Climate

Fourth time’s the charm in Israel. As the COVID omicron variant sweeps the globe, Israel has become the first country to roll out a fourth vaccine shot for health care workers, immunocompromised residents, and people over the age of 60. (The eligibility criteria will likely be broadened in the weeks ahead.) Pushing back against those who say that more research is required to gauge the effectiveness of a fourth shot, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that omicron is “a new ballgame altogether.” This comes as Israel's health ministry said recently that the country could soon reach herd immunity due to a combination of vaccination rates (64 percent of the population is fully vaccinated) and mounting infections (Bennett warned Sunday that daily infections could soon reach 50,000, up from the current daily caseload of 6,500). Israeli health officials say that although omicron’s spread is inevitable, the aim is to keep deaths and hospitalizations as low as possible by keeping inoculation rates sky-high. Will other countries follow suit?

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Top Risks 2022

Every year, Eurasia Group, our parent company, produces its list of the top 10 geopolitical risks for the coming year. The report is authored by Eurasia Group's president, Ian Bremmer, and its chairman, Cliff Kupchan.

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One of the keys to accelerating financial inclusion and building a more equitable digital economy is to enable minority-owned businesses to scale. And one of the fastest ways to do that is through partnerships with a global network like Visa. At the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI), we’re committed to providing research and insights on important issues related to inclusive economic policy. Our reports cover topics like what women-owned businesses need to unlock growth and how to empower Black and Brown-owned banks. Read more of our latest stories here.

Did 2021 actually happen, or are we still stuck in 2020? So many things seem to have barely changed this year. After all, we’re entering yet another holiday season worried about a fresh wave of the pandemic, and uncertain about what comes next for our economies and our politics.

In a lot of ways, the past 365 days feel like a year of unfulfilled promise. Let’s have a look back at what did, and did not happen in 2021.

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COVID & authoritarianism. Around the world, the pandemic has given national governments vastly greater mandates to manage how their societies and economies work. That has, among other things, created room for authoritarianism to grow and flourish. But there are different views on how that’s happened, and where. On the one hand, undemocratic or illiberal governments used pandemic restrictions to suppress anti-government protests or muzzle critics. Think of China using COVID restrictions to stop the burgeoning Hong Kong protests, or Russia doing the same to crack down on opposition rallies. Freedom House reported this year that the pandemic had contributed to democratic backsliding in 73 countries, the most since 2005. But there are also those who see authoritarian shadows in what democratic governments have done: imposing vaccine mandates, continued lockdowns, and school closures. In the US, a backlash against this has boosted Republicans ahead of next year’s midterms, while fresh lockdowns and mandates have also provoked fierce protests in Europe. There is also the thorny and unresolved question of how to police misinformation. Some Americans think social media platforms are erring on the side of too much content moderation as they struggle with the difficult problem of weeding out dangerous pandemic fake news. Overall, the question of what governments did during the pandemic, and whether it exceeded their mandates, will affect politics and geopolitics deep into 2022.

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Listen: While 2021 brought incredible breakthroughs in science and billions of COVID-19 vaccine doses were delivered globally, the pandemic seems far from over as the new year approaches. Add in an urgent need for climate action, uneven economic recovery and supply chain disruption, plus growing tensions between the world’s two biggest economies—the US and China—and you basically want to pull the covers over your head. But still, there are reasons to be hopeful about 2022.

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Listen: Are global leaders finally taking needed action on environmental issues? Coming out of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, we've seen governments agree to a certain set of policies to fight climate change. But that isn't the only urgent environmental issue we face. The twin problem of climate change AND biodiversity loss are a serious threat to not just governments, but also investors.

The latest episode of Living Beyond Borders, a special podcast series from GZERO brought to you by Citi Private Bank, looks at how important biodiversity is to the global economy, and what leaders need to do to prevent further loss. Moderated by Caitlin Dean, Head of the Geostrategy Practice at Eurasia Group, this episode features Anita McBain, Managing Director at Citi Research, heading EMEA ESG Research; Harlin Singh, Global Head of Sustainable Investing at Citi Global Wealth; and Mikaela McQuade, Director of Energy, Climate and Resources at Eurasia Group.

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Just hours ago, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping held their first bilateral videoconference together. The three-hour virtual meeting was, as expected, cordial despite sharply diverging views on many issues. (An effusive Biden even managed to elicit something between a Cheshire Cat grin and an outright smile from the famously stone-faced Xi.) Without much detail, both sides agreed to continue working together on climate following their COP26 joint pledge, and to return to normalcy on trade. On Taiwan — by far the prickliest of many prickly topics including Hong Kong and Xinjiang — Xi warned America to not "play with fire" while Biden responded that both countries are responsible for avoiding open conflict over the self-governing island. Nevertheless, the two leaders showed, at least in the brief part of the call that was open to the public, that they can deal with each other face to face in a respectful way, which puts at least some "guardrails" (the precise word Biden mentioned) on a bilateral relationship that is otherwise spiraling in slow motion toward confrontation.

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