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G20 meetings 2021: What is the G20, when is it meeting and where is the summit taking place?

A guide to the G20 summits, meetings of heads of government and finance ministers from 20 of the world’s richest countries, which will be held in Washington, Rome and online in October 2021.

UK - Westminster - CAFOD supporters holding Rishi Sunak climate leadership placards outside the Treasury

CAFOD is urging Rishi Sunak to push for G20 finance ministers to make good on promises to provide $100bn annually in ‘climate finance’ to countries on the frontline of the climate crisis

What is the G20 and what do they do? What does 'G20' stand for? 

The G20 is a group of 20 of the world's richest countries, including the UK, the US, China, India and Russia.

The group of countries making up the G20 represent 80 per cent of global economic output and 60 per cent of the world’s population, according to the G20’s own estimates. However, this means that some of the world’s most marginalised communities aren’t represented in the group’s discussions.

The G20 presidency changes each year. Italy holds the G20 presidency in 2021, having taken over from Saudi Arabia.

Indonesia will chair the G20 in 2022.  

What does the G20 do? How frequently does the G20 meet?

G20 meetings have taken place since 1999. Heads of government and heads of state from G20 members have held an annual meeting since 2008. Other meetings are held each year, including of G20 finance ministers.

Meetings of the G20 often cover issues to do with the global economy and finance, but sometimes also discuss other global issues such as the climate emergency

The G20 meetings held in 2008 and 2009 played an important role in the global response to the financial crisis of the late 2000s, while a ‘common framework’ for suspending debt repayment demands for low-income countries was adopted by the G20 during the initial phases of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. 

What is the difference between the G20 and G7?

The G20 is a larger group of countries than make up the G7 and includes countries such as Russia, Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

When is the G20 summit? Where is the G20 meeting being held in 2021?

The G20 finance ministers’ meeting is taking place between 12-13 October 2021 in Washington, DC. A further virtual meeting will take place between 29-30 October.

The heads of government of countries in the group will travel to Rome for the G20 leaders’ meeting on 30-31 October.

Why are the G20 meetings in 2021 important? What will happen at the G20 in 2021?

Although the majority of the world’s countries are not members of the group or represented at its discussions, the G20 meetings in 2021 are important because the political leaders who attend have the power to and ministers will make decisions which affect millions of people worldwide.

Italy, as G20 host country, says its priorities for the meetings are “people, planet and prosperity”.

The Italian presidency also recognises that the Covid pandemic has had “profound impacts” on the health and livelihoods of people around the world and “has added its burden onto other systemic problems, from climate change to inequality”.

Liam Finn, CAFOD Campaigns Manager, says the fact that the October meetings are taking place on the eve of COP26 means the G20 summits “must be a moment when leaders show they’re serious about taking action at the COP.”

Finn says:

“With COP26 just around the corner, this month’s G20 meetings could be the most significant since the gatherings held during the financial crisis of the late 2000s – but only if leaders show that they’re heading to Glasgow with genuine ambitions to tackle the climate emergency.

“Fundamentally, the G20 leaders have to show how they’ll build trust with those countries who won’t be represented at the table but who are bearing the brunt of a climate crisis they’ve done least to cause.

“That means G20 countries have to finally meet their pledge to provide at least $100bn each year in climate finance to poorer countries who are being hardest hit by the climate emergency.

“And it also means that all G20 countries have to commit to ending their backing of fossil fuels – both at home and overseas.”

Urge Boris Johnson to put people hardest hit at the heart of next month's climate talks

What is CAFOD urging the G20 to do?

CAFOD is calling on G20 leaders to take action on the climate emergency and the debt crisis many low- and middle-income countries are facing as a result of the pandemic.

1. G20 must end support for fossil fuels domestically and internationally

CAFOD is calling on all G20 countries to immediately rule out any new public finance for coal, oil and gas projects. This includes finance for extracting, transporting and distributing fuels, as well as burning them to generate power. It must also include support given through bodies known as 'export credit agencies' which governments use to assist businesses in overseas transactions.

G20 governments must also stop any new coal, oil and gas developments within their own countries.

The G20 must rapidly increase investments in renewable energy sources and prioritise efforts to ensure that low-income communities have access to energy.

2. G20 must deliver on climate finance

CAFOD is also urging G20 finance ministers to show how they will honour their longstanding commitment to provide a minimum of $100bn each year in money to the countries most vulnerable to climate change, and how they will exceed this pledge in the coming years. 

This is known as ‘climate finance’ and must be provided as grants rather than loans, which risk pushing many lower-income countries further into debt.

The G20 should also show how they will address the shortfall in climate finance used to help communities adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis.

More than 2,000 CAFOD supporters have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to urge him to work with G20 leaders at the October meetings and meet their promises to provide climate finance to countries on the frontline of the crisis.

3. G20 must use ‘SDRs’ to plug climate finance gap

CAFOD has called as called for rich nations to share some of the money which has have been added to their national reserves this year through a mechanism known as ‘special drawing rights’ to finance global vaccinations and tackle climate change.

Special drawing rights, or ‘SDRs’, are issued by the International Monetary Fund to give governments more finance at hand during crisis moments such as the downturn caused by the pandemic.

Are the G20 and COP26 linked?

COP26, the UN climate conference being held in Glasgow, will start just hours after the G20 leaders’ meeting.

Although many more countries will be represented at COP26, governments which are not invited will be watching for progress at the G20 talks as an indication of what promises rich nations will make when they travel to Glasgow. 

Urge the Prime Minister to put people hardest hit at the heart of COP26

Who is in the G20?

The G20 members are: 

  • Argentina

  • Australia

  • Brazil

  • Canada

  • China

  • France

  • Germany

  • Japan

  • India

  • Indonesia

  • Italy

  • Mexico

  • Russia

  • South Africa

  • Saudi Arabia

  • South Korea

  • Turkey

  • UK

  • USA

  • European Union

Spain is invited to G20 meetings as a permanent guest but has not requested membership of the group.