G20 Live Updates: Leaders Take On Climate Change and Vaccine Access
Leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations gathered in Rome on Saturday for the first in-person Group of 20 summit since the coronavirus swept across the planet, confronting twin global crises that have an outsize impact on the poor: the peril posed by climate change and the continuing failure to provide equitable access to lifesaving vaccines.
“We are now in the second year of a global pandemic that has killed four million people,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in a speech before the meeting. “Extreme climate events regularly devastate vulnerable communities.”
“You have come together, to determine the course of some of the most pressing issues we face: access to vaccines; extending an economic lifeline to the developing world; and more and better public finance for ambitious climate action.”
On Saturday, President Biden scored a diplomatic victory at the summit, with leaders endorsing a landmark global agreement that seeks to block large corporations from shifting profits and jobs across borders to avoid taxes. The global agreement to set minimum levels of corporate taxation is aimed at stopping companies from sheltering revenue in tax havens like Bermuda.
“We reached a historic agreement for a fairer and more equitable tax system,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy said in remarks opening the summit’s first session.
Later in the day, Mr. Biden met with the leaders of Britain, France and Germany to discuss ways to get the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran back on track, one of Mr. Biden’s most elusive diplomatic goals since assuming the presidency. They also wrestled with ways to better unite to address the pandemic.
When the leaders at the summit posed for their “family photo,” they were joined on the platform by doctors in white coats and emergency medical workers from the Italian Red Cross.
Before Saturday’s meeting, health and finance ministers from the nations called for 70 percent of the world’s population to be vaccinated against the coronavirus over the next eight months — an ambitious goal that would require a sharp increase in the amount of vaccines being made available for the developing world.
It would mean addressing the stark inequity that has resulted in G20 countries receiving 15 times more doses per capita than countries in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the science analytics company Airfinity.
The United States has pledged to donate more than one billion doses, the most in the world. And Mr. Biden, who often refers to his skills as a negotiator and his decades of foreign policy experience, is seeking commitments from foreign leaders on other efforts to combat the pandemic.
But the promises of wealthy nations have repeatedly fallen short over the course of the pandemic.
So, too, have pledges by wealthy nations to address climate change. The urgency of the moment has been driven home time and again this year as nations struggled with flooding, fires and other extreme weather events.
The G20 meeting comes just before COP26, a worldwide summit on climate change in Glasgow that could be a make-or-break moment to save a warming planet.
While the gathering in Rome is a departure from the largely virtual diplomacy of recent years, two leaders are noticeable for their absence: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China, who are staying home from the conference over Covid concerns.
Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters traveling to Rome that the president saw those leaders’ absences not as an obstacle to coordination but as an opportunity to showcase that Western democracies can work together to meet current and future threats.
Gita Gopinath, the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said the most urgent economic task for leaders at the summit was slowing the pandemic — in large part, she said, by making good on promises to ship vaccine doses to less wealthy nations.
“To truly end this health crisis and its accompanying economic crisis, we need to get to widespread vaccinations everywhere in the world,” Ms. Gopinath said.
ROME — President Biden suggested on Saturday that talks to restart a nuclear accord with Iran, a delicate diplomatic deal struck in 2015 and unraveled by the Trump administration, may move forward.
“They’re scheduled to resume,” Mr. Biden said at the Group of 20 summit, just before he entered a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain to discuss rejoining the pact.
In a hastily released joint statement, though, the group seemed to put the brakes on Mr. Biden’s assertion that talks would definitely resume.
The statement said the leaders, whose nations are parties to the accord, “welcome President Biden’s clearly demonstrated commitment to return the U.S. to full compliance” with the agreement and “stay in full compliance, so long as Iran does.”
Mr. Biden’s advisers had said ahead of the summit not to expect a major development on the pact, but the president’s comments seemed to suggest an openness to move forward, if not a concrete step.
In the vortex of global challenges facing the Group of 20 leaders — the tenacious coronavirus, the disrupted economy and the warming climate — the breakdown of talks with Iran represents a less prominent but no less vexing problem for the United States and its European allies.
In Saturday’s meeting, which was closed to the news media, Mr. Biden and his counterparts were expected to discuss efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear accord, which the president’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump, abandoned in 2018, calling it insufficiently strict.
Under the agreement, Iran sharply curtailed its nuclear activities in verifiable ways, aimed at ensuring that it could not make an atomic bomb, and the United States rescinded some sanctions that had severely crimped Iran’s economy.
Since the U.S. repudiation of the agreement, and the restoration of sanctions, Iran is no longer abiding by its terms, either. According to U.N. monitoring reports, Iran has made significant advances in enriching uranium, the nuclear fuel that can be used for both peaceful pursuits and for weapons. It now has far more enriched uranium than it did in 2018, and has enriched it closer to the very high level needed to make a bomb.
Although Iran has repeatedly pledged that it will never become a nuclear-weapons state, it is believed to be close to crossing an important threshold, having amassed roughly enough uranium for fueling a bomb.
Mr. Biden has said he wants to restore U.S. participation in the agreement. The other parties to the accord — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have been seeking ways to save it.
But talks with Iran on this issue have basically been stalled since the June election of Iran’s hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, who has insisted that the United States return to compliance first, promise to never abandon the accord again and give up any thought of renegotiating its terms.
Biden administration officials have suggested that time is running out to salvage the agreement.
On Wednesday, Iran’s deputy foreign minister said that Iran intended to participate in talks in Vienna on reviving the accord before Nov. 30, but as of this weekend, a date had not been set.
Outside experts who have followed the ups and downs of the accord’s history have turned increasingly skeptical about the prospects for saving it.
“Iran’s continued intransigence and the acceleration of its nuclear program will make it difficult for even the most forward-leaning negotiators to revive the agreement next year,” the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical risk advisory firm, said this past week in an assessment written by its Iran analysts.
Several thousand protesters marched in Rome on Saturday afternoon, dancing, drumming and singing “Bella Ciao,” a song identified with the resistance movement during World War II.
And they vented their rage and disenchantment with the current world order: “You are the G20, we are the future,” they chanted, as they wound down a Rome avenue, setting off red and green flares.
At least 5,000 people joined the march, according to police officials, though organizers said the number was more than twice that.
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