Tom Arms’ World Review: COP 27, Poland, China, Trump, Population, UK Budget

The message from COP 27

I am writing this on Friday afternoon, a few hours before the COP 27 in Sharm el-Sheikh is due to produce its final communique. The outlook is bad.

Yesterday the EU Climate Policy Chief, Frans Timmerman, said the first draft “left a lot to be desired.” The same day a joint delegation from Canada, the EU and UK went to see COP president Sameh Shankry to tell him to “fill the gaps.”

The two main sticking points are a renewed commitment to the 1.5 degree rise in global temperature which was agreed at Glasgow, and the establishment of a “Loss and Damage Fund”.

The former looks achievable but without any serious teeth. The latter is more problematic.

The fund would be financed by the wealthy countries to compensate developing countries for climate change damage caused by historic emissions and to help pay for a switch to renewable sources. The US, in particular is concerned that the current proposed structure would expose America to limitless liability. One bit of good news is that the world’s top two polluters—China and America—are talking to each other again. US climate tsar John Kerry met with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zenhua, and at the G20 summit in Bali Joe Biden and Xi Jinping agreed to liase more on the issue of global warming.

Accidental war is a real danger

A missile killed two people this week in the Polish village of Przewdow and the world held its breath. Had a NATO country been attacked by Russia? Was this the start of World War Three?

The Polish military was put on high alert. President Biden was roused from his bed in Bali and a hurried meeting was held of first NATO heads of government at the G20 and then the G20 leaders themselves (minus Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov).

Then everyone exhaled.

The missile was “most likely” a Ukrainian S-300 surface-to-air missile that had gone astray. The Ukrainians denied responsibility (they, of course, have a vested interest in blaming Russia). The Russian Ministry of Defence said that none of its missiles had gone further than 20 miles from the Polish-Ukrainian border. Whomever was responsible, it was clear that the attack was unintentional. But accidents have caused wars in the past. In 1925 Greece and Bulgaria went to war after a Greek soldier inadvertently chased a runaway dog across the border into Bulgaria. Accidental war is a real danger.

Who holds the power in China?

Trying to figure out who is doing what in China requires considerable skill at reading tea-leaves. Or you can just look at who accompanies Xi Jinping on foreign trips and where they sit at meetings.

The bilateral meeting at the recent G20 summit between the Chinese leader and US President Joe Biden presented an excellent opportunity for tea-leaf reading.

Not surprising was the presence of Foreign Minister Wang Yi. They were, after all, discussing foreign policy and Wang has spent his entire career in the Chinese foreign office. Also expected was He Li Feng, one of China’s top Phd economists and now his country’s number one trade negotiator. A bit of a surprise was Ding Xuexiang who sat at Xi’s right hand. He is the president’s chief of staff, the man who has the key role of deciding who sees the president when, and prepares talking points for meetings.

Conspicuous by his absence was the new Chinese ambassador to Washington Qin Gang. It is also important to note that all three of the attendees above are recently appointed Politburo members and have known and worked with Xi for years. He Lifeng, for instance, is a childhood friend who attended Xi’s wedding. All three men have achieved their exalted positions through unswerving loyalty to Xi, which means another reinforcement of Xi’s power base.

8 billion people

Demographics are important. The problem is that not enough attention is paid population numbers by either the public or its politicians. Possibly, because of the difficulty in forcing political leaders to look beyond the next election. But this week the UN issued a figure which made them sit up and take notice— 8 billion. That is the size of the current world population.

The problems related to this staggering figure are much, much bigger than the global number itself. For a start, where are most of these people and where will be most of the world’s future population growth? It is not in the developed countries. The EU’s population. For instance, has dropped 656,000 since January 2020. This is despite the influx of nearly two million immigrants in 2020 alone.

Future growth, according to the UN, will be in Asia and Africa. India will soon overtake China with a population of 1.4 billion. Sub-saharan Africa will produce 500 million people over the next ten years.

More people is both a blessing and a curse. If properly employed they can radically improve a country’s economic performance and living standards. But at the same time every one is a mouth to feed and, at some point, an elderly or sick person in need of expensive healthcare. If a country cannot support their population then the survival instinct dictates that that population packs its bags and goes to a country that can support them. With climate change, that will be an additional problem. The good news is that demographers predict that the world population will plateau at about 10 billion in 2080. Hopefully, by then, we will have figured out what to do with so many people.

Trump

Trump is standing for president again. Hurray! I say hurray because I am not a Trump fan. The above may sound counter-intuitive but I think the mid-term election results have produced an interesting anti-Trump wind of change.

Trump’s supporters won overwhelming support from Republican voters in primaries, but were handily rejected by the larger public in the general election. Trump is likely to suffer the same fate—winning the nomination and losing the election—again. If that happens then the Republican Party will be forced to do some serious soul-searching.

This will inevitably involve moving from their current ultra-right position towards the centre ground.

Then there is the other possible scenario: Trump loses the nomination to someone like Ron de Santis and Joe Biden stands for a second term. De Santis is every bit as conservative as Trump, maybe more so. But he is also more presentable and Biden will be over 80. In that scenario I would put my money on a Republican win in 2024 and another lurch to the right in American politics.

UK Budget misery

The ruling British Conservative Party is desperately trying to regain its reputation as guardian of the nation’s finances.

The problem is that after 12 years in power they cannot escape responsibility for the bitterest of pills that the British public are being forced to swallow to correct their mistakes and return to a sound footing.

The government’s latest budget this week has hit everyone from the richest to the poorest. Just about the only sectors coming out slightly better or the National Health Service and education. But their combined spending increase of about $10 billion will be eaten up by inflation running at 11.1 percent.

The new Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt admitted that Britain was in recession and was likely to remain there for at least another year. The GDP is 4.2 percent smaller than pre-pandemic levels and the average British household is due to be 7.1 percent worse off.

When Jeremy Hunt sat down after his budget statement he was cheered by Conservative backbenchers. But then they also cheered for the previous dozen or so Tory budgets which led to this effort to correct the past budgets

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and the author of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain” that has sold out in the US after six weeks but is still available in the UK.

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7 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 20th Nov '22 - 10:15am

    Yesterday, I waited nearly 45 minutes for a bus. I had to negotiate the removal of a rolator from the wheelchair space. Public Transport needs more.
    One of my disabled colleagues is using Euro Star and having ramp issues.
    What does this have to do with climate change? A lot.
    The traffic going into Bath for the Christmas Market will be horrendous soon. It was terrible yesterday.
    How many can afford electric cars? This will be another issue. How about the extra electric used and the charging points?
    I charge my Power Wheelchair for around 8 hrs, every other day. I feel small victory us better than huge losses.
    It would have made more sense, when the Decent Homes Act came into being, to make those changes as an urgency.
    There is still massive problems with housing.
    The many hotels being filled with those coming across the Channel, more cost on the subject of borrowing.
    No one can expect France to take full responsibility, or any other EU member.
    Nothing gets completed, the government obsessed with its own needs.
    We now have the results of lack of responsibility and lack of government capability.

  • The time to get excited about Population rise would have been the 1950s or 1960s, Growth has been falling ever since, as was predicted. Theres a good deal of variation in the predictions but a Peak of 10 Billion in 2080 is in the middle. After that World population will fall slowly.

    The crucial point is that its now how many that matters but how we live, we don’t have live like Monks, we just need to think harder.

  • Jenny Barnes 20th Nov '22 - 2:12pm

    Co2 emissions tonnes pa:
    top 1% 48
    next 9% 12
    next 40% 4
    bottom 50% 1

    So clearly what we need to do is reduce the emissions from the to 1% – in round numbers, they are emitting as much as half the world’s population, so if they stopped…

  • The 1925 incident that led to hostilities between Greece and Bulgaria was quickly resolved by the League of Nations, but Greece complained there was one rule in the League for the great powers like Italy and another for the smaller powers like Greece.
    That disparity continues today with the veto power of the permanent members of the security council blocking resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    The United Kingdom has supported the expansion of permanent and non-permanent members and the accession of Germany, Brazil, India, and Japan to permanent-member status, as well as more African countries on the council.
    With nine permanent members the exercise of veto power might be amended to require 1/3rd of permanent members (i.e a 7/9ths majority) rather than a single member. There may well still be aligned voting, but some of the more egregious abuses of the veto may be prevented.
    A reconstituted United Nations remains the best hope for the maintenance of International peace and addressing the climate crisis. If the UN is not to go the way of the League of Nations, then a recognition of the changed structure in the world order since WW2 is required along with the pressing need for the security council to reflect current global reality.

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Nov '22 - 6:23pm

    @Paul Barker
    “a Peak of 10 Billion in 2080 is in the middle. After that World population will fall slowly.”

    And in the meantime what is climate change going to do to peoples’ ability to feed themselves – especially in those countries already suffering severely from climate change?

    Anyone who is concerned about current levels of migration ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Aren’t you being somewhat complacent?

  • David Garlick 21st Nov '22 - 10:44am

    COP 27! heaaven help us all.

  • Peter Hirst 22nd Nov '22 - 1:13pm

    We might cope with a population of 10 billion but at what cost? The consequences for biodiversity, equality and justice will be enormous. We do need to tackle the global population globally head on by promoting free contraception, more education and empowering the female gender.

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