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The Group of 20 (G20) leading industrialized nations began a two-day summit in Rome on Saturday with climate action and the COVID-19 pandemic set to dominate the talks.

The G20 bloc, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for more than 80% of the world’s gross domestic product, 60% of its population and an estimated 80% of carbon emissions.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi welcomed the leaders of the Italian government to Rome’s Nuvola cloud-like convention centre in the
Fascist-era EUR neighbourhood, which was isolated from the rest of capital.

“From the pandemic to climate change, to fair and equitable taxation, going it alone is simply not an option,” Draghi told his counterparts.

He issued a fresh call for redoubled efforts to get COVID=19 vaccines to the world’s least-prosperous

Draghi emphasized that while 70% of the population in rich countries has been vaccinated; only 3% of those in the least developed countries have. He called it “morally unacceptable.”

Two German leaders are present

German caretaker Chancellor Angela Merkel is in attendance along with US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, among others. Video link allows for other leaders like Vladimir Putin from Russia and Xi Jinping of China.

Merkel invited Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrats (SPD) chancellor candidate in this year’s German elections and her likely successor, to join her at the summit. 

“It’s very unusual for the incumbent chancellor and her likely successor to attend a summit together,” said DW correspondent at the G20 meeting, Alexandra von Nahmen, adding that “the perception will be that this is just a sign of continuity in German politics.” 

Leaders will be focused by the impending climate summit

Looming over the talks is pressure to make headway on tackling global warming, ahead of the key COP26 climate summit in GlasgowNext week.

According to Reuters news agency, a draft statement, the G20 leaders will say that they intend to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which scientists consider vital to avoid disaster. However, this will not be a commitment.

China, the world’s largest polluter, is responsible for more than 25% of all carbon emitted.

Beijing plans to reach carbon neutrality in 2060, which is below the expectations expressed by environmental groups.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has demanded that his country be paid for protecting its share of the world’s biggest rainforest, the Amazon.

What else is on the G20 agenda?

As well as the pandemic and its consequences, the ministers are expected to discuss efforts to speed up the global economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, address soaring energy prices and supply chain bottlenecks, which have affected a number of key industries worldwide.

G20 leaders also signed off on a minimum global tax rate of 15%A deal was reached earlier in the month for large companies.

The move seeks to end tax optimization, in which multinational companies — including big US tech firms like Apple and Google parent Alphabet — shelter profits in countries with low-tax systems.

COVID-19 is a key topic of discussion in Rome. Leaders are expected to talk about the coronavirus pandemic and how to make sure that vaccine distribution is stepped up and accelerated,” von Nahmen said. 

Leaders also expected to endorse plans to vaccinate 70% of the world’s populationBy mid-2022, you must take action against COVID-19 and create a taskforce to combat future pandemics.

Protests are planned in Rome

Multiple rallies are planned around the G20 talks, including a protest by the Rifondazione Comunista communist party, scheduled for early Saturday afternoon.

Around 10,000 people are expected join a climate protest organized jointly by the Fridays for Future youth group and trade unions.

Rome has increased security as previous G20 summits were violent.

A 6,000-strong police presence is being bolstered by around 500 military personnel.

Large parts of the district surrounding the congress center hosting the summit have been cordoned off, and no one will be allowed to enter without special permission.

To keep out potential troublemakers, airspace will be closed above Rome.

Protesters and police clashed over the extension of Italy’s coronavirus to all workplaces earlier in the month.

First Rome, then Glasgow

Many of the leaders in Rome, including Biden, will fly immediately afterward to Scotland for the United Nations’ climate summitThe, which begins on Sunday.

Known as COP26, the talks are seen as vital to addressing the threat of rising temperatures and consequences like rising sea levels, more powerful storms, worse flooding in some regions and worse droughts in others.

COP26 has been billed as the last major chance to galvanize the collective effort needed to limit global warming, with scientists calling for emissions to be cut by nearly half by 2030 to achieve that.

Two UN reports warned this week that the world is “way off track” to cap rising temperatures, with current pledges set to result in an average 2.7 degrees Celsius temperature increase this century.

mm/sri (AFP), dpa and Reuters

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