Given the state of U.S.-China relations these days, most observers had low expectations for Thursday’s call between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. The list of issues causing tensions is long, and the areas for cooperation have narrowed. Unsurprisingly, then, the call resembled a conversation from the terminal stage of a bad romance.
While governments around the world have tried to coordinate their efforts to rein in the emissions causing climate change, critics rightfully argue that the targets they have agreed to are too modest. But structural obstacles to the kind of cooperation needed to address the problem make it unlikely that a solution will be reached.
European Union officials are putting on a brave face as the bloc approves a plan to ration natural gas this winter to avoid an energy crisis should Russia make additional cuts to its exports. But the discussions leading up to the plan’s approval revealed cracks in their public display of solidarity.
Farmers’ protests over the Dutch government’s plan to cut ammonia pollution highlight the political challenges of bringing farming practices in line with environmental objectives. But the problems the new policy is meant to address also serve as a warning to food producers everywhere: Factory farming is a dead end.
Myanmar’s return to the position of international pariah has created a new opening for Beijing. By moving in where the West, reeling from the junta’s shocking human rights abuses, has been reluctant to step in, Beijing hopes to boost China’s regional influence and secure access to vital natural resources.
In recent years, several European states have sought to project their precious naval assets in the Indo-Pacific region in ways that reflect widely accepted fashions in strategic thinking. But the underlying logic of this thinking now needs to be viewed more critically after the return of interstate war on European soil.
Last week, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in Istanbul for what he described as “probably the most important” event of his tenure at the U.N. to date. He visited Turkey for the signing of agreements by Russia and Ukraine that are meant to allow agricultural shipments to resume from Black Sea ports, helping to alleviate a growing global food crisis. While Turkish officials played a major part in these talks, Guterres has been personally involved in the negotiations “every day” since April. This initiative may come to be considered a turning point in his career as the U.N.’s top official. […]
Earlier this month, during a visit to Uganda, the Hollywood actor Terrence Howard held a press conference with local journalists and senior Ugandan government officials, including President Yoweri Museveni, in attendance. In a clip that was shared by Uganda’s state broadcaster and quickly went viral, Howard claimed to have invented a new hydrogen technology that could help Uganda “defend the sovereignty of a peaceful place and a peaceful people.” The dubious nature of Howard’s claims made for some comic relief among Ugandans and other observers alike, with many Twitter commenters—including me—making allusions to investment schemes promoted by the Senegalese-American singer Akon that have drawn comparisons to […]
Lately, energy companies have been acting as if U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry are likely to end soon. Last month, two U.S. investment firms—Gramercy Funds Management and Atmos Global Energy—formed a joint venture with the Venezuela-based Inelectra Group to engage in oil and gas exploration. The ownership of Citgo’s refineries in the country were a key point of contention for several years between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his opposition, but the U.S. oil giant’s management has nevertheless said it would accept crude exported from Venezuela if sanctions are indeed lifted. Their apparent belief that sanctions will be lifted is a […]
Last week, 13 African heads of state and government attended the African Union’s Mid-Year Coordination Meeting, the principal forum for the AU and Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, or RECs, to align their priorities and coordinate implementation of the continental integration agenda. This year’s meeting, the fourth since the format was launched in 2017 to replace a mid-year leaders’ summit, was focused on issues like the status of regional integration in Africa; the division of labor between the AU, its member states and RECs; a tripartite free trade agreement between the East African Community, The Common Market for Eastern and Southern […]
Gabon has long flaunted its green credentials, enjoying a reputation as a leader in global efforts to combat climate change and environmental destruction. In June 2021, that image got another boost when Gabon became the first country in Africa to receive a payout for having reduced its carbon emissions. In disbursing the first payment of $17 million, the Central African Forest Initiative, on behalf of the Norwegian government, committed to providing Gabon’s government with $150 million in conservation financing over 10 years for lowering emissions from forest loss in 2016 and 2017, compared to baseline data from 2006 to 2015. […]
Over the past few years, the Southeast Asian state of Laos has positioned itself at the center of growing trade, economic and infrastructure integration in the Mekong subregion. Its ambitious plan envisioned its dams providing electricity for Laos’ more populous neighbors and its expanding web of roads and rails—whose development is funded extensively through debt, much of it to China—connecting the region’s rising economies. But that was before Laos’ economy crashed. Today, inflation is skyrocketing. Staple goods like cooking oil are becoming scarce. And the local currency is collapsing against the dollar. The country, whose credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s in […]
Two weeks ago, I returned to Beirut for my first visit to Lebanon since an economic crash transformed the country into a perverse lab experiment on the limits of human tolerance for completely avoidable privation and abusive governance. The human impact of the crisis, which began in October 2019, has been thoroughly chronicled, but it’s still stunning to see it in person. Every individual and household in the country runs a daily obstacle course to secure what food, fuel and medicine is available. Meanwhile, the ultra-rich continue to live in style, packing into clubs and luxury shops in full view […]
This past weekend a friend from Paris came to visit us in the north of England for an unusual reason. Though we were all happy to spend time together, the main purpose of his stay was to get away from the punishing heat wave that was due to hit Western Europe. We took advantage of the pleasantly warm weather to show him some of the local attractions, including a visit to Hadrian’s Wall, which 2,000 years ago marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. I jokingly referred to him as our first “climate refugee,” a nod to the well-established […]
As Boris Johnson announced his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party and departure as British prime minister on a warm Thursday afternoon last week, the frantic world of British politics was already speculating about who his successor might be. Now, with former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and State Minister for Trade Penny Mordaunt looking like the most viable candidates to lead the Tories, a vicious leadership battle has gained momentum. Yet for all this sound and fury, there has been little concrete disagreement on policy among these contenders. At most, the tensions within the Tory […]
It has been over two years since Chinese incursions in the summer of 2020 along the disputed India-China boundary in eastern Ladakh led to a series of skirmishes that left dozens of soldiers dead on both sides. Yet unlike a February 2019 confrontation with Pakistan, which resulted in an Indian airstrike on Pakistani territory and a tense standoff between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears content to relegate the tensions with China over Ladakh to the margins of national consciousness. The sum total of New Delhi’s response to China’s violations of treaties and […]
This spring, Malta was crowned the top European country for LGBTQ rights and freedoms by the annual ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Index for the seventh year in a row. The Mediterranean island country didn’t just win the top spot. It dominated the rankings, with a score of 92 percent—nearly 20 points above its nearest competitor, Denmark. This recognition did not come to Malta via a high-priced PR campaign or effort to “brand” Malta as the LGBTQ dream destination. Rather, it is the result of good policymaking that ensures rights for LGBTQ people on the three islands that make up the country. However, given that […]