Once upon a time the G7 countries ruled the world. Today, not so much. The leaders of Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and the U.S. wrapped up their annual summit in Bavaria earlier this week. The results were disappointing to say the least. These five facts show why we no longer live in a G7 world—even if the G7 themselves haven’t gotten the message.
1. Climate Change
The G7 announced an “ambitious” plan to phase out all fossil fuels worldwide by 2100. Unfortunately, they didn’t make any concrete plans to scale back their own conventional fuel consumption. That’s a big deal when 59 percent of historic global carbon dioxide emissions—meaning the greenhouse gases already warming the atmosphere—comes from these seven nations. Taken as a group, G7 coal plants produce twice the amount of CO2 as the entire African continent, and at least 10 times the carbon emissions produced by the 48 least developed countries as a whole. If the G7 is serious about tackling climate change, they should start at home.
One of the biggest stories to emerge from the two-day summit was President Obama’s acknowledgement that the U.S. didn’t “yet have a complete strategy” for dealing with ISIS. Why not? “Because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis,” he said. But ISIS is no longer just a regional concern: With a fighting force of 22,000 foreign fighters from over 100 countries, ISIS now officially qualifies as a global threat. The U.S. has managed to train about 9,000 Iraqis since December, with another 2,500 in the pipeline, but that won’t be near enough manpower to root out the radical terrorist group. Now that Palmyra has fallen, ISIS controls over 50% of the Syrian landmass and is poised to expand further. As much as the G7 wishes it would be otherwise, the Iraqis are not going to solve the world’s ISIS problem alone.
Until last year, the G7 used to be the G8. But then Russia decided to invade Ukraine, so it was booted from the group. Sanctions followed, and the Russian economy took a tumble. Inflation hit 15.8 percent this past May, while GDP fell 4.2 percent year-on-year in April. The ruble has lost 11 percent of its value against the US dollar in the last month alone. Food prices are soaring: 50 percent of Russians have reduced consumption since sanctions began, and 20 percent say they have no disposable income left after paying for food and shelter. Yet Russia remains in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin remains undaunted. The G7 announced at the summit that sanctions will remain in place so long as Putin ignores the Minsk ceasefire agreement brokered in February… and that was pretty much it. So for those wondering, the crisis in Ukraine continues.
Greece is turning into an existential crisis for Europe while posing a systemic threat to the global economy—impressive for a country that makes up only 0.32 percent of the world economy by GDP. Germany and France, the ostensible leaders of the EU, are trying to keep the Euro intact without compromising the union’s political integrity. For months now the Greeks have tried to draw the Americans into the game as the “Institutions” (the EU, European Central Bank and IMF) harden their negotiating stance against Athens. But long gone are the days when America could fix Europe with a Marshall Plan. Aside from thorny question of EU politics and sovereignty, the cost would be exorbitant. Greece owes roughly $360 billion to creditors, with roughly $63 billion owed to Germany alone. For reference, the Marshall plan only cost the US $13 billion—approximately $120 billion in today’s dollars. The only help Greece got in the end from the G7 summit was Obama plaintively asking all sides to show “sufficient flexibility.”
5. A New G8?
The G7’s influence is undoubtedly waning. Part of this can be attributed to global economic and population trends. In 1980, the G7 countries accounted for 61.1 percent of world GDP and roughly 13.85 percent of the global population. Today, the G7 countries are only responsible for 46.3 percent of global GDP output and house 10.5 percent of the world population. And these numbers are on course to continue their decline.
Complicating matters is that, in our globalized world, the responsibility divide between developed and emerging markets is blurrier than ever. To truly solve global problems, world leaders will have to work together with developing nations to tackle cross-border challenges like terrorism and climate change. The most obvious candidate for G7 inclusion is China. Adding China to the G7 would vault the group back to 61% of world GDP share and take it to 29.6% of the world’s population. That would make the G7 global again.