There is a divide in vaccination between rich and poor countries. What is the moral obligation of the G7 to the rest of the world to end the pandemic?
It is imperative to help. The G7 is not just for taking care of ourselves. This alliance, made up of the greatest democratic powers in the world, is there to lead other countries, to show the way. This summit comes at a key moment. In several countries, we are taming this virus and seeing a slightly happier future. But in many others it is not. It is an obligation for all of us to do what we can to help other states, because no one is safe if we are not all safe. We have to do it. I know this is at the heart of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s concerns for the summit in Cornwall.
Yet Canada and the United Kingdom are the only two countries in the group that still have not made firm commitments on sharing their surplus vaccines. Why?
I think that for each government, the priority must be the protection of its own population. I find that quite normal. There is no point in making promises that we will not be able to keep. I know that part of our approach for the future will be, when we can, to share the doses that we have in excess. But it is not worth saying on what exact date for the moment. The COVAX mechanism, which the UK has funded with £ 500 million, is there for it. We’ll use it when the time is right.
The British Prime Minister wants to set a target during the summit so that the whole world will be vaccinated by the end of 2022. Is this really realistic, if we take into account all the logistical challenges to distribute the vaccines in the countries in the process? of development?
I think it is possible and I will tell you why. British embassies around the world have received vaccines from England. The cold chain was maintained and it was shown that it was possible to send the doses to the most remote stations, including the Pitcairn Islands, in the South Pacific. They received their vaccine! I think we have shown that it is possible and it is better to be very, very ambitious. If we say 2023, it will be 2023. It is better to push ourselves and force us to do this as quickly as possible.
Prime Minister Johnson wants a treaty to prepare for the next pandemic. What needs to be corrected?
We need to think less as an individual country and have a common response. We must develop structures that allow us to support the World Health Organization and perhaps agree on a new treaty that could define our responses: the surveillance, production and distribution of vaccines as well as the detection of variants. There are several areas where a common response is much more effective than doing this each of us.
G7 countries will discuss vaccine passports to facilitate the movement of travelers. What can we expect at the end of the summit?
A realistic objective would be to have an agreement in principle, but I do not believe that we will have a final agreement on the form of the vaccination passport. Considering the appearance of new variants and the level of knowledge surrounding their interaction with the different vaccines, I think it’s a bit early. Having said that, to have an agreement on the principle around a possible medium-term passport, that is a completely realistic objective.
When would you like to see a reopening of the borders between Canada and the United Kingdom? This summer?
This is what we hope for, but I do not want to say when we will be able to lift the restrictions. As quickly as possible, of course. These are super complicated calculations. For the moment, everything is going in the right direction. Three factors are used to decide where a country is located: vaccination rate, variants and infection rate. These three conditions must be met before changing position on the list.
Let’s talk about the climate. The G7 countries are still investing heavily in fossil fuels. An expert report commissioned by your Prime Minister recommends ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. Do you subscribe to this idea?
Yes, we are very attached to this deadline. We have already reached an agreement in principle that the G7 countries will no longer finance fossil fuel projects abroad. This is a first step towards a broader commitment to the need to stop using this kind of energy. For some countries this is more difficult than others and the UK government is not going to dictate how to make this transition successful. However, it is clear that no country will be able to meet its Paris Agreement goals if it continues to use coal or oil to generate energy. We hope that the G7 will take another step towards absolute zero (carbon neutrality) and that at the Glasgow climate conference next fall, we will have an even more ambitious global agreement.
Donald Trump caused a stir in the last G7 summits. What will Joe Biden’s arrival change?
It will be a slightly different atmosphere from the one we experienced at La Malbaie in 2017. I myself witnessed the repercussions of Donald Trump’s presence. The current US administration really believes in multilateralism, and that is the biggest difference. No country can face today’s challenges on its own. We are renewing our fundamental belief in our institutions. They’re not perfect, but they exist for a reason. For example, the agreement that was reached on the taxes of large companies Last weekend in London showed that if we act together, we can really accomplish something that has a real impact in people’s lives, with a recovery that benefits everyone and not just a very, very wealthy few.
In conclusion, concerning the two Canadians detained in China, can we expect concerted action from the G7 to demand their release?
The relationship between our countries and China will be part of the discussions in Cornwall. During the meeting of foreign ministers and in their statement, they referred to the initiative on arbitrary detentions which was led by Canada and which now brings together some 60 countries. We will not forget these two men. For Canada, I know both Michael is important. It is abominable. We all have citizens who are arbitrarily detained by authoritarian regimes and I think we have to be very clear that it is unacceptable to use human lives in this way.
Some comments have been shortened and adapted for the sake of clarity and brevity.