Missing in Action at the G-20: Global Leadership

“China is in a pretty disadvantaged position because Xi is a two-dimensional image on screen, and Joe Biden is his self that strikes his back, grabs his lapel and twists his arms,” said Danny Russel, vice president of international security and diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute and former State Department and National Security Council official. “A guy who joins Zoom can’t read a room, can’t communicate, and can’t drive and engage with others during a coffee break.”

“The G-20 must show that it can work and deliver results despite Xi’s and Putin’s contempt,” the senior Italian diplomat said.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced that “you will see the US and Europe at the forefront and center of this G-20” given the absence of Xi and Putin, and told reporters aboard Air Force One that it would be “interesting” to follow this dynamic. . . “The US and Europe drive the bus together,” he said.

Whether the bus will go anywhere useful will depend in part on whether Biden manages to reach a truce with French President Emmanuel Macron when the two meet bilaterally on Friday night. If that happens, “The G-20 is likely to further strengthen U.S. partnerships and leadership,” Russel said.

Words, words, words

The G-20 Sherpas continue work on the summit message.

As Covid kills more than 7,500 people a day around the world and preparations for the COP26 climate conference are poor, the draft seen by POLITICO relies heavily on expanding global access to Covid vaccines and treatments and a general commitment to climate action.

The text does not yet contain the text of the agreement on the introduction of a 15% global minimum corporate tax, agreed by the G-20 finance ministers in October. “I am confident that President Biden will make some noise about the tax deal,” said Pascal Saint-Amans, an official of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) responsible for managing the deal.

Biden’s climate problem

The Biden administration described its climate characteristics as one of the key differences between it and the Trump administration, which withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017.

Biden’s problem now is that Congress has not supported the diplomacy of its climate envoy John Kerry, who has called on other countries to fulfill Biden’s promise to halve carbon emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels and achieve net emissions by in 2050.

With no U.S. national price and carbon market, Biden will need a firm commitment from his 50-vote Democratic Senate for $ 500 billion or more to keep climate initiatives credible this weekend, experts say. This is the price range for financing the U.S. transition to clean energy in line with Biden’s goals.

A sign of how far the global climate debate has moved in recent years: President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package contained $ 90 billion for clean energy, the government’s largest investment in reducing emissions at the time.

The G-20 as a climate last resort

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the climate talks in Rome and Glasgow at a news conference on Thursday as “an issue for the survival of humanity on this planet”.

This weekend, leaders are likely to agree to end international coal financing and acknowledge the significantly worse consequences if governments fail to keep global warming at 1.5 degrees, but disagreements remain over what steps need to be taken to maintain the 1.5 degree Celsius target of the Paris Agreement. .

As the only venue bringing together American, Chinese, Indian and Russian leaders on an intimate level, the G-20 should be a critical point for getting these climate negotiations back on track – even Alok Sharma, the responsible British COP26 official, admits that “if we don’t act immediately, the 1.5 degree limit will slip out of range. “

Beijing released this week its path of carbon neutrality – A 40-year plan to achieve zero net emissions, which includes increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in China’s energy mix and higher afforestation targets – but disappointed climate activists who hoped the Chinese regime would move the timeline of its plan up to maximum carbon emissions by 2030.

India ruled out setting a net zero emissions target this week. RP Environment Secretary Gupta told reporters as the US and China are by far the largest current polluters, setting the same date to achieve zero net emissions (most countries suggest 2050 or 2060) would be unfair to India.

“More important is how much carbon you put into the atmosphere before you reach net zero,” he said, suggesting that India should be allowed more time to transition because it emits less.

Biden, meanwhile, arrived in Rome only with his existing goals, not with detailed legislation and money to implement it. “Obviously, I would be reinforced to go to COP26 with something in hand,” Senate External Relations President Bob Menendez (DN.J.) said.

G-20 Success Thresholds

Because about half of the adult population in the world still does not have a second dose of Covid vaccine or no immunity at all, John Kirton, head of the G-20 research group at the University of Toronto, has identified five tests for leaders.

The first is to ensure that 70 percent of the world’s adults are vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of 2022. The second are: to approve global tax reform plans; end of fossil fuel subsidies; fulfill the 2015 promise to allocate at least USD 100 billion a year to climate countries for climate finance; and direct new IMF funding for special drawing rights to poorer countries.

Canada and Germany announced this week a total plan worth $ 100 billion provide more climate finance to developing countries.

Does the G-20 work?

Tristen Naylor of the University of Cambridge, a specialist on the G-20, said the G-20 wasted its leadership opportunity when the 2020 pandemic hit the Covid. He described last year’s G-20 meetings as a “leadership failure” that largely replicated the existing national pandemic. plans.

Naylor argues that the G-20 is making progress on technocratic issues and long-standing issues such as gender inequality, but fails to deal with faster crises like Covid and its promise to ensure “the highest level of global economic governance.”

“It was a global crisis that the G-20 could have faced as a crisis committee, as happened after the global financial crisis (2008-2009), but it didn’t,” Naylor said.

G-20 members carried out only 1 of the 7 promised doses of the vaccine to poorer countries.

One of the obvious successes of the G-20 this year is the agreement of finance ministers on global taxation reform. This success did not depend on the G-20 officials, but on the OECD, which forwarded the agreement. “The OECD is becoming the de facto secretariat of the G-20,” Taylor said.

Sunset on Biden’s honeymoon

G-7 leaders couldn’t hide their enthusiasm for working with Biden when they met in Cornwall, England, in June. This was followed by a disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan and wounded French pride in it AUKUS defense and trade agreement. Patience among the allies is now running out.

One quality that could help maintain that patience: experience.

Last year, 35-year-old Mohammed bin Salman – who led the G-20 under her Saudi presidency – and disruptive President Trump failed to lead the forum to useful results.

This year, Biden’s 50 years of international experience and the experience of summit host Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, will provide more ballast for discussion.

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is preparing to retire after 16 years in office, is also bringing her successor and Finance Minister Olof Scholz to Rome to help with the transition.

If the peak falls this weekend, you can expect many repetitions of the 2022 summit: The world needs many and more peaks, ”said John Kirton, in order to cope with his greatest challenges.

David Herszehorn contributed to this report.

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