G-20 Opens With Call for More Vaccines for Poor Countries

ROME — Italy’s Premier Mario Draghi made a sharp call to pick up the pace in getting vaccines to poor countries as he opened a conference of the world’s powerhouse economies, calling the gaping global COVID-19 vaccine gap “morally unacceptable.”

Draghi, the host for the two-day Group of 20 summit in Rome, said Saturday that only 3% of people in the world’s poorest countries are vaccinated, while 70% in rich countries have had at least one shot.

Leaders held their first summit in person since the outbreak of the pandemic. They discussed climate change, vaccinations, recovery and international taxation. G-20 summit was dominated by the theme of more global vaccine assistance for low-income countries. This two-track recovery plan allows rich countries to bounce back much faster.
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Draghi welcomed the Group of 20 leaders to Rome’s Nuvola cloud-like convention center in the Fascist-era EUR neighborhood, which was sealed off from the rest of the capital.

Saturday’s opening session was focused on global health and the economy. The rich countries used stimulus spending and vaccines to stimulate economic activity. This has left the possibility that many of the world’s developing nations, which account for much global growth, will not have access to these funds and may be left behind.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, has highlighted that the rich have expended 28% of their annual economic output for pandemic recovery while this figure is only 2% in the case of the least developed countries.

European Union leaders will meet off-site with African leaders in efforts to further support the continent’s poorest economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters on Friday he expects the G-20 to confirm an additional $100 billion to support Africa’s economies.

This money could be obtained by reallocating part of $650 million worth of special drawings rights. These are a currency tool that is used to finance international Monetary Fund imports. The idea is for countries that don’t need the help to reallocated their special drawing rights to those that do. The African Union President Felix Tshisekedi, and Rwanda President Paul Kagame were among the participants. According to the French presidency, Cyril Ramaphosa, Macky Sall and Macky Salal will be participating via videoconference.

Italy is hoping the G-20 will secure key commitments from countries representing 80% of the global economy — and responsible for around the same amount of global carbon emissions — ahead of the U.N. climate conference that begins Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland.

After the G-20 ends, most of the heads state and government will be leaving Rome for Glasgow. Remote participation is possible by Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping from China.

On the eve of the meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the Glasgow meeting risked failure over the still-tepid commitments from big polluters, and challenged the G-20 leaders to overcome “dangerous levels of mistrust” among themselves and with developing nations.

“Let’s be clear — there is a serious risk that Glasgow will not deliver,″ Guterres told reporters in Rome.

A recent U.N. environment report concluded that announcements by dozens of countries to aim for “net-zero” emissions by 2050 could, if fully implemented, limit a global temperature rise to 2.2 degrees Celsius (4 F). That’s closer but still above the less stringent target agreed in the Paris climate accord of keeping the temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) compared with pre-industrial times.

The U.N. chief also blamed geopolitical divides for hampering a global vaccination plan to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, saying action “has taken a back seat to vaccine hoarding and vaccine nationalism.’’

But, G-20 leaders will most likely celebrate one agreement: a global minimum corporate income tax. G-20 leaders should formally reiterate their resolve to establish a minimum global corporate tax rate of 15% by 2023. This is a step to stop multinational corporations from having profits hidden in low-tax countries.

The move has been praised by White House officials as a “game changer” that would create at least $60 billion in new revenue a year in the U.S. – a stream of cash that could help partially pay for a nearly $3 trillion social services and infrastructure package that President Joe Biden is seeking. Because so many multinational corporations are located in the United States, U.S. adopt is crucial.

Biden, however, is having trouble reaching agreement with fellow members of his party about what should be in the enormous spending plan. The president’s struggles to come to terms on U.S. legislation were not expected to be a central part of Biden’s conversations with fellow leaders, White House officials said.


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