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World leaders are to gather - virtually - for a G20 summit organised by Saudi Arabia, with the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the world economic crisis high on the agenda.

In his opening remarks to G20 leaders, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz stressed the need for equitable access to the tools to combat COVID-19, including vaccines.

With progress being made in developing a vaccine, King Salman said G-20 countries "must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples".

He added: "If we harness the collective ingenuity and resources of the G20, we can chart a path out of the pandemic and build a better, greener future".

While the global economy is recovering from the depths of the Covid-19 crisis, momentum is slowing in countries with resurging infection rates, the recovery is uneven and the pandemic is likely to leave deep scars, the International Monetary Fund said in a report for the G20 summit.

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World leaders will spend most of their time discussing worldwide efforts for a large-scale roll out of Covid-19 vaccines after a breakthrough in trials, and address the need to plug a $4.5 billion funding gap in the so-called ACT-Accelerator - a programme that promotes an equitable distribution of the vaccines.

The draft also calls on private creditors to join the debt servicing moratorium, which the G20 wants to extend until the middle of 2021 and possibly longer, and endorses a common framework for dealing with debt issues beyond that. The debt suspension will be extended by another six months until June 30, 2021, the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors decided in October.

European nations in the G20 want to speed up reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), hoping to capitalise on the upcoming change of U.S. administration.

A day before the summit, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that while $10 billion has been invested in efforts to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, another $28 billion is needed for mass manufacturing, procurement and delivery of new COVID-19 vaccines around the world.

"The G20, its essence, is activating multilateralism, and of course this has taken a backseat over the last few years", Falih said.

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Climate change was also expected to top the agenda, with the change of USA leadership raising hopes of a more concerted effort at G20 level to fight global warming.

Following the example of the European Union, already half of the G20 members, including Japan, China, South Korea and South Africa, plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050 or soon after.

She also expressed hope that America's "new President-elect" Joe Biden will "increase multilateral cooperation" in areas like health and climate change, noting that until now "the United States has resisted engaging" in a rebuke of Trump's isolationist policies.

In a statement Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she planned to push members to continue to provide pandemic-related economic support until recovery from covid-19 is certain. The EU is already working on such standards to have them in place by 2022.

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