Mario Draghi warned the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies that “acting alone is simply not an option” as they gathered in Rome to start a two-day race to reach agreement on global climate change goals.
The G20 summit in Rome will set the course for next week’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow, with wide divisions remaining among countries over how willing they are to recognize the threat of climate change and what additional commitments they will make to combat it.
“Multilateralism is the best answer to the problems we face today. In many ways, this is the only possible answer,” said Draghi, the Italian prime minister and host of the G20 this year, in his opening comments on Saturday.
“From the pandemic, to climate change, to fair and equitable taxation, doing everything alone is simply not an option. We must do everything we can to overcome our differences.”
Hope for what can be achieved in Rome has been dimmed by the absence of many leaders from the first face-to-face meeting of the G-20 in two years, with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin among the participants in the videoconference talks.
Ministers from China, Russia, Japan, South Africa and Mexico had to stand for the opening “Family Portrait” in place of their leaders.
The countries that make up the G-20 are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of global carbon emissions and without them no progress on multilateral solutions to global warming can be made.
One of the most contentious issues this weekend is whether to include a pledge to abandon coal in the final statement, a move opposed by some coal-dependent countries such as India, Russia and Australia.
Leaders also discuss how to increase funding for climate issues. One option on the table is to limit a portion of the International Monetary Fund’s SDR for climate or coal-related projects.
The International Monetary Fund has issued $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights, a money-like tool, to help recover from the pandemic, as richer countries have said they will reallocate their Special Drawing Rights to poorer countries, but have not yet decided how.
With negotiations on the official statement continuing into Saturday, the climate clauses have yet to be agreed upon. “The climate and energy text is the only part of the statement that is still wide open,” said a source close to the talks.
Securing the support of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen as critical to the G20 outcome on coal, which is a top priority for the Italian hosts. India made no new climate pledges prior to COP26, and remains a tight adherent to coal.
Earlier in the day, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister who will host COP26 in Glasgow, warned that it would be “extremely difficult to get the agreement we need”.
Ahead of Saturday’s talks, French President Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times he hoped the G20 would agree to “accelerate the exit from coal energy” and that rich nations would commit financially to helping developing nations achieve their climate goals.
A final statement showing the extent of the G20’s climate commitments will be issued on Sunday afternoon.
The Rome Summit also provided world leaders with the opportunity to hold important bilateral meetings.
Yesterday, US President Joe Biden met Macron for the first time since the diplomatic row between Paris and New York over the canceled French submarine contract.
The leaders of the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany were scheduled to hold a four-way meeting to discuss Iran on Saturday, and later Italian President Sergio Mattarella will host a dinner for the leaders and their partners.