News World G20: Scott Morrison faces Emmanuel Macron, UK piles on the climate change pressure
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G20: Scott Morrison faces Emmanuel Macron, UK piles on the climate change pressure

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken advantage of an opportunity to say ‘G’day Emmanuel’ to the French president and shake his hand.

The pair crossed paths on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome for the first time since Australia outraged France by scrapping a $90 billion submarine deal.

“I said g’day, I said g’day,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

“He was having a chat to someone, I went up and just put my arm on his shoulder and just said ‘g’day, Emmanuel,’ and ‘look forward to catching up over the next couple of days.’

“That’s the way these events tend to work and he was happy to exchange those greetings.”

It comes after US President Joe Biden admitted the AUKUS announcement had been handled clumsily but he had been under the impression France had been told about the deal.

Mr Morrison did not respond to questions as to whether Mr Biden had thrown him under the bus.

“He’s had a candid conversation with the French President and I’ll leave his remarks for him,” Mr Morrison said.

Heads of the world’s 20 biggest economies kicked off two days of talks at the G20 Summit in Rome where they are set to acknowledge the existential threat of climate change but stop short of radical new commitments to tame global warming.

UK piles pressure on Australia

Britain wants Australia to commit more on tackling climate change, a spokesman for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says, stepping up the pressure before the United Nations COP26 climate summit next week.

The spokesman said Australia had come forward with commitments on reaching net-zero carbon emissions but Britain believes it could do more.

“We do believe Australia can do more on areas such as coal and we will continue to have those discussions,” the spokesman told reporters.

Meanwhile Mr Morrison joined with the leaders endorsing a minimum tax agreement that all countries can collect from corporations from 2023 — a landmark deal aimed at stopping big business from parking profits in tax havens.

Leaders were also expected to back plans to vaccinate 70 per cent of the world’s population against COVID-19 by mid-2022 and create a task force to fight future pandemics.

“From the pandemic, to climate change, to fair and equitable taxation, going it alone is simply not an option,” Italian Prime Minister Draghi told the start of the meeting being held in a glass and steel conference centre known as “The Cloud”.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and other world leaders gather for the family photo on the first day of the Rome G20 summit. Photo: Getty

The G20 bloc, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for more than 80 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product, 60 per cent of its population and an estimated 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of the G20 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, will fly straight to Glasgow for the start on Monday of the United Nation’s climate summit — known as COP26 — which is seen as crucial to address the threat of rising temperatures.

Hopes of making major progress in Rome were dimmed by the decision of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin to stay at home and only follow events via video.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the G20 and COP26 talks would be difficult but warned that without courageous action, world civilisation could collapse as swiftly as the ancient Roman empire and usher in a new Dark Age.

“It’s going to be very, very tough to get the agreement we need,” he told reporters early on Saturday.

The draft of the final communique said G20 countries will step up their efforts to limit global warming at 1.5C — the level scientists have said is necessary to avoid disastrous new climate patterns.

The document also acknowledges that current plans of countries on how to curb emissions will have to be strengthened but offered little detail on how this should be done.

Additionally, the leaders are set to pledge to halt financing of overseas coal-fired power generation by the end of this year and to “do our utmost” to stop building new coal power plants before the end of the 2030s.

While the climate debate will dominate in Rome, much of the first day of talks were given over to discussing the COVID-19 health crisis and economic recovery.

Fears over rising energy prices and stretched supply chains will be addressed while Biden was expected to urge G20 energy producers with spare capacity to boost production, notably Russia and Saudi Arabia, to ensure a stronger global economic recovery, a senior US administration official said.

The US president was later due to hold talks with the leaders of the UK, Germany and France on Iran’s nuclear ambitions — just one of numerous meetings being held on the sidelines as the G20 chiefs catch up on in-person diplomacy.

“It is great to see all of you here, after a difficult few years for the global community,” Mr Draghi said.

Rome has been put on high security alert from the weekend, with up to 6000 police and about 500 soldiers deployed to maintain order.

Two protest rallies have been authorised during the day but demonstrators will be kept far from the summit centre, located in a suburb built by the 20th Century fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

-with AAP