Reducing carbon emissions is good for the planet and good for your lungs, but there's one group of countries that might not be so keen on green: those that rely heavily on oil and gas exports to run their economies. As the rest of the world gets closer to "Net Zero" in the coming decades, these petrostates will be in big trouble unless they diversify their economies — fast. So, how vulnerable are the world's top oil and gas producers to a low-carbon future? We look at how the treasuries of the 20 most hydrocarbon-dependent nations will fare over the next two decades under what the Carbon Tracker Initiative refers to as a scenario in which global demand for oil and gas will be much lower than today.
Carlos Santamaria is Senior Writer of Signal. He joined GZERO Media from a UN agency, and has also worked for the Asian Development Bank, Devex, Philippine online news platform Rappler, and news agencies EFE and Xinhua. Carlos spent over a decade in Asia and has worn many hats throughout his career, but he's a journalist at heart and feels right at home with Signal's team of political news nerds. The only thing he loves more than writing about global politics is watching FC Barcelona football (soccer) games in his native Spain.
What We're Watching: Saudis brace for Khashoggi report, Sri Lanka blasts UN, political unrest in Niger
US to release Khashoggi report: The Biden administration's intel chief is expected to release on Thursday a report on the murder of Saudi dissident journalist — and US resident — Jamal Khashoggi. In line with previously reported findings, the assessment will say that Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was involved in the plot to kill and dismember Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Aside from a sprinkling of new details, we don't expect much from the report itself, but we are keen to see how it shapes US-Saudi relations under Joe Biden, who has promised to take a harder line with Riyadh over human rights and security issues than his predecessor did. Part of that new approach is that the US president will no longer speak directly to the Crown Prince himself as Trump did — from now on, only his dad, King Salman, gets calls from the White House.
Hard Numbers: Hard Numbers: Biden’s UN envoy, Syrian war crimes conviction, US asylum seekers in limbo, Hungarians vs Sinopharm
78: Linda Thomas-Greenfield was sworn in on Wednesday as US ambassador to the United Nations, after being confirmed by the US Senate with 78 votes in favor and 20 against. During her confirmation hearing, Thomas-Greenfield — a veteran diplomat and the second Black woman to represent the United States at the UN after Susan Rice — was grilled by some Republicans, who questioned a 2019 in speech in which she praised China's activities in Africa.
What We’re Watching: Facebook refriends Australia, Biden on Afghan fence, Philippine labor for COVID jabs
Facebook "refriends" Australia: Last week, Facebook abruptly blocked news from appearing on Australian users' feeds after Canberra proposed a law requiring Big Tech companies pay news outlets for sharing their content. Facebook came under fire globally for banning news sharing in Australia, including crucial public health announcements on COVID. Now, five days later, Facebook has reversed course to suddenly lift the news ban. "Facebook has re-friended Australia," Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said after speaking with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. So, what changed? The two sides say they have reached a compromise, though some details remain murky. The Australian government will make several amendments to the Big Tech bill — including one that will allow Facebook to circumvent the new code and avoid hefty fines — if the social media platform shows a "significant contribution" to Australia's local journalism scene. In theory, this would require Facebook to prove it has cut enough deals with Aussie media companies to pay them for content — but what constitutes "enough" remains unclear. Frydenberg said Australia has been a "proxy battle" for the rest of the globe on Big Tech regulation. Indeed, Europe and the US have been fastidiously taking notes.
The US passed a grim milestone this week, surpassing 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, the highest total death toll in the world. COVID has now outpaced other killer diseases like cancer and heart disease to become the leading US cause of death. As a result, life expectancy in pandemic-ravaged America dropped by a year to 77.8 in the first half of 2020 — the largest dip since World War II. But there is some good news on the horizon: COVID hospitalizations and deaths are falling fast while the vaccine rollout picks up steam. To contextualize the scope of the crisis in America, we compare the average number of daily deaths from COVID over the past year to deaths from heart disease and cancer during the same period.
Defying a threat by the ruling generals to use lethal force to disperse them, anti-coup protesters again turned up across Myanmar on Monday to demand a return to democracy. The country's political crisis remains in flux since the military siezed power three weeks ago: a nationwide strike has ground the economy to a halt, while hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested, and at least four have been shot dead. But — to the surprise of many observers — the junta has yet to crack down as hard as it did against unruly students in 1988 and rebellious Buddhist monks in 2007.
It's a chicken-and-egg scenario: as the military shows more (unprecedented) restraint, its opponents feel emboldened to flock to the streets. Why is this happening, and what does it mean? Part of the answer lies in how Myanmar itself has changed over the past decade.
A year ago, the annual Munich Security Conference was the last major international event to take place before the world locked down following the appearance of a mysterious new virus in Wuhan, China. Close to 2.5 million COVID deaths later, world leaders again gathered on Friday, this time virtually, to discuss the future of global cooperation, particularly between the US and Europe, in the post-Trump era. Here are a few takeaways.
What We're Watching: UN blasts rich vaccine hoarders, Hotel Rwanda hero on trial, Facebook unfriends Australia
UN demands equitable vaccine rollout: After revealing that 10 wealthy countries have bought up a whopping three-quarters of available COVID vaccines while 130 nations have yet to receive a single dose, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on Thursday for a global vaccination plan so everyone can roll out vaccines as soon as possible. Guterres' appeal comes as COVAX — the global facility that aims to provide vaccines to the developing world — has already fallen behind on its goal to inoculate at least 20 percent of the world's population by the end of 2021. Fed up with the delay, in recent weeks many developing countries have bypassed COVAX to purchase their own jabs directly from China, India, and Russia. But even scaling up private deals won't be enough to offset what the World Health Organization has dubbed the "moral failure" of leaving poor nations behind on vaccinations. There are also economic considerations at play: vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations could cost the global economy as much as $9.2 trillion this year, according to an ICC study. We're watching to see if the UN's task force will do anything to move the needle on equitable vaccine distribution, because the world is not going back to normal until most countries get jabs into arms.