Leaders at COP26 pledge to end deforestation by 2030; US election day bets

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at world leaders' deforestation pledge, US election outlooks, and China's "zero COVID" policy.

World leaders are pledging to end deforestation by 2030. What are the updates on COP26?

Well, that is one of the wins. It's the same pledge, but more countries are on board. The Russians, the Chinese, others that weren't before, and also, we're seeing movement on methane reduction pledges. Not as significant in amount as carbon dioxide emissions, but more dangerous in terms of impact on global warming. But the big issue, of course, is that still on carbon into the atmosphere, much lower coordination than you desperately need between north and south, rich and poor, Americans and Chinese. We are very far from where we want to be on that, and there, COP26 is a disappointment.


How are the elections going in the United States?

Well, it's early for me to say. I feel very comfortable saying Eric Adams here in New York City is going to be the next mayor. That doesn't require any intelligence on my part. Dems just win in New York. Plus, Sliwa on the Republican side has something like 18 cats in a studio apartment. You can't vote for that. You just can't do that. You can't do that. But of course, Virginia is what's interesting. If you made me bet, gun to my head, I'd say Youngkin wins, the Republican, in part because he has been able to navigate both getting Trump's support without being seen as close to Trump, which is hard to do. He's been more effective at most things. He's also been playing the culture war, the education war, identity war card very effectively and McAuliffe has not been very effective in response. So, it looks to me like the most important election of the day probably goes GOP, but it's really tight and I wouldn't want to make a big bet on that.

China urges families to stock up on food for winter months. How long can China's "zero COVID" policy last?

This is really not the message you want to be sending, as the Chinese President, trying to get his unprecedented third term, getting rid of term limits and saying, "By the way, we've got all of these energy challenges and now we might have food challenges." China's supposed to be the manufacturing center and the supply chain center for the world, but because they have zero tolerance for COVID, that has meant absolute lockdowns in addition to surveillance whenever they have outbreaks. That's a really hard thing to handle when you've got Delta variant that transmits very easily. And your vaccines, which are being rolled out across the country, but they don't work very well against Delta variant. I have to think that at some point, they're going to need to show more flexibility and avoid "zero COVID". As challenging as it will be to say that they got it wrong, they just need to say something like, "Well, we have more people vaccinated so it's not as lethal, but we can handle some level of spread," because otherwise, the economic hit for China, and of course the rest of the world, is going to be come increasingly hard for them to bear. A very tough corner they have backed themselves into on COVID, the Chinese.

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Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

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Caravan of Taliban soldiers with guns held upright

Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?

Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.

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What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

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World leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome, October 2021

This week, the World Health Organization’s governing body agreed to begin multinational negotiations on an agreement that would boost global preparedness to deal with future pandemics. The WHO hopes that its 194 member countries will sign a treaty that helps ensure that the global response to the next pandemic is better coordinated and fairer.

The specifics remain to be negotiated over the coming months – and maybe longer – but the stated goal of those who back this plan is a treaty that will commit member countries to share information, virus samples, and new technologies, and to ensure that poorer countries have much better access than they do now to vaccines and related technologies.

Crucially, backers of the treaty insist it must be “legally binding.”

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