The world is likely to breach the 1.5 C target temporarily in the next few years, the G-7 struggles ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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May 18, 2023


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The World Today

  1. World nears 1.5 C limit
  2. G-7 divided over China
  3. Debt ceiling deal close
  4. Africa solar firm wins big
  5. Russia energy revenue halves
  6. India to turn mines to lakes
  7. Ecuador’s president embattled
  8. Economic recovery for Greece
  9. S. Africa to produce HIV drug
  10. Sarkozy loses corruption appeal

PLUS: Texting about doing business in China, and a Mexican film is among Netflix’s most-watched.


World may breach climate target soon

Global average surface temperature will probably reach 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial average in the next five years, the World Meteorological Organization said. The 1.5 C target, intended to avoid the worst climate impacts, was agreed in 2015. The WMO report said it was 66% likely that the threshold would be breached before falling again: quotes scientists saying the long-term average will probably break the threshold by the mid-2030s. As of now, the world is 1.2 C warmer than the pre-industrial average. On current trends, it is on track to reach 2.7 C above by 2100. Things have improved — not long ago, the 2100 forecast was more like 4 C — but slowly.


Dueling summits

REUTERS/Issei Kato

Rival diplomatic meetings this week illustrate the challenges and shortcomings of dividing the world into competing camps allied to Washington or Beijing. In Japan, a G-7 summit opening tomorrow will focus on U.S. efforts to win support for plans to curb high-tech investment in China. Though G-7 countries are not expected to follow suit, their backing would be crucial, following a similar pattern to American semiconductor restrictions on China. That began with Washington taking the lead before convincing partners such as Japan and the Netherlands to join. China, meanwhile, is hosting its own summit with Central Asian countries, an indication of the sway it holds beyond the West.

Yet the apparent bifurcation is littered with obstacles. American attempts to restrict investment in China, for example, could risk the U.S.’s status as a financial center, the Peterson Institute for International Economics noted. Few countries want to choose between Washington and Beijing, either: Australia — which has had difficult relations with China and is a member of two U.S.-led anti-China defense groupings — has steadily improved its trade ties with Beijing in recent months.


Debt ceiling deal nears

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Global markets rose on signs U.S. leaders were nearing a deal to raise Washington’s debt ceiling. American officials had warned that if the limit were not raised by June 1, the country risked default. But upbeat remarks by President Joe Biden, House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and banking leaders suggest that is unlikely. Stocks in Europe and Asia rose, following gains on Wall Street. A default would not just be catastrophic for the global economy, but for the energy transition as well, likely choking off investment in renewables and reducing U.S. government spending on clean energy, Semafor’s Tim McDonnell wrote.


African tech firms win investment

A Kenyan solar company raised $250 million in one of the largest ever fundraisings by an African tech firm. M-KOPA provides solar panels and smartphones on a pay-as-you-go, low-upfront-costs model, with customers repaying loans with frequent, perhaps daily, micropayments. African tech companies solve different needs to Western ones: Often, a shortage of reliable credit or infrastructure. Rest Of World reported on the rise of last-mile delivery apps in Nigeria, as small businesses increasingly sell through the internet but lack trustworthy couriers. In 2007 Kenya pioneered phone-based micropayments, allowing poor people access to banks and credit.


Russia energy income halves

Russia’s energy revenues fell 50% as Western sanctions forced Moscow to sell at a discount. Despite restrictions, the country exported more oil in April than it has in any month in over a year. But its finance minister told President Vladimir Putin that “there is a problem with energy revenue” nonetheless, because a shortage of buyers means the remaining ones — mainly India and China — can lowball their offers. The troubles in Russia are not just fiscal, the veteran Russia correspondent Anna Nemtsova wrote in The Washington Post. The country is in a worse “state of chaos and disarray” than she has seen it in 20 years of reporting.


India to turn coal mines to forests

India will close around 30 coal mines in the next four years and use the land they occupied to create forests and lakes. India burns nearly a billion tons of coal a year and around 5 million Indians work in its industry, a top official said. It will continue to open new mines and its coal use is expected to rise for the next decade. But New Delhi is considering a proposal to bar the construction of new coal-fired power plants and is investing heavily in renewables, notably huge solar projects and green hydrogen, to meet its pledge to be net zero by 2070.


Ecuador leader dissolves Congress

Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso. REUTERS/Karen Toro

​​Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso invoked his country’s “mutual death” clause, dissolving the opposition-led Congress that was due to vote on his impeachment. Nationwide elections must be held within 90 days, and Lasso will rule by decree until a new administration takes office. Lasso, who was facing impeachment proceedings over corruption at a state-owned firm, told CNN the move allowed him to stop a “macabre political plan” by his opponents to take control of the state. With his approval rating hovering below 15%, Lasso faces a significant challenge holding on to power.


Greece’s quiet recovery

Greece is on the brink of shedding its “junk” investment status. In 2012, the Greek government almost defaulted on its debt after underreporting its budget deficit for years. The economy collapsed: Greece was nearly ousted from the Eurozone and was forced to impose financial austerity. Its GDP shrank 25%. But after years of pain it is now emerging as one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies, recovering from COVID-19 quicker than its peers. Construction and tourism are booming and its budget is in a small surplus. After a decade of poor credit ratings, it is now close to regaining “investment grade” status.


HIV drug to be made in S. Africa

An injectable HIV-prevention drug will be made in South Africa for the first time. Long-acting cabotegravir, CAB-LA, can be given every two months and essentially eliminates the risk of someone contracting the virus. Existing HIV prophylaxis is given through a pill, which is available for free in several southern African countries, but it is shorter-lasting and less effective. The branded version of CAB-LA costs $3,500 per injection in the U.S.: The manufacturers granted an Indian firm rights to produce it at around 1% of that cost in South Africa. HIV kills about 85,000 South Africans a year. Production should start in three to five years, The Guardian reported.


Sarkozy given jail sentence

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy lost his appeal against a corruption charge. He was sentenced to jail, but permitted to serve his time at home with an ankle tag. Sarkozy is the first French president to receive a jail sentence, although five of the last six center-right presidents faced criminal charges, and three were convicted. The left has also seen senior politicians convicted of extortion. French politics is colorful: Socialist President François Mitterrand had a 30-year affair with a historian, a separate affair with a woman 50 years his junior, and two children outside marriage. Both women and his wife attended his funeral. None of these facts are considered sufficiently notable to make the lengthy “controversies” section of his Wikipedia page.

  • Palestinians to rally against a controversial annual march by right-wing Israelis through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
  • South Koreans mark the 43rd anniversary of the pro-democracy Gwangju Uprising.
  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the fifth and final film in the beloved series, premieres at the Cannes Film Festival.

Joerg Wuttke is the outgoing President of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China. Read the full exchange between him and Senior Editor Prashant Rao.


¡Que viva México! shot to the top of Netflix’s most-watched non-English list. The film follows a fractious family as it squabbles over an inheritance in a small town in rural Mexico, revealing the tensions at the heart of every “little personal hell” — how Luis Estrada, the director, refers to families. Estrada has made a career from socio-political satires that criticize Mexico’s governments and at times provide poignant critiques of corruption and injustice in the country. His latest movie may have hit a nerve: Mexico’s president referred to it as content for “conservatives,” the moniker he uses for those who disagree with him.

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— Tom, Prashant Rao, Preeti Jha, and Jeronimo Gonzalez.

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