G20 leaders seek consensus on climate, economy, vaccines

Merkel, Modi and Erdogan arrive at the G20 summit in Rome

Leaders of the world’s most advanced nations met Saturday at the G20 summit in Rome hoping to hammer out a way forward on climate change and vaccine equality, with consensus still outstanding on the most pressing global issues. 

In their first in-person gathering since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the relaunch of the global economy will also be front and centre on the two-day agenda, while the bloc is likely to approve a minimum tax rate for the biggest multinationals.

“From the pandemic, to climate change, to fair and equitable taxation, going it alone is simply not an option,” G20 host and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told the assembled group of leaders ahead of the closed-door meeting.

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The stakes are high, with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warning G20 leaders Friday to show “more ambition and more action” and overcome mistrust in order to advance climate goals.

– ‘Two debates in parallel’ –

“Next hours will be important to be able to solve outstanding issues,” European Council president Charles Michel said ahead of the G20 meeting.

“I understand for some countries dependant on coal it is difficult to accept,” Michel said, a veiled reference to China, the world’s largest polluter and biggest user of coal.

While Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin did not travel to Rome, attending only by video link, US President Joe Biden hopes to revive his country’s leadership on the world stage following the tumultuous Trump years.

Biden met Friday with Pope Francis and then French President Emmanuel Macron, where he admitted that Washington had been “clumsy” in its handling of a submarine deal with Australia and Britain that left Paris out in the cold.

– Taxing corporations –

Johnson — the host of the UN climate summit next week — warned that neither the G20 nor the COP26 meetings could stop global warming, and “the most we can hope to do is slow the increase”.

The move seeks to end tax optimisation, in which global corporations — including big US tech firms such as Apple and Google parent Alphabet — shelter profits in countries with low-tax systems.

No new pledges are expected to address the vast gap in Covid-19 vaccine access between rich and poor countries.


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