Home Covid-19 The G20 Summit commits to the Covid-19 vaccine and climate change

The G20 Summit commits to the Covid-19 vaccine and climate change

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Although at the closing of the meeting, the G20 leaders promised to “fully” support the efforts to ensure that the Covid-19 vaccine reaches all countries of the world equitably, they did not reach specific financial commitments. During the summit, the Paris Agreement was also discussed, with China insisting that economic powers must lead the environmental battle and the United States defending its decision to withdraw from the climate pact.

The G20 Summit ended this Sunday, November 22, with a promise: spare no effort to guarantee “affordable and equitable access for all people” to the Covid-19 vaccine.

“We commit to address the remaining global financial needs, to welcome the efforts made by multilateral development banks to strengthen financial support for countries’ access to Covid-19 tools, in line with existing multilateral efforts, and encourage them to do more. We recognize the role of extensive immunization as a global public good, “world leaders jointly assured in the closing declaration of the summit, organized by Saudi Arabia.

However, in the document there is no promise of any specific amount, as proposed by the European Union. In this sense, in her statement on Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of the need to invest 4.5 billion dollars in the ACT Accelerator.

The reason for this is that the initiative, led by the World Health Organization to ensure that all countries have equitable access to Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, does not yet have sufficient resources. In this regard, the G20 only indicated that it “fully” supports all efforts to ensure affordable access to the vaccine and “especially the ACT Accelerator initiative”.

The commitment to maintain debt relief for the poorest countries

Since the summit in March this year, the G20 has promised to temporarily suspend debt service payments from the poorest countries. In May, it fulfilled its commitment, in October it extended it and now world leaders have agreed to extend the freeze on debt service payments until mid-2021.

G20: The promises for the Covid-19 vaccine to be distributed around the world

The statement also emphasized the importance of multilateral institutions and called on the International Monetary Fund to continue exploring additional tools that could help the needs of its members as the economic crisis created after the isolations due to the Covid-19 pandemic evolves.

So far, the G20 debt relief initiative has helped 46 countries defer $ 5.7 billion of debt in 2020. However, the beneficiary nations represent fewer than the 73 who were eligible and the amount is less than 12,000 millions of dollars that the group initially promised to save the poorest countries.

Climate change: the divergence between the United States and China during the G20 summit

China, the United States, the countries of the European Union and India are the nations that produce the most carbon dioxide emissions. They alone account for almost 60% of the world’s fossil emissions, according to the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (Edgar).

And now that the leaders of those countries are gathering at the G20 Summit, they discussed progress in the fight against climate change. But their positions were divergent. While the US president, Donald Trump, defended the withdrawal of the Paris Climate Agreement; the leaders of China and India called for greater efforts to protect the environment.

Although Trump has denied climate change and during his government the ozone air pollution standards that had existed since 2015 were maintained, before the G20 the president said that in his mandate “environmental administration is a sacred obligation.”

The virtual address of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, is broadcast live in the media center of the 15th Annual G20 Leaders Summit, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 22, 2020.
The virtual address of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, is broadcast live in the media center of the 15th Annual G20 Leaders Summit, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on November 22, 2020. © Saudi Press Agency / Brochure via REUTERS

After that statement, the US president once again defended his criticized decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the global pact that seeks to combat climate change by increasing actions and financing to reduce carbon emissions.

But Trump does not share that position. “The Paris agreement was not designed to save the environment. It was designed to kill the American economy. I refuse to deliver millions of American jobs and send billions of US dollars to the worst polluters and environmental transgressors in the world, and that is what would have happened, “he said in his virtual presentation during the summit.

The president also maintained that since the United States withdrew from the Agreement, “it has reduced carbon emissions more than any other country in the world.” However, this phrase has its nuances. The Trump administration announced the withdrawal in November 2019 and it was made official a year later, so it is still too early to say that it has been the one that has reduced the most emissions.

Now, it is true that in 2020 the United States was the one that reduced its carbon emissions the most with -9%; However, the reduction is slightly greater than that of others such as China and the European Union, which both reached -8%. Furthermore, the global decline was largely a consequence of the pandemic, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

Still, China, the United States, and the European Union have maintained their pollution levels over the years, contributing 30%, 13%, and 9% of global carbon emissions, respectively.

The positions of China, India and Brazil on climate change

Despite leading the figures, the leaders of China and India were inclined in their speeches to ask for more actions from all the G20 countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping called on world leaders to push for “the full and effective implementation” of the Paris Agreement and reiterated that “China will honor its commitments” to reduce its peak emissions by 2030 and be a carbon neutral country. by 2060.

Likewise, the president gave three keys for the G20 to lead the environmental fight. “First, we could strengthen our response to climate change (…) Second, we could deepen the transition to clean energy (…) Third, we could protect the ecosystem with respect for nature,” he explained.

A giant television screen broadcasts the statements of Chinese President Xi Jinping while participating in a virtual G20 summit.  Photograph in a shopping mall in Beijing, Sunday, Nov.22, 2020.
A giant television screen broadcasts the statements of Chinese President Xi Jinping while participating in a virtual G20 summit. Photograph in a shopping mall in Beijing, Sunday, Nov.22, 2020. © Andy Wong / AP

For his part, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, called for the G20 not to focus only on the economic reactivation in the middle of the pandemic, but also on the fight against climate change.

Indeed, the final G20 communiqué states that countries are “committed to safeguarding our planet and building a more sustainable and environmentally inclusive future for all people.” The commitment was concretely translated into actions to prevent environmental degradation, to restore biodiversity in a sustainable way, preserve the oceans and promote clean air. “The fight against climate change is among the most urgent challenges of our time,” said the G20.

Modi considered that such efforts must be integrated and holistic. “Inspired by our traditional spirit of living in harmony with the environment and the commitment of my government, India has adopted low-carbon and climate-resilient development practices,” said the prime minister.

In his more comprehensive vision of what it means to combat climate change, Modi added that work is not “just a factor of production”, but that efforts should be focused on the human dignity of each worker. “This approach would be the best guarantee to safeguard our planet,” he concluded.

Finally, another of the leaders who referred to climate change was the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro. Although the president has been at the center of criticism for his environmental policy that defends the exploitation of resources in the Amazon, Bolsonaro said he is committed to the environmental fight.

“The national anthem of my country says that Brazil is a giant by nature and be sure that nothing will change that. We will continue to protect our Amazon, our Pantanal and all our biomes,” Bolsonaro said at the closing of the Summit. ” The president added that world leaders could count on Brazil and its citizens “to return to the world more developed and more sustainable.”

With Reuters, AP and EFE

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