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Royal radicals and democratic duds – POLITICO – Politico

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11/01/2021 10:27 AM EDT
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It’s all happening in Europe this week!
First the G-20 in Rome wrapped late Sunday, next up is the COP26 climate conference in Scotland kicked off. This newsletter is coming to you from Lisbon, Portugal, where the world’s biggest tech conference Web Summit is kicking off — and the country is facing the prospect of a snap election after the Parliament rejected the budget proposed by Portugal’s left-wing government.
Sold out: More than 40,000 ticket holders will descend on the Altice Arena for Web Summit from 1 p.m. ET today. The opening session features Black Lives Matter co-founder Ayọ Tometi and Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.
Skipping out: Sadly Facebook’s top lobbyist Nick Clegg is delaying a planned trip to Europe and will appear via video link instead, denying everyone the green room experience they’ve been dreaming of: Haugen and Clegg at the coffee machine, or side-by-side in make-up chairs.
You’re going to drown in dramatic (and often cliché-ridden) climate speeches over the next two days from national leaders. Leaders will also offer up an array of relatively minor funding and project announcements that may, when added up, amount to something, but which will be hard to decipher in real time.
Whatever happens in Glasgow, it’s going to take more than new long-term promises to save the planet: POLITICO’s Karl Mathiesen and Zack Colman explain why.
Boris Johnson case study: The summit host and U.K. Prime Minister has kicked off COP26 by declaring it’s “one minute to midnight” for our planet, that “if Glasgow fails, the whole thing fails” (the Paris Climate Agreement). Later today he’s set to tell us that he’s determined to “see the U.K.’s Green Industrial Revolution go global … no country should be left behind,” according to prepared remarks. Johnson is hitting all the drama, inspiration and cliche notes: But how does it stack up to the context of the U.K. making severe cuts to its development funding in recent budgets? Not so great. And will it cause rich countries to meet their commitment to deliver $100 billion a year to developing countries for their green transitions (no, but it’s a decent contribution). Take that example, multiply it by 100, and you have COP26 on a platter.
Xi Jinping case study: Actually, a dog ate the Chinese president’s video speech, so he’s sending a written note instead. Beijing hasn’t explained its intention here: But it’s not a compliment to Britain, Biden or your grandchildren.
A handy guide from the Times of London shows where each country stands on its climate practices and promises: Which countries are the world’s biggest polluters?
Follow all of POLITICO’s coverage here
Look for leaders making potentially unpopular sacrifices, or offering comprehensive approaches to making a green transition: They’re the serious ones. Leaders waving big numbers in press releases, or optimistically promising to get their domestic politics sorted out in time for the next summit, should be treated with skepticism.
Speaking of optimists presiding over divided domestic politics … President Joe Biden is among around 120 national leaders in Glasgow for the most important climate summit since Paris in 2015. Once again, his biggest advantage is in being there in Glasgow, and his Achilles’ heel in Washington’s bratty Congress.
Who else is going from the American side? Cabinet members including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and USAID Administrator Samantha Power. Climate envoy John Kerry and White House adviser Gina McCarthy will also play key roles.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi leads the Congressional delegation, and there’s a Republican delegation for the first time, led by Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), the ranking member on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.
You can cut the problems up in nearly endless ways. The top five in Global Insider’s mind are …
Advanced industrialized countries versus those still developing: If the West got to emit carbon at-will to get rich, should Asian and African countries expect the same? Who and what will cause someone to blink?
The big versus the climate vulnerable: China is the biggest emitter now, but not the biggest historically: What responsibility does it have toward low-lying Pacific and Caribbean islands set to drown?
Detailed actors versus the talkers: The EU and U.K. have detailed expensive climate laws and carbon markets. Are they doing everything they can? No. Are they doing more than the U.S.? Yes.
Private and public — together or one dragging the other: Companies and local governments have been more nimble in taking practical climate action in recent years. But they can’t do it alone. Will public money make the difference? A global carbon market? Other public guarantees and market signals?
Those who won’t do anything until the U.S. and China do: These are often the fossil fuel countries — whether big oil and gas producers, or those addicted to coal. Think Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Asian countries that, alone, have about 200 new coal-fired power stations under construction. They argue that unless the U.S. and China make big coordinated sacrifices, they’ll be damned if they sacrifice themselves first.
What’s behind Boris Johnson’s global green crusade?
U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa: “We either choose to achieve rapid and large-scale reductions of emissions to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C — or we accept that humanity faces a bleak future on this planet … more people will die, more families will suffer, and more economic harm will follow.”
“Unwelcome” Shell will not attend COP26, says CEO
Politicians lag behind public opinion: The Pew Research Center found that since 2013 France and Mexico have seen 30 point increases in the numbers of their citizens worried about climate change: into the 80s. In the United States, nearly 60 percent of people say they are worried, a 19 point bump since 2013.
COP26 and the Climate Finance Bubble, by Pitchbook’s Svenja Telle.
A critical ocean system may be heading for collapse
The fight against climate change is increasingly being fought from space. Bryan Bender and Jonathan Custodio on how satellites are changing the way we target investment and policy.
Oh dear — storms force delegates from trains to planes: Climate change-related extreme weather threw trees across train tracks, pushing COP delegates onto airplanes, and in some cases causing them to sleep on train station floors, in their efforts to get to Glasgow.
KNOW WHAT THE INSIDERS KNOW, READ PLAYBOOK: POLITICO Playbook analyzes the big stories and trends, bringing you the latest from Washington and across the political landscape. Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza and Tara Palmeri deliver the scoops you need to know — and the insider nuggets that you want to know — about the biggest political power players. Subscribe to Playbook, the unofficial guide to official Washington.
WATCH THIS: French President Emmanuel Macron, asked at the G-20 if he thinks Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison lied to him about the infamous broken French submarine contract, tells the Sydney Morning Herald: “I don’t think, I know.”
Was it role reversal? Political drag? Choose your label — but it was sad to see unelected figures steal the show and set the agenda throughout the G-20 summit in Rome.
First it was Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin’s absence, then three days of clever political maneuvers from the Pope, followed by Queen Máxima of the Netherlands (financial inclusion) and Britain’s Prince Charles (climate action) who were better and more radical advocates for their causes than any of the elected leaders. Global Insider’s full sketch of the summit here.
The good news: Leaders didn’t shred their climate commitments (they didn’t promise to ditch coal either), and they locked in a global corporate minimum tax rate of 15 percent, which will be a big deal in 2023 if it actually happens (watch for streams of new tax credits and other tricks from governments to help their own companies avoid the minimum).
The empty details: The summit communique is 17 pages long and covers more than 60 topics, yet doesn’t unknot our big Covid-19 and climate challenges, which is really the point of the G-20.
Notable: Canada will donate another 200 million vaccine doses to COVAX; the EU and U.S. are suspending their steel and aluminum tariffs. President Biden wants to rally “Americans partners” (aka not China) with money to help unblock ports and other improvements to supply chain resilience.
WHO — TEDROS BACK FOR A SECOND TERM: The WHO announced today that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is the sole candidate to head the global body, meaning he will take a second term at the helm, despite a barrage of criticism over the body’s initial response to Covid-19. He’ll be dealing with a new G-20 task force announced over the weekend — to help the world better prepare for the next pandemic (i.e. better than WHO did around Covid-19).
SOUTH AFRICA — THE ANC’S BIGGEST TEST: Local elections today may see Africa’s seemingly permanent ruling party lose control of the country’s major cities. That matters because local authorities have major powers over services in South Africa. Corruption, power outages and deadly riots have been helping to tank the image of Nelson Mandela’s party.
JAPAN — RULING PARTY REELECTED: One month into the job as Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida has cemented his hold on the job in Japan’s parliamentary election. Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party went into Sunday’s general election holding 276 of the 465 seats up for grabs, and it came out with 261: well above the 233 needed for a majority.
EUROPE — FORGETTING THE LESSONS OF WAR, MERKEL WARNS: “The world is in anything but a stable condition,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, the Sunday newspaper. “In history there is a recurring pattern where people begin to deal recklessly with political structures when the generations that created those structures are no longer alive.”
AFGHANISTAN — TALIBAN THREATENS GLOBAL EFFECTS IF NOT RECOGNIZED: "Our message to America is, if unrecognition continues, Afghan problems continue, it is the problem of the region and could turn into a problem for the world," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told journalists at a news conference.
BEIJING OLYMPICS CHECK-IN: As calls for boycotts appear to be going nowhere fast (the G-20 agree to include a note of encouragement to the organizers in its communique), the same can’t be said for a driverless high-speed railway linking the two cities co-hosting the Winter Olympics (that’s right, whatever China’s talents, they don’t yet extend to turning the Forbidden City into a slalom course). Travel time has been cut from over 3 hours to 47 minutes.
CHINA — CANCELLED BY BEIJING: Stefan Aust and Adrian Geiges were set to introduce their book “Xi Jinping: The World’s Most Powerful Man” at an event jointly organized by the Confucius institutes of Hanover and Duisburg-Essen … until the organizations withdrew the invites. Piper Verlag, the book’s publisher, said that an employee at the Confucius institute told it: “You can’t talk about Xi Jinping as an ordinary person any more. Now he must be sacrosanct and beyond discussion.”
Germany’s education minister has now asked the country’s universities to review campus Confucius institutes and report suspicious behavior to intelligence agencies
LET THEM EAT COUP! Global Insider asked in Friday’s edition if we’d missed any of the long list of attempted and successful coups in 2021. Your replies:
“Oh, you mean … apart from the one on January 6?”
Don Keyser.
“There was an attempt in Armenia (where the military called for the resignation of the prime minister) and another attempt in Niger on Mar. 31”
— Lenja Rigels
WHO SAID CANADIANS WERE NICE? It’s the little things that sometimes say the most. In this case, Canada’s deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland — a former reporter and democracy activist — traveled all the way to Rome for the G-20 summit only to decide journalists needed a Canadian passport to be allowed to ask her a question. At a 20-minute press conference Q&A (to which Freeland was 45 minutes late), journalists were told to assemble next to a flak who could verify their Canadianness, before being allowed to ask a question. POLITICO — despite having a full Canada team and the must-read Ottawa Playbook — didn’t qualify. Freeland’s flak even physically inserted himself between your author and Freeland when I attempted to talk to her as she left the press conference.
SECRETS — JAMIE DIMON: America’s most powerful banker is a great survivor who tests the patience of his peers. A former colleague tells the Times of London, “At some point, Jamie has got to focus on not extending his contract by another five years but truly finding a successor that can take the bank forwards. The last chapter of a successful CEO has to be finding a successor. And I don’t think he’s even begun to set that up yet.”
NOMINATED: Marc Nathanson as U.S. Ambassador to Norway, and Randi Charno Levine to Portugal.
APPOINTED: Noeleen Heyzer of Singapore will start in December as the U.N.’s new envoy for Myanmar.
RESIGNED: Zoran Zaev as North Macedonia’s prime minister and leader of the ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, after his center-left party suffered defeat in local elections.
WONDER WOMAN LECTURED BY JACINDA ARDERN: The incident unfolded on a trampoline in the New Zealand capital of Wellington.
STEP INSIDE THE WEST WING: What’s really happening in West Wing offices? Find out who’s up, who’s down, and who really has the president’s ear in our West Wing Playbook newsletter, the insider’s guide to the Biden White House and Cabinet. For buzzy nuggets and details that you won’t find anywhere else, subscribe today.
Sunset for U.N. sanctions? Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch looks at why the world came to rely on this enforcement tool, and how Chinese and Russian skepticism threatens to render the system meaningless.
“Memory in the age of impunity,” by Peter Pomeranzev for Coda Story: “There were once ‘grand narratives’ that explained everything from the behavior of states to literature. The collapse of connected storylines calls for new thinking on what binds us, from Manila to Silicon Valley to Moscow.”
America’s poor diet made Covid much worse. Washington isn’t paying attention, by Helena Bottemiller Evich.
Metaverse?! Are you kidding me? By Charles Blow
From the New Yorker’s Annals of Science archives: Bill McKibben writing in 1989 on the coming climate crisis “The End of Nature,” and Elizabeth Kolbert in 2005 on “The Climate of Man.”
Thanks to editor John Yearwood and Melissa Heikkilä