The World This Week

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The World This Week
New sanctions on Russia, and a new IPCC report on climate change

  GP Team

The World This Week #165, Vol. 4, No. 14

Harini Madhusudan and Rashmi B R

New actions and sanctions on Russia 
What happened? 
On 8 April, the European Union adopted a new set of sanctions, banning the import of wood, coal, and chemicals, among other products, from Russia. These sanctions are estimated to impact up to ten per cent of the total imports from Moscow. Further, the sanctions aim to prevent access to the EU to Russian trucks and vessels. A ban has also been imposed on all transactions with four Russian Banks. Furthermore, the Commission blacklisted an additional 217 people, including President Putin’s two daughters. It also banned the exports of quantum computers, jet fuel, advanced semiconductors, high-end electronics and other technology. The US and G7 member countries have launched an aggressive imposition of sanctions and estimate that it would erase or contract the Russian GDP by 15 per cent or more in 2022. 

On 7 April, the UN General Assembly voted for a US-led resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. The "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" was cited as the reason. Following the resolution, the Russian representative stated that Moscow had already decided to leave the Council before the end of its term, claiming that the Council was monopolised by a group of States who use it for their short-term aims. 

What is the background? 
First, a brief note on sanctions since invasion. Over 44 days into the Ukraine war, sanctions have remained the primary response from the majority of the West and its allies. The US, UK, the EU, G7 member countries, Turkey, Switzerland, Japan, and South Korea, have been prominent in the sanctions. During the first few rounds, there were full blocking sanctions on the 328 Russian Duma members. Another highlight was the ban of major Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging services. Many MNCs boycotted Russia, suspended their services or moved out of the region. 48 Russian defence companies were targeted by sanctions. Some imposed export controls, while others freezed individual assets. Turkey has restricted the Russian ships from using its waterways. 

The latest sanctions by the US, EU, and the G7 target the energy sector by banning coal; the loss is estimated to be an annual 8 billion euros loss for Russia. While the sanctions have not included the oil and gas industries, this adds to the import bans on the steel and iron sectors from the initial round of sanctions. These direct sanctions target Russian exports by one-fifth of their value. In addition to the same, the EU has restricted one-quarter of its total value of exports to Russia, which includes jet fuel, software, sensitive/critical machinery, and transportation equipment, among others, with a total value of 10 billion euros a year. The EU has also Blacklisted nearly 900 individuals and entities of Russian origin, including travel bans on Vladimir Putin. Josep Borrell, in his statement said: "These latest sanctions were adopted following the atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Bucha and other places under Russian occupation."

Second, the human rights violations in Bucha and beyond. The suspension of Russia from the UNHRC marks the second time a country being dismissed since its founding in 2006. Disturbing and outrageous images from the town of Bucha surfaced following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region. The images show civilian bodies from the town neighbouring Kyiv, and streets lined with bodies that appear to have been executed and left in the open or buried as mass graves. The images drew much attention to the systemic violation of human rights by the Russian troops in cities like Bucha and Borodyanka. The residents/ survivors have given gruesome depictions of harassment and killings. Human Rights Watch said it had documented the war crimes of the Russian troops in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv. 

Third, the Russian response. The Russian foreign ministry called the suspension from the UNHRC, as "illegal and politically motivated, aimed at ostentatiously punishing a sovereign UN member state that pursues an independent domestic and foreign policy." On 4 April, responding to the Bucha videos, the Kremlin Spokesperson denounced its validity video. He revealed that the defence specialists detected signs of video forgery and various fakes. Russia continues its offensive in the South and East of Ukraine.  Russia, in the past, has responded with an equal and challenging set of counter-sanctions. To the latest round of sanctions, Moscow stated that these sanctions as an extension of an “absolutely rabid position on the imposition of restrictions,” specifically in the line of imposing sanctions on family members. Each time the West has imposed a set of economic sanctions, there has been no change in the Russian aggression or the approach in negotiations so far.

What does it mean?
First, the efficacy of sanctions and their likely implications. The primary impact of the economic sanctions on Russia has begun to show in the global economic slow-downs and rising prices. On the other hand, the sanctions have sufficiently managed to isolate Russia from most of the global- mostly western economy. However, this pressure has failed to dent in the Russian efforts in Ukraine. The Russian economy did not see a drastic fall in the value of its currency. 

Second, the civilian targets. At the beginning of March, after Russian troops faced their initial losses, the strategy shifted to a war of attrition. Cities, ports, and civilian zones were all bombarded with disregard for the safety of the unarmed. In such severe cases, all actions to condemn the aggressor would always remain insufficient. The suspension of Russia from the UNHRC has made a statement on the civilian atrocities by the aggressor.

New IPCC report: Emphasis on mitigation and climate change action
What happened?
On 4 April 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report titled "Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change". The report is prepared by the Working Group III of the IPCC and is part of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report scheduled to be released in September 2022. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres remarked that the latest IPCC report is "a litany of broken promises" and added that "this is not a fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degree limit". 

Following are the key takeaways of the report. First, the growing anthropogenic GHG emissions. The net emissions have increased since 1850, courtesy the industrial revolution. Human actions have further accelerated the process and the total net anthropogenic GHG emissions have increased between 2010-19. There are clear regional and income variations contributing to GHG emissions, with 10 per cent of households with the highest per capita income contributing the largest share of global emissions. 

Second, the rapid urbanization. Towns and cities have the lion’s share of increasing emissions. Redesigning the cityscape with changes in transport system- from electric private vehicles to electric public transport system, reduction of distances that must be travelled, sustainable infrastructure and smart city plans are some of the key focus areas of the report. 

Third, the warnings on the rise of global average temperature. The report highlights that the world is not on the course yet, to limiting the temperature rise in accordance with the Paris Agreement. 

Fourth, the emphasis on the co-existence of the SDG and mitigation efforts. The IPCC vice-chair Ramón Pichs-Madruga said: "we see that equity and just transitions can lead to deeper ambitions for accelerated climate action." 

Fifth, the positives. The rate of growth of emissions during 2010-19 has been lower than the previous decade2000-09. The cost of producing solar and wind energy has reduced by nearly 85 per cent since 2010, though it is nowhere near to replacing the non-renewables. The report also takes a positive note on the visible climate action being undertaken in many countries. The IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said: "there are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emission reductions and stimulate innovation." 

What is the background?
First, the numerous reports on climate change. The IPCC, as an important body of the UN assessing climate change, provides a plethora of scientific data and analysis to the policymakers, helping them take necessary actions. It creates a massive ripple through the detailed "Assessment Reports" prepared by its working groups. Along with the IPCC, numerous scientific bodies and NGOs have published reports warning the governments across the world about the impending climate crisis, calling on them to undertake mitigation measures. 

Second, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). On 9 August 2021, the Working Group I to the IPCC released a report on the physical science of the climate crisis, talking extensively about the human influence over atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, land and biosphere at large. On 28 February 2022, the Working Group II released a report on the climate change impacts on ecosystem, human settlements, infrastructure, vulnerabilities and risks related to socio-economic development, and a detailed account of adaptation, its feasibility and limitations. The Working Group III report is third in the series of AR6

Third, the focus of ARs. The Assessment Reports have over the years evolved on the focus areas. While the AR1 released in 1990 studied climate change as a challenge demanding global solutions, the AR2 and AR3 revised the global temperature rise, rainfall and sea-level rise. The AR2 was also the first report to note the "unlikely entirely natural" temperature rise. 

Fourth, the impact and response to the reports. IPCC reports have been the basis for international climate policymaking. The AR1 played a key role in the setting up of the UNFCCC, AR2 in providing a basis for the Kyoto Protocol, AR4 in working towards limiting the warming to 2 degrees, and AR5 in providing scientific backing for the Paris Agreement. 

What does it mean?
First, more evidence on the Anthropocene. Compared with IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the Working Group reports of the AR6 emphasises on the "unequivocal human influence" on the earth's system. This provides more impetus to already loud calls to formally recognize the end of the Holocene and the beginning of the Anthropocene epoch. 

Second, prioritizing ground-level actions. For the first time, an IPCC report has included a chapter on the social aspects of climate change. The chapter titled "Demand, Services and Social Aspects of Mitigation" emphasizes the demand-side of intervention such as the use of public transport networks, energy-efficient homes, and encouraging people for using cleaner modes of cooling and movement. In other words, there is a focus on motivating people to change consumption patterns which can potentially reduce GHG emissions between 40 to 70 per cent by 2050. 

Also in the news...
By Ashwin Dhanabalan, Angkuran Dey and Meghna Manoj 

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: Embassy refutes allegations of launching cyber attacks on Ukraine
On 5 April, the spokesperson of China’s embassy refuted all allegations surrounding Beijing launching a cyberattack on Ukraine before the Russian invasion. The spokesperson stated: “It must be pointed out that for a time The Times reports on China have been untrue, deliberately distorting and even slanderous.” He also mentioned about no official confirmation from Kyiv regarding a cyberattack, or any evidence over the allegations that appeared in The Times. 

China: Beijing asks Washington to cancel Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, and revoke arms sale
On 7 April, China’s embassy reinforced its strong opposition to the US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s scheduled visit to Taiwan. The spokesperson of China’s embassy stated: “In the past few days, Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang and the Chinese Embassy in the US have lodged stern representations with the US Congress and government on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reported visit to Taiwan, and stated China’s solemn position.” Beijing also urged the US side to abide by the One-China principle.
On 7 April, China’s defence spokesperson also urged to revoke its plans of selling arms to Taiwan. The US State Department had earlier approved a plan to sell military equipment worth USD 95 million to Taiwan. China further mentioned that such a move would violate its One-China principle and undermine its sovereign and security interests in the region.

China: Foreign minister Wang Yi speaks to FMs of Mongolia and Hungary 
On 7 April, foreign minister Wang Yi spoke with Mongolia’s foreign minister and discussed bilateral relations. Both leaders discussed green corridors and the China-Russia-Mongolia economic corridor. On 4 April, Wang also spoke with Hungary’s foreign minister and discussed enhancing cooperation in various fields. The two leaders also exchanged views on the EU’s stance concerning China and Hungary agreed to work towards promoting EU-China relations. 

Australia: Singapore overtakes China in securing investment approvals 
On 9 April, a report released by Australia’s foreign investment review board stated that the Chinese investments had seen a slight uptick despite political tensions. However, Singapore has overtaken China in securing investment approvals to take second place behind the US. A statement released by the Board stated: “Nearly AUD 14 billion of that figure from Singapore was for property, reflecting significant growth in the value of a proposed investment for Singaporean investors in the real estate sector.”

Australia: Canberra to send armoured vehicles to Ukraine
On 8 April, Australia announced that it would supply 20 Bushmaster armoured combat vehicles to Ukraine in response to president Zelensky’s request for arms. Australia’s defence minister Peter Dutton mentioned: “The idea will be to provide that support to keep people safe and to repel the Russians as quickly as possible from Ukrainian territory.” The Bushmaster is designed to shield soldiers and civilians from blasts. Furthermore, they can sustain and the soldiers within the vehicle for three days. 

Australia: HRW condemns meeting with Myanmar’s military regime chief
On 6 April, the outgoing ambassador of Australia to Myanmar met with Myanmar’s military regime’s Chief in Naypyidaw. The Human Rights Watch condemned the meeting forundercuting efforts in isolating the military regime. However, Australia’s foreign affairs department minister defended the ambassador’s visit by citing calls to Myanmar to cease violence and release detainees. The minister further mentioned: “The Australian government does not consider that the outgoing meeting legitimises the current regime.”

Singapore: Parliament votes on White Paper for women’s development 
On 5 April, a 41-member parliament voted on a White Paper for women’s development in a bid to create a fair and inclusive society. According to CNA, the proposal put forward 25 action plans in five specific areas: “Equal opportunities in the workplace, recognition and support for caregivers, protection against violence and harm, other support measures for women and mindset shifts.” Minister for information and communication Josephine Teo added that the White Paper is a step in the right direction for the country’s development.

Malaysia: PM Ismail Sabri pushes for Malay as ASEAN’s second language 
On 4 April, Malaysia’s prime minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, proposed Malay as ASEAN’s second language as Malay is one of the most widespread languages in the region. Around 45.8 per cent of the people in the ASEAN grouping speak Malay or various forms of it. Malay is also the national language of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Singapore. However, Indonesia rejected the proposal and recommended a regional level discussion before proposing Malay as the second language of ASEAN.

Myanmar: NUG warns China of supporting the military regime 
On 7 April, Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) warned China’s government of the repercussions of supporting Myanmar’s military regime. The statement was issued after China’s foreign minister Wang Yi met with the regime’s foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin. Furthermore, the NUG stated that any more invitations or discussions extended to the regime would be a profoundly disrespectful exercise and offensive to the people of Myanmar. 

South Asia This Week 
India: New Delhi abstains from voting against Russia at the UN
On 7 April, India abstained from voting at the UN General Assembly, where 193 members voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. The vote came as Russia allegedly had killed civilians while pulling back from towns near Kyiv. India’s ambassador to the UN said: “India has abstained on the resolution…We do so for reasons of both substance and process.” The ambassador further mentioned how India had taken a peaceful and pragmatic stance since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

India: HAL and IAI to develop passenger aircraft into mid-air refuels 
On 6 April, India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Israel’s Aerospace Industries (IAI) signed an MoU to convert passenger aircraft into Multi-Mission Tanker Transports. HAL said: “HAL will convert pre-owned civil (passenger) aircraft into air refuelling aircraft with cargo and transport capabilities. The move will provide India’s defence ecosystem with new capabilities and cost-effective solutions in the market.” Boeing 767 is the jet that likely will be converted into multi-purpose civilian aircraft. 

Afghanistan: Poppy prices double due to Taliban’s blanket ban on its cultivation
On 6 April, the price of poppy doubled as the Taliban banned its cultivation. This blanket ban has led to a dramatic rise in prices with the stifling of supplies. However, an increasing demand and lack of supply have pushed farmers in the southern provinces to continue cultivating. The farmers in the southern provinces have further called on the Islamic Emirate to extend support to them. 

Sri Lanka: Government calls for USD one billion debt restructure
On 7 April, Ali Sabry said the government plans to launch a USD one billion debt restructuring plan. This is to manage the international sovereign bond payment that will be maturing in July. Sri Lanka’s reserves dropped to USD 1.93 billion in March. Sabry further added: “We must discuss with the World Bank, and we must have a bridge-financing plan with the ADB. If we do not have stability, who will conduct these talks?.”

Maldives: Male establishes diplomatic relations with São Tomé and Príncipe 
On 5 April, Maldives and São Tomé and Príncipe formally established diplomatic ties with the signing of a Joint Communiqué that formalised the relations. The agreement would further enhance cooperation between the two island countries. São Tomé and Príncipe is 180th country to establish diplomatic relations with the Maldives.

Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa This Week
Yemen: The UN appeals for USD 80 to prevent an oil spill in the red sea
On 9 April, the UN mentioned it sought USD 80 million to fund a project intended to pull out a tanker consisting of millions of oil barrels. The oil storage vessel is situated off the coast of Yemen and has been left unchecked and unserviced since the Houthis took over the port city of Hodeida in 2015. UN resident and humanitarian coordinator stated: “Without funding over the next six weeks or so the project will not begin on time, and this time bomb will continue to tick.” He further mentioned that vessel was an ecological time bomb and could lead to severe and irreversible ecological damages to the seas if the oil leaked from the vessel 

Armenia and Azerbaijan: Progress towards a peace deal 
On 6 April, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan met for peace talks in Brussels, hosted by the European Council president. In this trilateral dialogue, the two counterparts agreed to work out a bilateral peace treaty and set up a joint border commission for demarcating their boundaries in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The dialogue has been seen as a step in the right direction without Russia intervening and has allowed the EU to embrace an active role in the process. 

Burkina Faso: Ex-President Roch Kabore released from house arrest 
On 7 April, the former president Kabore, who had been kept under house arrest since the country's military takeover, was released. The interim government has promised to take additional security measures towards guaranteeing his safety. Security measures come as tensions remain high over the verdict to hand out a life sentence for the former president. President Blaise Compaoré was unseated in the 2014 uprising. This came after the West African leaders had called for the leader's release and laid out an acceptable timeline for a return to democracy. 

Sudan: Former militia leader denies committing war crimes at ICC trial
On 5 April, the former militia leader of Sudan, Ali Muhammad, who had been accused of leading thousands of pro-government fighters in Darfur into committing a series of humanitarian excesses, denied all allegations at the landmark trial in Hague. However, he has been accused of 31 war crimes and crimes against humanity. The pillage in the Darfur region had left around 300,00 people dead, and millions were displaced. 

Mali: HRW opens investigation into the alleged massacre in Moura 
On 5 April, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged that the Malian forces and Russian mercenaries executed 300 civilians in an anti-jihadist operation. Local witnesses said hundreds of men were executed in small groups during the anti-jihadist operation on 23 March in the central town of Moura. Witnesses also claim that over 100 Russians were also involved in the operation. West Africa Director at HRW stated: “The Malian government is responsible for this atrocity, the worst in Mali in a decade, whether carried out by Malian forces or associated foreign soldiers.”

Europe and the Americas This Week
Russia: Central Bank slashes its key interest rate 
On 8 April, the Russian Central Bank decided to cut its key interest rate from 20 to 17 per cent. This comes after the interest rate had been hiked after Russian troops launched their offensive against Ukraine, and a series of sanctions sent the ruble into a free fall. The statement released by the Central Bank stated: “Financial stability risks are still present but have ceased to increase for the time being, including owing to the adopted capital control measures.” However, the banks added that they would take further measures depending on the situation to deter a destabilisation of the economy. 

France: Le Pen is closing in on Macron in the French Presidential race 
On 8 April, polls suggest that president Macron’s rival Le Pen is close to winning France’s presidency. Macron’s act of shuttling between the war in Ukraine and the elections at home seemed to have helped him only to a minor extent. Le Pen, until March, was behind Macron by ten points. However, now for the first time, a victory for Le Pen seems possible. Le Pen is currently following Macron with just two points, and the 24 April presidential run would decide the outcome. 

UK: Criticisms arise over new energy security plan
On 7 April, the UK released its energy security plan, which aimed at energy independence. The plans included the enhancement of nuclear, wind and hydrogen power. Prime minister Boris Johnson said the strategy was for “tackling the mistakes of the past and making sure that we are set well for the future”. The government aims to build up to eight new nuclear reactors, two at Sizewell, and expand solar capacity by up to five times by 2035. However, the opposition has criticised the plan for not focusing on energy efficiency, insulation and reducing the cost of living. 

EU: European Parliament amends law for ensuring the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland
On 8 April, the European Parliament approved changes to the EU law, which aims to guarantee the supply of medicines from the UK to Northern Ireland. The changes aimed to ensure that medicine supplies from the UK would not require additional labelling or testing and would lead to the return of a pre-Brexit status quo. Additionally, drug manufacturers in the UK can continue to use the same packaging, and there would be no need for packaging specifically catered for Northern Ireland. The European Parliament spokesperson stated: “The new legislation will enter into force as a matter of urgency, following the swift approval of the same amended texts by both parliament and council.”   

Poland: Warsaw inks a deal with Washington for the purchase of 250 Abrams tanks 
On 5 April, Poland signed a deal with the US for acquiring 250 Abrams tanks as it moved to bolster its eastern front and deter potential Russian aggression. The deal comes following the deployment of 5,000 additional US troops and more fighter aircraft as a part of Washington’s response to the crisis. Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak pointed out that the deal is worth USD 4.75 billion and that the first tanks are expected to be delivered this year. 

Hungary: Viktor Orban becomes PM for the fourth consecutive term
On 3 April, Hungary’s incumbent prime minister Viktor Orban of the Fidesz party, came to power for the fourth consecutive time. The Fidesz party took power with nearly 86 per cent of the votes as it was able to offset the unexpectedly organised opposition led by Péter Márki-Zay. While speaking to his supporters, Orban stated: “We’ve won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, but you can certainly see it from Brussels.” The statement by Orban is a testament to the growing resentment between Hungary and the European Commission. 

The US: Senate confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson’s elevation as the Supreme Court justice 
On 8 April, the US Senate confirmed Jackson’s appointment to the Supreme Court after a vote approved her candidature. There would be two black women at the centre of power under the Biden administration in a historic first. Jackson mentioned: “It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” she told the crowd. But we’ve made it. We’ve made it. All of us.”

Lockheed Martin: Launches MAP interface for Standard orbit docking
On 4 April, a US-based Aerospace company announced that it would release a new Mission Augmentation Port (MAP). The new mechanical interface design would standardise support for on-orbit docking within the industry. Lockheed Martin will also share the data for designers to develop their own MAP-compliant docking adapters, which would permit the interoperability of docking satellites. Lockheed Martin’s Senior Director of Advanced Programs said: “Just like USB was designed to standardise computer connections, these documents are designed to standardise how spacecraft connect to each other on orbit.” 

Costa Rica: Rodrigo Chaves set to take charge as President
On 3 April, former finance minister Rodrigo Chavez, who surprised many by making it to the presidential run-off, is set to become the next leader. The voter turn-out in Costa Rica was unusually low, as more than 42 per cent of eligible voters decided not to cast their votes. In his victory speech, Chavez, who is fending off allegations of sexual harassment during his time at the World Bank, mentioned: “For me, this is not a medal nor a trophy, but rather an enormous responsibility, heaped with challenges and difficulties that we will all resolve.” 

Brazil: Indigenous groups make their way to Brasilia to press for land rights
On 4 April, hundreds of Brazilian indigenous people gathered for a ten-day camp in the capital. They protested to protect their lands rights and opposed a bill that would allow mining explorations on the protected indigenous lands. Head of the country’s leading indigenous umbrella organisation, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples (APIB), representing most of Brazil’s 90,00 indigenous people, said: “We will not retreat and campaign to get more indigenous people elected to Congress in this year’s general election.”

Argentina: Chile’s President Gabriel Boric visits Buenos Aires
On 4 April, Chile’s president Boric met with Argentina’s president Fernandez in Buenos Aires. The two leaders pledged to work on economic, energy and cultural issues. A joint declaration was signed that addressed issues surrounding integration and bilateral energy cooperation. Furthermore, the leaders also discussed the conflict with the Mapuche indigenous group and other politically sensitive issues between the two cross-Andean neighbours. 

About the authors
Harini Madhusudan and Rashmi B R are PhD Scholars at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan is a Project Associate at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Angkuran Dey and Meghna Manoj are Postgraduate scholars at the Centre for South Asian Studies at Pondicherry University.

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