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António Guterres: “We Are Destroying Our Planet and We Are Not Paying Attention” | GZERO World

"We are destroying our planet and we are not paying attention," says UN chief António Guterres

A year ago, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World that the world was on the edge of an abyss in dealing with climate change.

Since then, we haven't fallen off, but unfortunately he says climate has become a "second-rate issue."

That doesn't mean, of course, that the problem has gone away. Russia may be at war with Ukraine, but we're at war with the planet, and the planet is striking back — as we've seen with the recent floods in Pakistan.

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A family with their belongings wade through rain waters following floods in Jamshoro, Pakistan.

REUTERS/Yasir Rajput

What We’re Watching: Pakistan floods, Arctic diplomacy, Iran’s nuclear deal response

Pakistan’s floods get political

After an ongoing economic crisis, political tumult, and increased terror attacks, Pakistan is now facing its worst floods in a decade. Thirty million people —about 15% of the population — have been displaced, most of them in Pakistan’s poorest provinces. As of Sunday, the death toll had crossed 1,000. As inflation continues to soar, hitting 45% on essential items last week, and the government appeals for international support, ousted PM Imran Khan pinned the blame for mismanaging the calamity on Shehbaz Shafir, the current prime minister. Khan keeps pushing for immediate snap elections, but it’s unclear if Pakistan’s worst natural disaster in years will keep the government or displace it. So far, the country is on economic life support, with a $1.2 billion loan expected to be approved Monday by the IMF. But will it be enough to keep Sharif in play?

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Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan travels on a vehicle to lead a protest march in Islamabad, Pakistan.
REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

What We're Watching: Khan charged, Petro the peacemaker, Finland's partying PM, Russia-Ukraine latest

Former Pakistani PM charged under terror act

A Pakistani judge charged Monday former ousted PM Imran Khan with violating the anti-terror act for threatening judicial officers in a speech. Khan has been granted bail, but he could face several years in prison if he's convicted of the terror charge. Since he was removed in a no-confidence vote in April, the former PM has been touring the country, leading huge rallies trying to pressure the government into calling a snap election. Khan is plotting his comeback boosted by his resurgent popularity, which helped his party win a recent election in Punjab, the country's most populous province. The turmoil comes at the worst possible time for Pakistan, embroiled in a severe economic crisis: poor Pakistanis are suffering the most from double-digit inflation, and the country is on the brink of default on its sovereign debt. Khan's supporters have warned they'll march on Islamabad if he's arrested, so keep an eye out for Thursday, when the former PM is scheduled to appear before the judge. Meanwhile, he's been banned from speaking in public and his speeches removed from YouTube.

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Cricket fans, with their faces painted in the Indian and Pakistani national flag colors, ahead of a match between the two countries.

REUTERS/Amit Dave

What We’re Watching: Partition 75th anniversary, Kenyan vote count, US-China in Southeast Asia

India & Pakistan turn 75

This year’s Aug. 15 Diamond Jubilee of Partition, when the British Raj split into India and Pakistan, is a complicated affair. India has gained more from independence in 1947 than Pakistan: earlier this summer, the Indian economy crossed the $3.3 trillion mark and officially overtook the UK to become the world’s fifth-largest — a nice touch to celebrate 75 years of independence from its colonial master. But India’s democratic credentials remain under threat by the rise of Hindu nationalism. However, Pakistan’s experiments after Partition — proxy wars, civil war, martial law, and Islamism — brought much suffering to its people. Today, the country is at the verge of another financial crisis and negotiating its 23rd IMF bailout, as well as in talks with its own version of the Taliban. Unfortunately, a growing nuclear arsenal is the only equalizer for the political and economic imbalance between the two countries. But there is still hope yet. After years of making zero progress, India and Pakistan are now involved in a backchannel dialogue, which may bring some normalcy between the old enemies. That, and the cricket, of course: Pakistan has won more games overall against its arch-rival, but never beaten India in a World Cup match.

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A fighter is seen at the Taliban flag-raising ceremony in Kabul.

REUTERS/Ali Khara

The Taliban’s one-year report card in Afghanistan

A year ago, the Taliban won their war in Afghanistan. On Aug. 15, 2021, as they entered Kabul in a lightning advance that shocked the world, images of a botched US exit permanently scarred America’s legacy in its longest war — a mission US commanders now admit they lost track of years ago.

But where does Afghanistan stand a year after the Taliban took over?

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Jess Frampton

What We’re Watching: Biden-Xi call, Khan’s momentum

Biden and Xi to talk ... Taiwan

US President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping are scheduled to speak via video call on Thursday for the fifth time. And the timing is, to put it mildly, not good. The two will likely talk about whether Biden will lift some of Trump's tariffs against China, or if Xi will dust off his passport to attend the November G20 summit in Indonesia, and the war in Ukraine. But the elephant in the room is, once again, Taiwan. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's still-unconfirmed visit to the self-governing island has caused shockwaves in Beijing, which threatens “consequences” for America if Pelosi sets foot in Taipei. The US military — which according to the president opposes the trip — fears China could even try to shoot down her plane. Biden is expected to tell Xi that he doesn't support Pelosi's plans, but also can't force her to cancel, which will do little to assuage the Chinese leader. Pelosi, second in line for the presidency, would be the first US speaker to visit Taiwan since 1997, a year after the last big standoff over Taiwan ended with China backing down after the US flexed its military muscle.

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A brass plaque of the State Bank of Pakistan in Karachi.

REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Even if Pakistan defaults, its larger challenges remain

Pakistan is facing default on its sovereign debt.

After Sri Lanka, it’s the latest emerging economy to falter in the wake of COVID, the war in Ukraine, and skyrocketing inflation. But the stakes are higher: Pakistan borders China, India, Iran, and Afghanistan, and it sits at the crossroads of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. It’s embroiled in a battle against rising terrorism, and it has nuclear weapons.

But the world’s fifth-most populous country — where 220 million live under a political system plagued by corruption and extremism ± isn’t just broke. Polarized and isolated, it’s going through a period of instability not seen since its civil war in 1971, when it lost a majority of its population as East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh.

A serious rethink is needed about the way Pakistan manages itself and its diplomacy. So, are its rulers making the right adjustments?

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