The Royal Society and partner science academies launch G7 science agenda ahead of UK hosted leaders’ summit

31 March 2021

The UK government must use its presidency of the G7 and COP 26 summits to encourage G7 governments to lead an urgent science and innovation effort on a scale the world has not seen before.

Scientists from the G7 nations outlined in three statements the pressing global issues that they believe the G7 states should urgently address: Creating a net zero climate resilient world, tackling biodiversity loss, and improving the use of data in pandemics.

Led by the UK’s Royal Society, the national science academies of the G7 nations today launched their science agenda ahead of the G7 leaders’ summit in the UK in June.

2021 could be a historic turning point for renewed global coordination on climate change, reversing biodiversity decline, and global health emergencies. But the action in these areas must be based on greater cooperation and collaboration between the G7 nations and a greater level of ambition and investment in the technologies and big science and economic ideas that can deliver a more sustainable and healthier world.

Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said, “Science and technology are at the heart of many of the solutions the world needs. However, to solve our biggest challenges, we need to rapidly leverage the science solutions available to us now while increasing investment in research into the technologies that hold the most promise for the next 30 years and beyond. Taking action to handle the major environmental crises that exacerbate inequality and threaten humanity’s future must start with the G7 governments.

“To drive the pipeline of big science ideas and technologies, the world’s scientists will need to be supported to collaborate and pursue many different paths. The G7 nations have a great capacity, and a great responsibility, to support the research and policies for the rapid transformation that is needed, as we aim for a world that is greener, safer, and healthier for all.” 

An evidence-based technology road map to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions is among the positive science solutions that the science academies are calling on the G7 governments urgently to consider and adopt. As the world’s wealthiest economies, strong leadership is needed from the G7 nations to advance rapidly the next generation climate technologies that will be needed in the next 10 to 30 years to create the net zero world of 2050.

In May 2021, the Royal Society will publish its definitive science priorities for an international and domestic UK climate technology roadmap.

In the UK, the statements were handed over to the Prime Minister’s G7 Sherpa, Jonathan Black, and will be discussed with others in Government ahead of the summit itself.

The three statements summarised

A net zero climate-resilient future

Existing technologies and nature-based solutions will not be enough to decarbonise the world economy, and the science academies call on the G7 to apply their political might and resources to support the research and rapid development of technologies in those areas where we are not making progress on emissions, such as aviation, manufacturing and food production. 

Ahead of the United Nations’ climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow later this year the academies call on the G7 nations to:

  • Develop evidence-based technology road maps to net zero
  • Increase investment in the research and development challenges on the road to net zero, both nationally and collaboratively between G7 nations
  • Support middle- and low-income countries on the road to a climate-resilient, net zero future
  • Agree policies to economically incentivise carbon neutral options

Professor Peter Bruce FRS, Physical Secretary and Vice President of the Royal Society, and the Society’s lead on the statement said, “Getting to net-zero will be an enormous task, but we are optimistic that science can lead the way. The G7 nations can play a crucial role in supporting the scientific innovation that is going to make us more resilient to respond to climate change and the challenges the future holds.”

Reversing the biodiversity crisis

The G7 nations need to work together to raise the ambition to halt, and start to reverse, biodiversity loss by 2030. Ahead of the United Nations’ biodiversity summit, COP15, in China later this year, the academies call on the G7 nations to:

  • Develop and draw on new approaches to recognising and accounting for the true value of biodiversity, for example the recently published Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity in the UK
  • Join up the climate and biodiversity agendas and address them in a coordinated way
  • Support the development of a global biodiversity monitoring network to help countries meet their biodiversity targets

Professor Yadvinder Malhi FRS, Professor of Ecosystem Science, University of Oxford and the Royal Society’s lead on the statement said, “This statement presents the case for ambitious steps to reverse biodiversity decline. For society to flourish, the natural world must thrive, and biodiversity can no longer be the poor relation as we tackle the linked threats of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“The G7 nations have a responsibility to support the transformation that is needed. They directly have experienced significant levels of biodiversity loss and play a major role in the consumption of goods that rely on, and put pressure on, biodiversity worldwide.”

Data for international health emergencies

This statement draws on lessons learnt from Covid-19 to call on the G7 nations to work together to establish a commission on data for health emergencies. As a starting point, the commission could identify procedures for data sharing used in response to Covid-19, for longer-term use in G7 and other nations. It should involve meaningful public dialogue to build trusted data sharing systems to support global health beyond G7 countries, and beyond health emergencies.

The G7 nations should also:

  • Agree principles and systems, technology, and infrastructure to facilitate safe and equitable sharing of data in global health emergencies
  • G7 nations should invest in the data skills needed at all levels in society from basic data literacy to skilled data use among health professionals and others

Professor Christopher Dye FRS, Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford and the Royal Society’s lead on the statement said, “Covid-19 has exposed the weaknesses in global data systems. It is completely predictable that we will suffer another pandemic; we need to learn from this moment to build a trustworthy and trusted system for sharing data more effectively in future health emergencies.”