The global solidarity inspired by the Covid pandemic disappeared as soon as vaccines came along, the Mozambican politician Graça Machel has said ahead of the G7 summit, as she called on richer countries to share vaccines and for progress on tackling the climate crisis.
Machel, a member of the Africa Progress Panel and a prominent politician, served as first lady in Mozambique and South Africa, as the wife of first Samora Machel and then Nelson Mandela. She said: “Without everyone on Earth being vaccinated, there is no safety. It’s a question of survival, even for the developed world. We have to take the necessary steps. To make sure everyone all of us get the vaccine – that is common sense.
“At the beginning of Covid, we all embraced one another saying it is a threat to everyone. But as soon as there was a vaccine that solidarity completely disappeared. People don’t like to say this but it’s also a moral issue. How can you say other lives can be left to die?” She contrasted the situation of G7 countries with the developing world: “Rich nations are stockpiling vaccines while only 2% of Africa is vaccinated.”
She said the G7 must deliver a deal on vaccines and on the climate. Like the Covid crisis, the climate emergency could spell disaster for the developed world too, even if developing countries appear to be more vulnerable at first, and the situation has worsened in the past decade. “The impact of climate change has increased tremendously. Investment in the developing world is diminishing.
“We have to be in solidarity; the impact of climate change will be in the developed world as well. We are all safe or no one is safe.”
Her comments came as Paul Polman and Andrew Liveris spoke out on their concerns about the UK’s decision to cut aid. Polman, former chief of Unilever who is now the chair of the International Chamber of Commerce, and Liveris, former chief executive of Dow Chemical, and a prominent Australian businessman who is also part of the B Team group of sustainable business leaders, said the UK foreign aid cuts sent the wrong signal to other countries and would damage the prospects for Cop26.
Polman and Liveris urged Boris Johnson to reverse the UK’s cuts to overseas aid. “[The cut] is a terrible, terrible idea,” said Liveris. “Countries have to look after their own, but to send this signal as host nation is a real weakness.”
Polman said: “It is sending strongly the wrong signal. Climate finance [for poor nations] is an integral part of the success of Cop26.”
The leaders of the G7 countries: the UK, the US, Japan, Canada, France, Germany and Italy – and the EU will meet in Cornwall on Friday to discuss the global economy, Covid-19 vaccines, taxes on business, and the climate crisis.
Boris Johnson will call on the world’s wealthiest nations to help vaccinate the entire global population by the end of 2022. He has previously pledged to donate most of the UK’s surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries, but this process has yet to be quantified or to start.
This week’s G7 leaders’ meeting is seen as an important milestone on the way to the Cop26 climate summit this November in Glasgow, with the UK hosting both.
Machel said it was vital for the G7 and Cop26 to address the issue of climate finance, the assistance provided to poorer countries to help cut their greenhouse gas emissions and cope with the impacts of climate breakdown.
Developing countries were supposed to receive at least $100bn a year in climate finance from 2020, under a pledge made in 2009, but this target has been missed.
Experts said developing countries needed to see that the pledge would be met, in order to build trust for a deal at Cop26, and commitments from the G7 would be essential to that.
However, they said the UK had “lost credibility” in urging other developed countries to come up with the financial commitments necessary, because of the decision to slash overseas aid.
Peter Betts, former UK chief climate negotiator, said: “This does reduce the UK’s credibility in pushing other donors to do more. This is eroding and undermining UK credibility.”
Rachel Kyte, the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a former World Bank climate official, said the G7 meeting was vital in gaining new commitments in climate finance. “If not the G7, then who? And if not now, when?”
She said the US needed to make greater commitments on climate finance, and that other G7 countries – including Germany, Japan and Italy – had been notably silent on the issue.
“It’s extremely difficult to go further faster if there is this question in UK politics [over overseas aid]. I don’t think for many Brits this is how they would like to be portrayed in their diplomacy.”