Boris Johnson says world must ‘move together’ to get vaccines to everyone
Mr Johnson was addressing leaders including US president Joe Biden as he hosted a virtual summit of the group of rich industrialised countries.
He also called on the G7 members – also including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the EU – to join together in focusing on the need for action to stem global warming.
And he welcomed Mr Biden’s decision to recommit the US to the Paris Agreement on climate change, after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 accord.
The meeting was accompanied by fresh pledges on vaccine distribution to poorer nations, with Mr Johnson promising to share the UK’s surplus doses and the European Commission doubling to 1 billion euros its contribution to the World Health Organisation’s Covax programme.
Amid concerns that unvaccinated areas will create pools for the development of dangerous new variants, French president Emmanuel Macron called on the US and European states to send 5 per cent of doses to poorer states.
An IpsosMori poll found Britons were more likely than others to feel that extra doses should be shared, with 69 per cent saying some of those left over once everyone in the UK is vaccinated should be passed on, compared to 61 per cent in Germany, 50 per cent in France and 46 per cent in the US.
Today’s discussion was being held by video link because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Mr Johnson said he hoped to welcome the leaders to the UK in June for the full annual G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.
Speaking after the UK gave first doses of Covid-19 vaccine to more than 16m people – a higher proportion of the population than in any other G7 state – Mr Johnson said: “Science is finally getting the upper hand on Covid, which is a great, great thing and long overdue.
“But there is no point in us vaccinating our individual populations – we’ve got to make sure the whole world is vaccinated because this is a global pandemic and it’s no use one country being far ahead of another, we’ve got to move together.
“So, one of the things that I know that colleagues will be wanting to do is to ensure that we distribute vaccines at cost around the world – make sure everybody gets the vaccines that they need so that the whole world can come through this pandemic together.”
Mr Johnson called on his fellow leaders to step up action on climate change at the UN Cop26 summit which the UK will host in Glasgow in November.
“I think that this is the right moment for us all to focus on the other great natural challenge about which we’ve been warned time and time and time again,” he said.
“We can’t ignore it – the warnings have been even clearer than they were for Covid – and that is the problem of climate change, and that’s why we’re going to be working very hard to get some great things done at G7 on our plans for the Cop26 summit that we are holding along with our Italian friends in Glasgow in November.
“It’s great, by the way, that Joe has brought the United States back into the Paris climate change accords – a great step forward.”
Mr Johnson urged G7 leaders to work together on “building back better” from the pandemic.
Noting that it was a slogan that Mr Biden had also used, he won laughter from the US president by joking: “I think he may have nicked it from us but I certainly nicked it from somewhere else”
“Jobs and growth is what we are going to need after this pandemic and I think that the build back better operation offers the right way forward,” the prime minister said.
He said he wanted to ensure that “building back better” and the “green technology that we are all going to use to tackle climate change” delivers the “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new green collar jobs that we know it can produce”.
Mr Johnson said that members of the “great gathering of like-minded, liberal, free-trading democracies” stood together on issues ranging from oppoistion to the coup in Myanmar to condemnation of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.