The annual Group of 20 summit brings together world leaders in pursuit of a lofty goal: coordinating policy for the global economy. However, the progress made by the G20 towards its ambitions has been questioned, and many wonder what can be expected from this year’s meeting in India. The agenda in New Delhi includes discussions on climate change, economic development, debt burdens in low-income countries, and inflation caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. If members can reach a consensus on any or all of these subjects, they will produce an official joint declaration.
Unfortunately, the G20’s track record in achieving real-world results has been criticized. Many of the joint statements issued by the group have lacked clear consequences when nations fail to meet their commitments. For example, at the 2021 summit, leaders pledged to limit global warming but failed to include domestic coal investments in their commitment. As a result, coal-fired power generation reached a new high in 2022, despite the scientific consensus on the need to end coal use immediately.
That being said, the G20 has had some accomplishments. It was initially formed in response to currency devaluations in the late 1990s and expanded to include an annual meeting of world leaders after the global financial crisis. The group has been praised for stabilizing the financial system in 2008 and 2009 through spending measures and bank reforms. The 2016 summit in China also resulted in a significant achievement when the US and China agreed to sign the Paris Agreement on climate. More recently, in 2021, the G20 supported a major tax overhaul that included a global minimum tax and new rules for large global businesses.
However, the G20 has faced challenges in making an impact. Critics argue that the group’s membership roster was determined by Western finance officials and central bankers without a clear process for inclusion. This has led to questions about the representativeness of the group. Additionally, the G20’s summits have become forums for the forces that are pulling against the established post-World War II order. Conflicts between major powers, rising nationalism, and the fracturing of the global economy have all hindered the group’s efforts.
Despite its shortcomings, critics generally do not call for the elimination of the G20. Instead, they argue for the need to modernize international institutions to better address the dynamics of global power relations. Some suggest reformulating the G20 to include a core of economic powerhouses complemented by a rotating set of smaller nations. Others see the G20 as an opportunity to discuss how to navigate a more tempered globalization and find a positive agenda for a changing world order. Ultimately, the G20’s future role will depend on its ability to adapt and evolve in response to the challenges of the global economy.