At this point, one can't say the G-20 meeting in Rome was entirely unproductive, although the unofficial run-up to the upcoming COP climate conference in Glasgow next week didn't seem to accomplish much.
After the US and EU trade negotiators struck a deal late yesterday to resolve a trade spat dating back years, the G-20 nations - an agglomeration of the most economically powerful nations on the planet - agreed early Sunday on a new climate framework that they will bring to the climate accords in Glasgow next week (although Russia and China, two prominent G-20 members, skipped the international circle-jerk, and with good reason). Both leaders participated in the Rome meetings via video conference, and aren't expected to join in person in Glasgow.
Anyway, on Sunday, negotiators from all sides reached agreement on the climate section of the G-20 summit’s final conclusions, giving the world's biggest and most developed countries something to take with them to the COP26 summit in Glasgow this week. Of course, as we have explained, developing nations will need some serious convincing, since projections show them having the most to lose over the coming decades as they catch up to their developed peers.
According to Bloomberg, the G-20 deal - as expected - calls for a reduction in offshore coal plants, while recommitting the global community to the aims first adopted 6 years during the Paris Accords (which haven't hardly come close to being realized).
Negotiators reached agreement on the climate section of the Group of 20 summit’s final conclusions, giving leaders something to take onto the COP26 summit in Glasgow this week.
The language largely mirrors prior pledges made in the 2015 Paris climate accord, however. Leaders said they “remain committed to the Paris Agreement goal to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
As expected, the communique agrees to phasing out investment in new offshore coal power plants, something China already said it would do. “We will put an end to the provision of international public finance for new unabated coal power generation abroad by the end of 2021.”
While members committed to cut their reliance on coal, the deal didn't offer too many details about how exactly that would happen (China, the world's second largest economy is still heavily reliant on the stuff).
In terms of domestic coal, the statement only contains a general pledge to supporting those countries that commit to “phasing out investment in new unabated coal power generation capacity to do so as soon as possible.” The communique offered little in the way of concrete action. The G-20 committed to “significantly reduce” greenhouse gas emissions “taking into account national circumstances.”
Speaking at the start of the meeting, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi proclaimed that going it alone simply isn't an option for the world's most developed nations.
Instead, Draghi insisted that "multilateralism" is the key, per the FT.
Multilateralism is the best answer to the problems we face today. In many ways it is the only possible answer,” Draghi, Italy’s prime minister and host of the G20 this year, said in his opening comments on Saturday. “From the pandemic, to climate change, to fair and equitable taxation, going it all alone is simply not an option. We must do all we can to overcome our differences”.
Ahead of Saturday's talks French President Emmanuel Macron told the FT that he hoped the G-20 would agree to "accelerate the exit from coal power" and for rich countries to commit more financially to help developing countries meet their climate goals. Of course, the last time the West was confronted with a bill for these so-called "commitments", John Kerry nearly had a heart attack.
For the sake of global cooperation allowing the emerging world to continue on its path toward development without taking too much away from the West, the world leaders attending better be ready to make more sacrifices than they did this weekend in Rome.
One final takeaway from the G-20 gabfest, as Andrea Widburg notes, is that if the ritual photograph of world leaders is anything to go by, Joe Biden has lost some of the respect that used to be accorded America. Some? Who am I kidding? He’s lost all of the respect. Think of this as a Where’s Waldo game and try to find Biden in the staged photo-op of massed world leaders above.
If you can’t find him, let us help. Don’t look to the center. In the center, you can see India’s Modi in the white leggings, with Germany’s Merkel on his left and, two over from Merkel’s left, there’s Canada’s Trudeau. Cast your eyes in the other direction, to Modi’s right, and you’ll see the blonde shock of hair that is England’s England’s Boris Johnson, a couple of people away from Modi. Turkey’s Erdogan standing in front of Johnson.
But where is Biden? Oh, right! There he is, on the far left of the photo, practically falling off the stage.
Is that really where the American president belongs?