COVID-19 diverts G20 attention from climate action; hopes high for Italian Presidency in 2021

Posted on November, 23 2020

G20 countries were all focused on the pandemic health and economic response. They missed the opportunity to pair this with climate action.

(23 November 2020) - The 2020 G20 Leaders Summit, hosted this year by Saudi Arabia, issued a Declaration yesterday, focused on the world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as expected, and missed an opportunity to call for  urgent paired action on the climate crisis.

The G20, comprising 20 of the world's largest economies and representing two thirds of the world’s population, gather annually to discuss international economic and financial stability and issues that impact these. They account for  80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, around 75% of all global trade and 80% of global economic output

Commenting on the Leaders' Summit Declaration, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF global climate and energy lead, said: “The G20 has, in past years, made important contributions to protecting the planet and advancing climate action, especially in relation to addressing economic risks from climate change. 

“Our expectations were low this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resistance to a strong climate action agenda from some key countries. We expect that alignment between climate and economic recovery plans  expands and is  effectively harnessed so that G20 outcomes in 2021 deliver a powerful basis for a rapid shift to net-zero economies and a successful climate COP26. 

“The 2021 G20 Leaders Summit, themed People, Planet and Prosperity, will happen at the very end of October 2021. This is just days before the UN climate talks resume in Glasgow on 1 November. So it will be key for Italy, as the G20 Presidency and as co-host of COP26, to ensure both processes are mutually reinforcing in delivering strong outcomes.”

WWF encourages the Italian G20 Presidency to focus on the following priorities:

Propose ways to consider climate and biodiversity risks in all financial decisions;
Build synergies between the G20 and other processes such as the G7, the Clean Energy Ministerial, the climate COP26 and the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15;
Ensure recovery finance is fully aligned with the transition to a net-zero, nature positive and climate resilient future; 
Ensure that stimulus aid in 2021 does no harm to the environment but rather taps into the high employment opportunities of clean energy, energy efficiency and nature-based solutions;
Assess progress and implement concrete plans to eliminate fossil fuels subsidies, as decided in 2009, and address other unsustainable subsidies (like those for agriculture).


For further information contact Mandy Jean Woods

The G20 Leaders Summit was hosted by Saudi Arabia this year (2020).
The G20 official Logo for 2020.