G20 leaders wrangle over climate, economy, and vaccines

g20- afp
(From left) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, and US President Joe Biden pose within a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 of World Leaders Summit on October 30, 2021 in Rome. (Photo: AFP)
ROME— Leaders of the world’s major economies met Saturday at the G20 summit in Rome, heading for a new deal on global taxation but still haggling on the pressing issue of climate change.اضافة اعلان

In their first in-person gathering for two years, the G20 leaders expressed “broad and cross-party support” for a 15 percent minimum tax rate for the biggest multinationals, according to a source close to negotiations.

The reform plan, which seeks to end the practice of big corporates such as Apple and Google parent Alphabet of sheltering profits in low-tax countries, has been backed by almost 140 countries and is expected to be formally approved in the G20 communique on Sunday.

But no consensus had yet emerged on a collective commitment on climate change, on the eve of the crucial COP26 conference starting in Glasgow on Sunday.

Hosts Italy want the G20 to collectively endorse the UN goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, one of the aspirations of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accords. 

But G20 members, many at different stages of economic development, remain at odds over the other major goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

“We have a moment now when we can try and take some of the nebulous commitments in Paris, solidify them into hard, fast, commitments to cut emissions, to cut cars and coal and so on,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will host the Glasgow talks.

 Crucial hours 

European Council president Charles Michel said the “next hours” would be crucial, adding: “I understand for some countries dependent on coal it is difficult to accept.”

The stakes are high, as the G20 — including China, the US, India, the EU, and Russia — accounts for 80 percent of global GDP and nearly 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. 

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned leaders Friday to show “more ambition and more action” and overcome mistrust in order to advance climate goals.

As the leaders huddled, hundreds of climate protesters gathered in the city center to demand tougher action.

“We’re asking G20 leaders to stop playing games among themselves and finally listen to the people and act for the climate, as science has been asking for years,” Fridays for Future activist Simone Ficicchia told AFP.
Another key topic of discussions is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with both Xi and Putin raising the issue of the uneven distribution of vaccines in their comments to the group via video link.

Putin blamed disparities on “dishonest competition, protectionism, and because some states, especially those of the G20, are not ready for mutual recognition of vaccines and vaccination certificates,” in his speech broadcast on Russian state television.
Get them vaccinated 

No new pledges are expected to address the vast gap in COVID-19 vaccine access between rich and poor countries.
But summit host Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister, said the G20 should “do all we can” to meet a WHO goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the global population by mid-2022.

According to a source who followed the summit discussions, “all the leaders” agreed to commit to that target. 

The meeting was the opportunity for a flurry of bilaterals between G20 leaders, notably Biden, who is hoping to reassert US leadership following the tumultuous Trump years.

He met with Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks on Iran, after Tehran said it would resume discussions with world powers next month on reviving the 2015 nuclear accord.

On Friday, Biden met Pope Francis and had a one-on-one with 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.

Yet the Democrat faces a credibility test as his signature climate policy — part of a sweeping economic package — is held up amid infighting within his party in Congress.

Read more Region and World