Fixing climate in Asia… and recycling its plastics too

In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

Eurasia Group and GZERO Media President Ian Bremmer explained why it's time for Asia to turn the narrative on climate policy by leading without following bad examples from the West, how the broader region — especially heavyweights China and India — can actually find common ground on climate despite otherwise disagreeing on everything else these days, and why a lackluster COP26 won't mean failure despite the lack of global leadership on climate.

Suntory CEO Tak Niinami shared his views on why collective action on climate is so complicated in such a diverse region as Asia, the need to consider hydrogen and nuclear power on top of traditional renewables like solar and wind, and why 2050 is too far for companies to make net zero pledges because there's no sense of urgency.

Ko Barrett, vice president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, put out some thoughts on why different countries should have different approaches to solve the common problem of climate, why she's hopeful about a good outcome at COP26, and the particular climate risks that Asia faces.

Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and current CEO of the Asia Society, gave his take on regional leaders and laggards on climate, the global political leadership vacuum on the issue, and the need for all Asian countries — in particular China and India — to work in sync on climate to cut emissions drastically.

Sintesa Group CEO Shinta Kamdani talked about Indonesia's tricky balancing act between climate action and fighting poverty, and why women need to more involved in global climate solutions.

Finding Sustainable Solutions For SIngle-Use Plastics | Sustainability Leaders Summit | GZERO Media

On day two, we turned to a practical application of climate solutions to a very dicey topic: sustainable plastics, which to some sounds like "clean coal." What can we do to dramatically cut down on single-use plastics, and figure out how to recycle all others? Who's most responsible for all of this, and what's the outlook for the future? Our expert guests weighed in.

Tak Niinami clarified why applying currently available technology is as important as developing new tech to better dispose of and recycle plastics.

Ian Bremmer predicted how over time, corporations and tech firms will get sucked into the "gravitational pull" of making plastics more sustainable because it's in their own self-interest — no one wants to get left behind.

Eurasia Group climate & sustainability expert Colleen King described why plastics are such a big problem for Asia's climate, and provided examples of successful recycling initiatives in Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea.

Climate activist Hannah Testa underscored how plastics pollution is finally part of the zeitgeist, with more businesses stepping up to do the right thing because it's linked to climate change, and highlighted the ever-pressing need to refuse single-use plastics and raise awareness about the harm they do to the oceans, the world's biggest carbon sink.

Aloke Lohia, CEO of Indorama Ventures, pointed out why most plastics should be seen as raw material instead of waste because it can be recycled, and the need to double down on that because plastics will get more expensive when we transition away from fossil fuels.

Circulate Capital CEO Rob Kaplan shed light on how the "circular" economy driven by recycling could flip global supply chains on their head, and why sustainable plastics are a huge opportunity for investors in countries that don't even do the basics like India.

Climate Bonds Initiative CEO Sean Kidney illustrated why single-use plastics are partly responsible for the the shocking loss of biodiversity in the past few decades, on the urgency of solving the problem before it's too late, and why governments, manufacturers, and consumers all need to "sing from the same song sheet" to focus on greener plastic use.

Tadashi Maeda, governor of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, stressed the need to de-risk capital investment in the sector and to spur more public-private partnerships in sustainable plastics.

Anchoring the Summit is a new research report prepared by Eurasia Group, "Unlocking Sustainable Plastics in Asia," which advocates for a much more dynamic role for both the public and private sector in Asia to counter the proliferation of single-use plastic containers, which have had an outsized impact on the environment.

This summit is sponsored by Suntory and co-hosted by GZERO Media and Eurasia Group.

Two Black women hugging, with one woman pictured smiling

With half of all Black Americans excluded from the financial mainstream and Black-owned small businesses blocked from funding, we're working with city leaders and providing digital access to essential financial tools for immediate impact in Black communities. Learn more.

When Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the "1619 Project" tweeted: "In this country, you can even kill white people and get away with it if those white people are fighting for Black lives. This is the legacy of 1619." In an upcoming interview with Ian Bremmer, she explains why she saw the verdict as a consequence of this country's long history of double standards when it comes to racial justice. "The fact that we own more guns in this country than any other country is certainly a legacy of 1619" Hannah-Jones says. "This idea that white Americans can patrol, that they have the right to open carry, this is not something that Black Americans can engage in, in the same way." Watch her full conversation with Ian Bremmer in an upcoming episode of GZERO World.

What We're Watching: Omicron sparks fear and restrictions, Modi plays politics with farmers, Kyiv on alert

The Omicron wars: Can we really afford to lock down again? In response to the new omicron variant first discovered by South African scientists, many countries have reintroduced pandemic travel restrictions that we thought were long behind us. Israel and Morocco have banned all foreign visitors, while tougher rules on quarantining and travel have also been enforced in the UK, Australia, Singapore and parts of Europe. Meanwhile, travelers from southern African countries have been banned from entering almost everywhere. Scientists say that it is still too early to say how infectious the new variant is, or how resistant it might be to vaccines. This disruption comes just as many economies were starting to reopen after more than 20-months of pandemic closures and chaos. The new restrictions are already triggering a fierce debate: some say that we are now in the endemic stage of the pandemic and that it is both unsustainable – and economically and psychologically harmful – to keep locking down every time a new variant surfaces. Others, like Israel's PM Naftali Bennett, say we are in the throes of a new "state of emergency," and that we can't afford to take any chances. What do you think?

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The Graphic Truth: Perceptions of COVID

Where do people think the pandemic is mostly contained where they live and that life will soon return to normal? A recent Ipsos survey takes a look at people's perceptions in more than two dozen countries. Saudis, Indians, and Malaysians top the list of optimists, while most Europeans aren't quite sure, and things seem particularly grim in Canada, where just a quarter of those polled feel that the pandemic is behind them. But do these perceptions have anything to do with the current state of daily cases? We crossed that specific data point with the Ipsos poll's findings and, well, have a look. It seems factors beyond actual cases may play a bigger role in how people feel about the pandemic.

Demonstrators protest against a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) law that is voted on in a referendum, in front of the Swiss Federal Palace, the Bundeshaus, in Bern, Switzerland, November 28, 2021.

63: Early results of a national referendum found that 63 percent of Swiss voters back legislation mandating residents show proof of vaccination, a negative test result, or recovery from COVID to enter public spaces. Amid a surge in COVID cases, the Swiss government has opted not to impose new restrictions as other European states have done.

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The supply chain mess is hitting all of us. Inflation is now the highest it's been in over 30 years.

The costs of food, gas and housing are going through the roof. What's more, almost everything made outside of America is now in short supply — like semiconductors for our cars.

Why is this happening? A lot of it has to do with the pandemic. Asian factories had to shut down or thought there would be less demand for their stuff. So did shipping companies. But then online shopping surged, and now there's a lot of pent-up demand to spend all the cash we saved during COVID.

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Veteran Korea correspondent and former AP Pyongyang bureau chief Jean Lee discusses the two Koreas with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. From K-Pop supergroup BTS to Oscar-winner Parasite to Netflix global sensation Squid Game, South Korea seems to be churning out one massive cultural hit after another. And North Korea is taking notice.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: The Korean Peninsula from K-Pop to Kim Jong-un

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The economic consequences of high inflation are already bad enough.

But for Larry Summers, sometimes the psychological trauma that comes with it can do even more damage to a society.

"A society where inflation is accelerating is a society that feels out of control."

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How did we get to today's supply chain mess?

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