Daily Briefs

Photo : Reuters

22 September 2021, Wednesday

Erdogan's UNGA address

IEA calls on Russia to increase European gas supply, Germany's pandemic radicalization, Gender rights referendum in Switzerland, ECHR rules on Litvinenko murder

By Joeana Cera Matthews
76th UNGA session: Erdogan promises ratification of Paris Climate Agreement 

On 22 September, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) confirming Istanbul's readiness to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement. The landmark agreement focuses on limiting the dangerous emissions that contribute to global warming. These dangerous emissions, scientists claim, are increasing extreme and frequent weather events. The announcement comes after Turkey was subjected to a year of devastating environmental conditions owing to climate change. 

Erdogan's address titled, "A Fairer World is Possible," included calls to justice and touched upon the UNGA session's themes. From COVID-19 to multilateralism, several matters of concern were addressed. However, the President dedicated the entire closing section of his comprehensive speech to climate issues. Despite addressing a wide range of issues, his announcement on the Paris Agreement took precedence across media outlets. Turkey had signed the Paris Climate Agreement back in 2016, however, they did not officially ratify the same in the parliament. Deciding to finally ratify the Paris climate agreement was the highlight of Erdogan's address. He expects to complete the process in time for the UN Climate Change Conference in November at Glasgow.

Why ratify now?

From the torrential rain-induced flash floods to the scorching wildfires, the past year's weather conditions were not kind to Turkey. Erdogan and his government came under severe criticism over his handling of the crises — the flash floods, fires and finally the drought. The lack of appropriate equipment and technology to handle the situation were some of the main criticisms that the Erdogan administration received. In light of this, environmental issues have been prioritized and approving the Paris Agreement is a step toward acknowledging and acting on these concerns. 

Climate as a primary agenda at the UNGA 

Climate change and biodiversity were among the themes chosen for the 76th UNGA. The recent IPCC report has raised concerns about the fastening pace and impact of climate change. Climate financing and adaptation have also been discussed at the assembly. Erdogan, himself stated that the world needed to prioritize climate change before inaction led to irreversible consequences. From the US' Biden's address to that of China's Xi Jinping's address, climate change definitely claimed importance as a matter to be acted upon at the earliest.

Erdogan in New York

On 20 September, Erdogan met with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the newly inaugurated Turkevi Center in New York. Later in the day, he also met with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres discussing developments in Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya among other issues. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met with his counterpart regarding continued cooperation on Afghanistan.


"Erdogan tells UN Turkey will ratify Paris Climate Agreement", France24, 22 September 2021 

 "Turkey set to submit Paris climate pact to parliament next month: President", Hurriyet Daily News, 22 September 2021 

"Erdogan meets British premier, UN chief in New York", Hurriyet Daily News, 21 September 2021 

"Policy Brief: What We'll be Listening for at UNGA 76", SDG Knowledge Hub, 17 September 2021 

"UNGA 2021 latest updates: Kinf Abdullah urges 'rethink' on climate and pandemic efforts", The National, 22 September 2021

Burhanettin Duran, "Transformation in global system and Erdogan's UN visit", Daily Sabah, 22 September 2021 

"World leaders speak at United Nations General Assembly", Al Jazeera, 21 September 2021 

By Vaishnavi Iyer

Canary Islands: La Palma volcano's new vent; lava approaching sea
On September 21, nearly 200 people fled their homes as Spain's erupting volcano developed a new fissure. The volcano erupted after a week of seismic activity, gradually turning into a 3.8 magnitude earthquake. The new vent of the La Palma volcano is 900 meters which emerged after a 4.1 magnitude earthquake on Monday. Government spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez reported that 6,000 people from La Palma have been evacuated and 183 houses damaged. No casualties have been reported, however there is much overwhelm about the situation. Experts claim that there lies a possibility of continuing damage. ("Canary Islands volcano: New vent opens, more people flee", Deutsche Welle, 21 September 2021

Murder over face mask raises concerns of radicalization
Lawmakers in Germany are concerned of the radicalization among people who oppose COVID-19 restrictions. In the wake of the killing of a 20-year-old clerk in Idar; authorities expressed fears over the growing radicalization. The 20-year-old was killed when he asked a customer to wear a mask. Police authorities did not release details till September 20 regarding the matter. The 49-year-old man turned himself in on September 19, and upon arrest said that he had acted "out in anger". ("Germany: Gas station employee killed over a face mask", Deutsche Welle, 20 September 2021

Russia accused of Litvinenko murder by ECHR
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has accused Russia of being involved in the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko. It said that Moscow was 'beyond doubt' involved in the assassination. Litvinenko worked with the Russian security forces before defecting and moving to the UK. He was given UK citizenship along with his now widowed wife. He was poisoned to death with a tea containing the radioactive substance Polonium-210. While Russia denies its involvement with the murder; it has yet to prove its innocence. The probe found that the killing was guided by an operation of the Russian Federal Security Services (FSB). Russia, however, has claimed the ruling to be 'unfounded' and has continued denying its involvement with the murder. ("Russia was responsible for Litvinenko killing, European court rules", Deutsche Welle, 21 September 2021) https://www.dw.com/en/russia-was-responsible-for-litvinenko-killing-european-court-rules/a-59248303 

Switzerland's referendum to legalize same-sex unions on 26 September
Switzerland is set to vote in a referendum on September 26 over legalizing same-sex marriages and adoption. The referendum comes in the wake of a highly-charged campaign by gay rights activists against the conservatives. The country remains among the last few in Europe to continue the ban over same-sex marriages. (Silke Koltrowitz and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, Cecile Mantovani, "Divided Swiss to vote on same-sex marriage", Reuters, 22 September 2021

Lithuania asks citizens to rid themselves of Chinese phones over concerns of censorship
Xiaomi's 10T 5G in Lithuania has been reported to contain built-in sensors which censor and detect phrases such as "Free Tibet", "Long live Taiwan independence" and "democracy movement". The government has advised people to "throw away their Chinese smartphones". The phones sold in Lithuania come with a disabled content filtering option but censor keyword lists would appear periodically. The government expressed data protection concerns, with the user encrypted data being sent to Singapore where GDPR rules of the EU are not applicable. (Andrius Sytas, "Lithuania says throw away Chinese phones due to censorship concerns", Reuters, 22 September 2021

IEA intervenes to push increased Russian gas exports to Europe
The International Energy Agency has called on Russia to boost its gas exports to Europe amid increasing prices. The intervention was to help Europe reach adequate levels of gas preparation for the coming winter seasons. Most governments across Europe are looking towards energy policies and discussions on global gas shortages. Gas prices have risen by 250 per cent this year. Governments all across Europe - Spain, Frace, Italy and Germany are capping off prices to avoid higher bills. An energy meeting has been set up to address the issue. This marks an important point for Russia to establish itself as a reliable gas supplier to the EU markets. (Jillian Ambrose, "IEA calls on Russia to send more gas to Europe before winter", The Guardian, 21 September 2021

ECFR Survey: Emergence of Cold War between the US, China, and Russia
A survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations among 12 member states stated a new cold war emerging between the US, China and Russia. The polling revealed that most voters hold the new leadership in Brussels responsible for the budding international conflict. The AUKUS alliance has already caused diplomatic rifts; the poll suggests the widening of differences between Brussels and EU due to the disconnect between the policy ambitions of both states. This in turn will weaken the EU's response to any Russian or Chinese threat. About 15 percent of Europeans believed that they were in a cold war with China or Russia while 62 percent of the responders anticipated a new cold war between the US and China. The study also revealed that a "cold war" analogy was more likely to repel voters given that they didn't see this as an immediate threat. Thus, Brussels' "hawkishness" in its policies would not work in its favour; especially in the international front. (Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden, "Russia was behind Litvinenko assassination, European court finds", Reuters, 21 September 2021

AUKUS: UK's Johnson asks French to 'get a grip'
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked France 'to get a grip' over its row with the AUKUS allies. Earlier this week, France called off its talks with their UK defence minister Ben Wallace, despite assurance of no intentional harm directed at France. The leaders agreed on sharing elaborate talks to solve the row. In the wake of this, President Macron is set to call President Biden to decide on 'concrete measures'. The AUKUS row requires rebuilding trust among the French government and the trilateral deal allies, which France hopes to do through concrete and actionable steps. (Marie Jackson, "Boris Johnson tells Macron: Donnez-moi un break over new pact", BBC, 22 September 2021

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