No Roman holiday: G20 meets on climate, Covid, recovery
ROME, Oct 28, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - The leaders of the world's major economies
gather in Rome this weekend for the first in-person G20 summit since the
pandemic began, with Covid-19, economic recovery and climate change topping a
US President Joe Biden is flying in to reiterate his message that "America
is back" after four years of Donald Trump's bruising diplomacy, although
Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping will attend only by
Their absence has lowered expectations for the summit, normally a forum
for deals between allies and rivals of differing size and power, from the US
and China, to Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Australia and the European
But all eyes will be on their language on climate change, on the eve of
crunch COP26 talks starting in Glasgow on Monday.
Leaders are also expected to rubberstamp a deal to impose a 15 percent
minimum tax on global corporations and discuss the post-pandemic recovery and
associated risks, including the uneven rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the summit "marks the return of
multilateralism, after the dark years of isolationism and of isolation linked
to the health crisis".
However, Antonio Villafranca, from the ISPI foreign policy think tank,
warned the absence of Xi and Putin was "not a positive sign".
The G20 "is not a transatlantic format but a multilateral format in which
it is fundamental that everyone contributes," he told AFP.
- Step up -
The timing of the G20 summit, ahead of marathon UN climate talks in
Glasgow, has put the effort to slow global warming centre stage.
G20 members are responsible for 80 percent of all man-made greenhouse gas
emissions, but are at different stages of development and disagree on how
fast they can act.
Italy hopes the G20 will collectively endorse the UN goal of limiting
global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, one of the
aspirations of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accords.
But G20 members remain at odds over the other major goal of reducing
greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. China has set a 2060 target,
but India -- pointing to its status as a developing country -- has not made a
The risks to the post-pandemic recovery will also feature in the Rome
talks, from inflation and rising energy prices to supply chain issues and the
slowdown in China's economic growth.
No new pledges are expected on Covid-19 vaccines, but Italy wants more
help for lower income countries to help distribute existing jabs and build
more resilient health systems.
"Global solidarity in facing this pandemic has been pretty wanting," noted
Emma Ross, senior research fellow at the Chatham House think tank.
"The G7 didn't rise to the occasion, so everyone is looking to the G20 now
to see if this wider representation of global leaders can step up."
- Vatican diplomacy -
The summit takes place on Saturday and Sunday but many leaders will fly in
on Friday and a flurry of bilaterals are expected, in the first physical
gathering many world leaders have attended since Covid-19 struck in early
Biden will meet Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron, seeking to
smooth ties with the latter after Australia scrapped a French submarine deal
in favour of a US-UK agreement.
The president, a practicing Catholic, will also meet Pope Francis. The
pontiff will also receive Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South
Korean President Moon Jae-in over the weekend.
Security will be tight at the summit, particularly after violent clashes
earlier this month in central Rome between police and protesters against the
extension of Italy's coronavirus pass to all workplaces.
Border controls have been temporarily reintroduced, derogating from
Europe's passport-free Schengen area, while a no-fly zone is in place over
most of the capital.
Meanwhile 500 soldiers have been mobilised to help out with the summit,
which is being held away from the city centre in the Mussolini-era suburb of