Climate change and reviving the global economy will be high on the G20 agenda as leaders of the world’s most advanced countries meet on Saturday, the first face-to-face gathering since the pandemic.
During the two-day talks in Rome, pressure looms to make progress in the fight against global warming, ahead of the start of the key COP26 summit in Glasgow on Monday.
The stakes are high, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday warned G20 leaders to show “more ambition and more action” and overcome mistrust in order to advance climate goals.
“We are still on time to put things on the right track, and I think the G20 meeting is an opportunity to do so,” said Guterres.
Security was heightened in Rome when US President Joe Biden arrived in the Italian capital, anxious to turn a page of Trump’s tumultuous years and show that US leadership on the world stage is restored.
Yet the Democrat faces a credibility test as his own climate policy – which is part of a broad economic package – is stuck amid internal struggles within his party in Congress.
Absent from the G20 will be Russian Vladimir Putin and Chinese Xi Jinping, who plan to attend by video link.
Summit host Mario Draghi, Italian Prime Minister, called for a “G20 commitment on the need to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees” above pre-industrial levels, the most ambitious target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the host of the UN talks next week – on Friday issued a terrible warning about what could happen if the world fails.
“We are not going to stop global warming in Rome or at this meeting at the COP,” he told reporters on his plane to Rome. “The most we can hope to do is slow the increase.”
Humanity, Johnson warned, can regress “at an extraordinary rate.”
“You saw it with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and I’m afraid to say that’s true today unless we do a good job of dealing with climate change.”
The disparities between the main world powers in the fight against global warming will complicate the task of the G20.
China, the world’s biggest polluter and responsible for more than a quarter of all carbon emissions, has been accused of bypassing calls to stop construction of new coal-fired power plants.
A new plan submitted by Beijing to the UN before COP26 did not meet the expectations of environmentalists, with a target date of 2060 to achieve carbon neutrality.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has firmly demanded that his country be paid to protect its share of the Amazon.
The world’s largest rainforest is considered a vital resource in combating climate change for its ability to absorb fossil fuel emissions.
– Tax global players –
A safer bet for concrete progress at the G20 involves taxation, as the group is expected to approve the minimum international tax rate of 15% on multinational companies after nearly 140 countries have reached a deal brokered by the OECD.
The move aims to end tax optimization, in which global companies – including big U.S. tech companies like Apple and parent company Google Alphabet – shelter their profits in countries with low tax systems.
The OECD says a 15% global minimum corporate tax rate could add $ 150 billion a year to global tax revenues.
G20 finance ministers gave their support for the tax overhaul in July.
While no new commitments are expected on Covid-19 vaccines at the G20, a press release from a Friday meeting of G20 finance and health ministers said members “will take action to help increase the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints.
A security force of more than 5,000 police and soldiers has been mobilized for the summit, according to the Interior Ministry, and several demonstrations are expected.
The summit is being held away from the city center, after violent clashes erupted earlier this month between protesters and police over the extension of Italy’s coronavirus pass to all workplaces.
Â© 2021 AFP