G20 must progress on health and climate commitments

Improving global resilience against future pandemics and delivering on emissions targets are top priorities for Indonesia’s G20 presidency.

Expert comment Published 15 November 2022 Updated 10 July 2023 3 minute READ

G20 must commit to, and deliver on, emissions reductions targets

Antony Froggatt

Taking place in the middle of COP27, the G20 summit will have significant ramifications for climate change, both for the general mood music at the conference and the final communique.

This will be the first in-person meeting between the leaders of the US and China, both of who are likely to be reinvigorated following their recent success in domestic elections.

Until recently, climate change has been seen as an area of mutual interest between the US and China and it is hoped President Joe Biden and President Xi Xinping will reactivate the US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhanced Climate Action in the 2020s which covers issues of methane, forestry, clean energy, and city-level climate action which was suspended in August 2022 following the visit of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.

The world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, and also hugely significant in the manufacturing and deployment of technology for the green energy transition, need to work together since a co-ordinated response will ultimately be faster and cheaper.

The G20 members are fundamental for meeting international climate finance commitments including on the annual pledge of $100 billion which has still not been met

Generally, the approach to the G20 summit has not been positive, with both the environment and climate ministers and the energy ministers not publishing a joint statement as there has been no agreement on the language around the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on climate finance, and whether 1.5°C or 2°C should be the world’s climate target.

Previous summits had made it clear that the group ‘remain committed to the Paris Agreement goal to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.

With the G20 responsible for about 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, committing to, and delivering on, emissions reductions targets are vital to restricting rising temperatures and set an important precedent for the rest of the world.

The G20 members are fundamental for meeting international climate finance commitments including on the annual pledge of $100 billion which has still not been met as well as ensuring sufficient funding is available for adaption and to bring forward the negotiations for the development of a loss and damage facility. Indeed, specific pledges in these areas will be necessary to build momentum.

Despite growing political differences in some cases, an oncoming global recession and higher resource prices, strengthening the language calling for action to reduce climate change will be crucial for the outcome at COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt.

Why G20 progress on preventing future pandemics will fall short

Emma Ross and Creon Butler

Improving global resilience against future pandemics – so-called pandemic preparedness and response – is a top priority for Indonesia’s G20 presidency. This follows the 2021 G20 global commons report, which called for a commitment to increasing international financing for pandemic prevention and preparedness by at least $75 billion over five years, or $15 billion each year, with sustained investments in subsequent years.

As president of the G20, Indonesia inherited a global health agenda already strained by disagreements over the conclusions of the Italian presidency in October 2021, when China and India blocked ambitious proposals – widely supported by other G20 members – for a ministerial task force to oversee global health security.

And it has subsequently had to grapple with the fallout of Russia’s attack on Ukraine which has put enormous strain on the system of global economic governance, and the G20 in particular.

Despite these challenges, the health announcements at this week’s summit would still constitute some progress in responding to the agenda set by the global commons report.

As president of the G20, Indonesia inherited a global health agenda already strained by disagreements over the conclusions of the Italian presidency

Announcements are expected to include outcomes on genomic data sharing between countries (essential for better monitoring of pathogens of concern); commitments on allowing the continued movement of people, goods and services during health emergencies; and a commitment to conduct a gap analysis and mapping exercise of existing and emerging vaccine research and manufacturing networks.

On the critical issue of financing, the presidency will welcome the establishment earlier this year of the Pandemic Fund, which is designed to finance critical investments to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response capacities in low- and middle-income countries.

The fund aims to provide a long-term financing stream focused on strengthening health systems, but with one-off commitments of just $1.4 billion so far, this is far short of the identified need.

G20 must progress on health and climate commitments 2nd part

The Indonesian presidency could explore a number of emerging ideas to close this gap, including surge financing, where countries would pre-commit to provide financing in the event of a pandemic, or by making better use of the capital held by multilateral development banks, both to finance such surges but also for unconditional long-term investments.

But even with such solutions, it will be critical that India continues to work to close the financing gap when it takes over the G20 presidency from Indonesia. The recommended investments set out in the global commons report would materially reduce the risk of events that would cost governments more than 300 times as much as the total additional cost per year of said investments.

Although government budgets are under huge pressure from global inflation and energy shocks to the enormous investments required to achieve net zero, this is a relatively modest and manageable ask which deserves to remain a top priority for the international community.