G20 leaders who met remotely on Sunday pledged to “spare no effort” to ensure the fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the world, but did not offer specific new funding to achieve that goal.
The virtual summit hosted by Saudi Arabia was an uncomfortable swan song for Donald Trump, who skipped some sessions on Saturday to play golf, paid little attention to speeches by other leaders, and later claimed that the Paris climate agreement was not designed to to save the planet. but to kill the American economy.
Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin the deal on the first day of his presidency, giving other world leaders hope that the UN conference on climate change late next year will see more ambitious commitments, including from China. to reduce carbon emissions by 2050.
Trump’s isolationist diplomacy has allowed China to escape some scrutiny both on its climate and on debt relief measures. “To protect American workers, I withdrew the country from the unfair Paris agreement,” Trump told the G20. “The agreement was not designed to save the environment. It was designed to kill the American economy.
“I refuse to give up millions of American jobs and send trillions of dollars to the world’s worst polluters and environmental violators, and that’s what would have happened.”
But most of the summit focused on ensuring that the coronavirus vaccines that will hit the market imminently are available for distribution at affordable prices in the poorest countries.
The European Union and the UN say there is a funding gap of 4.5 billion pounds this year that the G20 nations should cover. So far, countries have invested $ 10 billion in the Covid-19 Tool Access Accelerator (ACT) and its vaccine pillar, the Covax Facility. The two schemes are designed to ensure that vaccines are not the exclusive property of the richest economies.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said: “Recent advances in COVID-19 vaccines offer a ray of hope. But that ray of hope must reach everyone. That means ensuring that vaccines are treated as a global public good: a vaccine for people accessible and affordable for everyone, everywhere, ”he said.
“This is not an exercise in ‘doing good’. It is the only way to stop the pandemic in its tracks. Solidarity is in fact survival. “
The final statement simply said without any supporting evidence or statistics: “We have mobilized resources to address immediate funding needs in global health to support research, development, manufacturing, and distribution of Covid diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines. 19 safe and effective “.
He added: “We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all, in line with members’ commitments to incentivize innovation.”
In signal of competition for access to the vaccine and national prestige, Russia said its Sputnik V vaccine will be much less expensive than that offered by Pfizer and Moderna.
Russia claimed that one dose of the Pfizer vaccine will cost $ 19.5 and Modena $ 25-37, doubling the actual cost as two doses will be needed.
The summit also discussed how to help avoid potential credit defaults among developing nations, as their debt soars in the virus-fueled economic catastrophe. The G20 had already extended a debt service suspension initiative (DSSI) for developing countries until June next year, but Guterres had lobbied for a commitment to extend it until the end of 2021.
The draft communiqué did not offer a firm commitment, as countries expect to see the scale of the international debt crisis. Instead, the G20 finance ministers will examine the recommendation when the IMF and World Bank meet next spring “if the economic and financial situation requires” an extension for another six months. Italy will chair the G20 in 2021.
World Bank President David Malpass had warned G20 creditors at the meeting: “We have to avoid doing too little every now and then, suffering disorderly defaults and repeated debt restructurings like in the 1980s.”
Saudi Arabia, as the host of the summit, had been attacked beforehand by human rights groups, but largely escaped public criticism from world leaders.
Saudi leaders responded to those urging them to release the detainees saying that they would not ignore those who tried to interfere in their internal affairs, adding that investors were less concerned about these issues as journalists.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud also insisted that Riyadh be consulted before the United States returns to the Iran nuclear deal and welcomed the Trump administration’s plans to appoint the Houthi movement in Yemen as a terrorist organization. Yemen is on the brink of famine, the UN warned on Friday.
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