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EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 17/12/2021

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 17/12/2021

Politico – Helen Collis / G7 countries warn Omicron ‘biggest threat to global public health’

  • Health ministers from the world’s seven richest democracies agreed Thursday that the Omicron coronavirus variant that is surging across Europe and other parts of the world is the “biggest threat to global public health.”
  • Working together and sharing information will be “crucial” in responding to the rapidly growing Omicron wave, G7 health ministers agreed in the final meeting of the U.K.’s G7 presidency.
  • The U.K. recorded more than 88,000 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, with Omicron cases driving the surge. The country has now registered more than 49,000 cases of Omicron total, while in Denmark, a country with a population of around 6 million and another Omicron hotspot, more than 9,000 Omicron cases have now been recorded.
  • EU countries are facing a wave from both the Delta and Omicron variants, as they head into the winter holidays. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control this week also warned that the overall risk Omicron poses to public health in Europe is “very high.”
  • The New York Times – Emily Anthes / Scientists are racing to gauge the threat of Omicron

Financial Times – Demetri Sevastopulo and Miles Kruppa / US accuses China of developing ‘brain control weaponry’

  • The US has put China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and 11 affiliated biotechnology research institutes on an export blacklist for allegedly helping the Chinese military to develop “brain-control” weapons. 
  • The US commerce department on Thursday put the research institutes on the “entity list”, which bars US companies from exporting technology that originated in America to the Chinese institutions. 
  • “China is choosing to use these technologies to pursue control over its people and its repression of members of ethnic and religious minority groups,” said Gina Raimondo, US commerce secretary. 
  • A senior US official said China was using emerging biotechnologies to try to develop future military applications that included “gene editing, human performance enhancement [and] brain machine interfaces”.
  • The Washington Post – Felicia Sommez / Senate passes Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, in major step toward holding China accountable for repression in Xinjiang

Financial Times – Bryan Harris / Brazil expels IMF office over growth forecasts

  • The Brazilian government is kicking out the IMF’s representative office in the country after complaints over the institution’s economic forecasts. 
  • “It has been years since they were needed here. They stayed because they like feijoada [black bean and meat stew], football, good conversation and, from time to time, to criticise and make wrong predictions,” said Paulo Guedes, Brazil’s finance minister. 
  • From June 30 — when the current IMF representative is due to be replaced — Brazil would no longer recognise the institution’s office in Brasília, said Guedes, adding: “We told them to forecast elsewhere.” The fund said it had agreed to close the office by that date. 
  • The decision follows growing criticism from Guedes over the IMF’s forecasting in recent years, particularly last year during the height of the pandemic. He cited the fund’s estimate of a 9 per cent contraction in gross domestic product last year, which was considerably worse than the 4 per cent drop officially reported by the government.
  • Council on Foreign Relations – Jonathan Masters, Amdrew Chatzky and Anshu Siripurapu / The IMF: the world’s controversial financial firefighter

Euractiv – Frédéric Simon / EU energy talks dissolve over carbon, green finance fights

  • Talks between European Union country leaders on energy policy ended with no agreement on Thursday, as states squabbled over how to respond to record-high carbon prices and upcoming green investment rules.
  • EU country leaders met in Brussels for a summit to discuss several issues, including soaring energy prices, but some member states – notably Poland – pushed the EU to curb volatile prices in the carbon market by limiting speculative activity, a stance at odds with that of other countries, including Germany.
  • Another squabble emerged over whether the EU should label gas and nuclear energy as climate-friendly investments, with some states seeking to hurry the European Commission into proposing this month the rules on its “sustainable finance taxonomy”, a policy that has become the focus of intense lobbying from governments.
  • “We have realised that there were divergent opinions around the table and we were unable to reach agreement on the conclusions presented,” said EU summit chair Charles Michel. He added that leaders would discuss the issue again at a future meeting.
  • Bloomberg – Ewa Krukowska and Nikos Chrysoloras / EU leaders set to ask for deeper monitoring of carbon market

Our longer reads for the weekend: 

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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