Joe Biden arrives in Rome for meeting with Pope Francis ahead of G20 and COP26

Two weeks of global leaders meeting to save the world begin with a one-on-one between the leader of the planet’s biggest religious denomination and its most powerful superpower.

US President Joe Biden flies into Rome for an audience with the Pope ahead of the G20 summit of world leaders and after that the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

The White House says the two men will discuss tackling poverty, COVID-19 and climate change, sharing a common “respect for fundamental human dignity”.

Mr Biden, a regular church-going Catholic, and the leader of his religion have far more in common than his predecessor Donald Trump had with the pontiff who criticised him during his term in office.

It will be a chance for the leader of the free world to set the tone for a fortnight that many believe is crucial for the future of mankind and the planet we live on.

There are signs though of disharmony between world leaders on the crucial issues of climate and COVID-19.

The US president will also meet with his Italian and French counterparts. It will be an early chance to thaw relations with French leader Emmanuel Macron after a diplomatic bust-up over the new AUKUS security pact involving the US, Britain and Australia.

His main challenge during the G20 will be convincing allies of his claim that “America is back”.

He arrives without having secured a deal in Congress for his climate and economic agenda at home and there are concerns that America acted first not in concert with its allies on Afghanistan.

Of far more interest to the rest of us are the chances of the G20 setting the stage for a successful COP26 climate change summit.

Reports claim divisions in the G20 over the two key aims of phasing out coal and keeping temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

If the world’s richest nations cannot agree on either, persuading struggling poorer nations to do so will be extremely challenging next week.

Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and India are reportedly holding out against efforts to phase out coal use. America hasn’t seemed that enthusiastic either.

China has disappointed hopes it would announce new pledges on carbon emissions ahead of COP26 and its position on coal could be disastrous for global warming.

Away from the all-important issue of climate change, the G20 must prove its worth on a range of geopolitical issues.

Some leaders are choosing to stay away and their members remain divided on key issues.

The organisation played a key role in saving the world from financial meltdown earlier this century. Hopes it can do the same for the planet that are looking in increasing jeopardy.

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