G-7 primer: From COVID vaccines to the 'family photo,' takeaways from Day 1 of the summit

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FALMOUTH, England – Leaders from some of the world's wealthiest nations gathered Friday for their first in-person meetings since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, England, encompasses talks over globally distributing COVID-19 vaccines, tackling climate change and addressing shared security concerns, from cyberattacks to China's geopolitical rise.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden held a pre-summit meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. They discussed the durability of U.S.-U.K. relationship, and Johnson sought to allay concerns in Washington over how Britain's exit from the European Union – Brexit – could impact a decades-old peace treaty in Northern Ireland.

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Here are the key moments from day one of the G-7 summit:

More vaccines for everybody else

The U.S. and U.K. have some of the highest coronavirus vaccination rates in the world. Johnson has said G-7 leaders in Cornwall will be asked this week to donate 1 billion vaccines in total to poorer countries over the next year. On Friday, there will be more discussion on how to meet that goal after Biden ahead of the summit pledged to donate 500 million doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to nearly 100 lower income countries and the African Union. And Johnson said his country would gift more than 100 million doses, likely of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Activists wearing giant heads of the G7 leaders tussle over a giant COVID-19 vaccine syringe at Swanpool Beach in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, June 11, 2021. Depicted from left to right, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Activists wearing giant heads of the G7 leaders tussle over a giant COVID-19 vaccine syringe at Swanpool Beach in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, June 11, 2021. Depicted from left to right, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.

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"High income countries have stockpiled far more vaccine doses than they need even though COVID-19 is a global problem which cannot be dealt with effectively unless we act as a global community, and this means protecting everyone everywhere," said Helen Lambert, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Bristol, England.

The "Carbis Bay Declaration," announced Friday, saw G-7 leaders "commit to using all their resources to prevent a global pandemic from ever happening again." The declaration, to be agreed on during the summit Saturday, will incorporate recommendations from a report from the Pandemic Preparedness Partnership, which contains recommendations on how governments and others can quickly respond to any future outbreaks. Some of the recommendations include reducing the time taken to develop and license vaccines and support for reforming and strengthening the World Health Organization.

Royal charm offensive

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and First Lady Jill Biden receive flowers from students at Connor Downs Academy in Hayle, Cornwall on the sidelines of the G7 summit on June 11, 2021.
Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and First Lady Jill Biden receive flowers from students at Connor Downs Academy in Hayle, Cornwall on the sidelines of the G7 summit on June 11, 2021.

Who said soft power isn't a thing? Queen Elizabeth II and other senior members of the British royal family were dispatched to the G-7 summit Friday in a reflection of the important diplomatic role the royal family often plays for Britain.

The queen was joined by Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge for events at the Eden Project, a climate and biodiversity complex in Cornwall. The queen was part of a “family portrait” with the world leaders attending the G-7 summit Friday.

On Sunday, the queen will host Biden and first lady Jill Biden at Windsor Castle. The queen has met 12 out of 14 serving U.S. presidents during her nearly 70-year reign. Biden previously met with the Queen in 1982.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United States President Joe Biden arrive at a drinks reception for Queen Elizabeth II and G7 leaders at The Eden Project during the G7 Summit on June 11.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United States President Joe Biden arrive at a drinks reception for Queen Elizabeth II and G7 leaders at The Eden Project during the G7 Summit on June 11.

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'We need much greater ambition'

Members of the Extinction Rebellion activist group descended on Cornwall to pressure world leaders to do more to address threats to wildlife, seas and precious resources as a result of climate change. They are using blimps, marches, drums and various pop up theatrical actions to draw attention to climate-related issues.

"The reality is that none of the G-7 nations are delivering on the promises they made in Paris in 2015," said Melissa Carrington, a former environmental consultant from Dorset, England, referring to the landmark Paris Agreement that Biden rejoined this year.

Former President Donald Trump had withdrawn from the accord.

"All claims of climate leadership are farcical, when no major economy has implemented policies consistent with limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius," she said.

It's not clear what specific new commitments on climate may emerge from G-7 leaders.

Activists from the climate change protest group Extinction Rebellion, dressed in green robes and known as "Green Spirits" demonstrate in St Ives, Cornwall on June 11, 2021.
Activists from the climate change protest group Extinction Rebellion, dressed in green robes and known as "Green Spirits" demonstrate in St Ives, Cornwall on June 11, 2021.

Smile, it's photo time

No international summit would be complete without the traditional "family photo" of world leaders. The family photo can sometimes give an indication of latent or developing tensions between dominant personalities, or simply give an insight into something more mundane, such as how tall a world leader is compared to his or her counterparts. The many photos of Trump captured at the various summits he attended during his presidency invariably show him appearing to look dissatisfied or at odds with other leaders, as was often the case.

"Everybody in the water," Biden joked as he and his fellow leaders assembled for their photo on the beach in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, on Friday. The president stood to Johnson's right, in the row. Biden looked at ease and was seen immediately prior to the photo chatting amiably with French President Emmanuel Macron. In fact, the two men had each draped an arm around the other's back.

Macron and Biden during their pull aside "discussed a range of regional and bilateral issues, including COVID-19 and counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel, and affirmed the importance of the U.S.-France partnership and the Transatlantic alliance," Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Friday evening.

From left to right, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gather for a photo at the G-7 summit.
From left to right, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gather for a photo at the G-7 summit.

Johnson calls for nations to ‘learn lessons’ from pandemic

Johnson formally kicked off Day 1 of the G-7 summit by calling on the nations to learn lessons from the global COVID-19 pandemic, and to not repeat the mistakes that were made throughout the pandemic and during the recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis.

"You’ve all been going through the most wretched pandemic the world has faced for at least our lifetimes. I actually think that this is a meeting that genuinely needs to happen because we need to make sure we learn lessons from the pandemic," Johnson said. "We need to make sure that as we recover, we level up across our societies – we need to build back better."

Johnson added that he believes “what’s gone wrong with this pandemic, or what risks being a lasting scar, is that inequalities may be entrenched.”

“We need to make sure that, as we recover, we level up across our societies and we rebuild back better,” he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: G-7: Takeways from Biden, world leaders on Day 1 of summit

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