Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is satisfied with the results of Elmau, but how successful a summit meeting of heads of state and government really is often only becomes apparent with some delay. When it comes to implementing the decisions that have been made. And this in turn depends on how the final document is drafted.

Every formulation counts. The fine nuances of the choice of words show whether the top politicians are really serious about a project, whether there is agreement or how hard a passage was fought for. The communiqué of the meeting of the seven most important Western industrialized countries in Elmau, Bavaria, comprises 96 points, 69,481 characters, 12,175 words in the original English version – and contains many a surprise.

The leaders of the G-7 countries are obviously serious about climate protection. The fact that they “view with concern” about climate change and they reaffirm their “unwavering commitment” to stopping it says nothing. The phrase “we commit” to limiting global warming is crucial. It is one of the strongest verbs in such closing statements. However, the measures listed then only aim to come “within reach” of the 1.5 degree target – a clear limitation.

After all, with all planned steps towards climate protection, the G 7 “commit” or “will” (“we will”) implement them. There is deliberately no talk of weaker willing. The harmful consequences of climate change and the need to act are unreservedly “recognized” at several points in the document. Clearly there was agreement on the climate policy goals.

The heads of state and government seem to be less agreed on how to deal with the energy policy consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They only want to “work to make sure” that Russia does not exploit its position as an energy supplier. And it becomes even weaker when it comes to the question of how to alleviate the consequences of the rise in energy prices for the respective national economies. Here, additional measures are to be “examined” (“explore”). A largely vague statement because there seem to be different views on what action to take.

The entire passage, in which non-military means against Russia are discussed, is conspicuously non-binding. Further measures are to be examined to prevent Russia from profiting from its war of aggression. While they want to “gradually” move away from Russian oil, which does not imply a quick embargo, they “will seek” to squeeze Russia’s oil revenues. Determined sounds different.

On the other hand, the heads of state and government are unanimous when it comes to environmental protection. They commit to stopping and reversing the over-exploitation of natural resources and to taking the lead in protecting, conserving and using the world’s oceans in a sustainable way. More toned down, it goes on to say that it is “strongly determined” to halt and reverse land degradation and forest loss by 2030.

On economic issues, on the other hand, the state leaders are adopting a cautious tone. There is a bitter consensus that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a blow to the global economy, that it will cost growth and prosperity, and that more people will starve and starve.

The G7 can only object to continuing to strive for a strong, sustainable, balanced, gender-just and inclusive global recovery – “continue to strive” is one of the weakest verbs in communiqués, a mere declaration of intent. Either because you don’t think the problem can be managed or because you don’t agree on the necessary steps. At this point, both are likely to be the case.

Because business has a lot to do with psychology and expectations. And when war is waged, and Russia is involved at that, the expectations for good business quickly plummet. The rising energy prices, which are based on the scarcity of raw materials, do the rest – especially since none of the G-7 countries sees a chance of being able to compensate for the Russian deliveries any time soon.

The commitment to help countries where food is becoming scarce and people are starving because of the war is unmistakably clear: “No effort will be spared” (“spare no efforts”) to increase “global food and nutrition security and to protect the most vulnerable”. There are hardly any stronger formulations.

The attitude towards China, on the other hand, is formulated much more cautiously. Despite Chinese threats to Taiwan, the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits and a peaceful resolution of cross-Straits issues is merely “underscore”.

Beijing is only “reminds” to uphold the peaceful settlement of disputes and to refrain from threats, coercion, intimidation or the use of force. Can’t get any softer. It is clear that the G7 was at odds on this issue – Americans and Europeans, especially Germany, have quite different ideas about how to deal with the People’s Republic.

The last statement on economic relations with China is particularly illuminating. It states that the G-7 intends to “consult” in addressing the challenges posed by non-market policies and practices that are distorting the global economy. As long as this continues, Beijing has little to fear from the G7.

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