After nearly two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of life, disrupting economies and leaving at-risk nations more vulnerable than ever. As the world’s biggest economies convene in Rome for this year’s Group of 20 (G20) Summit, we must ensure that their commitments lead to an equitable recovery for all. It's now or never.
The G20 summit is an annual forum where participating countries, which account for 80% of the world’s wealth, gather to address the most pressing issues facing the global economy. This year’s meeting will take place on Saturday, Oct. 30, and Sunday, Oct. 31, giving leaders a small window of opportunity to strategize on pandemic recovery, climate change, poverty, and inequality.
Last year’s event, hosted virtually by Saudi Arabia, ended with hopeful promises of equal access to COVID-19 vaccines, but did not result in specific financial commitments.
With 41 million people facing starvation, only 3.1% of people in low-income countries having received vaccinations against COVID-19, and a “Code Red” climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this year’s G20 summit is a rare opportunity for global leaders to take historic actions to save millions of lives and protect the planet.
Global Citizen and our partners are calling on leaders to commit to increasing COVID-19 vaccine sharing, a temporary waiver on vaccine intellectual property rights, a redistribution of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to aid recovery in low-income countries, major investments toward hunger relief, and a recommitment to the 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming limit set by the Paris agreement.
This is a pivotal moment for the future of humanity as we approach the G20 Summit in Rome and November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. Without the collaboration and participation of G20 leaders, the pandemic will continue to take its toll and we will see the full consequences of climate change within our generation — with no way of turning back.
Who Are the G20 Leaders?
The G20 is made up of 20 member nations and their leaders.
The members include: Argentina (President Alberto Fernàndez), Australia (PM Scott Morrison), Brazil (President Jair Bolsonaro), Canada (PM Justin Trudeau), China (President Xi Jinping), France (President Emmanuel Macron), Germany (Chancellor Angela Merkel), Japan (PM Fumio Kishida), India (PM Narendra Modi), Indonesia (President Joko Widodo), Italy (President Mario Draghi), Mexico (President Andrés Manuel López Obrador), Russia (President Vladimir Putin), South Africa (President Cyril Ramaphosa), Saudi Arabia (King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud), South Korea (President Moon Jae-in), Turkey (President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan), the United Kingdom (PM Boris Johnson), the United States (President Joe Biden), the European Union (President of the European Council Charles Michel) and (President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen).
Permanent invitees include: Spain, the African Union, the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD), the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the World Bank Group (WBG).
Each year a member country is selected as president and host of the G20 and sets the summit’s priorities. This year’s presidency is held by Italy, and its priorities include addressing the pandemic’s impact on livelihoods and economies, climate change and sustainable growth, and inequality.
Here are the commitments we want to see from these leaders at this year’s G20 summit.
1. Increased COVID-19 vaccine dose sharing
In less than two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed an estimated 4.92 million lives worldwide, according to Our World in Data. Around the world, there have been a total of 239.17 million confirmed cases, which may be an undercount due to lack of access to testing for countries short on resources.
Low-income nations are still at risk of losing more to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regions like Africa have only fully vaccinated 4.4% of the entire continent’s population because countries are unable to purchase or produce their own vaccines. Globally, 6.61 million doses have been administered, most of which has been in wealthier countries where governments have also started rolling out additional booster shots.
Without vaccine equity, vulnerable nations will continue to suffer greatly with mounting death tolls, hospitalizations, job losses, and economic collapse. And the pandemic will continue to be a threat to everyone until all countries have access to lifesaving vaccine doses.
Global Citizen is calling on G20 leaders to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines and get a minimum of 70% of people in every country vaccinated by June 2022, a goal set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its global vaccination strategy.
In order to achieve that target, G20 countries must commit to sharing 1 billion doses with lower- and middle-income countries by the end of this year through the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) program while providing greater transparency on how many doses will be produced over the next few months, under which conditions, and delivered or shared with which country.
2. A temporary waiver of COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights
Vaccine donations and sharing programs alone will not ensure a path to vaccine equity — especially since vaccine-rich countries have not fully delivered on their pledges.
To beat the pandemic, all countries need to be able to produce their own vaccines. That’s why Global Citizen is also calling for all members of the WTO, with support from pharmaceutical companies, to vote for a temporary waiver on the full range of COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property including patents, trade knowledge, and trial data.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlines good health and well-being as part of the global blueprint for a prosperous and equitable future. G20 leaders have the power and responsibility to end the pandemic and save countless lives around the world. Join Global Citizen and call on G20 leaders to share COVID-19 vaccine doses now. You can take action here.
3. Replenish the World Food Programme’s Immediate Response Fund and increase investments in agriculture adaptation
The simultaneous crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and a worsening climate emergency have pushed people into poverty and caused global food shortages. With 41 million people on the brink of starvation, immediate action is vital to save lives and rework food systems toward climate resiliency.
The World Food Programme’s Immediate Response Fund deploys rapid response in emergency situations such as widespread famine. G20 leaders can save millions from starvation by pledging $300 million for the Immediate Response Fund.
Short-term relief is one aspect of addressing famine; but with increasingly frequent droughts and floods worsened by global warming, long-term investments in resiliency are absolutely necessary for rural communities with smallholder farms.
G20 leaders have the power to promote climate resiliency by increasing their investments to $350 million for agriculture research, and working with institutions such as the Consortium of International Agriculture Research Centers (CGIAR), the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
With just $6 billion, G20 countries could prevent starvation for 41 million people facing food scarcity around the world. Raise your voice and urge leaders to deliver funding for emergency hunger relief efforts. Join the movement and take action here.
Energy and Climate
4. Action: “1.5 to Stay Alive”
We are at the precipice of the most important moments for climate action in our generation. The earth has warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and is on track to continue that warming into cataclysm. The IPCC “Code Red” report published in August states that without immediate action to keep the earth’s temperature below a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, we will see even more heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events.
To keep the earth within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, emissions need to fall 7.6% each year until 2030, according to the UN Environment Programme.
Each year, wealthy countries support giant polluters by spending billions on fossil fuel subsidies. The Climate Transparency Report predicts that G20 countries’ carbon emissions will increase by 4% this year.
In order to meet the goals of the Paris agreement and defend the planet, G20 leaders must revise global energy infrastructure and adopt new practices aimed toward sustainable development. COP26 President Alok Sharma has urged G20 leaders to phase out coal power and make a decisive shift toward renewable energy. This means ending fossil fuel subsidies, leaving coal in the past, transitioning to renewable energy, and helping all countries invest in climate adaptation.
G20 leaders are responsible for 80% of global emissions, which need to be drastically reduced in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. Low-income countries stand to lose the most in a climate crisis they did not create. At the G20 Summit and COP26 climate conference, the world’s richest countries must commit to science-based actions or risk reaching an environmental point of no return.
We need immediate action to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and reach net zero by 2045. Members of the G20 must commit to a decade of action to keep the earth within the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit. Experts warn that this could be our last chance to prevent permanent environmental change. World leaders must commit to reducing carbon emissions before it's too late. Join Global Citizen and urge G20 leaders to take action to defend the planet here.
5. Financing the future
In 2009, the world’s richest countries met at COP15 and pledged $100 billion a year to developing nations to assist in climate adaptation and building sustainable infrastructure. Since then, that goal has never been fully realized. Small island nations, low-lying coastal areas, and climate-vulnerable regions all over the world need to be able to prepare for the increasingly urgent threats of climate disaster, the events of which these countries are least responsible for.
G20 leaders must close the $15 billion gap in climate financing by next year by mobilizing funds and delivering on the promises made 12 years ago, but a delivery plan announced earlier this week shows that developed countries won't deliver their climate finance commitment of $100 billion per year until 2023 — a disappointing three years late. This isn't a collective failure; Germany, Norway, and Sweden have been paying their fair share for years, while increased commitments from Denmark, France, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, and others show progress toward the goal.
The US, as the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, is largely responsible, with the most recent climate finance data showing that it contributes less than $2 billion a year. Australia, Canada, and Italy — which are all paying less than a quarter of their fair share of climate finance — must also step up to collectively close the gap.
Governments and corporations must take responsibility for their impact on the environment, be fully transparent in their financial commitments through open-data tracking, continue funding adaptation for low-income nations through 2025, and develop climate finance goals in line with the needs of developing countries. Climate action must ensure the equality and safety of all.
6. Take the Pledge for Nature
Deforestation, ocean pollution, and the overconsumption of natural resources not only advance climate change but also put a strain on communities that depend on the land around them.
The Pledge for Nature encourages countries and leaders to commit to conserving and protecting 30% of global land and 30% of oceans and seas by 2030.
7. Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) redistribution for lower-income countries
SDRs, created by the IMF, are meant to aid countries through times of global economic hardships. In light of the worldwide economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, $650 billion of reserve funds were distributed to support a global recovery. But because the allocation of SDRs to each country depends on the proportion of their shares in the IMF, low-income countries receive substantially less in SDRs.
Wealthier nations like the US, which estimated it would receive $113 billion in SDRs, have a responsibility to recycle those funds to vulnerable countries in urgent need of pandemic relief.
If G20 leaders collectively committed to redistributing at least US$100 billion of their SDRs to lower-income countries by the end of this year, we could see a more sustainable and inclusive recovery for countries most in need.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected all aspects of life everywhere and pushed vulnerable people into devastating poverty. As European countries get their economies back on track, millions of people around the world are facing famine and worsening economic turmoil. G20 leaders have the chance to promote a fair recovery for all. Join the movement and call on world leaders to reallocate their SDRs for low-income countries still struggling to recover. Make your voice heard and take action here.
8. Increased COVID-19 vaccine financing and transparency
To fully vaccinate 70% of every country’s population, the G20 must start by funding the IMF roadmap for global vaccination and the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. To reach these goals, G20 leaders must pledge $26.3 billion toward the ACT-Accelerator and an additional $8 billion for manufacturing.
Countries must also commit to publishing monthly dose-sharing delivery forecasts, updated as pledged doses are received by recipients, and release the prices G20 countries have paid for vaccines with full transparency regarding the delivery schedules promised by manufacturers.
9. Commit to IDA20 replenishment and exceed the ODA/GNI objective
The International Development Association (IDA) was established by the World Bank to reduce poverty for the world’s poorest countries through low-interest loans. The funds are replenished every three years by donor countries and are overseen by 173 shareholder nations. The IDA estimates that two-thirds of people living in poverty reside in countries supported by this funding.
The IDA helps countries invest in economic growth as well as aiding in issue areas such as gender inequality, conflict, and climate resilience. An early replenishment, IDA20, was launched in April 2021 to support 74 of the world’s poorest countries in COVID-19 recovery and help transition them into green development.
The 500 million people living in countries funded by the IDA need immediate support to not only fight the pandemic but to also build infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate-related disasters. To fully support a green recovery, G20 countries must commit to an IDA20 replenishment of at least $100 billion by the end of the year.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Official Development Assistance (ODA) distributes loans to developing countries as government aid to promote economic development. The ODA/Gross National Income (GNI) goal provides 0.7% of donor country’s national income to developing countries. In order to achieve an equitable recovery, G20 leaders must achieve or exceed the ODA/GNI target.
Employment, Equality, and Education
10. Labor and gender equality
The COVID-19 pandemic put massive pressure on labor forces around the world and pushed millions into poverty and unemployment. The subsequent global economic crisis exposed glaring gender gaps in pay and employment and highlighted the necessity of paid care work. On average, women and girls spend triple the amount of hours than men doing unpaid care work and that rate has only increased due to the pandemic.
To ensure equality in our recovering world, countries must acknowledge the unequal distribution of unpaid care work between men and women and support the creation of 80 million decent paid jobs in the global care economy by 2026. Unpaid domestic responsibilities trap women and girls in poverty and limit their career opportunities. G20 leaders must achieve the G20 Roadmap Towards and Beyond the Brisbane Goal, which outlines a commitment for reducing the gender gap in labor participation by 25% while improving the quality of employment for women.
11. Sexual and reproductive health
Lack of access to family planning and sexual health resources affects millions of women and girls worldwide. Conflict and COVID-19 have prevented those in vulnerable countries from accessing vital treatment, preventative medicine, and reproductive education.
G20 leaders must commit to protecting the health and well-being of women and girls by addressing these disparities and increasing funding for the World Bank’s Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents (GFF) and the UNFPA Supplies Partnership.
Some 1.5 billion children were forced out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and 9.7 million may never be able to return. For many children around the world, digital learning was not an option. Some saw schools close for good while others faced conflict and violence that prevented them from accessing their education.
In many cases, education is key to escaping poverty and ensuring a greater quality of life. Education Cannot Wait (ECW) prioritizes education for children affected by conflict, disasters, and crises. G20 leaders must show their support for efforts like ECW and get children back to learning for an equitable recovery for all. Take action and call on leaders to support equal access to education here.