What We're Watching: UK's Brexit breach, Lula mulls comeback in Brazil, Trump's Nobel nomination

What We're Watching: UK's Brexit breach, Lula mulls comeback in Brazil, Trump's Nobel nomination

UK's Brexit tweak could breach international law: Boris Johnson's government came under fire this week after signaling that it would rewrite parts of the deal negotiated with Brussels last year that set terms for the UK's exit from the European Union. That agreement allowed Northern Ireland, still part of the UK, the same trade rules and customs as the rest of the EU — a key condition of the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 between the UK and Republic of Ireland that ended decades of violence. The British government now says it plans to pass legislation that could upend the provision that guarantees an open Irish border. Many observers say this would breach international law, putting the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. In the United States, meanwhile, Democrats have warned that a future Biden administration would reject any move to create a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and that Johnson's latest move would undermine chances of negotiating any future US-UK free trade agreement. More immediately, this maneuver also undermines the trust on which ongoing UK-EU relations will depend.


Is Lula making a comeback in Brazil? Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva blasted the incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, over the latter's botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Lula said that Bolsonaro has turned the pandemic into a "weapon of mass destruction," referring to the country's high COVID-19 caseload and death toll, second only to the United States. While criticisms of his pandemic response are nothing new for Bolsonaro — who consistently downplayed the severity of COVID-19, often flouting rules on mask-wearing and social distancing until he became sick himself — it is the first time that Lula has hit Bolsonaro in such a public way, causing pundits to ask whether Brazil's leftist former leader might be preparing for a 2022 runoff against the right-wing incumbent. In 2018, Lula was sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption, but a year later his conviction was overturned, although he still can't run for public office. However, questions over the impartiality of the judge (Bolsonaro's own former justice minister) could result in Lula's political rights being restored by the Supreme Court. That raises the stakes for Bolsonaro in the general election in two years, where Lula — who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and is still very popular, especially among the working poor — would be a formidable rival.

What We're Ignoring:

Trump tapped for Nobel Peace Prize: US President Donald Trump was nominated on Wednesday for the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a recent peace deal between former foes — the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a far-right Norwegian politician with anti-immigrant views on par with Trump's, tapped the US president for the 2021 prize. While Trump's Nobel nod sounds auspicious, we're ignoring this development for two key reasons: Firstly, the bar for being nominated is extremely low (nominations are accepted from any politician serving at the national level). Additionally, Tybring-Gjedde, clearly a Trump fanboy, was one of two politicians who nominated the US president for the same prize in 2018 for his role in fostering "reconciliation" between North and South Korea. But relations on the Korean Peninsula are far from reconciled these days...

That's Bank of America's new target in its Environmental Business Initiative in order to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

Here's how it will drive innovation to address climate change.

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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More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccines have been fully approved or are currently in early use globally, and COVAX, the global initiative started last year by the World Health Organization and other partners, is pushing for equitable access to vaccines for all. But most of the half billion jabs given so far have gone to citizens of wealthy countries, with half going to the US and China alone. What's the problem with so-called vaccine nationalism? Ian Bremmer explains that besides the clear humanitarian concerns, the continued global spread of COVID increases the risk of new mutations and variants that can threaten the entire world, vaccinated or not.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Should wealthy individuals and nations shoulder more of the burden in addressing climate change? Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that Big Tech leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk should shift more of their focus to fighting for our own planet's survival, instead of space exploration. "We're doing as much as we can to make life difficult on planet Earth for ourselves. But there's virtually nothing we could do to make it as difficult as life on Mars, where there's, among other things, no oxygen." Kolbert, the author of Under a White Sky, discusses why it's so crucial for a few rich countries to bear most of the climate burden, since they're also the biggest emitters. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 16. Check local listings.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

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Fighting climate change is about making the planet get less hot. The more quickly countries slow down their carbon emissions, the faster that'll happen. All the more important for the nations that pollute the most — but not all of them are on board. Although the majority, including China, are setting future targets to go Net Zero, India doesn't want to commit (yet) to when to stop burning fossil fuels to spur economic growth. We take a look at when the world's top polluting economies intend to go carbon-neutral, compared with their share of global emissions, of renewable energy as a source of electricity, and percentage of global coal consumption.

Peruvian runoff: Perú's presidential election is going to a runoff in June between two surprise and polarizing contenders, each of whom won less than 20 percent of votes in a highly fragmented first round. Pedro Castillo, a far-left union leader and teacher who benefited from a late surge in the polls, will battle rightwing populist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Castillo wants to rewrite the constitution to weaken the political influence of the country's business elite and maybe to allow the state to nationalize parts of the mining sector to pay for social programs for the poor. Fujimori wants to use mining revenues to create jobs by investing in infrastructure and healthcare. The runoff will probably be a national referendum on Fujimori, a divisive figure running for the top job for the third time. No Peruvian president has ever left office without facing corruption charges, but Fujimori already faces several — and she'll avoid jail time if she wins.

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900 million: Egypt has impounded the Ever Given, the ship that recently blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week, until its owners pay some $900 million in compensation for losses and the cost of the rescue operation. The blockage of this major naval chokepoint caused severe disruption to the global maritime shipping industry.

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