G-7 leaders pledge over 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses for poorer nations
LONDON — The leaders of the world’s seven richest nations agreed to donate 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer countries over the next year and take a harder line against China, which President Joe Biden hailed Sunday as a return of American leadership on the world stage.
There was a “clear consensus” among the other leaders that commitments they made to donate vaccines wouldn’t be the end, he said, adding that the U.S. would be responsible for around half of the 1 billion doses or around 500 million.
Democracies had a duty to “step up and deliver,” he said, adding that the U.S. may eventually be able to contribute 1 billion more doses.
At a separate news conference, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the doses will be both direct transfers of vaccines and funding to COVAX, a global vaccine buying system backed by the World Health Organization and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, he told a news conference in Cornwall around 500 miles west of London.
However, the commitment falls far short of the 11 billion doses the World Health Organization said are needed to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the world’s population.
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On his first trip abroad as president, Biden had sought to make countering China a significant part of the G-7 summit. Along with the other six nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom — they chastised Beijing for repression of its Uyghur minority and other rights abuses.
The G-7 would continue to challenge “practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy” the communique said. It also called on “China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang … and autonomy for Hong Kong.”
As a growing number of scientists take seriously the possibility that virus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic escaped a Chinese laboratory, the G-7 called for “(t)imely, transparent, expert-led,” studies into the origins of the pandemic in the face of Chinese stonewalling.
Biden also told reporters on Sunday that he backed plans for “values driven” financing of infrastructure schemes for developing nations, which could rival China’s huge Belt and Road initiative.
China, the world’s second largest economy, is not part of the bloc and on Sunday, a spokesman for the country’s embassy in London cautioned that the days when “small” groups of countries decided the fate of the world were long gone.
After strained ties between former President Donald Trump and Western allies, Biden’s arrival was welcomed by fellow leaders, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailing him a “breath of fresh air,” on Saturday. French President Emmanuel Macron said that it was “great to have a U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate.”
Biden said Sunday there was palpable enthusiasm that “America was back at the table” and could be “counted on again,” in global affairs.
The G-7 leaders also committed on Sunday to increase their climate finance contributions to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year, in a bid to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.
British naturalist David Attenborough addressed the leaders via video earlier on Sunday and warned that the “natural world today is greatly diminished” as he pressed for urgent action.
“The decisions we make this decade — in particular the decisions made by the most economically advanced nations — are the most important in human history,” he said.
Some environmentalist groups said the pledges did not go far enough. Greenpeace U.K. accused Johnson of producing “reheated old promises” and said it would take “nothing for granted” until nations came up with the money.
As the host of the summit, the U.K. was on a charm offensive, deploying the royal family to meet world leaders on Friday. But the consequences of its departure from the European Union also hung over the meeting, as Johnson clashed with E.U. officials over the treatment of goods in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Nonetheless the leaders smiled for photos on the beach during a barbecue Saturday night and watched an aeronautic display by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows. Biden and his wife Jill surprised locals when they attended a small Catholic church for a service on Sunday morning by the coast on the tip of southwest England.
Later on Sunday, Biden will travel to Windsor Castle to have tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed.