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Breakthroughs, Brakes, Blackouts and Breakdowns at Bali:
A G20 Summit of Substantial Success

John Kirton,
Director, G20 Research Group, November 16, 2022

The G20's 17th regular summit, held in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15-16, 2022, was a summit of substantial success. It produced breakthroughs on the central immediate crisis of countering Russia's war against Ukraine and building the global health architecture, brakes on the urgently needed ambitious action on energy, food, climate change, biodiversity loss, debt and international corporate tax reform, but very few breakdowns of existing cooperation on any of the many subjects it addressed in its fully consensual communiqué.

Ukraine

The biggest breakthrough came on the central immediate crisis of countering Russia's war against Ukraine. The G20 overcame any Russian veto to produce a lengthy, detailed, public communiqué of 16 pages and 52 paragraphs. They contained 195 precise, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments. Here, the Bali communiqué was similar to the ones of the 16 regular G20 summits since their start in 2008.

The Bali communiqué began in paragraph 3 by explicitly noting that United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolution No. ES-11/1 of March 2, 2022, "as adopted by majority vote (141 votes for, 5 against, 35 abstentions, 12 absent) deplores in the strongest possible terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine." Here the G20 left no doubt that who it knew started the war, and how it should end. China, India, Brazil and South Africa thus abandoned their BRICS partner, Russia, and joined the G7-led democratic side of the great immediate geopolitical divide.

The Bali declaration continued in paragraph 4 by proclaiming that "the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible." This was a clear repudiation of Russian president Vladimir Putin who had recently hinted he might do so to win his failing invasion of Ukraine.

Health

The second big breakthrough came on building the global health architecture, by formally creating a Pandemic Fund to be governed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank. Leaders declared, in paragraph 20, that "we welcome the establishment of a new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic PPR [pandemic preparedness, prevention and response] (the 'Pandemic Fund') hosted by the World Bank." They acknowledged "the WHO's technical expertise and central coordination role in this endeavor, reflects its leadership role in the global health architecture." They thus authorized at the highest political level what their finance and health ministers had agreed at their joint meeting in Bali two days before.

However, after noting the "annual pandemic PPR financing gap of approximately USD 10 billion" and the over USD 1.4 billion already pledged, they mobilized no new money, promising merely to "encourage additional voluntary pledges."

Climate Change

Climate change and clean energy were where the biggest brake on ambitious action began. Compared to nuclear war, climate change was an existential threat to all life on the planet that was actually happening and certain to get worse in the coming years. Bali's G20 leaders did begin, in paragraph 2, by noting the climate crises after Covid-19 and ahead of economic downturn, and increased poverty. In paragraph 12 they stated: "We will rapidly scale up the deployment of zero and low emission power generation including renewable energy … including accelerating efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power." They also stated that "we will increase our efforts to implement the commitment made in 2009 in Pittsburgh to phase-out and rationalize, over the medium term, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and commit to achieve this objective." On their target for a post-industrial temperature increase, they said "we resolve to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C." The 2°C target proclaimed as recent UN climate summits had entirely disappeared.

Food

On food security, they stated: "We will take further coordinated actions to address food security challenges including price surges and shortages of food commodities and fertilizers globally." They declared: "We will avoid adversely impacting food security deliberately." But on the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which took all of paragraph 8, they only welcomed the existing agreements, emphasized "the importance of their full, timely and continued implementation by all relevant stakeholders" and highlighted "other efforts that ensure the flow of agri-food goods such as the EU Solidarity Lanes." Nothing new came.

Other Subjects

Blacked out entirely were rising threats that G20 summits had addressed before. One was mental health, which was soaring as eco-anxiety and the burden on long Covid and Covid constraints grew. Also excluded was any action on terrorism, a deadly threat that still killed many and that the G20 summit had dealt with since the start.

However there were very few breakdowns of existing cooperation on any of the many subjects it addressed in its fully consensual, communiqué.

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