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COP26 climate deal: Reasons for hope

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Just about to head to Singapore, but before I do, I thought I would give you guys a quick recap on the COP26 summit, couple weeks long in Glasgow.

And I understand that it's fashionable and important to talk about just how immediate and immense the climate crisis is, and that we didn't do enough, and we have more work in front of us, and all that is true, but actually I come away from the last two weeks fairly optimistic in the sense that the acceleration of effort that we're seeing from all corners, I mean there's even more from the central governments than you would've expected, and they were the underperformers, certainly more from the private sector, more from the banks, more from the corporates. And as a consequence, right now, I mean the big headline is that we are still on track for 2.4 degrees centigrade of warming if all of the countries make good on their existing pledges, which is itself unlikely. So we're not really on track for 2.4, it's higher. And that's double where we are right now, 1.2.

Having said that, there are a number of positive things that I think are also getting baked in, not just how much carbon is in the atmosphere. One is that they have decided, the participants of COP26, that they're going to come with new goals next year, as opposed to every five years, which had been the process. So as we're seeing more effort, as we're seeing more progress, we're also seeing stepped up urgency. And the very fact that you will now have a one-year, an annual summit that becomes an action-forcing event, even if it's marked by half measures, will end up getting you a lot more progress. I think that's significant and everyone agreed to that.

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Climate change trade wars

The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow is almost done and dusted, with some ambitious commitments and breakthroughs from governments and corporations to more aggressively tackle the climate disaster. Yet, though there seems to be broad agreement on what needs to be done to stop the planet getting hotter — like getting to Net Zero emissions over the next few decades — big disagreements remain on how to pull it off.

As countries try to turn jobs green while also boosting exports to keep foreign cash flowing in, reliance on protectionist economic policies is becoming an increasing point of friction between governments. Here are two juicy examples where this dynamic is playing out.

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Record US inflation levels worsen Americans' view of the economy

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at rising US inflation, the migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border, and the draft deal of the COP26 climate agreement.

US inflation hits its highest level in three decades. How will the Biden administration be impacted?

Well, it's not well. I mean, the economy is doing very well right now. We're getting all of these record levels in the markets. And companies have extraordinary profits, and growth is going gangbusters. So it's not stagflation. But I mean, the inflation levels on top of the fact that it's Christmas season coming up, and people are exhausted from dealing with COVID, is making people feel much worse about the economy otherwise would. I don't think we've ever seen this kind of a gap between economic reality and expectations and Biden's ability to do a lot on inflation is very limited at this point. I mean, he's pushing OPEC to produce more energy, which is a problem with the COP summit, but at the end of the day, I mean, this has a lot more to do with the massive explosion of post-COVID supply and demand growth, and all coming online at the same time. Plus labor shortages. It's not something that's easy for them to deal with. So I think it's going to be a challenge for them for months, but elections aren't for a year so the timing is not so horrible.

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Net zero emissions by 2050 "lacks sense of urgency" — Suntory CEO

Like many other big corporations, Japanese brewer and distiller Suntory want to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But that's not enough for CEO Tak Niinami. "It's far away and lacks the sense of urgency," he says. Niinami predicts that especially after COP26 people will be wary of greenwashing, so it's essential for corporations to "to be transparent, showing society what we are doing and how much progress we are making" on climate.

Suntory CEO Tak Niinami spoke during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here.

Making plastic industry sustainable is corporate self-interest

Plastics are essential for Asia, but for Ian Bremmer the way the industry works right now is incompatible with the region's targets to fight climate change. Very soon, though, he predicts there will be "immense gravitational pull" to do things differently. Once the way Asian companies use plastics now becomes outdated, he says, it's only a matter of time before they change out of their own self-interest. Bremmer spoke during the second of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory.

What We're Watching: American missile defense, Chilean impeachment scandal

The US ups its missile defense game. Israel has used for years a precise missile defense system — known as the Iron Dome — as a bulwark against short-range rocket attacks from terror groups. In recent weeks, the US has been using the same technology — jointly developed by Israeli and American defense contractors — in the US Pacific territory of Guam to test its own defense capabilities against Chinese weapons, according to the Wall Street Journal. This comes after Beijing, as part of a military drill, recently sent sophisticated hypersonic missiles into space that could reach Guam, about 1,800 miles from mainland China. The Pentagon is not messing around in anticipating potential threats from Beijing right now as bilateral tensions continue to rise. However, the DOD says this tech isn't a long-term fix because Iron Dome isn't meant to be used to thwart cruise missiles, which are capable of transporting a nuclear warhead long distances. Meanwhile, the US military has requested more than $200 million to develop a new missile defense system for Guam, but Congress has yet to deliver.

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Africa needs reachable climate goals, says DRC lawmaker Jeanine Mabunda

Africa is barely responsible for today's climate crisis, yet African governments are being asked to stop using fossil fuels like everyone else. That just won't work, says DRC member of parliament and former speaker Jeanine Mabunda Lioko, unless rich nations make good on their climate finance pledges for the continent. Africa, she explains, needs "concrete and reachable goals" that provide access to reliable energy, and there will be a lot of pressure to deliver on promises ahead of the next COP climate summit, which will take place in an African country.

Mabunda spoke during a live Global Stage event, "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" Watch the full event here.

“Fine words” on climate aren’t enough: UN Environment Chief Inger Andersen

On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer speaks with Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program. Will the UN Climate Conference (COP26) produce lasting change or just more hot air? The world's top 20 economies, Andersen says, are responsible for over three-quarters of global carbon emissions, so if they "make the requisite shifts, frankly we are out of the climate crisis."

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Surviving a warming planet

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