Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies (G20) sit down for a second day of talks on October 31 faced with the difficult task of bridging their differences on how to combat global warming ahead of a crucial United Nations (UN) summit on climate change.
The first day of the Rome summit on October 30 — the leaders' first face-to-face gathering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — focused mainly on health and the economy, while climate and the environment is front and centre of the agenda on October 31.
Climate scientists and activists are likely to be disappointed unless late breakthroughs are made, with drafts of the G20's final communique showing little progress in terms of new commitments to curb pollution.
The G20 bloc, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for an estimated 80 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions which scientists say must be steeply reduced to avoid climate catastrophe.
For that reason, this weekend's gathering is seen as an important stepping stone to the UN's ‘COP26’ climate summit attended by almost 200 countries, in Glasgow, Scotland, where most of the G20 leaders will fly directly from Rome.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"The latest reports are disappointing, with little sense of urgency in the face of an existential emergency. There is no more time for vague wish-lists, we need concrete commitments and action," said Oscar Soria of the activist network Avaaz.
A fifth draft of the G20's final statement seen by Reuters on October 30 did not toughen language on climate action compared with previous versions, and in some key areas, such as the need to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, it softened it.
This mid-century target date is a goal that UN experts say is needed to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, seen as the limit to avoid a dramatic acceleration of extreme events such as droughts, storms and floods.
UN experts say even if current national plans to curb emissions are fully implemented, the world is headed for global warming of 2.7C.
The planet's largest carbon emitter China, is aiming for net zero in 2060, while other major polluters such as India and Russia have also not committed to the mid-century deadline.
G20 energy and environment ministers who met in Naples in July failed to reach agreement on setting a date to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and end coal power, asking the leaders to find a resolution at this weekend's summit.
Based on the latest draft, they have made little progress, pledging to "do our utmost" to stop building new coal power plants before the end of the 2030s and saying they will phase out fossil fuel subsidies "over the medium term."
On the other hand, they do pledge to halt financing of overseas coal-fired power generation by the end of this year.
Some developing countries are reluctant to commit to steep emission cuts until rich nations make good on a pledge made 12 years ago to provide $100 billion per year from 2020 to help them tackle the effects of global warming.
That promise has still not been kept, contributing to the "mistrust" which UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Friday (October 29) was blighting progress in climate negotiations.The draft stresses the importance of meeting the goal and doing so in a transparent way.