The Rundown: G7 Summit Spells Promise for Cleaner Energy and Trouble for Putin

By Logan Pettinato

Every week, we will give you the rundown on a recent development related to international affairs. This week: Germany hosts 41st G7 Summit in Bavaria.

Leaders of the G7 Summit 2015 (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Pete Souza)

Leaders of the G7 Summit 2015 (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Pete Souza)

On June 7-8, 2015, heads of state from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. convened for the 41st Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Bavaria, Germany. Guest invitees from nations including Iraq, Senegal, and Ethiopia also attended the event. In addition to featuring high-level talks between heads of state, the summit also included a series of meetings at the ministerial level. During the two-day event in the Bavarian Alps, delegates discussed a wide range of topics, including matters of international development, energy security, marine governance, and the empowerment of women in the global workforce.

Questions about Russia’s relationship with the international community loomed over the discussions held this week. In keeping with its decision reached in March 2014 that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea would be an obstacle to productive discussions as a Group of Eight (G8), the G7 did not invite delegates from the Russian Federation to participate in this year’s event. In their official declaration published after the event, members of the G7 reiterated their “condemnation of the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation and [reaffirmed their] policy of its non-recognition.” U.S. President Barrack Obama noted that “every member of the G7 continues to maintain sanctions on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.” Obama also urged the Russian government to “recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries.” The discussions held during the summit indicated sweeping dissatisfaction among G7 members with Russia’s activities and a shared commitment to continue or strengthen economic sanctions as necessary. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s first prime minister to visit Ukraine, pledged to “spare no effort in providing all possible cooperation in order to accelerate domestic reforms within Ukraine.” Similarly, Obama declared that the United States will “continue to provide economic support and technical assistance that Ukraine needs as it moves ahead on critical reforms to transform its economy and strengthen its democracy.” Although the G7 retains its posture in opposition to Putin’s actions, it remains unclear whether or not the Russian government plans to scale back its activities that prompted the sanctions.

Other major topics of discussion included the empowerment of women in the global workforce, energy security, and international trade. In their declaration after the summit, the G7 outlined a shared commitment to “address the specific needs of women entrepreneurs… by promoting their access to finance, markets, skills, leadership opportunities and networks.” Member countries also reaffirmed their shared objective to promote free trade and improve “competitiveness by taking unilateral steps to liberalize our economies.” In May 2014, the G7 countries launched the G7 Energy Initiative for Energy Security in order to promote collaborative efforts on matters of energy policy. This year, the G7 also declared its commitment to “Accelerate access to renewable energy in Africa and developing countries… with a view to reducing energy poverty.” Delegates from African nations including Senegal, Nigeria, and South Africa met with G7 leaders for detailed meetings on issues of regional economic development and security. Obama noted at the end of the summit that “the G7 will work to mobilize more financing for clean-energy projects in Africa” in order to combat energy poverty without harming regional environments. In an effort to decarbonize the global economy, the G7 countries aim to eliminate use of fossil fuels by the end of the century. Although an ambitious objective, the G7’s acknowledgment of the pressing needs to empower women, promote freer trade, and reduce dependence carbon emissions over the next 85 years is a step in the right direction.   

As the G7 assembled in Bavaria, tens of thousands of protesters also ventured to the region in order to express discontent with the summit and its attendees. Although protesters often suggest the G7 Summit appears beholden to wealthy establishments or features more photo opportunities than concrete policy achievements, the meetings serve as an important mechanism for consensus-building between member countries on how to address major issues of international security and development. While summits alone cannot reduce climate change, inequality, or energy poverty, they help to set in motion the plans, targets, and policy agendas necessary to achieve meaningful solutions.