CARBIS BAY (Britain) • The Group of Seven (G-7) leaders met yesterday for their first in-person talks in nearly two years, with an expected pledge to donate one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to the world's poorest countries as part of a show of Western democratic unity against the planet's most pressing issues.
The club of leading economies - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States - said a joint approach is the world's best chance for recovering from the global health crisis, and tackling climate change.
US President Joe Biden set the tone on Wednesday, ditching former president Donald Trump's isolationist stance on global affairs to ram home a message of resolve by the G-7 and Nato against both Beijing and Moscow as he heads on to his first sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Geneva.
"The driving animating purpose of this G-7 summit is to show that democracy can deliver against the biggest challenges we're facing in the world," a senior US administration official said.
Campaigners say the G-7's inoculation pledge for this year and next - including 500 million doses from the US - is too little, too late to end a pandemic that has claimed more than 3.7 million lives worldwide.
"If the best G-7 leaders can manage is to donate one billion vaccine doses then this summit will have been a failure," charity Oxfam said, insisting that the world needs 11 billion doses.
But the G-7 has recognised that it needs to mobilise against the "vaccine diplomacy" launched by the roll-out of Chinese and Russian jabs, with the Biden administration stressing that it expects nothing in return.
The leaders, meeting at the seaside resort of Carbis Bay in Cornwall, south-west England, are also expected to outline more help for developing nations to build up infrastructure, as a counterpoint to the debt-fuelled spending by China in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The initiative "will embrace a high-standards, transparent, climate-friendly, non-corrupt mechanism" for infrastructure investment in the developing world, the US official said. "It will be an alternative to that which other countries, including China, are offering."
Underpinning the US-led diplomatic revival, Mr Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday adopted a new Atlantic Charter, modelled on the pact signed by their World War II leaders to build a new world order.
Mr Johnson dislikes the decades-old phrase "special relationship", arguing it makes Britain look subservient to Washington, telling the BBC that it should be viewed as "indestructible" instead.
He also played down differences with Mr Biden over Northern Ireland, ahead of showdown talks between the Prime Minister and European Union chiefs today to tackle deep fissures opened up by Brexit.
Mr Johnson will be hoping to lighten the mood at a beach barbecue today, joined by his wife Carrie and other G-7 spouses. That will follow yesterday's reception for the G-7 leaders hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Cornwall's Eden Project, an exhibition that showcases the world's ecological riches.
Safeguarding global biodiversity is another G-7 theme this weekend, with the leaders set on agreement to protect at least 30 per cent of the world's land and oceans by 2030.
They will also debate aiding poorer nations to transition out of fossil fuels, in the build-up to the United Nations' COP26 summit in November in Scotland.
Like the G-7, Britain wants COP26 to be held in person, and announced that it plans to offer vaccine doses to delegates from poorer nations if they cannot get them otherwise.
The G-7 is also expected to adopt a British plan to ensure schooling for another 40 million girls by 2025, after the pandemic destroyed educational opportunities for many around the world.