What We’re Watching: EU vaccination campaign, Indian farm bill talks, two elections in Africa

Medical syringe illustrations in Ukraine. Reuters

EU rolls out vaccines: As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise throughout the European Union, the bloc on Sunday officially kicked off its campaign to vaccinate roughly 450 million EU residents against the disease. But even as shoulders are bared for the needle across the Union, two fights are already brewing about the process. First, Italy is concerned that Germany may be getting more than its fair share of the precious shots based on its population — as agreed to by EU member states — because a German company, BioNTech, jointly developed the EU-approved vaccine with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Second, problems with maintaining the drugs at the required ultra-cold temperature have already led to vaccination delays in Spain. The challenges now are to ensure all EU member states inoculate their residents at a similar pace, to overcome vaccine skepticism across the bloc, and to avoid shortages while waiting for other vaccine candidates to get approved.


A meeting about a meeting with India's farmers: Leaders of farmers' unions in India are sitting down on Tuesday with officials in a bid to organize yet another round of formal negotiations (the seventh, to be precise) with the government about new agriculture laws that farmers say pose a threat to their livelihoods. Mass protests and sit-ins have been going on for weeks now, led by farmers who worry that the laws — which permit farmers to sell their crops more freely — will put them at the mercy of large agriculture companies that can drive down prices and put them out of business. Talks have so far come to nothing: the government has signaled a willingness to revise the laws, but the farmers seek a complete repeal as a starting point for talks. With roughly 60 percent of India's population dependent on the agriculture sector for income, the issue has emerged as a huge political challenge for the otherwise popular government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Two elections in Africa: The citizens of two long-troubled African nations — the Central African Republic (CAR) and Niger — went to the polls on Sunday in elections seen as a test for democracy amid widespread threats of violence. In the mineral-rich CAR, incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadéra's reelection bid has been overshadowed by the constitutional court's decision to ban his predecessor François Bozizé (ousted six years ago during the country's civil war) from running against him. Armed supporters of both Touadéra and Bozizé have threatened to march on the capital, Bangui, if their candidate doesn't win. Meanwhile, Niger is preparing for its first-ever peaceful transition of power. President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is voluntarily stepping down after two terms, is expected to be succeeded by his handpicked successor Mohamed Bazoum, although two former presidents are also looking to return to power. The wider problem in Niger is fresh attacks by jihadists, who have been wreaking havoc across the country and the entire Sahel region since 2015. We're watching to see if both elections are conducted smoothly, and if the peace holds after results are announced.

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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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