ROME — It’s life or death at this year’s G20 summit.
As leaders of the world’s wealthiest economies gather in Rome this weekend, the days when meetings focused on free trade and economic stability seem quaint compared with the dual calamities of COVID-19 and climate change set to dominate the agenda.
At their first face-to-face gathering in more than two years, they will be confronted with the imminent challenge of squashing the coronavirus pandemic — which is still killing upwards of 7,500 people per day worldwide — and the longer-term imperative of slowing a rise in temperatures that could ultimately render the entire human species extinct.
Even the global financial crisis that first brought the Group of 20 together in 2008 pales in comparison. And yet, the imperative of survival is hardly driving clear consensus.
Barely half of the world’s 7.75 billion people are vaccinated against COVID-19 with a single dose, and yet the G20 leaders are under pressure to begin booster shots in their own countries. And while the science is clear that failure to slow global warming will bring severe fires, storms and droughts, there is heavy reluctance in many big polluting countries to take the urgently needed, economically painful measures to save the planet.
Leaders are simultaneously grappling with a worldwide spike in energy prices and disruptions to global supply chains, adding a new sense of chaos to existing crises.
During the last in-person G20 summit in Osaka, Japan in June 2019, the leaders pledged to “foster global economic growth, while harnessing the power of technological innovation … for the benefit of all,” while striving “to create a virtuous cycle of growth.”
The year before, in Buenos Aires, they pledged “to build consensus for fair and sustainable development through an agenda that is people-centred, inclusive and forward-looking.”
This weekend, the leaders’ primary focus is keeping their citizens alive.
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