What We're Watching: India halts vaccine exports, principle vs profit in China, Nigeria's crypto fiasco

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a graffiti on a wall, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mumbai, India, March 25, 2021.

India squeezes vaccine exports as COVID crisis deepens: India has embarked on one of the world's most ambitious vaccine drives, seeking to vaccinate not only its own 1.4 billion people, but also make hundreds of millions of jabs to inoculate low-income countries under the global COVAX initiative. To date, it has sent 60 million doses to over 70 countries. But now, as India grapples with a surging COVID caseload and death rate — in part because of a new "double mutant variant" — New Delhi has placed a temporary ban on exports of the AstraZeneca jab being produced by its Serum Institute. "Domestic demand will have to take precedence," one foreign ministry official said. The move, which is expected to hinder supply chains until at least the end of April, will have massive impacts on COVAX, which is counting on India's pharma sector to get millions of doses to the neediest countries. India's ban has already frustrated supplies that were supposed to go to the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil in recent days. The Serum Institute says it aims to produce 1 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021, but so far, its monthly production cadence is lagging.


Principle vs profit in China, again: Nike and H&M are the latest Western companies to find themselves in hot water with China over Beijing's human rights abuses. What happened this time? Last year both companies issued statements of concern about reports that the government was forcing ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province to pick cotton. Although both Nike and H&M have factories in China, they made clear that they do not use any products sourced from Xinjiang specifically. In recent days, however, those comments resurfaced after the US and EU slapped sanctions on Beijing over human rights violations in Xinjiang. A huge online and public backlash against the companies ensued on Chinese social media, as well as sharp criticism from state television channels. As of Thursday, H&M had been removed from several major Chinese e-commerce platforms. As companies in sectors as wide-ranging as professional sports and air travel have learned, the issue is a thorny one: China is a massive market (of both consumers and suppliers) that Western firms are loathe to lose access to or alienate. But as China's abuses against human rights and democracy grow more brazen, it puts CEOs in a tough spot — is their business about values or valuations?

Nigeria's crypto misstep: Nigeria's central bank has come under pressure to clarify its position on regulating trade in cryptocurrencies, after a February directive misled people to believe that a 2017 edict would prevent people using banks and financial payment systems to trade crypto. The confusion has made waves in Nigeria, by far Africa's largest crypto market, where this sector has boomed over the past year due to the pandemic-related drops in remittances and the value of the local currency. But the developments have implications far beyond Nigeria: Recent events show that any central bank must tread carefully when attempting to regulate crypto, which is fast becoming a major conundrum for monetary authorities around the world — and pushing some of them to launch their own digital currencies as an alternative. Crypto has recently become the new foil for central bankers worldwide, with the US Federal Reserve warning that it's not only very volatile but can also be used for criminal activity. The debate over cryptocurrencies is only going to get hotter if crypto's value continues to skyrocket as it has done so far this year.

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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