Friday, December 8, 2023

Climate week cheat sheet

Must read

Press play to listen to this article

Voiced by artificial intelligence.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING: Libertarian populist Javier Milei prevailed in Argentina’s highly politicized presidential election runoff on Sunday. Milei, a right-wing economist who has welcomed frequent comparisons of him to former U.S. President Donald Trump, has said he’d ditch the peso, shut down Argentina’s central bank and slash spending.

Trade trashed: The EU and the Mercosur bloc of South American countries are in the late stages of talks on a trade deal. During his election campaign, Milei threatened to take Argentina out of Mercosur and described the trade deal with the EU as a “low-quality customs union that leads to trade diversion and harms each of its members.” So safe to say he isn’t a fan, then.


ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF COP28: The annual United Nations climate summit is just around the corner. Next week, leaders, ministers and diplomats will be heading to Dubai for COP28, which starts on November 30.

What you need to know: To help you navigate what will likely be the largest summit to date — some 70,000 attendees are expected — POLITICO’s climate reporters on both sides of the Atlantic broke down everything you need to know across six articles. It’s basically your cheat sheet for COP.

**A message from Google: People are looking to Google for information about how to reduce their own environmental footprint when in transit. We build technology that can surface helpful information so people, cities, and organizations can make more sustainable choices. Learn more.**

1 — Start with the basics: COP28 comes at a critical moment for the planet. Heat records were smashed this year; extreme weather brought destruction and death to every corner of the globe — and yet governments aren’t reducing emissions fast enough to stave off the worst of global warming. Here is a snapshot of the state of the planet, by Zia Weise and Chelsea Harvey.

2 — Who’s who: From presidents to activists and billionaires to lobbyists, tens of thousands of attendees will descend on Dubai over the coming weeks. Some are there to negotiate, others are hoping to strike deals; almost everyone will try to influence the outcome in one way or another. Charlie Cooper, Sara Schonhardt and Zia have a guide to the most important people to watch.

3 — Who wants what: But COPs are bigger than a handful of individuals. They remain the one forum where everyone has a say — and so competing national interests heavily influence the talks. Here’s the guide to the positions of the most influential countries and negotiating blocs, by Zia and Sara. 

4 — How the top emitters are getting along: The world’s superpowers hold significant sway over the climate talks. China and the U.S. are talking to each other again, but they remain at odds over a host of issues. Read this in-depth look at the divide between Beijing and Washington, by Sara and Zack Coleman. 

5 — What Big Oil is up to: Countries will at least discuss the parameters of a fossil fuel phaseout in Dubai, but that won’t change the fact that the oil business is bigger than ever. Read more about what’s behind the fossil fuel boom, by Ben Lefebvre and Zack. 

6 — The anti-green backlash: That fossil fuel boom, war and populist revolts are crowding the fate of the planet from the agenda as leaders head to Dubai. The odds of a successful COP28 outcome have been shrinking amid geopolitical turmoil and domestic headwinds. Karl Mathiesen, Charlie and Zack examine why the fight against global warming is under attack.

GLOBAL PLAYBOOK: Whether you’re heading to Dubai yourself or watching from elsewhere, make sure you’re signed up to our Global Playbook, coming to you from from Dubai, authored by Suzanne Lynch and edited by Playbook’s own Zoya Sheftalovich.


HOSTAGE DEAL: A deal to release the hostages whom Hamas militants kidnapped during their massive terrorist attack on Israel on October 7 now only depends on “minor” practical issues, the Qatari prime minister said on Sunday in Doha. “The challenges facing the agreement are just practical and logistical,” Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told a press conference in Doha, alongside the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. Elisa Braun and Jamie Dettmer have more.

REFUGEE CALL: It would be in the interests of Egypt and other Arab nations to admit Palestinian refugees on a temporary basis so that Israel can wrap up the war quickly, Jamie writes in his Unpacked column today.

HOW HAMAS IS ‘FIGHTING SMALLER’: In an opinion article for POLITICO, journalist Tanya Goudsouzian analyzes the way Hamas is going to war with Israel: “Recognizing the lack of parity, the militant group is fighting in a manner that adjusts to Israel’s numerical and technological superiority.”

FORMER SPD LEADER’S WARNING: Germany can no longer ignore the suffering in Gaza and the West Bank and needs to dare to criticize Israel’s government, Sigmar Gabriel, the former leader of the Social Democrats, warns in an op-ed that contradicts the line of his SPD colleague Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Be careful: “In the past, Germany in particular built up a good deal of capital in the Middle East … We need to be careful not to use up this capital … by neglecting to speak up about the growing number of civilian victims in the Gaza Strip,” warned Gabriel, who is also a former German foreign minister.

Stop the bombings: Europe and the U.S. should urge Israel “to stop the bombings, to keep its promise to allow humanitarian organizations access to the Gaza Strip and to set the conditions for a cease-fire.” In return, Hamas should stop the rocket fire “and release the hostages.”

Slamming Netanyahu: While Gabriel insisted on Germany’s special responsibility and its “obligation to defend Israel’s right to self-defense,” the former SPD leader did not shy away from criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying “Qatari dollars flowed to Hamas with the approval of the Israeli government. The real goal of Netanyahu’s government was the complete annexation of the West Bank as Israeli territory.”

Two-state solution: “In order to defeat Hamas, what we need in addition to weapons and military, is a willingness to deprive them of the breeding ground for their inhumane ideology,” said Gabriel, arguing the logical answer was the “two-state solution.” But, he admitted: “No one has seriously worked toward this in the last two decades.”


BERLIN AND BRUSSELS REEL FROM BOMBSHELL COURT RULING: Officials and lawmakers in Berlin are gearing up for painful budget cuts — potentially affecting subsidies for energy, industry and microchips — after a bombshell ruling by Germany’s constitutional court last week blew a €60 billion hole in the German economy’s finances. Moreover, the fallout is also impacting talks to enhance the EU budget.

During a meeting of EU ambassadors on Friday, Germany’s Michael Clauß told colleagues that the court ruling meant Berlin had no financial wiggle room left to pay more into the EU budget, with the exception of aid for Ukraine, two EU diplomats told POLITICO’s Hans von der Burchard. Olaf Scholz had already previously called for a “reprioritization” of existing funds instead of paying more, but Clauß argued that Berlin’s ability to increase payments was now definitely gone.

Economic concerns: Meanwhile, Economy Minister Robert Habeck cautioned that the potential budget and subsidy cuts following the court ruling could have a huge impact on Germany’s green industrial transition and its overall economic development. Habeck told FAZ in an interview published Sunday that the consequences of the ruling may lead to an “exodus of industry” that would be “damaging to our country and society.”


BULGARIA CLOSES LOOPHOLE AFTER POLITICO REPORT: After POLITICO’s Victor Jack revealed that a sanctions loophole allowed Russia to sell and refine seaborne oil via Bulgaria, Sofia is now closing that exemption.

Background: The sanctions exemption gave Bulgaria an exclusive opt-out from the EU ban on Russian seaborne crude oil imports. Bulgaria was letting millions of barrels of Moscow’s oil reach a Russian-owned refinery on its territory, which then exported various refined fuels abroad including to EU countries.

More than €1B per year: Aside from the estimated €983 million the loophole raised for the Kremlin’s coffers via production and export levies, it also generated almost €500 million in profits since February for refinery owner Lukoil, Russia’s largest private oil firm, according to a classified analysis prepared for Bulgaria’s parliament and obtained by Victor.

Pressure was mounting on Sofia: Following our reporting, European Commission officials said Brussels was probing the Bulgarian exemption and had already sent questions to the government.

What’s next: Parties supporting the Bulgarian government’s ruling coalition announced legal changes that will close the loophole — the exemption will be wound up six months earlier than planned, on March 1 instead of October 31.

No shocks: Bulgarian Finance Minister Asen Vasilev said: “With March 1 as the end date for the derogation, it is guaranteed that there will be no shocks on the domestic fuel market.” Vasilev also said he would back suspending the export quotas from the Lukoil-owned refinery starting January 1 to help reduce “the money that goes to Russia.”


COUNTDOWN IS ON: Dutch voters go to the polls on Wednesday for an election that will be closely followed in Brussels.

Wilders catching up? One poll published over the weekend had the PVV, the anti-immigrant and Euroskeptic party of Geert Wilders, neck-and-neck with the conservative-liberal VVD of Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s successor. (Here’s Poll of Polls for a broader picture.)

Over in the Timmermans camp: Former European Commissioner Frans Timmermans and his alliance of the Labour and Green Left parties are currently polling third, but the former EU Green Deal chief told supporters during a campaign event in Haarlem that they will triumph, Eline Schaart reports from the ground.

Alliance hopes: Wilders emerging from the election as the leader of the biggest party would be a nightmare scenario for supporters of the Green-Left alliance. But Team Timmermans hopes that prospect might convince undecided and more progressive people to vote for their alliance.

EU reform: Asked by POLITICO what he would do differently in Brussels if he became Dutch prime minister, Timmermans said he would play a very active role in reforming the EU, which is needed for the bloc to be ready for enlargement. “Far too many optimistic scenarios have been outlined that are really impossible. Ukraine cannot possibly become a member in 2030,” he said.

All you need to know: Eline has a primer ahead of Wednesday’s vote here.

**Mental health issues are on the rise both in the EU and on a global level. Join us on December 4 at POLITICO Live’s virtual event “Mind Matters – Raising the bar on mental health” to hear from our experts on what action is needed. Register today!**


URPILAINEN RUNS IN FINLAND: Jutta Urpilainen, the European commissioner for international partnerships, on Sunday announced she would run for the presidency of her native Finland. Urpilainen will leave her role at the Commission in Brussels next month to start her campaign. Read more from Sarah Wheaton and Elisa Braun.

LATVIAN FM JOINS NATO RACE: Latvia’s Foreign Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has signaled he’s interested in the top job at NATO. Kariņš is a former prime minister of the middle Baltic state, and should he pursue the candidacy to replace current Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg next year, he’d be running against Kaja Kallas, the current leader of neighboring Estonia.

Stuck on Rutte: Still, the clear favorite for the position remains the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte.


THE AIR DEFENSES PROTECTING KYIV: Russia is continuing to try to hammer Kyiv with missiles and drones, but robust air defenses have made that very difficult. The result is that many feel safer in Kyiv than anywhere else in Ukraine — the capital and its surrounds are now home to almost 600,000 displaced people from other parts of the country, Veronika Melkozerova reports.

FARAGE OF THE JUNGLE: Britain’s most famous Brexiteer Nigel Farage came face to face with writhing snakes and deep mud as he made his reality TV debut Sunday night. Appearing on the long-running U.K. reality TV program “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!” the former Brexit Party leader had to brave numerous Australian reptiles. Andrew McDonald has the slithery details.

**POLITICO’s Suzanne Lynch is going to COP28 – and so are you. POLITICO’s Global Playbook is our latest newsletter and your VIP pass to the event that will shape international climate policy, with reverberations across both continents and sectors alike. Never miss a beat from COP28 – sign up for Global Playbook here.**


— Agriculture and Fisheries Council. Arrivals and doorsteps from 9 a.m. … press conference at 5 p.m. Agenda. Watch.

— Informal video conference of foreign affairs ministers; doorstep by High Representative Josep Borrell ahead of the meeting at 6 p.m. Watch.

— G20 Compact with Africa Conference takes place in Berlin, Germany. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives an opening speech at 9:20 a.m.; European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, Chair of the African Union Azali Assoumani and leaders of Compact with Africa countries participate. Agenda.

— European Economic Area Council. Commission Executive Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and ministers of foreign or European affairs of Norway, Spain (representing Spanish presidency), Liechtenstein and Iceland participate.

— Hydrogen week: High-Level Policy Conference begins. Hydrogen Europe Chair Sopna Sury and Clean Hydrogen Partnership’s governing board Chair Melissa Verykios give opening remarks; Ursula von der Leyen and Maroš Šefčovič give keynote speeches from 2 p.m. Agenda. Watch.

Maroš Šefčovič also meets Iceland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bjarni Benediktsson … meets with Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide.

— High Representative Josep Borrell concludes his trip to the Middle East in Jordan; meets Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi … press conference at 11 a.m. Watch.

— European Parliament plenary session kicks off at 5 p.m. in Strasbourg; opening by Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola. Agenda. Watch.

— Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson is in The Hague, Netherlands; participates in the North Seas Energy Cooperation Ministerial Meeting.


STRIKE AT BRUSSELS AIRLINES: Unions representing staff at Brussels Airlines have issued a strike notice for an indefinite period from November 23 onwards. It is unclear when exactly the strike will take place, but disruption over Christmas is likely, reports VRT.

SCHUMAN ROUNDABOUT WORKS START: It’s surprisingly quick for Brussels — but the redevelopment of the Schuman roundabout, announced about two weeks ago, is scheduled to start today. The speed is even more striking considering the eight years of negotiations it took to get all the permits to carry out the work.

What’s the plan? The first step is the demolition of the center of the roundabout, which will be completed by December 22. As a result, traffic will be limited to two lanes on Avenue de Cortenbergh and Rue Archimède, and to one lane on Rue Froissart. The second part of the renovation will start in January, with the total duration of works expected to take two years. Once finished, the new Schuman roundabout should look like this.

NEW RAILWAY APP: SNCB has invited the public to try out new features on their test app to get feedback before integration on the main app. For those of you who regularly forget to exit the train when you’re supposed to, there’s a new “Don’t miss my stop” feature. There is also a “train composition” feature which shows you whether there is air conditioning or a bike compartment on your train.

SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Balance Ton Bar, an Instagram account collecting testimonies of sexual violence in bars across Brussels, is back in action after a 22-year-old woman shared that she and her friend were drugged and attacked. The case is currently being investigated.

The movement: The Instagram account was created in 2021 following several reports of sexual assault, but the page was inactive for about a year. Maïté Meeus, the account owner, said she reactivated Balance Ton Bar in the wake of the 22-year-old woman’s story. “When I read this testimony, I realized that nothing has fundamentally changed,” Meeus said.

SECRET STRIKE AGAINST GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE: To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Friday, 100 women will participate in a “Secret Strike” performance, wearing red gloves and holding up signs denouncing gender-based violence. The performance by the Spanish artist Alicia Framis will take place at the Schuman roundabout from 1 p.m. to 1:15 p.m., organized by the Spanish Embassy in collaboration with EEAS and UNFPA

FOR POETRY LOVERS: Alison Mooney, a poet, and speechwriter for Roberta Metsola, is launching a new poetry collection called “Balance” on Thursday at Filigranes at 6 p.m.

NEW MARKET: A new fruit and vegetable market opened on Place Saint-Lazare this weekend, and will be open each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. But not everyone is happy — Brussels Mayor Philippe Close has expressed concern about traffic jams given an increase in people in the city center in the run-up to the holidays. “Is it not possible to hold the weekly market on Sundays or on Rogier Square or at least postpone it until February 2024?” Close wrote in a letter to local Mayor Emir Kir.

ICYMI: Flemish Socialist Party leader Conner Rousseau resigned Friday evening following a long-running saga over racist remarks he made in September about the Roma community. Laura Hülsemann has more. Melissa Depraetere is the new party chair.

NEW JOB: Adam Bodnar, former Polish ombudsman for citizens’ rights, stepped down as an independent board member of the Civil Liberties Union for Europe. Bodnar joined the Polish Senate, and is rumored to be one of the top candidates for the job of justice minister.

BIRTHDAYS: MEP Sira Rego; Former MEPs João Ferreira, Eleonora Evi, Hannu Takkula, Diane James and Arne Gericke; Friends of Europe’s Giles Merritt; Yahoo Finance’s Julie Hyman; RAI’s Emma Farnè; Director of Debating Europe Adam Nyman; U.S. President Joe Biden turns 81.

THANKS to Zia Weise, Victor Jack, Eline Schaart, Leonie Cater, Bartosz Brzeziński, Hans von der Burchard, Joshua Posaner, Playbook reporter Ketrin Jochecová, editor Jack Lahart and producer Seb Starcevic.

**A message from Google: Project Green Light is one of the ways we’re helping improve transportation. It uses AI to help city planners optimize traffic lights at intersections to improve traffic flow and cut emissions. With this information, cities can make cost-effective updates to existing infrastructure to reduce the number of stops a car makes at red lights. This saves fuel and lowers emissions, since pollution at city intersections is 29 times higher than on open roads. Early numbers indicate a potential for up to 30% reduction in stops. In intersections where Green Light is already live, this can save fuel and lower emissions for up to 30M car rides monthly. Find out more here.**

SUBSCRIBE to the POLITICO newsletter family: Brussels Playbook | London Playbook | London Playbook PM | Playbook Paris | POLITICO Confidential | Sunday Crunch | EU Influence | London Influence | Digital Bridge | China Watcher | Berlin Bulletin | D.C. Playbook | D.C. Influence | All our POLITICO Pro policy morning newsletters

More from …

Jakob Hanke Vela

Latest article