Leaders of the G20 nations gathering in Italy will confront a global recovery hampered by a series of stumbling blocks: an energy crunch spurring higher fuel and utility prices, new Covid-19 outbreaks and logjams in supply chains.

In many ways, the two-day G-20 meeting is serving as a Roman holiday preamble to the 12-day Glasgow summit.
In many ways, the two-day G-20 meeting is serving as a Roman holiday preamble to the 12-day Glasgow summit. (Riccardo De Luca / AP)

A Group of 20 summit scheduled for this weekend in Rome – the first in-person gathering of leaders of the world’s biggest economies since the Covid-19 pandemic started – is not business as usual.

This is the first time the leaders of countries that account for 75 percent of global trade and 60 percent of the world's population will be meeting as a group after nearly two years of virus-induced lockdowns.

The leaders of Russia and China are expected to participate remotely. 

That may not bode well for cooperation, especially on energy issues as climate change takes centr stage just before the UN Climate Change Conference begins Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland.

And the United States, Australia and France will be at the same table for the first time since Washington pulled the rug out from under Paris’ $66 billion submarine deal Down Under.

While economic recovery is a top agenda item, host Italy hopes the leaders will set a shared, mid-century deadline to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and explore a commitment to reduce methane emissions as well.

The United Nations and climate activists also want the G20 countries to fulfill their longtime pledges of providing $100 billion a year in climate aid to help poor nations cope with the impacts of global warming.

G20 main agendas and expectations

Leaders of the Group of 20 countries will confront a global recovery hampered by a series of stumbling blocks: an energy crunch spurring higher fuel and utility prices, new Covid-19 outbreaks and logjams in the supply chains that keep the economy humming and goods headed to consumers.

One major economic deal is already done: The G-20 will likely be a celebration of an agreement on a global minimum corporate tax, aimed at preventing multinational companies from stashing profits in countries where they pay little or no taxes.

All G-20 governments signed on to the deal negotiated among more than 130 countries, and it now faces an ambitious timeline to get approved and enacted through 2023.

And leaders are set to commit to supporting efforts to shorten to 100 days the period needed to develop new vaccines, drugs and tests in a pandemic, according to a draft joint document.

In health emergencies caused by pandemics "we will support science to shorten the cycle for the development of safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics from 300 to 100 days," says a draft statement seen by Reuters that G20 leaders are set to adopt over the weekend at a summit in Rome.

Last month’s announcement of a US-British deal to sell nuclear-power submarines to Australia illustrated Europe’s geopolitical vulnerability.

US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have spoken twice by telephone since the tiff and are expected to meet privately in Rome.

Macron is aiming to secure US backing for “the establishment of a stronger European defence, complementary to NATO and contributing to global security,” the presidential Elysee Palace said.

Macron has not spoken with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison since France's submarine sale went south, however, and it's not clear if the two will meet in Rome.

Turkey, one of the G-20 members, threatened last week to expel the ambassadors of 10 Western nations over their support for a jailed businessman. Four of the threatened envoys hailed from G-20 nations Germany, France, Canada and the US.

The summit also offers an opportunity for dialogue on high oil and gas prices because it includes delegations from major energy producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, major consumers in Europe and China, and the US, which is both.

Source: AP