What We’re Watching: Irish reunification, China’s COVID passports, Ethiopian election boycott

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a map of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland

Will Northern Ireland leave the UK? Unifying the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland into one sovereign state has long been a pipedream for Irish nationalists. But recent polls reveal that public sentiment is changing. The combination of demographic shifts and Brexit, which resulted in Northern Ireland exiting the EU as part of the UK, have upped support to break away from London in the near term: one survey found that 42 percent of people in Northern Ireland support reunification, and the number was even higher among the under-45 cohort (47 to 46 percent). Meanwhile, the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, which made massive gains in Ireland's general election last year, recently said that Dublin, Belfast, and London need to start getting ready for Irish reunification — and soon. But the issue is extremely difficult to reconcile: The 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of bloodshed between Irish nationalists and pro-UK unionists, says that a united Ireland can only be achieved if most Northern Irelanders consent. However, in 2016 most Northern Irish (56 percent) did say they wanted to stay in the EU. Could an Irish reunification referendum actually happen soon?


China launches COVID passport: As the global vaccine effort is well underway, with 313 million shots having been given in 118 countries, China has become one of the first countries in the world to issue an official certificate to show proof of vaccination and test results. Chinese officials are hoping that the new vaccine documents will boost both domestic and international travel for Chinese citizens, but there are two big remaining issues: To date China has only inoculated 4 percent of its population. Though that's still a lot of people, it has a lot of vaccinations to give before this program can really get off the ground. Additionally, it's still unclear which countries will accept China's COVID passport — and which nations Beijing will be willing to accept similar documents from. It's likely that some of the dozens of countries that China is already supplying its own vaccines to, as well as those with tourism-dependent economies that are desperate for cash from Chinese travelers, will be willing to play ball. Nevertheless, China's decision is a major development in the immunity passport saga, and could spur other nations to adopt similar measures as vaccinations become more widespread.

Ethiopian opposition boycotts vote: Two of Ethiopia's main opposition parties have pulled out of the country's June legislative election, citing the jailing of some of their leaders and interference with their parties' operations by the incumbent government. The election is seen as a major test for embattled Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose reputation as a peace lover has taken a massive hit since launching a military offensive in the Tigray region last year, which has displaced over 2 million people. Interestingly, the two factions who are boycotting the polls are ethnic Oromo nationalist parties that used to support Abiy — an Oromo himself — until two years ago, when the PM opened Pandora's box by ushering in ambitious reforms that many Oromos viewed as detrimental to their interests. The tensions boiled over last summer, when Ethiopia was swept by mass protests following the murder of an Oromo nationalist singer. Abiy responded by cracking down on Oromo activists, deepening ethnic tensions in the already divided state. Indeed, Ethiopia's leader is now in a tough spot: his ruling party will now surely win the vote, but that victory will be regarded as illegitimate by large swaths of the population due to the opposition boycott. Expect more political turbulence in the ethnically diverse country as we get closer to the election.

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

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.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Can "the Quad" constrain China?

Viewpoint