Leaders of Group of 20 (G20) nations are set to meet in Rome, Italy on Saturday at the 16th gathering at the level of Heads of State and Government, to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development. The G20 is the international forum that brings together the world’s major economies. Its members account for more than 80 per cent of world GDP, 75 per cent of global trade and 60 per cent of the population of the planet. This year, the issues concerning climate change and the ongoing situation in Afghanistan is likely to feature heavily during the Summit.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made clear that climate action must be led by G20 nations, which collectively account for around 90 per cent of gross world product, 75-80 per cent of international trade and two thirds or the world’s population. Their commitment during COP26 is crucial for curbing greenhouse gases and stopping fuelling climate change. “The time has passed for diplomatic niceties. If all governments — especially G20 governments — do not stand up and lead efforts against the climate crisis, we are headed for terrible human suffering. Bold #ClimateAction is the only path forward,” Guterres tweeted on Thursday.

This comes as a new UN agency report revealed that the abundance of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere once again reached a new record last year, with the annual rate of increase above the 2011-2020 average. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas, reached 413.2 parts per million in 2020 and is 149 per cent of the pre-industrial level. Methane (CH4) is 262 per cent and nitrous oxide (N2O) is 123 per cent of the levels in 1750 when human activities started disrupting Earth’s natural equilibrium. “The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a stark, scientific message for climate change negotiators at COP26. At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a temperature increase by the end of this century far in excess of the Paris Agreement targets,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas. “We are way off track.”

Aside from Climate change, another issue that is likely to dominate the conversation at the summit is the way forward for Afghanistan.
Under Italy’s Presidency of the G20 and at the initiative of President of the Council of Ministers Mario Draghi, an extraordinary meeting of G20 leaders on Afghanistan was held on October 12. The leaders of the G20 countries earlier this month had called for a permanent United Nations presence in Afghanistan, insisting on safety for the organization’s personnel. They expressed their support for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, including its role in the coordination of international aid. “The UN plays an essential role to address the crisis in Afghanistan. Its continued presence in the country must be preserved,” the meeting’s chair had said in a summary statement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reach Rome on Friday, where he is scheduled to attend the G20 Summit. In Rome, the Prime Minister will join other G20 Leaders during the 16th summit in discussions on global economic and health recovery from the pandemic, sustainable development, and climate change.