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French G7 Presidency Focuses on Climate Change, Human Development & Peace

France is leading the G7 presidency this year — for the seventh time in the group’s history. France’s priorities for the G7 surround climate change, human development (like education and gender equality), and peace and security issues. This comes as no surprise from a French President who has made clear his stance on the importance of combating global warming, and helping societies develop economically.

As France takes over the Group of Seven presidency this year, it has an ambitious agenda, focusing on climate change, human development, and peace and security — fitting for the country that launched the G7 summit at Rambouillet in 1975.

The G7 consists of France, Italy, Germany, the UK, Japan, Canada, and the United States. Every year, the leaders of these powerful economies convene to discuss major global issues, outlined by the G7 presidency.

The natural environment and climate change control, are a more recent addition to the G7 agenda — supported by increased, recent, international awareness, of the catastrophic effects of climate change, and the development of institutions and treaties like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adopted in 1992. Just more than two decades after this, France led 195 nations in signing the Paris Climate Agreement, within the UNFCCC, in order to set substantive targets for emissions reduction, and clean energy promotion.

When Emmanuel Macron was elected French President in 2017, a year after nations signed the Paris Climate Agreement, he chose to make climate change a priority of his administration, and enacted a number of initiatives to help the country combat climate change, including the controversial fuel tax that has led to a wave of “yellow vest” protestors rioting throughout the country, since late last year. Macron announced in December, that he would hit pause on the fuel tax — an effort to curb ‘dirty’ fossil fuel usage and, thus, reduce carbon dioxide emissions — for the time being.

But as president of the G7 this year, France has made clear it will not back down from calling for formidable climate reform. A major priority for the French G7 presidency, “will be to combat inequalities linked to the climatic and environmental emergency,” said French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, at a speech in December.

“Each of us knows that the most disadvantaged people, are often those most vulnerable to climate change,” he said. “It’s for them that changes in consumer behaviour or habits have the highest cost. I want to emphasise this: the ecological transition must lead to greater social and geographical justice; they run in parallel.”

The G7 heads of state meeting took place in Canada in 2018. The 45th Summit is set to take place in August in Biarritz, France. Copyright: Cabinet Public Relations Office, Cabinet Secretariat. Japan

France has a special interest in strengthening links with the Southern Mediterranean countries — a region that suffers greatly from climate change’s consequences, due to its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea — in fighting against global warming. It also wants to work internationally — for example, with many Latin American and Caribbean countries, which have already committed to taking major steps to combat climate change — to address the global challenge of anthropogenic world warming.

Additionally, “France will play its full role in this, particularly by increasing its official development assistance to 0.55% of national wealth, by 2022,” said Le Drian.

To top it off, the third “One Planet” summit — which focuses on measures to advance the Paris Climate Agreement — is scheduled to be held at the same time, and in the same place as the G7 heads of state meeting, in August in Biarritz, a seaside town on France’s southwestern Basque coast.

Beyond climate change, France’s priorities for its G7 presidency, include human development, particularly with education and reinvigorating the Global Partnership for Education, and with gender equality, and other gender-related issues. A third priority is peace and security issues, centred on Syria, terrorism and migration, especially in and from the Middle East and North Africa.

France is placing an emphasis on coordination with Africa, to work on all of these issue areas. “It’s time to recognize Africa for what it is: a stakeholder devoted to playing its full role in redefining the rules of globalisation, and a stakeholder that is already drawing up its own solutions too – solutions that will enable the African countries to better harness their vast human and natural resources,” said Le Drian.

France, after all, has deep ties to Africa, due to its colonial history with the continent: from around 1830 through 1960, the French colonial empire ruled over much of North, West, and Central Africa. Today, France — and President Macron — has made clear that it wishes for deeper ties with the continent, especially in matters of security and migration.

Overall, the French G7 presidency is aimed at international cooperation — multilateralism — in order to address the biggest challenges of the 21st century.

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Kaitlin Lavinder

Kaitlin is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. She holds an MA in International Economics and European Studies from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and previously worked as a national security reporter and Europe analyst. She has conducted on the ground research in Germany, Poland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

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