet through climate finance and a just ecological transition, based on preserving biodiversity and the oceans;
  • working toward peace, and against security threats and terrorism;
  • exploiting opportunities created by digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in an ethical and human-oriented way; and
  • combating inequality through a renewed partnership with Africa.

The Summit adopted the G7 Leaders’ Declaration, which focuses on trade, Iran, Libya, Ukraine and Hong Kong. The Summit also resulted in Chair’s summaries of discussions, and numerous partnerships, declarations and strategies.

Fighting Inequalities

The Biarritz Chair’s Summary on Fighting Inequalities underscores the need to mobilize international organizations in the fight against inequalities, including in the context of digitalization, and harness the full potential of digital economy and data. The Summary outlines discussions of the need for universal access to social protection and affordable quality health services with primary health care, and further investments to strengthen health systems, including through the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The Summary also highlights a 23 August meeting with private companies aimed at reducing inequalities through the Business for Inclusive Growth Initiative; welcomes the idea of an inclusive growth financing forum; and invites interested partners to support the initiative, which will be formally launched during the Paris Peace Forum in November 2019.

French President Macron, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also released a joint statement that highlights risks posed by inequalities to global growth, economic stability and social cohesion, and to achieving the SDGs. The statement calls for a “renewed and effective multilateralism,” and the organizations pledge to, inter alia, continue cooperating to support each other’s efforts to achieve the SDGs.

Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans

During the Summit, the French Presidency convened a session on ‘Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans,’ and leaders endorsed the Metz Charter on Biodiversity, adopted by G7 environment ministers in May 2019. The Charter is annexed to the Biarritz Chair’s Summary on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans, and seeks to increase efforts to halt biodiversity loss and to sustain a healthy planet.

The Chair’s Summary cites climate change, biodiversity loss, and ocean and land degradation as interconnected global challenges that threaten peace, security, development, health and economic stability, especially in the most vulnerable countries. G7 countries reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change; followed up on the G7 Ocean Plastics Charter agreed at the 2018 G7 Summit; and discussed further initiatives to reduce plastic pollution.

The Summary notes the willingness of some countries to increase ambition in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020. Several G7 countries announced contributions to help replenish the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to reach a total of USD 5.5 billion. Leaders also discussed several initiatives, including mobilizing multilateral development banks (MDBs) towards low-carbon and resilient development pathways and the Carbon Neutrality Coalition.

The Summary also highlights, inter alia, the need to: preserve marine and terrestrial ecosystems, including through nature-based solutions and circular economy; promote innovation and improved waste management to reduce marine litter; and conclude negotiations on the Treaty for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdictions.

G7 leaders, the Summary notes, emphasized the importance of implementing strategic sustainable land management (SLM), including through combating desertification, land degradation and drought, and biodiversity and ecosystems protection.

During the session, the Presidency commended active mobilization of youth, and the need for concrete multi-stakeholder coalitions and projects involving countries, the business sector, scientists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), youth, indigenous communities, cities and regions.

Leaders were informed about four multi-stakeholder coalitions addressing climate, biodiversity and oceans, namely:

  • the ‘Maritime Coalition for Climate and Environment,’ which aims to limit the international maritime sector’s impact;
  • the ‘Biarritz Pledge for Fast Action on Efficient Cooling,’ aimed at advancing efforts to improve the cooling sector’s energy efficiency and lifecycle management, while countries phase down hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, in accordance with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol;
  • the ‘Sustainable Fashion Coalition,’ aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of textiles, which are responsible for up to 35% of primary microplastic pollution in the oceans; and
  • the ‘One Planet Business Coalition for Biodiversity,’ which seeks to define ambitious targets for the agri-food sector on preserving and restoring biodiversity.

Prior to the Summit, 32 fashion and textile companies made commitments on climate, biodiversity and oceans. The Fashion Pact was presented to Heads of State at the G-7 Summit.

Speaking during the Summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the need for concrete action ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019 in New York, US. He said 2015 to 2019 are on track to be the five hottest years on record, with historically high carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere, and warned that the world is much worse than it was when the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015. Guterres cited mobilization efforts by society and youth, and called on countries to: commit to carbon neutrality by 2050; increase ambition in their NDCs, which will be reviewed in 2020; “shift taxes from people to carbon”; end fossil fuels subsidies; and halt the construction of coal power plants by 2020.

Gender Equality

On combating inequality and promoting women’s empowerment, G7 leaders underscored the importance of women’s participation in the labor market and education for girls and women, especially in developing countries. Participants engaged with representatives of the Gender Equality Advisory Council. G7 Leaders adopted the Declaration on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment; launched the Biarritz Partnership on Gender Equality; and were briefed on Recommendations of the Gender Equality Advisory Council regarding good practices of new and innovative laws for gender equality.

Development in Africa

On Africa, G7 leaders endorsed a new framework between the G7 and Africa to enhance cooperation and develop tools to support sustainable economic development across the continent. The results of the talks are reflected in the Biarritz Declaration for a G7 and Africa Partnership. The G7 also endorsed the Sahel Partnership Action Plan to improve development and security cooperation. The EU announced a more than EUR 85 million contribution for the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa programme, which will help develop 100,000 businesses run by women. [Biarritz Declaration for a G7 and Africa Partnership] [Annex 1: Promoting Women’s Entrepreneurship in Africa] [Annex 2: Digital Transformation in Africa] [Annex 3: Transparency in Public Procurement and the Common Fight Against Corruption]

Digital Transformation

G7 leaders also supported a Strategy for an Open, Free and Secure Digital Transformation, focusing on ways to defend democratic societies and institutions, including electoral processes, from foreign threats, exchanging views on fighting against terrorist content online, and discussing international cooperation on AI. [Website of the French Presidency of the G7] [G7 Official Documents] [French Government Announcement for G7] [EU Council Statement on Outcomes] [Remarks by EU President Donald Tusk] [EU Council Background Paper] [UNFCCC Press Release] [UN Press Release]