Scott Morrison has arrived at the G7 meeting of the world’s so-called most advanced economies amidst climate change protests and a call from Prince Charles to “do it for the planet”.
Official talks on economic recovery, global resilience and foreign policy started Friday between the leaders of the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Australia is one of four guest countries invited to the G7 and Morrison will only have observer status at the summit being held in Cornwall, in the south-west of England.
As the leader of one of four guest nations, Morrison will join other world leaders alongside South Africa, South Korea and India for official talks on climate and nature, health and open societies on Saturday and Sunday.
At a speech to an official reception for G7 leaders, Prince Charles said the Covid-19 pandemic “shows what a truly borderless crisis looks like.”
“Yet climate change and biodiversity loss represent a borderless crisis the solutions of which have been argued about and postponed for far too long.”
The future UK king said the global response to the pandemic and the way countries were working together was an example of the scale and speed the global community could come together to tackle a crisis when political will was harnessed.
“We are doing it for the pandemic … we must also do it for the planet,” he said.
As leaders arrived, so did almost 100 climate change activists who had been walking for six days to arrive at Carbis Day.
Morrison is facing pressure over Australia’s record on climate change, with targets seen as unambitious and its status as a major fossil fuel producer and exporter.
G7 environment ministers have agreed to deliver climate targets in line with limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C.
“This is a very important place for Australia to be today as we touch down here in the United Kingdom to join the G7-plus dialogue,” Morrison said.
His plane was set to land at Cornwall’s Newquay airport but was cancelled because of heavy fog, requiring a drive of several hours to reach the summit venue.
“This is the third occasion that we’ve had the privilege to be invited to be part of these discussions and there is a lot on this agenda for Australia,” he said.
Morrison was previously invited to the G7-plus 2019 summit in Biarritz, France, while the 2020 event was to be in the US but was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Australia would commit 20m Covid-19 vaccine doses to an effort led by UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, to vaccinate the world, he said.
“These 20 million doses will go to support doses in our region, to ensure that we continue to exercise our responsibility as part of a broader global responsibility to combat this virus.”
“There has never been a more important time for Australia to be sitting around such a table,” Morrison said.
“Dealing with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the recession that it has caused and the recovery that we are building, particularly at home in Australia, with our economy being bigger today than it was before the pandemic hit.”
He said the summit would help ensure “the rules-based order that protects our trade but also protects our seas, and protects the way that countries can live and work together in a positive way all around the world”.
Australia is also on the cusp of sealing a free trade deal with the UK, with officials hoping for progress as Morrison meets Johnson after the G7 concludes on Sunday.
Farmers’ access to Britain has been a key sticking point in negotiations as UK agriculture groups worry about Australian beef and lamb flooding the market.
Australia has rubbished the claim, with the National Farmers Federation estimates 0.15 per cent of all beef exports go to the UK.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, who launched negotiations when he held the trade portfolio, signalled a deal was close saying Australia viewed agricultural market access as crucial to any trade deal.
“What we’re looking for there is to have as open a market as is absolutely possible for Australian goods to enter as free from tariffs and as free from quotas,” Senator Birmingham told Sky News on Friday.
Morrison is expected to meet US President Joe Biden, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in.
While Morrison is not expected to make any new commitments on climate, Australia is facing calls to support carbon tariffs on emissions-intensive imports.
However, the prime minister considers any form of carbon tariff to be against Australia’s national interest.
Morrison is keen to focus on preparedness for future pandemics, business-led growth, free and fair trade and the international rules-based order.
Before the conference, the prime minister had a face-to-face meeting with Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong.
Singapore is expected to be the second country after New Zealand to establish a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia but a new arrangement remains months away.
Lee indicated the travel bubble would not be approved until the majority of populations in both countries had been vaccinated.
Australia lags behind Singapore in the vaccination process, having fully immunised less than 3% of the adult population.
Just under half the 4.7 million population in Singapore has been fully vaccinated.