2015 seems a very long time ago.
Most of us had never heard the word ‘Brexit’, President Trump was merely a twinkle in the eye of the American electorate, and Brenda from Bristol went blissfully about her daily life in the knowledge that another UK general election lay five years away.
Perhaps that year’s most notable achievement, however, was the landmark agreement between 150 heads of state gathered in Paris targeting an ambitious reduction in carbon emissions. Signatories pledged to reduce global warming to “well below” 2c, and for the first time, serious efforts to tackle climate change seemed on the agenda. Co-operation was the order of the day.
Fast forward just three years, and as global leaders gather in Katowice, Poland from today for COP24 to negotiate Paris’ successor, the landscape couldn’t look more changed. Trump’s America has since quit the party, and the EU and China are reportedly at each other’s necks over different rules for implementing carbon reduction targets in developing countries.
By way of a helpful, if sinister, metaphor for the state of global diplomacy, Paris itself lies in ruin following weeks of anti-government protests.
That populism has been the catalyst for dissent to the agreement is plain for all to see. The irony being, however, that just as politicians ramp up denialist rhetoric or tell citizens that their nation’s challenges are unique, all of us are witnessing the effects of climate change.
What to do then? A Financial Times long-read suggests the real triumph for the Katowice summit would be to suggest how climate change experts can pitch a set of global ideals in nationalistic terms. Answer ‘What’s in it for me?’ – most likely via economic incentive or imperative, in the form of carbon taxation, for example – and progress could yet be made.
Time is of the essence. An opportune report by the UN has shown that after four years of decline, CO2 emissions are on the rise again. And if the gap between 2015 and 2018 has taught us anything, it is that just a few years can make a world of difference.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will address the House of Commons today on legal advice given to the government on the EU Withdrawal Bill ahead of a five-day debate due to start tomorrow. Opposition critics have criticised the government’s decision to withhold the legal text in full, however, with Labour threatening to initiate contempt of parliament proceedings if ministers do not relent.
In other Brexit-related news, Michael Gove has suggested voting down the prime minister’s deal would risk a second referendum, whilst the DUP have threatened to withhold support for the government in the event of a vote of no-confidence.
President Macron has chaired an urgent meeting of France’s security council following days of riots by anti-government protestors. Three people have been killed and more than 100 people injured in Paris, including 23 members of the security forces, and nearly 400 people arrested. Ministers suggested no act of recrimination has yet been ruled out, including declaring a state of emergency.
Israeli police have said they have found suitable evidence to charge prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife with bribery and fraud. Authorities claim Netanyahu awarded regulatory favours to Israel’s leading tele communications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel, in return for more favourable coverage on its news website, Walla. Attorney general Avichai Mandelblit will make the final decision as to whether to indict the couple.
Qatar has announced it will quit Opec from next year after the government suggested an independent strategy would boost its role abroad. The country’s energy minister, Saad al-Kaabi, also told reporters this morning that the Qatar government would refocus policy towards gas, but denied the move was connected with deteriorating relations between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. (£)
Sir Terry Morgan has told Sky News that he expects to be sacked as chairman of the HS2 rail development. First reported by the Financial Times, Sir Terry has said he expects to leave within weeks after a series of delays raised doubts over his performance. He has been chairman of the project since August, and has also chaired London’s delayed Crossrail project since 2009.
Royal Dutch Shell is to become the first oil & gas company to link executive pay with carbon emission reduction targets from next year. Chief executive Ben van Beurden announced the measures yesterday in an interview with the Financial Times, despite having previously described setting hard targets as “superfluous” and opening the sector to litigation should it fail to meet them. The move responded to investor pressure that last year’s target to half emissions by 2050 did not go far enough.(£)
Uber is reportedly considering an acquisition of scooter start-ups Bird and Lime in a move which could see the taxi hire company introduce electric scooter rentals. The talks, which are at an early stage according to insiders, are said to value each company at more than $1 billion each but could fall apart over fears that the e-scooter business model is yet unproven. (£)
The week ahead
The next seven days have been widely billed as among the most important of Theresa May’s premiership to date. with a parliamentary debate on her EU withdrawal deal beginning from Tuesday, ahead of the Meaningful Vote a week later.
A power struggle may also emerge between the EU and China as UN climate negotiations begin in Poland today. Both are seeking to fill a leadership void following Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw the US from the agreement, with opposition likely to emerge over diverging implementation rules from the 2015 Paris agreement in developing countries.
In corporate news, Takeda Pharmaceutical shareholders are set to vote on the £46 billion takeover of Irish drug maker Shire on Wednesday. Approximately one per cent of shareholders have announced their opposition to the takeover, citing overpayment and using excessive leverage.
Germany’s Christian Democrats gather in Hamburg on Thursday to elect a successor to Angela Merkel, who announced in October that she would stand down as CDU leader. Three contenders are in the running: Friedrich Merz, a former leader of the CDUs in the Reichstag; Annegret Kramp- Karrenbauer, current CDU secretary-general and widely acknowledged ‘continuity’ candidate; and Jen Spahn, the health minister.
Tailing off the week are several announcements for economic data in the US and China. The latest CPI index and trade balance figures coming out of China will be closely watched for any indication they may give of a slowdown. Meanwhile, the US Federal Reserve chair has said that the publication of labour data on Friday could influence the decision to raise interest rates later in the month.
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COLUMNS OF INTEREST
In The Sunday Times, Kevin Pringle calls on the Scottish Government to mitigate cuts to support for migrant and poorer families in December’s budget. He laments that a consequence of current political discourse over Brexit is an unhealthy obsession with population control in terms of external and domestic policy. Here Scotland to lose out, Pringle points out, given a shrinking working age population. (£)
Jim Armitage comments in the Evening Standard on Paul Polman’s departure as chief executive of Unilever, suggesting he was the one of the few leaders to create a multinational with a genuinely ethical bent. Most importantly, Polman stressed to shareholders that good corporate citizenship was part and parcel of maintaining healthy finances, which Armitage suggests will vindicate his efforts to see off last year’s takeover bid by a short-termist Kraft.
DID YOU KNOW?
Diego the ‘unstoppable sex tortoise’ is a 102 year old reptile who has fathered 800 offspring and saved his species of Galapagos tortoise from extinction.