G20 Live Updates: Climate Talks Dominate Summit’s Final Day
Fresh off a win on Saturday with a global corporate tax agreement and some progress toward restoring the nuclear accord with Iran, President Biden returned for the final day of the Group of 20 summit on Sunday facing far more difficult challenges, including pressure to take stronger action on climate change and to make concrete progress on delivering Covid vaccines to the poorest countries.
The difficult agenda facing the leaders of 20 of the wealthiest nations, their first in-person meeting since the pandemic began, illustrated a widening divide with developing countries. Those nations say that industrialized countries have hoarded vaccines and squandered decades of opportunities to slow the warming of the planet.
On Sunday evening, as the summit drew to a close, Mario Draghi, prime minister of the host country, declared the gathering “a success,” and said he had observed a marked difference from previous years. In the past, Mr. Draghi said, leaders seemed less able to work together.
“Something changed,” he said.
After the summit in Rome, Mr. Biden and other leaders will travel to Glasgow for a United Nations climate conference, where they will confront demands from scientific experts and many developing countries to rapidly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for heating the planet. The talks in Glasgow, known as COP26, come as the U.N. warns of a looming climate catastrophe and are shaping up as a test of whether global cooperation is even possible to address a crisis that does not recognize national borders.
A senior administration official told reporters on Saturday evening that American negotiators were pushing for concrete progress from the summit on reducing methane emissions, decarbonizing the global power sector and ending international financing for coal projects.
For Mr. Biden, who has staked his presidency on his ability to forge consensus at home and abroad, the return to in-person diplomacy presented an opportunity for good news after weeks of negative headlines.
His struggles included the battle to unify Democrats in Congress behind his huge economic and environmental spending plan, as well as trying to manage the fallout from the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. He began the weekend in Rome by smoothing things over with President Emmanuel Macron of France, acknowledging that the administration’s handling of a submarine deal had been “clumsy.”
Mr. Biden faced a trickier meeting on Sunday morning with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, amid tensions over Ankara’s threats to expel ambassadors from the United States and other nations and its purchase of a Russian missile-defense system. A senior Biden administration official told reporters in Rome that the meeting would cover a range of topics, including Syria, Libya and Turkey’s desire to acquire U.S.-made F16 jets.
Despite the tensions, the two leaders were seen chatting several times at the summit on Saturday, with Mr. Biden gesturing animatedly at Mr. Erdogan before all 20 leaders posed for the customary “family photo.”
Mr. Biden has reveled in the return to backslapping American diplomacy, and on Saturday he scored a victory as leaders endorsed a landmark deal 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.
Also on Saturday, Mr. Biden met with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain to discuss rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear pact, which President Donald J. Trump abandoned. While Mr. Biden said that the Iran talks — one of his most elusive diplomatic goals — were “scheduled to resume,” the other leaders walked back his statement, saying that they “welcome President Biden’s clearly demonstrated commitment to return the U.S. to full compliance” with the agreement.
Leaders of the Group of 20 nations sent a symbolic message on Sunday as one of the most important climate conferences began, pledging to “pursue efforts” to keep the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
While the mention of the number, seen as a critical threshold for limiting the severest effects of climate change, is a step forward, the leaders did not say how their countries would reduce their emissions more aggressively to achieve that goal.
“We remain committed to the Paris Agreement goal to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, also as a means to enable the achievement of the 2030 Agenda,” the leaders said in a statement.
Saying they “look forward to a successful” climate conference, the leaders said, “We recognize that the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C are much lower than at 2°C.”
In addition, the G20 leaders pledged to end the public financing of coal power plants in countries outside their own.
However symbolic the commitment on 1.5 degrees is, it was not without significance, noted Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy. “Now, for the first time, all the countries of the g20” acknowledge the scientific merit of the 1.5.-degree goal, he said.
The scientific consensus is that if the average global temperature rises by 1.5 degrees Celsius — 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit — it will significantly increase the likelihood of far worse climate catastrophes that could exacerbate hunger, disease and conflict. That consensus came in a landmark report a few years after the Paris agreement was reached in 2015, which had set the goal at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.
The language of the statement sends an important signal to the United Nations-led international climate summit that began in Glasgow on Sunday. Its host, Britain, and the United States have made the 1.5-degree goal something of a rallying cry.
G20 nations account for the vast majority of the local greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet, and they hold the key to averting the worst consequences of global warming.
“Keeping 1.5°C within reach,” the leaders said in their statement Sunday, “will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries, taking into account different approaches, through the development of clear national pathways that align long-term ambition with short- and medium-term goals, and with international cooperation and support, including finance and technology, sustainable and responsible consumption and production as critical enablers, in the context of sustainable development.
At the moment, however, achieving a 1.5-degree cap is a highly ambitious goal.
Even if all countries achieve the targets they set for themselves in the Paris Agreement, average global temperatures are on track to rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Reaching the target would require big polluting countries to strengthen those targets, or Nationally Determined Contributions, as they are known, by committing to reduce emissions much faster between now and 2030.
The leaders committed “to take further action this decade” and to update their plans as necessary.
On Sunday night came a glimpse of the passions world leaders are likely to face over the next days in Glasgow as they meet to grapple with a warming world.
No sooner had Group of 20 leaders put out a 17-page communiqué outlining what they were willing to do to address climate change than they were hit with a flurry of criticism, some of it from veteran statesmen who barely hid their disappointment.
Mohamed Nasheed, a former prime minister of the Maldives who now leads a group of countries called the Climate Vulnerable Forum, singled out the G20’s failure to be more ambitious about phasing out coal.
“This is a welcome start,” Mr. Nasheed said in an emailed statement. “But it won’t stop the climate from heating more than 1.5 degrees and devastating large parts of the world, including the Maldives. G20 countries need to look at decommissioning coal plants at home and repowering their coal fleet infrastructure with clean energy.”
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, in the equivalent of a diplomatic shaking of the head, said the G20 summit had not, “at least,” sunk his hopes.
“While I welcome the #G20’s recommitment to global solutions, I leave Rome with my hopes unfulfilled —…