What We’re Watching: Brexit endgame, Ghana’s election, China-India water war

British PM Boris Johnson at an EU Summit in Brussels. Reuters

The final act of Brexit: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen agreed on Monday to meet in person in Brussels "in the coming days" in a last-ditch attempt to reach agreement on the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the EU. One of the major outstanding issues is labor and environmental standards. Johnson's key supporters want as much autonomy as possible, while Brussels worries that if the UK adopts laxer protections (which cost less to obey), London could flood the EU with cheaper goods. Another (fish)bone of contention is the level of access that EU fishermen would have to British waters. If the two sides cannot get to yes this week, then we'd we well on our way to the feared "no deal" scenario in which the UK and EU, lacking a trade agreement, impose much higher tariffs on each other, potentially dealing a huge blow to economies on both sides of the English Channel.


Ghana's "battle of two giants": Ghanaians went to the polls Monday to elect a new parliament and president in a race dubbed the "battle of two giants," because it is the fourth electoral clash between President Nana Akufo-Addo and his opponent John Mahama, a former president himself. But while Akufo-Addo was elected four years ago promising to root out corruption, many say he has failed to tackle the problem, which is still endemic in Ghana's politics. Still, it's a stretch for Mahama to attack the current president over corruption, considering that Mahama himself left office amid accusations that he had accepted corporate kickbacks. Whoever prevails has his job cut out for him. Ghana has long been a beacon of democracy and peace in West Africa, but the nation is struggling to deal with its first economic contraction in four years, rising unemployment, and shortfalls in healthcare infrastructure and education.

India-China water war: Beijing and New Delhi have long been at loggerheads over a disputed border area in the Himalayan mountains, which led to massive skirmishes earlier this year. Now, the two Asian powers are battling it out over water. China says that it is building a hydroelectric project in one of the largest rivers in the world that it calls Yarlung Zangbo, but that the Indians call the Brahmaputra river. After Beijing announced the project, which could be Beijing's biggest hydropower project in history if it comes to pass, New Delhi said that Beijing's aggressive plans could have major implications for India's food and water security, and that it would give China too much power to use the crucial waterway as a "weapon." Indian officials also said they were considering a rival water project in the same waters, spanning from Arunachal Pradesh state to neighboring Bangladesh. Analysts say that things could quickly spiral out of control because the two powers have not honored a water-sharing agreement, which usually governs plans and discussions surrounding new water projects.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Listen: In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer, Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Can "the Quad" constrain China?

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