Transparency and accountability (on these actions) is critical, she declared. “Hiroshima represents a very critical time to leverage its (G7’s) influence on climatic action.”

by Kalinga Seneviratne, In Depth News

A one-day conference at Soka University in Tokyo on March 29 titled ‘Advancing Security and Sustainability at the G7 Hiroshima Summit’ discussed the complex problem of swaying the focus away from the Ukraine war towards green development and food and energy security at the forthcoming May summit of the world’s advanced economies, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union.

windmills in Japan renewable green energy

The dilemma was amply illustrated when a speaker who was scheduled to address the meeting in person could not make it to the Japanese capital and instead made her presentation via zoom from Munich. She told the audience in Tokyo (and those watching the live streaming) that she could not make it because of industrial strife in Germany.

“I could not come to the airport because a nationwide strike by transport unions stopped all public transport, and the airline cancelled my flight because the airports were closed,” Professor Miranda Schreurs of the Technical University of Munich said, speaking from her lounge room. “The reason is the high energy prices in Germany due to the Ukraine war.”

During the day-long deliberations, the Ukraine war was raised often, but no one dared to question whether G7 member countries’ arming of the Ukrainian military is contributing to the prolonged suffering of people globally. Germany and France with violent protests over the increasing cost of living.

Schreurs pointed out that “G7 used to lead the promotion of democracy”, but “it is not secure anymore in our own countries”, she warned, asking, “what can G7 do to support democracy?”

In the keynote address, Takashi Ariyoshi, Deputy Secretary-General of the G7 Hiroshima Summit Secretariat, said that Japan chose to hold the G7 summit in Hiroshima because the city symbolizes the “world that faces unprecedented challenges today with some threatening the use of nuclear weapons”.

He argued that when the fundamental principles of the international order are being questioned today, G7 countries need to understand why 35 countries did not vote against Russia at the UN General Assembly vote recently “in the face of blatant aggression”.

“G7 cannot settle everything we want to (on our own) today, we need to work with global partners”, he argued, noting that the Global South countries are important today, not only because many of them are suffering from the impact of the pandemic and problems associated with the Ukraine war, but also because “they are important players (in the global order)”.

Thus, he said that Japan had invited India, Brazil, the Cook Islands (chair of the Pacific Island Forum), Comoros (chair of the African Union), Indonesia (chair of ASEAN) and Vietnam to the Hiroshima G7 summit. “We have invited countries that are willing to play a positive role in protecting the international order.”

He mentioned that Japan is the only Asian country in the G7 and that China and Russia have understood the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, “How to deal with China is an important issue,” he added. “Thus, the Hiroshima summit will be an important meeting to develop collaboration in the region on a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Ariyoshi emphasized that working on economic security will be an important agenda item at the Hiroshima summit and Japan is proposing seven pathways to achieve it, which include resilient supply chains and infrastructure, not using economic coercion and non-market practices, and controlling “malicious practices” in the digital space.

Pointing out that Japan has a good track record in healthcare, Ariyoshi predicted that a major agenda item in Hiroshima would be “to strengthen the global health architecture”, taking into account the lessons learnt during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Notion of health security is very important (and) universal health coverage is an important agenda item,” he added.

“It is difficult to feel optimistic about the world today,” noted Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues of Soka Gakkai International, a co-sponsor of the meeting in an opening address.

“We can all agree that no nation should seek to construct its wellbeing and prosperity at the expense of other nations,” maintained Terasaki. “To this end, the first step is for us, as individuals, to live with the awareness that we cannot construct our own happiness on the unhappiness and misfortune of others.”

Ella Kokotsis, Director of Accountability of G7 Research Group, suggested eight recommendations for the Hiroshima agenda—including the need to ramp down on fossil fuel subsidies and the $100 billion a year commitment for climate finance to be spent to support poor communities. She urged G7 leaders to do more to support green infrastructure and technological transfers to enable developing countries to adapt green technology at a faster pace.

Transparency and accountability (on these actions) is critical, she declared. “Hiroshima represents a very critical time to leverage its (G7’s) influence on climatic action.”

Schreurs warned that reaching a net zero target (of emissions) for G7 countries like Germany by the mid-2040s would be difficult in the current political environment. “In Germany, subsidies for fossil fuel use has increased due to the effects of the Ukrainian war,” she noted. “We need to do things that it does not affect the function of democracy.”

Showing a picture of a solar panel on farmland in Japan, she noted that trees might have been felled to set it up. Consequently, while adopting renewable energy like solar, policymakers must be mindful of the environmental impacts.

Mark Elder, Director of Research at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, emphasised that because of the Ukraine war, the climate crisis should not be downgraded. “Earth’s ability to support human existence is at risk, not just because of the Ukraine war,” he warned.

“Energy conservation need(s) to be strengthened, and rather than introducing electric cars (we need to) increase public transport.” He pointed out that for electric cars, mining of critical minerals is needed, “which is a problem”—both environmentally and in terms of labour rights.

“We need to prioritise climate security, not the Ukraine war,” Elder told the audience.

Ariyoshi said that at the secretariat, in preparation for the Hiroshima summit, they have done a lot of work on how to help people who the twin crises of the pandemic and wars have left behind.

“Development finance is important here,” he argued. “We want to support SDGs focusing on vulnerable groups (and) some countries have recently received very opaque aid; we need to create an international norm to make development aid sustainable.”

This article was produced as a part of the joint media project between The Non-profit International Press Syndicate Group and Soka Gakkai International in Consultative Status with ECOSOC on 31 March 2023.