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G-20 summit fails to bridge divides on pandemic and climate change

President Biden, far left, joins other world leaders for the traditional "family photo" on the first day of the G-20 summit in Rome. Jetting across the Atlantic Ocean a few days ago aboard Air Force One for two international summits, one of President Biden’s top aides seemed pleased that China and Russia wouldn’t be attending.

Without them, it will be "the U.S. and Europe together driving the bus on the significant global issues," national security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters.

But even if they’re at the wheel, it’s been a bumpy ride. Despite Biden’s success at patching up disputes with allies like France and the European Union, new fissures are spreading across the globe, undermining the unity needed to resolve ongoing crises and forestall future ones.

Some of these divides appeared to widen during the G-20 summit in Rome , where Biden spent the last two days before he heads on Monday to Glasgow, Scotland, where he’ll spend another two at the COP26 conference on climate change.

Developing nations are running out of patience with the slow distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and world leaders made little in the way of new commitments to speed up the process. Rich countries appear to be slingshotting out of the pandemic while others continue to suffer the economic aftershocks.

The G-20, which brings together the world’s most powerful countries to discuss economic and other issues, also did not produce the desired momentum toward COP26, undercutting hopes for success at preventing the most catastrophic effects of global warming.

The leaders were only able to muster a promise to reach carbon neutrality by around the middle of the century and to end the financing of coal plants overseas.

The joint statement failed to accelerate the fight against climate change because it only echoed pledges that were already made by China, the world’s top source of greenhouse gas emissions, earlier this year.

The lack of action contradicted the urgent warnings that characterized the summit, which was held in a convention center known as "the cloud," where a billowing white structure is suspended within a rectangular glass building.

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