Climate & Sustainability

As societies grapple with climate change, innovators and pioneers are making bold commitments and investments today & but will it be enough?

In a frank (and in-person!) interview, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

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Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor of Eurasia Group, discusses reasons the rapid global response to climate change warrants optimism on UNGA In 60 Seconds.

There's a lot of doom and gloom out there about climate change. Can you give me a reason to be optimistic?

I'm going to say something you don't hear set very often when it comes to climate change. You should be an optimist. You should be a skeptical optimist, but an optimist nonetheless. Let me explain what I mean. We are scaling up climate solutions faster than even the most ardent among us thought possible a decade ago. Consider this. In 2010, about half of US electricity was generated from coal. This year less than 20% will be, and it's trending towards zero at increasing velocity.

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What does "net zero" mean, and how can companies, and perhaps even governments, achieve neutral carbon emissions? Climate change is a problem that impacts far more than weather systems—it has a human toll, one that is rapidly increasing. Microsoft and Eurasia Group have teamed up with GZERO Media to talk about real solutions to one of the biggest crises of our time.

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Fires. Floods. Hurricanes. Heatwaves.

It can be easy to feel helpless in the face of planetary disruption, particularly with a global pandemic that is — understandably — distracting many from the generational challenge of climate change. But there is an enormous transformational opportunity at hand.

The need to build back after COVID-19 offers an opportunity to work toward cleaner and more resilient societies that can grow with fewer emissions, create broadly shared opportunities in a low-carbon economy, and heal the planet. Governments are spending massively to stimulate the economy, including forms of green stimulus, and many around the world are demanding that we don't just re-build, but build back better. This is a task that no single country can bear on its own; indeed, addressing climate change and sustainability challenges is the ultimate focal point for reimagining multilateralism in the 21st century. It requires that companies and governments take chances, invest and innovate, and share their learnings with the world. But it also requires global cooperation, including new coalitions of unconventional partners that each hold one part of a complex solution.

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Over the past 40 years, the economic gap between the world's richest and poorest countries and peoples has narrowed sharply. Goods, services, and people began to cross borders at greater velocity, creating opportunities for people to live healthier, more secure, and more prosperous lives. Billions rose out of poverty.

Here's the catch: all that beneficial economic activity has also sharply increased the use of fossil fuels and the amount of carbon that's reaching the atmosphere. Life on earth remains possible only because carbon dioxide in our atmosphere captures enough heat from the sun to sustain us while deflecting enough extra heat into space to keep us from burning up. That's the "natural greenhouse effect."

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Under the terms of the 2015 Paris Agreement, signatory countries agreed to make their own commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions. At next year's UN climate change conference in Glasgow, nations will assess progress to date and (possibly) make bolder commitments, given technological progress and the mounting urgency to take climate action. But for now, only a handful of countries are on pace to limit warming to 2°C above preindustrial levels — let alone to meet the 1.5°C target that most scientists believe will help us avoid heaviest climate impact. A small group of intrepid governments aim to achieve "net zero" emissions in coming decades. We look at how certain nations are performing on climate action, and highlight those with plans to reach net zero.

On Wednesday, September 16th, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — kicks off a series of livestream discussions about the most important issues facing the 75th UN General Assembly. The first event, Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action, will consider how we get to net zero emissions.

Our panel will be moderated by Julia Pyper, host and producer of the Political Climate podcast, and will include Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor, Eurasia Group; Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft; Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School, Tufts University; and Mark Carney, Finance Adviser to the UK Prime Minister for COP 26 and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance.

On the day of the event, visit https://www.gzeromedia.com/unga/livestream to view the livestream presentation.

Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action: Wednesday, September 16th, 12:30p ET/9:30a PT/5:30p BST

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UN75: Born out of global crisis, the UN confronts another

As the UN turns 75, the organization is revealing the results of a global survey of nearly a million people in 193 nations—what matters most to them, and how do they view the need for global cooperation at this time of unprecedented crisis? Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser Fabrizio Hochschild explains the purpose and findings of the report.

Video: Reimagining while rebuilding: How we respond to & recover from 2020's crises

The world is facing an unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime crisis. World leaders and corporations alike need to not only rebuild, but reimagine what life could look like after the COVID-19 pandemic. In a special GZERO Media series, Eurasia Group and Microsoft experts present solutions to some of the biggest issues of the 21st century.

Bridging the digital divide starts with broadband around the world

John Frank, Vice President of UN Affairs at Microsoft, discusses how to include people around the world in the digital economy,on UNGA In 60 Seconds.

Satya Nadella famously said, "We saw two years of digital transformation in two months" due to the pandemic and the need it created for virtual communication, work, and learning, but still nearly half the world's population lacks connectivity.

First, how can we begin to bridge the digital divide? Then, how can digital skilling lead us into a better global economy?

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Video: The need for digital inclusion: access, training, and activating skills for the next billion jobs

Nearly half the world's population lacks internet connectivity at a time when digital communication has never been more critical. As part of a special partnership between Eurasia Group and Microsoft, GZERO Media examines the power of connecting more people—and how teaching digital skills could create the workforce the 21st century needs.

An interview with UN Secretary-General António Guterres

In this extended version of Ian Bremmer's conversation with UN Secretary-General António Guterres for GZERO World, the two discuss a wide range of geopolitical issues and how they've been exacerbated by the pandemic. Guterres shares his views on the urgent need for global climate action, equitable distribution of vaccine once approved, and Europe's emerging role as an example of successful intergovernmental cooperation. Guterres also lays out his vision for a more "inclusive" multilateralism, one that involves deeper partnerships between organizations like the UN and World Health Organization with multinational corporations and private stakeholders.

Panel: How can we get to "net zero" to fight climate change?

On September 16, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts on climate and sustainability to address the future of "net zero" in a livestream panel.

Our panel for the discussion on Net Zero: Climate Ambition and Action included:

  • Julia Pyper, host and producer of the Political Climate podcast (moderator)
  • Gerald Butts, Vice Chairman & Senior Advisor, Eurasia Group
  • Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft
  • Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • Mark Carney, Finance Adviser to the UK Prime Minister for COP 26 and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance

Select quotes from our panelists:

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Video: Seeking digital peace, trust & security in cyberspace

As the UN turns 75, GZERO Media, Eurasia Group and Microsoft have teamed up to bring you a look at some of the most pressing global issues of the 21st Century. Here's a short look at a battlefield that has no borders—cyberspace, and efforts to create a safer digital world.

UNGA at 75: A unique UNGA for a post-pandemic UN

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The annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the world's largest diplomatic event, normally entails leaders and representatives from the 193 UN member states descending upon New York for a full week of speeches, high-stakes meetings between governments, and street protests. UNGA has also had its share of surprising moments, like Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev (allegedly) banging his shoe on the desk, or Venezuela's Hugo Chávez suggesting that US President George W. Bush was the devil himself.

This year's UNGA will be very different because of COVID-19. Hotels in New York won't be full of diplomats, metal detectors, and secret service agents. The "contact sport" of diplomacy will go virtual, with great uncertainty over how improvisational breakthroughs often found on the sidelines of UNGA summits will translate to the digital world. And more individuals from around the world than ever before will be able to take part. In other words, UNGA will be very different, but hardly less important (or dramatic).

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The Graphic Truth: What are vaccine hackers hacking?

While governments around the world race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, intelligence services and criminal organizations see an opportunity: to steal vaccine research, keep tabs on the competition, or hold critical information for ransom. The vaccine manufacturing process involves a wide group of public and private organizations that have access to sensitive vaccine and manufacturing details as well as the personal information of trial participants. In addition to the risks of stolen intellectual property or personal information, hacks could also delay or derail elements of the quest for a viable vaccine. Here's a look at what hackers are after at each stage of the vaccine development process.

The invisible threat to global peace

One of the biggest threats to 21st century international peace is invisible. It recognizes no borders and knows no rules. It can penetrate everything from the secrets of your government to the settings of your appliances. This is, of course, the threat of cyberattacks and cyberwarfare.

During the coronavirus pandemic, cyberattacks have surged, according to watchdogs. This isn't just Zoom-bombing or scams. It's also a wave of schemes, likely by national intelligence agencies, meant to steal information about the development and production of vaccines. Attacks on the World Health Organization soared five-fold early in the pandemic.

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Why COVID-19 will widen the global digital gap

The coronavirus pandemic has radically accelerated the adoption of digital technology in the global economy, creating an opportunity for millions of new businesses and jobs. However, it has also left millions jobless and exposed yet another vulnerability: hundreds of millions of people lack access to this technology.

To be sure, this divide was already present before COVID-19 struck. But unequal access to the internet and technology is going to make the multiple impacts of the pandemic much worse for offline and unskilled communities, among others. In fact, there is not a single global digital gap, but rather several ones that the coronavirus will likely exacerbate.

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The Graphic Truth: A virtual UN General Assembly

This year's United General Assembly will be very different. Hotels in New York will not be full of famous heads of state, metal detectors, or US secret service agents as the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world's largest diplomatic gathering into a mostly online affair to enforce social distancing. A virtual UNGA requires a 20th century institution — which turns 75 and still thinks in analog in many ways — to rapidly embrace 21st century technology. How will UNGA adapt to its new virtual setting? Here are a few things that will change.

The pandemic is hurting women more than men

At the outset of the pandemic earlier this year, people in high places said that the coronavirus was shaping up to be the "great equalizer." But, in fact, the twin health and economic effects of the pandemic have been anything but equal. The poor have suffered and died more than the rich. Ethnic minorities in Europe and the US have borne the brunt. Pre-existing inequalities have been exposed, and deepened, by the disease.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the pandemic's disproportionate impact on women. What are the particular challenges for women in this crisis, and what does recovery look like for over half of the world's population?

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The Graphic Truth: New digital jobs in a post-pandemic world

The twin blows of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis it unleashed have added around 250 million globally to unemployment rolls. It has also changed the nature of work for many of those who have been lucky enough to keep their jobs. But this disruption has also accelerated digitalization, which Microsoft projects will create 149 million new jobs over the next five years. As more people learn to work from home, what does this mean for work, education, and skilling? We look at the new "digital" jobs that the global economy will need to fill by 2025, and which skills will be needed to get hired.