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World leaders affirm Paris climate pact as Trump justifies exit

World leaders urged countries not to lose sight of climate goals in the coronavirus pandemic, amid hopes that US President-elect Joe Biden will rejoin the accord.


WORLD leaders urged countries not to lose sight of climate goals in the coronavirus pandemic, endorsing the aims of the Paris agreement amid hopes that US President-elect Joe Biden will rejoin the accord.

Participants on the second day of a virtual Group of 20 (G-20) summit of rich nations discussed climate change in a session hosted by Saudi Arabia, holder of the forum's presidency. The US formally exited the Paris accord, which pledges limits on fossil-fuel pollution, earlier this month.

"G-20 members should strengthen the fight against climate change, and continue to play a leading role to achieve full, effective implementation of the Paris agreement," Chinese President Xi Jinping said.

Mr Xi, who has pledged to make his country carbon-neutral by 2060, said China "applauds" the so-called circular carbon economy, or CCE, put forward by Saudi Arabia, a controversial plan that seeks to reduce emissions while capturing and reusing greenhouse gases produced by burning hydrocarbons.

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US President Donald Trump used his address to the session to again slam the Paris deal, justifying his decision to walk away from the accord "to protect American workers".

"The Paris accord was not designed to save the environment, it was designed to kill the American economy," Mr Trump said. "I refused to surrender millions of American jobs and send trillions of American dollars to the world's worst polluters and environmental offenders and that's what would have happened."

Other leaders spoke in favour of the pact and more broadly of the need to sustain momentum on climate goals even as economies around the world are ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The G-20 leaders have now agreed in their final statement to "endorse" CCE, "while recognising the key importance and ambition of reducing emissions", according to European officials who asked not to be named discussing confidential talks. European Union governments had earlier resisted using that word, pushing instead to acknowledge carbon capture's contribution to climate action while making clear it wasn't enough.

Also, according to a draft communique seen by AFP on Sunday, G-20 leaders will pledge to "spare no effort" in ensuring the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide and reaffirm support for debt-laden poor countries.

The leaders also struck a unified tone on supporting "multilateral" trade as well as the global fight against climate change, but the closing document lacks firm details on many of the issues dominating the virtual summit hosted by Riyadh.

"We have mobilised resources to address the immediate financing needs in global health to support the research, development, manufacturing and distribution of safe and effective Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines," the draft document said.

"We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members' commitments to incentivise innovation."

But the group's leaders face mounting pressure to help stave off possible credit defaults across developing nations.

G-20 nations have extended a debt service suspension initiative (DSSI) for developing countries until June next year, but UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pushed for a commitment to extend it until the end of 2021.

The draft communique, however, did not offer a firm commitment.

G-20 finance ministers will examine the recommendation when the IMF and World Bank meet next spring "if the economic and financial situation requires" an extension by another six months, it said. BLOOMBERG, AFP

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