What We're Watching: Turkey's (latest) currency collapse, US-EU sanction China, Slovakia's Sputnik crisis

Pigeons fly in front of a large poster of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Bursa, Turkey, April 6, 2019.

Turkey's president has himself a big (bad) weekend: The Turkish lira on Monday lost 15 percent of its value against the US dollar after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked his Central Bank head Naci Agbal. What was Agbal's offense? He had raised interest rates in order to combat rising inflation. That's a pretty standard policy response, but Erdogan hates higher rates since they (deliberately) cool the bank lending and consumer spending that keeps voters happy. The currency plunge, which will now likely stoke further inflation, is the largest one-day lira selloff in three years, and puts Turkey on the brink of a fresh currency crisis. Also this weekend, Erdogan provoked protests after withdrawing his country from a European treaty meant to stop violence against women. Erdogan and his allies view (Turkish) the treaty as an alien concept that aims to weaken the "traditional social fabric." Meanwhile, local activists and watchdogs say violence against women in the country has surged in recent years.


US, EU, and allies sanction China: The US, Britain, Canada, and the EU on Monday announced new coordinated sanctions on China over Beijing's human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province. More than one million Uighurs are believed to have been locked up since 2017 as part of what Beijing describes as a benign "deradicalization campaign," but which is widely believed to be a network of internment camps where minorities are held indefinitely without trial. Several Chinese individuals involved in the mass detainment project will now be sanctioned, as well as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, which the EU says is responsible for "large-scale arbitrary detentions" in China. This is the first time that the European Community has hit China with sanctions since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. In response, a furious Beijing slapped retaliatory sanctions on 10 European officials, denouncing Brussels' "gross interference" in its internal affairs. Coming amid deepening US-China tensions over trade, human rights, and technology, we are watching to see if Beijing hits back at Washington too.

Sputnik injects a political crisis into Slovakia: Earlier this month, the Slovak government, struggling with rising coronavirus cases and a sluggish EU vaccine rollout, bypassed EU authorities and ordered several hundred thousand doses of the Russian made Sputnik V jab. The move immediately provoked a political crisis, as two of the four parties in Prime Minister Igor Matovič's coalition demanded he resign and threatened to withdraw from government over the move to take vaccines from Russia, which haven't been approved by the European Medicines Agency. Matovič's health minister resigned last week and now the PM himself says he is willing to step down in order to end the crisis. But there's a catch: members of other parties would have to relinquish their cabinet posts too, and so far that's a non-starter. Matovič, in power barely a year, heads a coalition of parties elected to clean up corruption after the murder of a high-profile investigative journalist rocked the nation. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has tested the coalition's resilience. Slovakia — with a population of 5.4 million — has the world's 12th highest COVID death rate per 100 people.

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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