The leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union, met in Hiroshima in May 2023.
The usual critics complained that the Prime Minister of Canada was off on an international jaunt and would have been better off staying home. The meeting attracted some media attention because of its focus on the Ukraine crisis and its reinforcement of climate objectives, but press coverage of other issues discussed was not extensive.
International meetings such as the G7 deserve better coverage by the media. They have a number of benefits: coordination of policy amongst somewhat like-minded countries that can achieve more effective results than uncoordinated national policy initiatives; sharing of ideas on best practices among national leaders; and sharing with decision-makers and voters in like-minded nations of the strategies that are supported in common amongst like-minded national leaders. Only by undertaking initiatives together is there hope of achieving successful outcomes on some of the world’s major sustainability challenges.
The 2023 G7 meeting illustrated these opportunities in an unusually positive way. The 40 page Communiqué, obviously mostly compiled by sherpas (personal representatives of the leaders) ahead of the meeting, contained more references to environmental and sustainability initiatives than most previous G7 Communiqués.
The leaders expressed their commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons and effective implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention as well as the Chemical Weapons Convenion with undiminished security for all.
The Communiqué stressed the crucial role of women and under‑represented groups for the long‑term success of our economies through promoting inclusion, diversity and innovation. The group stated that it looks forward to a successful review of the G20/Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) Principles of Corporate Governance to strengthen sustainability and resilience of the private sector.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals, which have not so far received much public attention from the Government of Canada, received a boost with the statement that they are urgent and that the G7 Leaders are determined to do their part to mobilize the private and public resources needed to meet these challenges and support a just transition.
The Communiqué devoted several pages to climate change, expressing in unusually strong language the Leaders’ commitments to achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and a range of intermediate targets on the way to that longer-term objective. G7 Leaders call on all Parties to commit at UNFCCC‑COP28 (Nov-Dec 2023 in the UAE) to peak global GHG emissions immediately and by no later than 2025 and commit to actively contributing to securing the most ambitious outcomes of the first global “stocktake,” which should result in enhanced, immediate and ambitious actions across mitigation, adaptation, means of implementation and support.
Clean energy also received a great deal of attention at the G7. Leaders reported an urgent need to pursue secure, resilient, affordable, and sustainable clean energy supply chains, including the importance of working collectively to avoid market distortions and ensuring a global level playing field.
Another area in which a strong commitment to action was made by the G7 Leaders is food security. Interestingly, Canada is the only G7 country that does not have a national food strategy, yet the Government of Canada apparently had no difficulty is committing to a statement that we recognize the urgent need of establishing inclusive, resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems including through enhancing, diversifying and ensuring sustainability of local, regional and global food supply chains as well as through solving structural bottlenecks. This includes increasing local production capacities by making use of existing domestic agricultural resources and by facilitating trade, sustainable productivity growth with climate adaptation and mitigation and biodiversity conservation, and sustainable food consumption.
Among several environmental commitments are to increase domestic and international environmentally‑sound, sustainable and efficient recovery and recycling of critical minerals and raw materials and other applicable materials while increasing circularity along the supply chains.
The Communiqué also recognized that management and governance systems for water‑related ecosystems must also recognize that they are essential for all life on earth.
The G7 Leaders committed to end plastic pollution, with the ambition to reduce additional plastic pollution to zero by 2040, stepping up actions based on the comprehensive life cycle approach and hoping for an international legally binding instrument covering the whole life cycle of plastics with ambitious outcomes by the end of 2024.
This year’s G7 Communiqué is more comprehensive than the typical Federal Government Speech from the Throne. It has no legal authority but presents as if it has substantial moral authority. It is certainly a remarkably comprehensive document against which the G7 governments can be, and should be, evaluated. Let’s hope that our present federal government, and its future successors, understand the strength and importance of the commitments made.
The G7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué and other outcome documents are available here.
Colin Isaacs is a chemist with practical experience in administration, municipal council, the Ontario Legislature, a major environmental group, and, for the past three decades, as an adviser to business and government. He is one of the pioneers in promoting the concept of sustainable development for business in Canada and has written extensively on the topic in the popular press and for environment and business platforms.
Featured image credit: Getty Images.