Morning Brief

Big Decisions Delayed at U.N. Climate Talks

After two extra days of negotiations, climate delegates couldn’t commit to urgent action.

Chile's Minister of Environment and COP25 president Carolina Schmidt talks to Brazilian Secretary for National Sovereignty and Citizenship Fabio Mendes Marzano during the closing session of the U.N. COP 25 climate conference in Madrid on Dec. 15.
Chile's Minister of Environment and COP25 president Carolina Schmidt talks to Brazilian Secretary for National Sovereignty and Citizenship Fabio Mendes Marzano during the closing session of the U.N. COP 25 climate conference in Madrid on Dec. 15. OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The U.N. COP25 climate conference concludes without much agreement, Lebanon could rename Saad Hariri as its prime minister after he was ousted by protesters, and what to watch in the world this week.

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U.N. Climate Talks End With Little Agreement

After two extra days of negotiations, the U.N. climate change talks in Madrid—the longest on record—concluded on Sunday with limited agreement and significant pushback from major carbon emitters. Delegates at the COP25 conference mainly committed to bring new emissions pledges to the table to the next major climate meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, next year.

But decisions on other key issues, including how carbon markets will technically function under the Paris Agreement, were delayed until the meetings in Glasgow. In Madrid, negotiators worked overtime on the rules governing carbon trading, which allow major emitters to buy credits from countries that have successfully cut emissions. Wealthier countries, such as Brazil and Australia, were the main holdouts—insisting on loopholes.

Until next time. While a major breakthrough wasn’t expected in Madrid, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said he was disappointed in the outcome. “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation, and finance to tackle the climate crisis,” he told AFP. The lack of clear agreement means the stakes will now be higher for the conference in Glasgow in November 2020.

Growing divide. What was apparent at COP25 was a growing gap between smaller, developing countries and major powers, which resisted pressure to commit to emergency action and bolder emissions pledges before the Paris process is implemented next year. Smaller countries had hoped for a financial aid program for those, particularly island nations, already suffering the effects of climate change. That, too, will have to wait for Glasgow.

What We’re Following Today

The election is over. What’s next for Britain? After winning a large majority in last week’s election, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes new lawmakers to Parliament today and will name three ministers to his cabinet, replacing politicians who resigned or lost their seats. A larger shake-up of the government is expected after Brexit, which Johnson has pledged to deliver by Jan. 31. The Conservative government hopes to send Johnson’s Brexit deal to Parliament for a vote before Christmas.

Johnson promised to “Get Brexit Done,” but after he has fulfilled that pledge, reaching a comprehensive post-Brexit trade agreement will take much longer. As Garvan Walshe argues in FP, the EU should be happy with the certainty that Johnson’s win brings—and because Brussels will have much more leverage to strike a tough bargain on trade.

Hariri could be renamed Lebanon PM. Saad Hariri is expected to be named Lebanon’s prime minister today—again—nearly two months after he resigned from that job under pressure from mass protests against the political elite. Politicians see Hariri as the only person for the job, but demonstrators took to the streets in Beirut over the weekend in disagreement. They clashed with security forces in some of the most violent unrest since the protests began. If Hariri returns to the post, he still faces a major challenge to form a new government under a sectarian power-sharing agreement. That sectarian system helped spark the protests, Sune Haugbolle argued in FP last month, and it has led to the economic turmoil that is in part driving the protests, Rebecca Collard reports for FP.

Protesters in India reject citizenship law. On Sunday, activists in India protested for the fifth day against a new law that creates a path to citizenship on the basis of religious identity for immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan—but not to Muslims. India’s government claims that it will aid Hindus and Christians facing persecution; critics say the law undercuts India’s secular constitution, as Sumit Ganguly writes in FP. More than 100 people were injured near a university in New Delhi, where police used tear gas and batons to disperse a crowd of protesters. Schools were closed in parts of the capital today.

For more news and analysis on stories like this, subscribe to South Asia Brief, delivered on Tuesdays.

The World This Week

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam meets Chinese President Xi Jinping today in Beijing, more than six months after pro-democracy protests began. There is speculation it could lead to a reshuffle of the city’s cabinet, though Lam downplayed the rumors. Ahead of the visit, protesters occupied malls in Hong Kong, leading police to fire tear gas for the first time in two weeks.

A vote on whether to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump on two charges is expected in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Senate Democrats have already laid out a proposal for the trial that would proceed in its chamber, including subpoenas for documents and witnesses—such as Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney—that the White House has withheld.

Another U.S. Democratic presidential debate is scheduled on Thursday in Los Angeles, though all seven candidates who qualified to take the stage have threatened to boycott the event due to a labor dispute at the venue, Loyola Marymount University. Even if the debate is canceled, at least four more lie ahead for the candidates in early 2020.

Check out FP’s roundup of where each of the Democratic presidential candidates stands on foreign policy.

Keep an Eye On

China’s sports censorship. China’s state broadcaster took an English Premier League soccer match off the air on Sunday, two days after Arsenal star Mesut Ozil, who is a German citizen of Turkish descent, criticized China’s detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. It marks the second time this year that China has censored a major sports league, after blacking out NBA games in October after a general manager expressed support for Hong Kong’s protesters.

For more news and analysis on stories like this, subscribe to China Brief, delivered on Wednesdays.

South Korea-Japan tech talks. South Korea and Japan are meeting about high-tech exports today, the first such talks since Tokyo tightened controls on South Korean parts used in smartphones and TVs. The move led to retaliatory measures. The countries are involved in an ongoing dispute over forced labor during Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula.

Israel’s disgruntled diplomats. As Israel prepares for its third election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pitching himself as the only person who can effectively manage relations with the United States. But Netanyahu is undermining his own ambitious foreign-policy agenda by dismantling and defunding Israel’s foreign ministry, Sam Sokol reports for FP.

Odds and Ends

Street food vendors in central Bangkok fear they could soon be shut down by city planners, the New York Times reports. Over the last three years, the number of designated street food areas has decreased by more than 75 percent. A total crackdown would change the food culture of the city, where customers range from construction workers to bankers and some street stalls have received Michelin stars.

That’s it for today. 

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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