Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story.
What's China doing to fight climate change?
This week a year’s worth of rain fell in just three days in China’s Henan province, flooding roads and public transport systems, killing dozens and displacing thousands. Floods are common in China’s rainy season, but this event is being linked to the climate crisis. China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world – and many of its most carbon-intensive sectors employ vast numbers of people. At the same time the country has led efforts to develop green technologies like solar and wind, bringing down prices and encouraging the global shift away from fossil fuels. China says it shouldn’t be expected to follow the same decarbonisation timetable as major Western economies. But the US Climate Envoy John Kerry this week insisted that efforts to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be "essentially impossible" without faster action from Beijing. So how crucial is China to the fight against climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
Cuba at a crossroads
Unauthorised public gatherings are illegal in Cuba and protests are rare. But this week the island nation has witnessed its biggest demonstrations in decades. People took to the streets calling for an end to President Miguel Díaz-Canel's government. They blamed him for food and medicine shortages, price hikes and the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Díaz-Canel described the demonstrators as 'counter-revolutionaries' and blamed the United States and its economic sanctions - in place in various forms since 1962 - for both the protests and Cuba's wider problems. So how big of a challenge do these demonstrations pose to Cuba's Communist government? Fidel Castro ruled for decades and was succeeded by his brother Raúl. How did their departure from the political stage change attitudes in the country and did it make protests more likely? And what is the Biden administration likely to do now? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts to discuss Cuba at a crossroads.
The pandemic brings more robots
The world’s major economies are moving again thanks to mass vaccination against the coronavirus. President Biden says a higher demand for workers will help them negotiate increased wages and better conditions. But instead of welcoming them back, many businesses are replacing workers with automation and artificial intelligence - often a much cheaper and more reliable option in the long term. Even before the pandemic, one influential think tank predicted nearly 25 percent of jobs are being lost to automation. And it is believed that the months of lockdowns have accelerated that shift, especially in routine low-skilled jobs that require minimal human interaction. So where is the shift happening and how has the pandemic affected trends? What jobs are under threat, what are educators and policymakers doing about it, and could it actually mean more people doing more creative and fulfilling jobs? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts to discuss how accelerated automation is changing the world of work.
Palestinians turn against the leadership
There is continuing anger in the West Bank over the death in custody of a vociferous critic of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Nizar Banat, an anti-corruption campaigner, was picked up in a violent night-time raid at his home in Hebron. The Palestinian Authority has launched an investigation into the circumstances of Banat's death and has promised action against anyone responsible. But that's done little to placate protesters who allege that the Palestinian security forces use extra-judicial force against anyone who questions or criticises the leadership. They say this behaviour is emblematic of a wider break down of law and order and a thriving culture of corruption in the West Bank, where elections were last held over 15 years ago. So why is corruption such a problem and where is it happening? Is there scope for reforms with the current leadership in charge? And how dependent is any change on the overall relationship with Israel and rival administration in Gaza, run by Hamas? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of Palestinian commentators.
Hydrogen: A climate game-changer?
With less than six months to go before the next big climate conference (COP26) in Scotland, the world's major polluters are under pressure to significantly increase their ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions. One of the solutions being discussed is to increase the production of clean hydrogen. At present most of the world's hydrogen has a high carbon footprint, but engineers are coming up with innovative ways to produce the gas with the help of renewable energy. They say it will allow for a faster reduction of carbon emissions without the need to overhaul existing industrial infrastructure. It’s also claimed that hydrogen-powered cells can drastically cut pollution from aviation and transportation.
But others argue that using large amounts of wind and solar power to create ‘green hydrogen’ is wasteful and that governments should instead focus on improving the supply of renewables. So how clean can hydrogen get and how valuable could it be in the fight against climate change? Will the high costs involved in developing the industry pay off in the long run, or does the technology give us all false hope? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss the role of hydrogen in attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
China's global project has a new rival
At their annual summit in Britain this year, the group of seven industrialised nations, or G7, has agreed to an infrastructure development plan for developing countries. The Build Back Better World – or B3W – is seen as an alternative to the multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched by China about a decade ago. The BRI has been a relatively easy source of funding for power plants, mining, road building and a range of other development projects, and more than 100 countries have partnered with Beijing as part of the scheme. But these projects are not without controversy and there are questions about China's long-term intentions in the countries taking part.
The White House says its plan is not about confronting China, but about providing a better and more transparent alternative that reflects the democratic values of the countries involved. But critics say that without a consistent China policy across its member states the G7 plan is bound to face difficulties. What exactly is B3W trying to achieve and how will it benefit the developing world? Will it compete or compliment China's BRI? Can the G7 strategy be as consistent as China's? And how open will developing countries be to accepting the promotion of Western values? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.