Vaccine papers, please!

Vaccine passport

"Welcome to our country," says the immigration officer, "your passport please?"

You fumble through your travel wallet, pull out your national passport, and helpfully open it to the photo page.

"Thank you," she says, "Now, the other one."

But you don't have the other one. You haven't gotten the COVID vaccine, so you don't have the "vaccine passport" that this country now requires for entry.


This scene could soon play out in many places around the world as countries and airlines begin issuing — or requiring — vaccine passports that prove the bearer has been vaccinated against COVID-19 or has recently tested negative for the virus.

This isn't just a question of that vacation you've been dreaming of since the pandemic shut down travel. Many employers could begin demanding proof of vaccination before they hire you — or even to let you in the building for an interview. Medical facilities in some places have already made clear that vaccinations for their staff will be mandatory.

Are vaccines passports a good idea? People, governments, and companies want to know who might set off a new COVID wave and who is safe. But are we moving toward a Brave New World where the holders of vaccine passports become an unfairly privileged class of people?

The arguments in favor are obvious. Governments want to know that people entering their countries are highly unlikely to spread the virus within their borders. That's particularly important for major international transit hubs like London and Hong Kong, and island tourism destinations, but also for large economies like, say, the Philippines, Thailand, Greece, or Mexico, where jobs, economic growth, and government revenue depend heavily on outside business travelers and tourists.

And national governments aren't the only ones interested in a vaccine passport. Airlines want people to feel safe enough to fly. Event producers, hoteliers, and restaurant owners — who have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic — want customers to feel secure enough to return in large numbers.

There are also strong arguments against this idea. First, it won't be easy to build such a complex system with anything approaching common standards and oversight, and the risk of mistaken identity is obvious. Given the stakes, a black market in fake passports will likely arise -- feeding corruption and undermining confidence in public gatherings, especially if some holders of vaccine passports are shown to transmit infection.

Second, even if the system works well, it will inevitably discriminate against people who, through no fault of their own, are still waiting to be vaccinated. That could mean younger and healthier people who are ineligible until later stages of the vaccine distribution process or those who are eligible but don't yet have enough information or access to vaccination sites. And those who decide not to get vaccinated because they believe it's dangerous would also pay a price in terms of mobility and employment under a system like this.

Bottom-line: The World Health Organization opposes a vaccine passport plan, but countries like Denmark, Sweden, Israel and others already have passport plans in development. Australia's Qantas Airways won't fly you down under without proof you've been jabbed. Other governments and private companies are debating right now whether and how to create and roll out such a system.

Meet Zoe Marshall, grandmother, fishmonger, and thriving business owner.

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When Zoe Marshall decided to switch careers in her forties and become a fishmonger, she was scared. After leaving her job of 23 years, Zoe was forced to pivot in order to keep her family's home. Despite challenges, she forged ahead, opening Sea-Licious. Accepting Visa payments in her fishmonger shop, this access to commerce helps Zoe provide convenience to her customers and confidence in their transactions. Though she's one of the only women in the fish market each morning, her business and its place in the local community are flourishing with Visa's help.

Learn more about Zoe and her story.

Listen: Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.

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:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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