G20 Summit Falls Flat Without World Leaders


Ultimately, even though Biden is only bringing home one massive victory from the G20 summit, we can still hope that COP26 will be a bigger success — if only the world leaders wake up and see the threat posed by climate change. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Nicole Braun, Staff Writer

President Biden attended the Group of 20, or G20, summit for the first time last week. While the G20 summit did not necessarily produce the sweeping successes that climate change activists were hoping to achieve, it was still a win for the Biden administration and our country as a whole. Honestly, any remotely positive change could be considered a win compared to the United States’ embarrassing showing at last year’s G20 summit. President Trump showed a clear lack of respect for the conference, seen golfing while he was supposed to be attending the event virtually.

Overall, Biden’s appearance at the G20 was a success. Other world leaders need to follow in his example and at the very least show up to these summits to display that they acknowledge the current threat of climate change. 

The summit, an “international forum that brings together the world’s major economies,” accounts for over “80% of world GDP, 75% of global trade and 60% of the population of the planet.”

The most significant trophy Biden will bring home from Rome is the global minimum tax of 15% for large corporations. Other world leaders present adopted this objective, and they hope that this plan and others will crack “down on tax havens that have drained countries of much-needed revenue,” as reported by the New York Times. 

The new tax plan is aimed at companies “with annual revenue of more than 750 million euros ($866 million) and would generate around $150 billion in additional global tax revenue per year.”

World leaders and finance officials hope the tax will stop companies’ race to the bottom, an economics term which “refers to heightened competition between nations, states or companies, where product quality or rational economic decisions are sacrificed in order to gain a competitive advantage.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called the new landmark plan “a historic agreement for a fairer and more equitable tax system.”

While the 15% tax plan appears to be a monumental success, there were no concrete and distinct solutions regarding the growing threat of climate change. That said, Biden’s European tour is not over; Biden recently traveled to Glasgow, Scotland for this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26. Admittedly, there is still cause for concern that climate change may not be high on the president’s list of priorities, as he appeared to take a quick snooze during the summit.

However, the fact that Biden participated in the G20 summit and contributed to some positive global change might have to be the victory in and of itself compared to last year’s G20 summit, where “Trump did not deliver a message for the event, and there did not appear to be any American presence in the session.” Much of the discussions last year focused on providing the world with a global vaccine, which was obviously not a chief concern of Trump’s as he left the World Health Organization and departed for Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia shortly after the G20 opening ceremony.

Since taking office, President Biden has committed himself to repairing the United States’ frayed reputation abroad. Reporters say that the 15% tax plan is “the culmination of years of fraught negotiations that were revived this year after President Biden took office and renewed the United States’ commitment to multilateralism.”

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the profound impact and presence that COVID-19 also had at 2021’s G20 summit. In the place of notably absent world leaders, such as Vladimir Putin of Russia and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Italian healthcare workers posed for a photo with G20 figureheads in an effort to celebrate their tireless dedication to public health throughout the pandemic. 

Putin and Xi cited climbing cases of COVID-19 and quarantine restrictions as their respective reasons for their non-attendance. CNN commented that “the decision to forgo one of the world’s foremost diplomatic events only fuels the sense that Xi and Putin have become less concerned with global cooperation.”

The absence of Putin and Xi was specifically notable because it underscores a fear that Biden will not be able to ease tensions between the U.S. and those two powerful adversaries. According to CNN, Biden “desperately hopes to personally engage [with China and Russia] as he works to prevent already tense relationships from deteriorating further.”

Ultimately, even though Biden is only bringing home one distinct victory from the G20 summit, we can still hope that COP26 will be a bigger success — if only the world leaders wake up and see the threat posed by climate change. 

Nicole Braun, FCRH ’24, is undecided from Saddle River, N.J.