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Ukraine

The former Soviet republic has struggled to forge an independent path, torn between Europe and the United States in the West and its long-standing ties to Russia in the East.

 

 

Balkans

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Separatist rhetoric among Bosnian Serb leadership is raising concerns about the dissolution of Bosnia.

 

 

Future of Democracy

Trade

President Biden’s goal of bolstering democracies around the world will need robust U.S.-Europe cooperation to succeed.

Southeast Asia

Will the Summit for Democracy deliver on its goal of renewing democracy around the world? 

 

Climate Change

Energy and Environment

The Biden administration has unveiled plans to dramatically ramp up the nation’s offshore wind industry to help fulfill U.S. climate pledges. How realistic is the roadmap?

 

Energy and Climate Policy

Jason Bordoff, cofounding dean, Columbia Climate School, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy, and professor of professional practice in international and public affairs at Columbia University, leads a conversation on energy policy and efforts to combat climate change.   FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the CFR Fall 2021 Academic Webinar Series. I am Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record. And the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have with us today Jason Bordoff to talk about energy policy and efforts to combat climate change. Jason Bordoff is cofounding dean of the Columbia Climate School, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy, and professor of professional practice in international and public affairs at Columbia University. He previously served as special assistant to President Obama and senior director for energy and climate change on the National Security Council, and he has held senior policy positions on the White House’s National Economic Council and Council on Environmental Quality. He is a columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and is often on TV and radio. So, we’re really happy to have him with us today. So, Jason, thank you very much. We are just coming off the COP26 conference that took place in Glasgow that started on October 31, I believe, and concluded last Friday, November 12. Could you talk about what came out of the conference at a high level, if you think that the agreements that were reached went far enough or didn’t go far enough, and what your policy recommendations are to really advance and fight the countdown that we have to the Earth warming? BORDOFF: Yeah. Thanks. Well, first, thanks to you, Irina, and thanks to CFR for the invitation to be with you all today. Really delighted to have the chance to talk about these important issues. I was there for much of the two-week period in Glasgow representing the Energy Center and the Climate School here at Columbia. I think it’s kind of a glass half-full/glass half-empty outlook coming out of Glasgow. So I think the Glasgow conference was notable in several respects. We’ll look back on it, I think, and some of the things we will remember are—some of the things we’ll remember—(dog barking)—sorry—are the role of the private sector and private finance, I think, was much more prominent in Glasgow this year. I think there were commitments around some important things like methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, was much higher on the priority list in this U.N. climate meeting than in prior ones. You had pledges on deforestation and other things that are important. And then the final agreement did have some important elements to it, particularly around Article 6, how you design carbon markets around the world. But the glass half-empty outlook is still we are nowhere close to being on track for the kind of targets that countries and companies are committing to: net zero by 2050 or 1.5 degrees of warming. I think there were—there should be hope and optimism coming out of COP. The role of the youth—at Columbia, we were honored to organize a private roundtable for President Obama with youth climate activists. It’s hard to spend time with young people in COP or on campus here at Columbia or anywhere else and not be inspired by how passionately they take these issues. So the activism you saw in the streets, the sense of urgency among everyone—activists, civil society, governments, the private sector—felt different, I think, at this COP than other COPs that I have attended or probably the ones I haven’t attended. But there was also for some I saw kind of we’re coming out of this and we’re on track for below two degrees. Or, you know, Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency, tweeted that when you add up all the pledges we’re on track for 1.8 degrees Celsius warming. He’s talking about all of the pledges meaning every country who’s promised to be net zero by 2050, 2060, 2070, and at least from my standpoint there’s a good reason to take those with a grain of salt. They’re not often backed up by concrete plans or ideas about how you would get anywhere close to achieving those goals. So it’s good that we have elevated ambition, which is kind of one of the core outcomes of the COP in Glasgow. But it is also the case that when you elevate ambition and the reality doesn’t change as fast or maybe faster than the ambition is changing, what you have is a growing gap between ambition and reality. And I think that’s where we are today. Oil use is rising each and every year. Gas use is rising. Coal use is going up this year. I don’t know if it’s going to keep going up, but at a minimum it’s going to plateau. It’s not falling off a cliff. So the reality of the energy world today—which is 75 percent of emissions are energy—is not anything close to net zero by 2050. It is the case that progress is possible. So if you go back to before the Paris agreement, we were on track for something like maybe 3.7 degrees Celsius of warming. If you look at a current outlook, it’s maybe 2.7, 2.8 (degrees), so just below three degrees. So progress is possible. That’s good. If you look at the nationally determined contribution pledges—so the commitments countries made that are more near term, more accountability for them; the commitments they made to reduce emissions by 2030, their NDCs—we would be on track for about 2.4 degrees Celsius warming, assuming all those pledges are fulfilled. But history would suggest a reason to be a little skeptical about that. The U.S. has a pledge to get to a 50 to 52 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, and look at how things are working or not working in Washington and make your own judgment about how likely it is that we’ll put in place the set of policies that would be required to get to that ambitious level of decarbonization by 2030. And I think the same healthy dose of skepticism is warranted when you look elsewhere in the world. But even if we achieve all of those, we’re still falling short of below two degrees, nevertheless 1.5 (degrees). And so, again, I think the outcome from COP for me was optimism that progress is possible—we have made a lot of progress in the last ten years—but acute concern that we’re nowhere close to being on track to take targets like 1.5 degrees Celsius or net zero by 2050 seriously. And we just need to be honest as a climate and energy community—and I live in both of those worlds; there’s a lot of overlap between them, obviously—about how hard it is to achieve the goals we are talking about. Renewables have grown incredibly quickly. Optimistic headlines every day about what is happening in solar and wind. Costs have come down more than 90 percent. Battery costs have come down more than 90 percent in the last decade. But solar and wind create electricity, and electricity is 20 percent of global final energy consumption. The outlook for electric vehicles is much more promising today. Lots of companies like Ford and others are committing to be all-electric by a certain date ten or twenty years from now. Cars are 20 percent of global oil demand. About half of the emission reductions—cumulative emission reductions between now and 2050 will need to come from technologies that are not yet available at commercial scale and sectors of the economy that are really hard to decarbonize like steel and cement and ships and airplanes. We’re not—we don’t have all the tools we need to do those yet. And then, in Glasgow, the focus of a lot of what we did at Columbia was on—we did a lot of different things, but one of the key areas of focus was the challenge of thinking about decarbonization in emerging and developing economies. I don’t think we talk about that enough. The issue of historical responsibility of loss and damage was more on the agenda this year, and I think you’ll hear even more about it in the year ahead. The next COP is in Africa. There was growing tension between rich and poor countries at this COP. I think a starting point was what we see in the pandemic alone and how inequitable around the world the impacts of the pandemic are. Many people couldn’t even travel to Glasgow from the Global South because they couldn’t get vaccinated. We need, between now and 2050, estimates are—a ballpark—$100 trillion of additional investment in clean energy if we’re going to get on track for 1.5 (degrees)/net zero by 2050. So the question that should obsess all of us who work in this space: Where will that money come from? Most of it’s going to be private sector, not public. Most of it is going to be in developing and emerging economies. That is where the growth in energy is going to come from. Eight hundred million people have no access to energy at all. Nevertheless, if you model what energy access means, it’s often defined as, you have enough to turn on lights or charge your cellphone. But when you talk about even a fraction of the standard of living we take for granted—driving a car, having a refrigerator, having an air conditioner—the numbers are massive. They’re just huge, and the population of Africa’s going to double to 2.2 billion by the year 2050. So these are really big numbers and we need to recognize how hard this is. But we should also recognize that it is possible. We have a lot of the tools we need. We need innovation in technology and we need stronger policy, whether that’s a carbon price or standards for different sectors. And then, of course, we need private-sector actors to step up as well, and all of us. And we have these great commitments to achieve these goals with a lot of capital being put to work, and now we need to hold people accountable to make sure that they do that. So, again, I look back on the last two weeks or before, two weeks of COP, the gap between ambition and reality got bigger. Not necessarily a bad thing—ambition is a good thing—but now it’s time to turn the ambition into action. We need governments to follow through on their pledges. Good news is we have a wide menu of options for reducing emissions. The bad news is there’s not a lot of time at our current rate of emissions. And emissions are still going up each and every year. They’re not even falling yet. Remember, what matters is the cumulative total, not the annual flow. At our current rate of emissions, the budget—carbon budget for staying below 1.5 (degrees) is used up in, around a decade or so, so there’s not much time to get to work. But I’m really excited about what we’re building with the first climate school in the country here at Columbia. When it comes to pushing—turning ambition into action, that requires research, it requires education, and it requires engaging with partners in civil society and the public sector and the private sector to help turn that research into action. And the people we’re working with here every day on campus are the ones who are going to be the leaders that are going to hopefully do a better job—(laughs)—than we’ve done over the last few decades. So whatever you’re doing at your educational institution—be it teaching or research or learning—we all have a role to play in the implementation of responsible, forward-thinking energy policy. I’m really excited to have the chance to talk with you all today. Look forward to your questions and to the conversation. Thank you again. FASKIANOS: Jason, that’s fantastic. Thank you very much for that informative and sobering view. So let’s turn to all of you now for your questions. So I’m going to go first to—I have one raised hand from Stephen Kass. Q: OK. Thank you. Jason, thank you for the very useful and concise summary. What specific kinds of energy programs do you think developing countries should now be pursuing? Should they be giving up coal entirely? Should they be importing natural gas? Should they be investing in renewables or nuclear? What recipe would you advise developing countries to pursue for their own energy needs? BORDOFF: It’s going to need to be a lot of different things, so there’s no single answer to that, of course. And by the way, I’ll just say it would be super helpful if people don’t mind just introducing yourself when you ask a question. That would be helpful to me, at least. I appreciate it. I think they need to do a lot of different things. I think I would start with low-hanging fruit, and renewable electricity is not the entire answer. The sun and wind are intermittent. Electricity can’t do certain things yet, like power ships and airplanes. But the low cost of solar and wind, I think, does mean it’s a good place to start, and then we need to think about those other sectors as well. I think a key thing there comes back to finance, and that’s why we’re spending so much time on it with our research agenda here. Access to financing and cost of capital are really important. Clean energy tends to be more capital-intensive and then, like solar and wind, more CAPEX, less OPEX over time. But attaining financing in poor countries is really difficult and expensive. Lack of experience with renewable energy, local banks are often reluctant to lend to those kinds of projects. And then foreign investors, where most of that capital is going to come from, view projects often in emerging markets and developing economies particularly as more risky. Local utilities may not be creditworthy. There’s currency inflation risk in many developing countries, people worry about recouping their upfront investment if bills are paid in local currency. There’s political risk, maybe corruption, inconsistently enforced regulations. And it can be harder to build clean energy infrastructure if you don’t have other kinds of infrastructure, like ports, and roads, and bridges and a good electrical grid. So I would start there. And I think there’s a role for those countries to scale up their clean energy sectors, but also for policymakers and multilateral development banks and governments elsewhere—there was a lot of focus in Glasgow on whether the developed countries would make good on their promise made in Copenhagen to send $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries. And they fell short of that. But even that is kind of a rounding error, compared to the one to two trillion (dollars) a year that the International Energy Agency estimates is needed. So there are many other things besides just writing a check that government, like in the U.S. or elsewhere, can do. The Development Finance Corporation, for example, can lend to banks in local and affordable rates, finance projects in local currency, expand the availability of loan guarantees. I’ve written before about how I think even what often gets called industrial policy, let’s think about some sectors—in the same way China did with solar or batteries fifteen years ago. Are there sectors where governments might help to grow domestic industries and, by doing that, scale—bring down the cost of technologies that are expensive now, the premium for low-carbon or zero-carbon cement or steel. It’s just—it’s not reasonable to ask a developing country to build new cities, and new highways, and all the new construction they’re going to do with zero-carbon steel and cement because it’s just way too expensive. So how do you bring those costs down? If we think about investments, we can make through U.S. infrastructure or other spending to do that, that not only may help to grow some domestic industries and jobs here, that can be its own form of global leadership if we’re driving those costs of those technologies down to make it cheaper for others to pick up. So I think that’s one of the places I’d start. But there are a lot of other things we need to do too. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question—and let me just go back. Stephen Kass is an adjunct professor at NYU. So the next question is a written question from Wei Liang, who is an assistant professor of international policy studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. And the question is: I wonder if you could briefly address the Green Climate Fund and individual countries’ pledge on that. BORDOFF: Yeah, I mean, it touches a little bit on what I said a moment ago about the need for developed countries to provide climate finance to developing countries. And so I think that’s—it’s important that we take those obligations seriously, and that we, in advanced economies, step up and make those funds available. And but, again, we’re talking—the amount we’re still talking about is so small compared to the amounts that are needed to deal both with the impacts of climate change, and then also to curb climate change, to mitigate climate change. Because we know that developing countries are in the parts of the world that will often be most adversely impacted by climate impacts—droughts, and heat waves, and storms, and food security issues—from a standpoint of equity are the parts of the world that have done the least to cause this problem, responsible for very few emissions. If you look cumulatively at emissions since the start of the industrial age, about half—nearly half have come from the U.S. and EU combined. Two percent from the entire continent of Africa. So they are using very little energy today, haven’t therefore contributed to the problems, and have the fewest resources, of course, to cope with the impacts, and also to develop in a cleaner way. Sometimes it’s cheaper to develop in a cleaner way. Renewables are often today competitive with coal, even without subsidy. But there are many areas where that’s not the case, and there is a cost. And we need to help make sure that, you know, we’re thinking about what a just transition looks like. And that means many different things for different communities, whether you’re a coal worker or an agricultural worker in California that may, you know, be working outside in worse and worse heat. But it also means thinking about the parts of the world that need assistance to make this transition. So I think we need to be taking that much more seriously. FASKIANOS: Next question is a raised hand from Tara Weil, who is an undergraduate student at Pomona College. Q: Hi. So, given that developed nations are the largest contributors to carbon emissions, as you’ve said, how can larger powers be convinced as to the importance of addressing global inequality with regards to climate change? And thank you so much, also, for giving this talk. BORDOFF: Yeah. Thank you for being here. I don’t have a great answer to your question. I mean, the politics of foreign aid in general are not great, as we often hear in events at CFR. So I do think one—we need to continue to encourage, through political advocacy, civil society, and other ways, governments in advanced economies to think about all the tools they have at their disposal. I think the ones that are going to be—I’m reluctant to try to speak as a political commenter rather than a climate and energy commenter on what’s going to work politically. But part of that is demonstrating what—it’s not just generosity. It is also in one’s self-interest to do these things. And just look at the pandemic, right? What would it look like for the U.S. to show greater leadership, or any country to show even greater leadership and help cope with the pandemic all around the world in parts of the world that are struggling to vaccinate their people? That is not only an act of generosity, but it is clearly one of self-interest too, because it’s a pretty globalized economy and you’re not going to be able to get a pandemic under control at home if it’s not under control abroad. Of course, the same is true of the impacts of climate change. It doesn’t matter where a ton of CO2 comes from. And we can decarbonize our own economy, but the U.S. is only 15 percent of annual emissions globally. So it’s not going to make a huge difference unless everyone else does that as well. There is also the potential, I think, to—and we see this increasingly when you look at the discussion of the Biden infrastructure bill, how they talk about the U.S.-China relationship, which of course are the two most important countries from the standpoint of climate change. It is one of cooperation. That was one of the success stories in Glasgow, was a commitment to cooperate more. We’ll see if we can actually do it, because it’s a pretty difficult and tense U.S.-China relationship right now. So the question is, can you separate climate from all those other problems on human rights, and intellectual property, and everything else and then cooperate on climate? It’s been hard, but there’s a renewed commitment to try to do that. But also, a recognition that action in the clean energy space is not only about cooperation but it’s also about economic competition. And you have seen more and more focus on both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle on thinking about the security of supply chains, and critical minerals, and the inputs in lithium and rare earth elements that go into many aspects of clean energy. To my point before about aspects of industrial policy that might help grow your own domestic economy, I think there are ways in which countries can take measures that help—that help their own economies and help workers and help create jobs, and that in the process are helping to drive forward more quickly the clean energy technologies we need, and bring down the cost of those technologies to make them more accessible and available in some of the less-developed countries. So I think trying to frame it less as do we keep funds at home, do we write a check abroad? But there are actually many steps you could do to create economic opportunities and are win-win. Without being pollyannish about it, I think there is some truth to some of those. And I think we can focus on those politically as well. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take an international question from Luciana Alexandra Ghica, who is an associate professor for international cooperation at the University of Bucharest. What type of topics do you think we should address immediately in university programs that provide training in climate, development, global policies, or international public affairs, so that a new generation of leaders really pushes forward the agenda on climate change? BORDOFF: Yeah. Well, I’ll say a quick word about what we’re doing at Columbia, and maybe it’s relevant to that question, because Columbia has made this historic commitment to build a climate school. There are many initiatives, and centers, and institutes. There was not only a handful of schools—law school, business school, medical school, engineering school. And it is the largest commitment a university can make to any particular topic, is something on the scale of a school with degree-granting authority and tenure-granting authority, and all the things that come with a school. And it’s just the scale at a place like Columbia, and many other places, is just enormous. That’s what we’re doing on climate. We have created a climate school. And I’m honored President Bollinger asked me to help lead it. And we’re going to build a faculty. We have our first inaugural class of masters’ students, about ninety students that are going through the program right now, and we have a building in Manhattan for the climate school, and on and on. The idea—but the question is, what is climate, right? Because academia has been historically organized into traditional academic disciplines. So you have people who you hire through a tenured search, and they go to the engineering faculty and build their lab there. And there’s law professors, and their business school professors, and on and on and on, social work. But for climate, you need all of those, right? They all kind of need to come together. And, like, interdisciplinary doesn’t even sort of do justice to what it means to think about approaching this systemic—it’s a systemic challenge. The system has to change. And so whatever solution you’re talking about—if you want to get hydrogen to scale in the world, let’s—you know, for certain sectors of the economy that may be hard to do with renewable energy, or in terms of renewable energy and, say, green hydrogen. You need engineering breakthroughs to bring down the cost of electrolyzers, or you need new business models, or you need financial institution frameworks that figure out how you’re going to put the capital into these things. You need the policy incentives. How are you going to—you need permitting and regulation. How do we permit hydrogen infrastructure? It’s barely been done before. There are concerns in the environmental justice community about some aspects of technologies like that or carbon capture that need to be taken seriously and addressed. There are geopolitical implications, potentially, to starting to build a global trade in ammonia or hydrogen, and what security concerns—energy security concerns might accompany those, the way we thought about oil or gas from Russia into Europe. I have an article coming out in the next issue of Foreign Affairs about the geopolitics of the energy transition. So we need disciplines that come together and look at a problem like that in all of those multifaceted dimensions, so we can figure out how to get from a lab to scale out in the world. And so when we think about the areas of concentration here, climate finance, climate justice, climate in society, climate in international security—I mean, a range of things that I think are really important to help people understand. And that’s going to be a major focus of what we do at the climate school here. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Let’s go next to Sean Grossnickle, who has raised his hand. A graduate student at Fordham University. Q: Speak now? Hi, this is not Sean but Henry Schwalbenberg, also at Fordham, where I teach in our international political economy and development program. I went to a conference about a month ago in Rome. And there was a physicist from CERN. And he was a big advocate of something I’d never heard of, and this is this thorium for nuclear reactors. And he was going through all the pros, but I wanted a more balanced perspective on it. And I’m hoping that you might give me a little pros and cons of this thorium nuclear reactor technique. BORDOFF: Yeah. I will be honest and say that nuclear is not my area of focus. We have a pretty strong team here that works in nuclear, and I think is optimistic about the breakthroughs we’re going to see in several potential areas of nuclear—advanced nuclear technology, that being one of them, or small modular reactors, and others. At a high level, I will say I do think if you’re serious about the math of decarbonization and getting to net zero by 2050, it’s hard to do without zero-carbon nuclear power. It’s firm, baseload power. It runs all the time. Obviously, there are challenges with intermittency of solar and wind, although they can be addressed to some extent with energy story. Most of the analyses that are done show not necessarily in the U.S. but in other parts of the world significant growth in nuclear power. The International Energy Agency just modeled what it looks like to get to net zero by 2050, and this pathway that got a lot of attention for saying things like we would not be investing in new oil and gas supply. The world has to change a lot pretty quickly. And they have about a hundred new nuclear plants being built by 2030, so that’s a pretty big number. So we’re going to need all tools—(laughs)—that we have at our disposal. And unfortunately, I worry we may still fall short. So I think at a high level we need to think really hard about how to improve nuclear technology. The people who know that really well I think are optimistic about our ability to do that. And I will follow up on thorium in particular with my colleagues at Columbia, and happy to follow up with you offline about it. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take a written question from Stephen Bird, who’s an associate professor of political science at Clarkson University. He thanks you, and he wanted you to talk a little bit more about political will. The overall dollar amounts are clear. Much cheaper to address climate change than to ignore it. That said, countries are, clearly, lagging. Is it a case of countries just don’t want to take action now because of issues of fairness or because of lack of domestic political support, i.e., citizens aren’t convinced that they should pay costs now with payoffs that come later, and what might we do to improve that issue in terms of persuading or arguing for more political will? BORDOFF: Yeah. It’s a question for, you know, a political scientist as much as an energy or climate expert, and I wish I had a better answer to it. I think it is—climate is one of the trickiest problems for so many reasons but one of those is there is no acute event now that you sort of respond to, hopefully, and pull everyone together. It’s a set of things that, you know, of course, there would have been storms and droughts before but we know they’re intensified and made worse. It’s hard to rally public support. We often respond to a crisis kind of proverbial, you know, frog in the boiling water kind of thing. So that makes it hard. There are huge issues—we talked about a just transition a few minutes ago—there are huge issues with intergenerational equity when we talk about climate. There are, clearly, climate impacts and damages today but some of the worst will be in the future, including for people who may not be born yet, and we don’t do a great job in our political environment about thinking about those and valuing them today and how you do that, and from an economic standpoint, of course, there are questions about discount rates you apply and everything else. I think, politically, one of the things that has mobilized stronger climate—support for climate action, so it is encouraging that if you look at polling on climate change, the level of urgency that the public in many countries, including the U.S., broadly, ascribe to acting on climate has gone up a lot. It’s higher today than it was, you know, a decade or so ago. That’s a result of people seeing the impacts and also advocacy campaigns and political campaigns. It is often tied to—it’s like a win-win. Like, President Biden says when he thinks of climate he thinks of jobs, and so we’re going to deal with climate and we’re going to grow the economy faster and we’re going to create jobs, and there is truth to that. It is also the case that there are costs. The cost of inaction are higher, but there are costs associated with the transition itself. So if you survey the American public, I think, climate, according to the latest YouGov/Economist poll I saw, you know, it was number two on the list of things they cared the most about. That’s much higher than in the past. And then if you ask the American public are they willing to pay $0.25 a gallon more at the pump to act on climate, 75 percent say no. And you look at the challenges the Biden administration is having right now sort of thinking about a really strong set of measures to put in place to move the ball forward on climate, but acute concern today about where oil prices are and inflation and natural gas prices as we head into the winter. If the weather is cold then it’s going to be really expensive for people to heat their homes in parts—some parts of the country like New England, maybe. So that’s a reality, and I think we need to—it was interesting, in the roundtable we did with President Obama with climate activists, that was a message he had for them. You know, be impatient, be angry, keep the pressure on, but also be pragmatic. And by that he means, like, you know, try to see the world through the eyes of others and people who are worried about the cost of filling up at the pump, the cost of paying their heating bills. They’re not—some of them may not be where you are yet. They may not have the same sense of urgency with acting on climate that many of us on this Zoom do and need to take those concerns seriously. So I think that’s a real challenge, and it can be addressed with good policy, to some extent, right, if you think about the revenue raised from a carbon tax and how it could be redistributed in a way that reduce the regressive impacts. I’ve written about how, at a high level—I’ll say one last point—if we get on track for an energy transition, which we’re not on yet, right. (Laughs.) Oil and gas use are going up each and every year. But imagine we started to get on track where those were falling year after year. It’s still going to take decades, and that process of transition is going to be really messy. It’s going to be really volatile. We’re going to have fits and starts in policy from Obama to Trump to Biden. We’re going to make estimate—we’re going to make bets on technologies and maybe get those technologies wrong or misunderstand the cost curves, the potential to shut down investment in certain forms of energy before the rest are ready to pick up the slack. If it’s messy and volatile and bumpy, that’s not only harmful economically and geopolitically, it will undermine public support for stronger climate action. So you see, like, in Washington they’re selling off the Strategic Petroleum Reserve because we’re moving to a world beyond oil and also we have all this domestic oil now with shale. We need more, not fewer, tools to mitigate volatility for the next several decades if we’re serious about making this transition, and I think the same is true for thinking about sort of buffers you could build into geopolitics, foreign policy, and national security, because there will be—in a post-oil and gas world, you know, you may say, well, we’re not going to worry as much about the Middle East or about, you know, Russia’s leverage in Europe. But there will be new risks created and we can talk about what some of those might be, and we need new tools of foreign policy to mitigate those potential foreign policy risks. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question. Raised hand from Chloe Demrovsky, adjunct instructor at NYU. Q: Hey, can you hear me? BORDOFF: Yes. Thank you. FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: Hi. Chloe Demrovsky, adjunct at NYU and president and CEO of Disaster Recovery Institute International. Thanks for being with us, Jason. So my question is about the feasibility and your thoughts on artificially altered clouds or solar geoengineering. What are the ethical and geopolitical implications of, perhaps, using this to buy a little time for our energy transition? Thanks. BORDOFF: Yeah. A super interesting question, and I will say, again, I’m sort of—think of myself as an energy expert. So that is where I spend more time than thinking about tools like solar geoengineering. I guess, it seems there’s, obviously, huge risks associated with something like that and we need to understand them. We need to do research. We need to figure out what those risks may be. There are global governance concerns. It’s actually pretty cheap to do solar geoengineering. So what happens when some country or some billionaire decides they want to start spraying stuff into the atmosphere to cool the planet? And for those who don’t know that, you know, solar—I mean, you think of after a volcano the planet cools a little bit because of all the particulates up in the atmosphere. When you model in an energy system model how much phasing out coal will reduce warming, you, obviously, have much less carbon dioxide emissions but that’s offset slightly—not completely, of course—it’s offset a little bit by the fact that you have less local air pollution, which is a good thing from air pollution. But air pollution has a slightly cooling effect, because you have these little particles floating around that reflect sunlight. So the idea is can we create that artificially and cool the planet, and you can imagine lots of reasons why that could go wrong when you’re trying to figure out what—how much to put in there, what unintended consequences could be. You still have other impacts of carbon dioxide like ocean acidification. Maybe you go too far in one direction, that’s like you’re setting the thermostat. That’s why one of the companies doing carbon removal is called Global Thermostat. You’re kind of figuring out what temperature it should be. But I will say so it’s an area that needs research and I think, given how far we are away from achieving goals like 1.5 and net-zero 2050, I guess what I would say is in the same way that when I worked in the Obama administration it was—I wouldn’t say controversial, but there were some people who didn’t want to talk about adaptation because it was kind of a more—there was a moral hazard problem there. It was, you know, less pressure to mitigate and reduce emissions if we thought adaptation was a solution. People worry about that from the standpoint of solar geoengineering. But the likelihood—I hope I’m wrong, but the likelihood that we roll the clock forward, you know, later this decade and we realize we’ve made progress but we’re still pretty far short, and the impacts of climate change in the same way the IPCC 1.5 report said, you know what, 1.5 is going to be pretty bad, too, and that’s even worse than we thought, the more we learn about climate the more reason there is to be concerned, not less concerned. It seems very plausible to me that we will kind of come to a growing consensus that we have to think about whether this technology can, as you said, buy us time. This is not something you do permanently. You need to get to net zero to stop global warming. But if you want to reduce the impacts of warming on the rate of Arctic sea ice melt and all the rest, can you buy time, extend the runway, by doing this for some number of decades. And I think—I don’t have a strong view on the right answer to that. But I think it’s something we, certainly, need to be thinking about researching and understanding what the consequences would be because we’re going to have to figure out how to take more abrupt actions to close that gap between ambition and reality unless the reality starts to change much more quickly than is the case right now. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I saw a raised hand from Maya but she lowered it. So if you want to raise your hand again, please do so. And in the meantime, I’m going to take a written question from Jennifer Sklarew, who’s an assistant professor of energy and sustainability at George Mason University. Was CCS/CCUS, which carbon capture and storage/carbon capture utilization and storage, to write out those acronyms, promoted as a climate change solution in Glasgow and was there a pushback against this technology option as both a climate change solution and a support mechanism for continued fossil fuel use? BORDOFF: There was some pushback but, I think, actually, more in the other direction. So I think there has been a growing recognition from many in the climate world that carbon capture technology, carbon removal technology, need to be part of the solution. I think there’s almost no climate model at this point that shows how you would get to 1.5 degrees or net zero—1.5 degrees without huge amounts of negative emissions—carbon removal. Some of that can be nature based, but a lot of it will be—some of it will be technology based as well and focusing on what we care about, which is the emissions, is the most important thing. So and this is not, I don’t think, the primary thing you’re going to do. You want to do the things that are easiest and cheapest and present the fewest risks. So putting a lot of renewables into the grid, getting electrification into the vehicle fleet—there’s a lot of things that you would do before that. But if you think about some of the sectors in the economy we talked about before that are hard to decarbonize like steel and cement, it may well be the case that carbon capture is part of the technology there. There was a big announcement yesterday from the NET Power Allam Cycle gas plant in Texas that they had finally come online with delivering net-zero power to the grid. It was sort of a milestone in that technology. So we need to advance this technology and figure out how we’re going to—how we’re going to get where we need to be. We need to hold that kind of technology accountable to make sure that it’s actually meeting the standards we’re talking about so that it actually is very low, if not zero, carbon. But if you look at, you know, most of the scenarios I’m aware of, whether it’s—Princeton did the study “Net-Zero America,” how we get to net zero by 2050 in the U.S. The International Energy Agency, as I said, did it for net zero globally. There is a meaningful role for carbon capture, to some extent, in the power sector in these heavy industry sectors like steel and cement, and then making, say, hydrogen some of that will be blue hydrogen. Most of it, eventually, will be green, but there may be some role for blue hydrogen, which is—which is gas with carbon capture. So I think, if anything, there’s been a growing understanding that we need all tools on deck right away and, again, I fear even with all the tools we may still fall short. FASKIANOS: Great. There’s a written question from Laila Bichara, who’s at SUNY Farmingdale, international business. There was a New York Times article, “Business Schools Respond to a Flood of Interest in ESG,” talking about the issue of the scarcity of skills in recent graduates to help with social impact, sustainable investments, climate finance, and social entrepreneurship. And she wanted to know if there are resources that you could point the group to in terms of foundation courses or certification that would provide all students with a basic foundation. BORDOFF: Yeah. That’s a really good question and it’s a growing area of focus and I think universities should be doing more in. The Tamer Center of Columbia Business School does a lot of work in ESG. We hosted a really interesting roundtable at the Center on Global Energy Policy yesterday on ESG and actually been doing a lot of work thinking about that in the context of state-owned enterprises and national oil companies, which we don’t talk about enough. But they’re a really, really big part of the problem we’re talking about. We tend to focus more on these very well-known private sector companies or financial institutions in places like New York. So there—Bloomberg Philanthropies has done a huge amount in this space. I think there’s some really good educational programs with some universities and business schools that have done a lot in the ESG space. But I think it’s a need, to be frank. I mean, the fact that you’re asking the question and I’m pointing to a few examples, but not a huge number, and it is something that universities need to educate themselves about but then is an opportunity for us to educate others. Maybe a revenue one, too, with executive education or something. But there’s a lot of companies and financial institutions that want to understand this better. I worry that while there’s a huge growing focus on climate, which is a good thing, in the financial community, the phrase ESG kind of means so many different things right now. It’s this alphabet soup of regulations and standards and disclosure requirements, and some may make a difference and some may not and it’s hard to figure out which ones matter, and for people who want to do the responsible thing what does that really mean. That’s an area where research is needed. I mean, that’s a role for what we do every day to think about if the SEC is going to regulate what makes a difference and what doesn’t, if you’re going to create green bonds. If you’re going to call everything green in the finance community, what’s real and what’s not? What moves the needle? What doesn’t? What are the returns for greener portfolios? How is that affecting the cost of capital for clean energy versus dirty energy? You know, on and on. I think those are important research questions for us to take on and then it’s our job to help educate others as well. FASKIANOS: Great. So the next question I’m going to take from—oh, OK. Good. Maya Copeland (sp) has written her question. She’s a political science major at Delaware State University. Do you believe developed nations like the U.S. have done a lot in reference to climate change or mostly talk? If you believe nations like the U.S. have dropped the ball in this aspect, what do you think it would take to get those powerhouses serious about environmental change? BORDOFF: I think advanced economies have done—many have done a lot. I mean, the European Union has taken climate seriously and has reduced emissions and has pretty strong measures in place with a carbon market, for example, with a pretty high carbon price right now. The politics of this issue are not quite as favorable in the U.S., but the U.S. has seen emissions decline more than most over the last decade and a half, in part because of policy measures that have, you know, advanced renewable energy and brought the cost of that down as well as cheaper natural gas displacing coal for a while. But at a broader level, you know, have we done enough? The answer is no one’s done enough—(laughs)—which is why emissions are still going up every single year. So that—so the answer is no, we haven’t done enough. Almost no country has done enough at home to be on a trajectory for net zero 2050. You saw the announcements from countries like India saying, we’ll get to net zero by 2070, and, you know, people said, oh, well, that’s terrible. They’re not saying 2050. And implicit in that is sort of saying, well, if you want to get global to net zero by 2050 we’re not all going to move at the same speed, right. Some countries have advanced with the benefit of hydrocarbons since the Industrial Age and some haven’t. So, presumably, the pathways are going to look different, right. And, you know, that’s not always how countries in the advanced—in the developing—in the developed world talk about it. The commitment from the Biden administration is net zero by 2050. So I would say there’s been—there are some models to point to of countries that have taken this issue seriously but we’re not doing enough and partly because the political will is not there and partly—I come back to what I said before—this problem is harder than people realize. So you say which countries are doing enough, like, point to some models, right, and somebody might point to Norway, which, you know, the share of new vehicles sold that are electric in Norway went from zero to, I think, it’s 70 percent now. I mean, that’s amazing. Seventy percent of new car sales are electric. And if you go back to the start of that trajectory, about a decade or decade and a half, oil demand is unchanged in Norway. So we can talk about why that is and it’s because a lot—as I said earlier, a lot of oil is used for things other than cars, and it’s increased for trucks and planes and petrochemicals. It takes time for the vehicle fleet to turn over. So when you start selling a bunch of electric cars, you know, average car is on the road for fifteen years so it takes a while before that—the vehicle stock turns over. So I saw that kind of mapped out on a chart recently, just two lines—one is electric vehicle sales going straight up and then the other is oil demand in a flat line. It’s a reminder of how unforgiving the math of decarbonization is. The math of climate is really unforgiving, like, you know, the kind of harmful impacts we’re going to see with even 1.5 degrees warming. But the math of energy and decarbonization is really unforgiving, too. It’s—and we just need to be honest with ourselves about what it takes to get where we need to go. Because I think it’s good to have optimism and ambition, but I worry there should be optimism but not happy talk. We should recognize that there’s a lot of work to do and let’s get to work doing it. FASKIANOS: Great. So there are several questions in the chat about China. I’m going to start off with Andrew Campbell, who’s a student at George Mason University. Is LNG—liquefied natural gas—a bridge toward renewable energy still being considered? If not, how are India and China’s expected growth and increase in coal use going to be addressed? And then there are a couple of other comments or questions about China. You know, what’s your take on China as the biggest emitter and return somewhat to coal? Can we actually even make stated and adequate new goals? And, you know, given the relationship between U.S. and China, which is contentious, you know, what is the cooperation going to be between U.S. and China on climate? So there’s a lot packed in there, but I know you can address it all. (Laughs.) BORDOFF: Yeah. I think the China question is really hard, as I said earlier, this kind of, like, competition and cooperation and we’re going to try to do both, and I think there was a hope early on—Secretary Kerry said it—that climate could be segmented from the broader challenges in the U.S.-China relationship, and I think that has proven harder to do than people had hoped, in part, because, you know, you need both parties to want to do that. I think China has signaled it’s not necessarily willing to segment cooperation on climate from lots of other issues. And then these things bleed together where, you know, there’s measures being taken in Washington to restrict imports of solar panels from China, that there were concerns that were made with—in ways that have human rights abuses associated with them with forced labor or maybe have unfair trade practices in terms of subsidies. China is—you know, the leadership in China takes climate seriously. This is a country that recognizes, I think, climate change is real and that needs to be addressed. They have a set of national interests that matter a lot, obviously, to them in terms of economic growth, and the pathway to get there is challenging. So it’s a country that’s growing clean energy incredibly quickly, as we’re seeing right now, in part because there’s a(n) energy crunch throughout Europe and Asia. They are ramping up the use of coal quite a bit again, but also taking some pretty strong measures to advance clean energy and, over time, hopefully, move in a lower carbon direction for reasons both about concerns over climate but also local air pollution, which is much, much worse in many parts of China than it is here and that’s a huge source of concern for the public there. So when it comes to things like coal they need to figure out how to address those air pollution problems. And then for reasons of economic competition, like I mentioned a minute ago. I mean, China dominates the global market for refining and processing of critical minerals for solar panels, and there are economic and national competitiveness and strategic reasons to do that. So all of those things motivate them to move in the direction of clean energy, but they need to be moving faster to phase down hydrocarbon energy for sure. And then you ask a really hard question about—not hard, but one of the most contentious questions is about the role of natural gas in the transition, and we can have a whole separate session about that. I think there is a view of many in the climate community and many in developing countries—in developed countries that there’s not space left in the carbon budget for natural gas, and you saw the Biden administration recently declare through the Treasury Department that, except in very rare cases of the poorest of the poor like Sierra Leone or something, they would not finance natural gas projects through the multilateral development banks. The vice president of Nigeria, I think, responded—speaking of CFR—in Foreign Affairs by writing that this was not fair and you need to think about a viable pathway for a country like Nigeria to develop and it just—it doesn’t work to get there that fast. There has to be a bridge. The role of gas looks very different in different parts of the world. It looks different in the U.S. than it does in an emerging or a developing economy. It looks different in the power sector, where there are a lot more alternatives like renewables than it does in heavy industry or how we heat our homes. It looks different for, say, in the Global South, where you’re talking about people who are still using coal and charcoal and dung for cooking to think about solutions like liquefied petroleum gas. So all of those things are true, but we need to think about gas also with the carbon budget in mind. I mean, the math is just the math. (Laughs.) If you’re going to build any gas infrastructure and not have it blow through the carbon budget, it’s going to have to be retired before the end of its normal economic life and you need to think about how that might look in different parts of the world. So you need to be fair to people, to allow them to grow, but also recognize that the math of carbon, you know, is what it is. FASKIANOS: Great. I just want to credit those last—the China questions came from Lada Kochtcheeva at North Carolina State University and Joan Kaufman, who’s director of Schwarzman Scholars based in China. We are really at the end of our time—we started a couple minutes late—and I just wanted to go back to—there are students on the call who are following with a professor on the webinar who wanted you just to comment on blue hydrogen, whether or not it is contributing or helping to reduce greenhouse gases. BORDOFF: I think the answer is it can. You just need to make sure that it actually does. So the question of—and by blue hydrogen we mean, you know, using gas with carbon capture to create hydrogen. It needs to have very low methane leakage rates. It needs to have very high capture rates, and we know that is technically possible. It doesn’t mean it will be done that way. So if people are going to pursue blue hydrogen as part of the solution in the—particularly in the near term, you need to make sure that it’s meeting those standards. I think in the long run my guess and, I think, most guesses would be that green hydrogen is going to make more sense. It’s going to be cheaper. The cost is going to come down. And so if we have a significant part of the energy sector that is hydrogen and ammonia in, say, 2050, more of that’s going to be green than blue. But there can be a role for blue if you make sure it’s done the right way. You just have to actually make sure it’s done the right way. FASKIANOS: Great. And, Jason, we are out of time, but I wanted to give you one last, you know, one-minute or thirty seconds, whatever you want, just to say some parting words on your work at the center or, you know, to leave the group with what they can do, again. So— BORDOFF: Well, I would just say thanks for the chance to be with you all and for the work that you’re doing every day. You know, I think Glasgow was a moment when the world came together to elevate ambition and roll up our sleeves and say this is—this is the decisive decade. Like, we’ll know ten years from now—(laughs)—if we got anywhere close to making it or not. And so it’s time for everyone to kind of roll up their sleeves and say, what can we do? We’re doing that, I think, at Columbia with the creation of this new climate school. We do that every day at the Center on Global Energy Policy. And so just in all of your institutions, you know, what does that mean for you? What does it mean for the institution? What does that mean for your own research and time and how you allocate it? How do we step up and say, what can we do in the biggest and boldest way we can? Because we need—we’re creating a climate school because I think the view is—you know, a hundred years ago there were no schools of public health and now it’s how would you deal with a pandemic without a school of public health? So I think our view is decades from now we’ll look back and wonder how we ever thought it was possible to handle a problem as complex and urgent as climate change without universities devoting their greatest kind of resource to them. And the measure of success for universities has to be research and new knowledge creation. It has to be education. It has to be serving our own communities. For us, it’s, you know, the community here in New York, Harlem. But also are we focusing the extraordinary resources and capacity and expertise of these great institutions to solve humanity’s greatest problems? That has to be a motivating force, too, for much of—maybe not all of but a lot of what universities do. So I’d just ask all of us to go back and think about how we can do that in our own work every day. and we have to do it through partnerships. I think universities don’t work together as well as they need to. But this is only going to work if we work together. FASKIANOS: Great way to end. Thank you very much, Jason Bordoff. We really appreciate it. We’ll have to look for your article in Foreign Affairs magazine, which is published by CFR. So, we are excited that you continue to contribute to the magazine. You can follow Jason Bordoff on Twitter at @JasonBordoff. Very easy to remember. Our final academic webinar of the semester will be on Wednesday, December 1, at 1:00 p.m. (ET). Michelle Gavin, who is CFR’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies, will talk about African politics and security issues. So in the meantime, follow us at @CFR_Academic. Come to CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for research and analysis on global issues, and we look forward to continuing the conversation with you. Take care. BORDOFF: Thank you. (END)
COVID-19

COVID-19

Western rhetoric on partnering with African countries as equals appears hollow as Western nations slap travel bans on African countries with confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

COVID-19

It’s been almost a year since the first COVID-19 vaccines were approved, and half of the world is at least partly vaccinated. Now, the emergence of the omicron variant is underscoring the risks of uneven distribution.

 

Taiwan

China

If conflict were to break out between China and Taiwan, the latter’s right to defend itself would hinge on its international legal status and the circumstances of the hostilities.

Taiwan

To maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait, U.S. policy will need to adjust to deal with a more capable and assertive China.

Taiwan

Differences over Taiwan’s status have fueled rising tensions between the island and the mainland. Conflict over Taiwan also has the potential to be a flash point in U.S.-China relations.

Events

Education

Michelle Gavin, CFR’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies, leads a conversation on African politics and security issues.     FASKIANOS: Welcome to today’s session of the CFR fall of 2021 Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record and the video and transcript will be available on our website, cfr.org/academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We’re delighted to have Michelle Gavin with us today to talk about African politics and security issues. Ambassador Gavin is CFR’s Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies. Previously, she was managing director of the Africa Center, a multidisciplinary institution dedicated to increasing understanding of contemporary Africa. From 2011 to 2014, she served as the U.S. ambassador to Botswana and as the U.S. representative to the Southern African Development Community, and prior to that, she was a special assistant to President Obama and the senior director for Africa at the National Security Council. And before going into the Obama administration, she was an international affairs fellow and adjunct fellow for Africa at CFR. So we are so delighted to have her back in our fold. So, Michelle, thank you very much for being with us. We have just seen that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken went on a trip to Africa. Maybe you could begin by talking about the strategic framework that he laid out on that trip, and then we have in just recent days—with a new variant of Omicron—seen the travel ban imposed on several African countries and what that means for the strategic vision that he laid out. GAVIN: Sure. Thank you. Well, thank you so much for inviting me to join you today. And I looked at the roster. There’s so much amazing expertise and knowledge on this Zoom. I really look forward to the exchange and the questions. I know I’ll be learning from all of you. But maybe just to start out to talk a little bit about Secretary Blinken’s trip because I think that, in many ways, his efforts to sort of reframe U.S. engagement on the continent, trying to move away from this sort of binary major power rivalry lens that the Trump administration had been using is useful, but also exposes, really, a lot of the challenges that policymakers focused on Africa are dealing with right now. So he tried to reset the relationship in the context of a partnership, of purely acknowledging African priorities and African agency in determining what kind of development partners Africa is interested in, what kind of security partners. I think that’s a very useful exercise. Then he kind of ticked through, as every official has to do in making these big framing statements as sort of broad areas of engagement and cooperation, and he talked about increasing trade, which, of course, is interesting right now with AGOA sunsetting soon, working together to combat pandemic diseases, particularly COVID, working together on climate change, where, of course, Africa has borne more consequences than many other regions of the world while contributing far less to the problem, working together on the democratic backsliding and authoritarian sort of surge that we’ve seen around the world and, finally, working together on peace and security. So this huge agenda, and I think what’s interesting and what in many ways his trip made clear is that it’s very hard to get to the first four points when the last one, the peace and security element, is in chaos. And, look, obviously, Africa’s a big continent. All of us who ever engage in these conversations about Africa are always—are forever trying to provide the disclaimer, right, that there’s never one African story. There’s never one thing happening in this incredibly diverse continent. But it is the case that the peace and security outlook on the continent is really in bad shape, right. And so the secretary traveled to Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal. The headlines from his trip, really, were dominated by the disorder in the Horn of Africa that we’re seeing right now. So you have the civil conflict in Ethiopia, which has been incredibly costly to that country in terms of lives, in terms of their economic outlook, has been characterized by atrocities of war crimes. And, I think right now, most observers are very concerned about the integrity of the Ethiopian state, its capacity to persist. Regardless of today, tomorrow, or next week’s military developments, it’s very hard to see a lasting and sustainable military solution to this conflict and the parties do not appear, really, amenable to a serious political negotiation. But it’s not just Ethiopia, of course. It’s Sudan, where we saw the tenuous military-civilian transitional government kind of fully hijacked by the military side of that equation in a coup that has been, really, rejected by so many Sudanese citizens who are still on the streets even today trying to push back against the notion of military dominance in their transition and beyond, and they are being met with violence and intimidation. And the outlook there is quite worrying. You’ve got border clashes between Ethiopia and Sudan. You have electoral crisis in Somalia. So the Horn, you know, is looking like a very, very tough neighborhood. And, of course, everyone is concerned about the impact on Kenya and East Africa itself, given the insurgency in Mozambique, which has more than once affected neighboring Tanzania, these bombings in Uganda and the sense of instability there. The picture is one of multiple crises, none of which come with easy fixes or purely military solutions. And then you have this kind of metastasizing instability throughout the Sahel, right, and the concern that more and more states will fall victim to extremely worrisome instability and the very costly violence. So there’s a huge security agenda and we’re just—we’re all aware of the basic facts that it’s very hard to make progress on partnerships to support democratic governance in the midst of conflict. It’s very hard to come together on climate change or to fight a pandemic in the midst of these kinds of circumstances. So I think it’s a really challenging picture. And just to pull a couple of these threads, on this issue of democratic backsliding the Biden administration’s desire to build more solidarity among kind of like-minded countries whose democracies may take different forms but who buy into a basic set of democratic values, it’s undeniable that the trend lines in Africa have been worrisome for some time and we do see a lot of these kind of democratic authoritarian states, these states where you get some of the form, some of the theater, of democracy, particularly in the form of elections, but no real capacity for citizens to hold government accountable. It’s not really a kind of a demand-driven democratic process, that the fix is often in on these elections, and there is polling, right, that suggests that this is turning people off of democratic governance in general, right. If what you understand democratic governance to be is a sham election, you know, at regular intervals while you continue to be governed by a set of individuals who are not really beholden to the electorate, right, and are protecting a very small set of interests, then it’s not surprising to see some waning enthusiasm. It’s not that other forms of government are necessarily looking great to African populations, but I think it is notable in some of that Afrobarometer polling in places where you wouldn’t expect it, right, like South Africa, where people sacrificed so much for democracy, and you really do see a real decline in enthusiasm for that form of governance. So there’s a lot of work to be done there. The last thing, just because you brought it up, on the latest news about this new variant, the Omicron variant—I may be saying that wrong. It may be Omicron. Perhaps someone will correct me. And the kind of quick policy choice to institute a travel ban on a number of southern African countries. So I do think that in the context of this pandemic, right, which has been economically devastating to the continent—where the global economic downturn that occurred for Africans, too, but you had governments with very little fiscal space in which to try to offset the pain for their populations. In addition, you have had the issues of vaccine inequity, right, where it’s just taken far too long to get access to vaccines for many African populations—it’s still not adequate in many places—and a sort of sense that the deal initially proposed in the form of COVAX wasn’t really what happened—you know, a feeling of a bait and switch—that looks like—what it looks like is disregard for African lives. And while I am really sympathetic—I used to work in government and it’s crystal clear when you do that your first responsibility is the safety of the American people—these travel bans sort of fit into a narrative, right, about scapegoating, about disregard for African life that, I think, is going to make it awfully hard for this new reframing of respect and partnership, right, to really resonate. And I would just note, as a former U.S. ambassador in Botswana, that the scientists in the lab in Gaborone and the scientists in South Africa who did the sequencing and helped to alert the world to this new variant, right, were doing us all a tremendous favor. It’s not at all clear that this variant started in southern Africa, right. We know that it exists on every continent right now except Antarctica. We know that samples taken in Europe before these discoveries were made in southern Africa—just tested later—showed that the variant was already there. And so it is a bit hard to explain why specifically southern Africans are banned from travel. You know, I think it’s unfortunate. There are other policies that could be pursued around testing, around quarantine requirements. So I’ll leave that there. I’m not a public health expert. But I think it’s—I’m glad you brought it up because I think these things do really resonate and they inform how the United States is understood on the continent. They inform how Africans understand global institutions and kind of global governance to reflect or not reflect their concerns and interests. And if what the Biden administration wants is partners in this notion of democratic solidarity and partners in trying to reconstruct kind of international institutions a sense of global order, a norms-based rules-based approach to multilateral challenges, it’s going to be hard to get the African buy-in that is absolutely necessary to achieve those goals when these kinds of issues continue to give the impression that Africa is an afterthought. FASKIANOS: Thank you very much, Michelle. That was really a great overview for us. So now we want to go to all of you. You can raise your hand—click on the raised hand icon to ask a question—and when I recognize you please unmute yourself and state your affiliation. Otherwise, you can submit a written question in the Q&A box, and if you do write a question please say what institution you’re with so that I can read it and identify you properly and—great. Our first hand raised is from Dr. Sherice Janaye Nelson. And let me just say, the “Zoom user,” can you please rename yourself so we know who you are? So, Dr. Nelson, over to you. Q: Good afternoon, everyone. Dr. Sherice Janaye Nelson from Southern University. I’m a political science professor in the department. And the question, I guess, I have is that we know that the African people have a history of nondemocratic governance, right? And when we look at a place like Tunisia, we know that one of the reasons in the Arab Spring that they were so successful—although often considered an Arab country, they are successful because there had been tenets of democracy that were already broiled in the society. The question I have is that to these places that do not have that institutional understanding or have even—maybe don’t even have the values to align with democracy, are we foolhardy to continue to try to support democratic governance as the full-throated support versus trying to look at more of a hybrid of a sovereign situation that allows for, in many ways, a kingdom, a dictator, and et cetera, with then a democratic arm? Thank you so much. GAVIN: Thanks, Dr. Nelson. It’s an interesting question, and I agree with you insofar as I think that it’s really interesting to think about the kind of governance antecedents in a bunch of African countries, particularly in the pre-colonial era, right, and try to figure out how they find expression afterwards. There’s no question that, you know, colonialism doesn’t set the table well for democracy. There’s no doubt about that. But I would say that, you know, despite the loss of faith in democratic governance that we’ve seen in some of the polling, you know, very consistently for a long time what you’ve seen is that African populations do seem to want democratic governance. They want to be able to hold their leaders accountable. They want everyone to have to abide by the law. They want basic protections for their rights. So, you know, I’m not sure that there’s any society that’s particularly ill-suited to that. But I do think that democracy comes in many forms and it’s always particularly powerful when there is, you know, some historical resonance there. I also—you know, if we take a case like one of the world’s last absolute monarchies in eSwatini right now what you see is a pretty persistent civic movement demanding more accountability and less power for the monarch, more protection for individual rights. And so, you know, I’m not—I think that people are feeling disillusioned and frustrated in many cases and you see this, too, in the enthusiasm with which several of the recent coups in West Africa have been met—you know, people pouring out into the streets to celebrate because they’re frustrated with the status quo. They’re interested in change. But very rarely do you see then persistent support for, say, military dictatorships or military-dominated government. So I’m not sure that the frustration means enthusiasm for some of these other governing models. People want democracy to work a lot better. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Lucy Dunderdale Cate. Q: Hi. Yes. I’m Lucy Dunderdale Cate. I’m with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I wanted to just ask you about kind of the African Union’s role in this, you know, particularly and with the Biden administration, and thinking about, you know, the Horn of Africa security issues that you mentioned. Kind of where do you see that we’re going and what do you see kind of for the future there? Thank you. GAVIN: Sure. Thanks for that question. I think the AU, for all of its flaws—and, you know, find me a multilateral organization that isn’t flawed—is actually incredibly important. You know, for the Biden administration, which has kind of staked out this position that international institutions matter and multilateral institutions matter, they’ve got to work better, we can’t address the threats we all face without these functioning and they may need to be modernized or updated but we need them, then the AU is a really important piece of that puzzle. And I think, you know, right now, for example, in Ethiopia that the—it’s the AU’s negotiator, former Nigerian President Obasanjo, who really is in the lead in trying to find some glimmer of space for a political solution, and this was a little bit late in the day in terms of AU activism on this issue and I think it’s been a particularly difficult crisis for the AU to address in part because of being headquartered in Addis and sort of operating within a media and information environment in Ethiopia that is one that does not create a lot of space for divergence from the federal government’s position. So I think that, in the end, right, the prospect of the collapse of a 110-million-strong country, a place that used to be an exporter of security, a major diplomatic player in the region, right, spurred AU action. But it’s been a little bit—more than a little bit slow. But you have seen some pretty forward-leaning stance at the AU as well. Their response to the military coup in Sudan this fall was pretty robust and clear. Now this sort of new transitional arrangement that appears to be more palatable to much of the international community than to many Sudanese citizens is a—we’re wading into murkier waters there. But I think the AU, you know, it’s the only game in town. It’s essential, and particularly in the Horn where the subregional organization EGAD is so incredibly weak that the AU, as a vehicle for an African expression of rules-based norms-based order, is—you know, actually its success is incredibly important to the success of this major U.S. foreign policy plank. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Rami Jackson. How much of the democratic backsliding is supported by outside powers? For example, there was a chance for a democratic movement in Chad but the French threw their weight behind Déby’s son after he was shot. GAVIN: That’s a great question. I think that it’s, certainly, not the case that external partners or actors are always positive forces, right, for democratic governance on the continent. There’s no doubt about that, and it can be France and Chad. It can be, you know, Russian machinations in Central African Republic. There’s a lot. It can be some of the Gulf states in Sudan, right, who—or Egypt, who seem very comfortable with the idea of military dominance and maybe some civilian window dressing for this transition. So you’re right that external actors are kind of an important piece of the puzzle. You know, I don’t think that there are many situations where there is a single external actor who is capable of entirely influencing the direction of government. But there are, certainly, situations where one external actor is tremendously powerful. Chad is a great example, again. And it is something that, I think, you know, again, an administration that has staked so much of its credibility on the notion that this is something very important to them, you know, is going to have to deal with. And it’s thorny, right. Foreign policy always is where you have competing priorities. You need to get important work done sometimes with actors who do not share your norms and values, and it’s the messiness of trying to articulate and integrate values in a foreign policy portfolio that runs the gamut, right, from counterterrorism concerns to economic interests. But I think that those are tensions that the administration will continue to have to deal with probably a little more publicly than an administration who didn’t spend much time talking about the importance of democratic governance. FASKIANOS: Great. And I just want to mention that Rami is a graduate student at Syracuse University. So I’m going to go next to a raised hand from Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome. I know you wrote your question, too. Q: Good afternoon. Thank you very much. Yes. FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: I wrote my question because I couldn’t figure out how to name myself on the phone. You know, thank you for your presentation. When I look at democracy in Africa—I mean, this is not the first go-round—and the response by people, by citizens, to the backsliding by governments is not—it looks familiar to me because, you know, in the 1960s—from the 1960s, there were similar responses. People were dissatisfied. They welcomed authoritarian governments again and again because the government they voted for rigged elections, were also authoritarian, and they were kleptocratic. So what’s different now and where’s the continuity and what has changed, really, with democracy? The other thing is about this COVID—the management of the COVID situation. I also kind of see the—I think I agree with you. The way Africa is being treated looks very familiar—you know, with disdain, with disrespect, as if the lives of the people there don’t matter as much. And what is it going to take, really, to change the—because, you know, if a pandemic that cannot be stopped by walls and borders is not instigating change what is it going to take to change the way in which world politics is—world politics and its governance is done? GAVIN: Fantastic questions and ones that, I think we could talk about for, you know, a week-long conference. But so I’ll start from the beginning and just take a stab. I think you’re absolutely right. There have been these interesting cycles when it comes to governance on the continent and I think—when I think about sort of what’s different from what we were seeing in, say, toward the end of the ’60s, I think it’s a couple things. One is geopolitical context, right. So my hope is that what we’re not doing is kind of doing a reprise of this bipolar world where we’re subbing in China’s authoritarian development model for a Soviet Communist model and sitting here on the other side and, you know, trying to manipulate other countries into one camp or another. I don’t think we’re quite there yet and I think the Biden administration is trying very hard not to wade into those waters. So I do think the geopolitical context is a bit different. I also think, you know, that where so many African states are is at—in terms of kind of the scope of their existence as independent entities is an important difference, right. So I think that in the immediate kind of post-colonial era, for an awful lot of governments the fundamental basis for their legitimacy was having—is not being a colonial administrator, not being a puppet of some external power and so the, you know, legitimacy came from liberation, from independence. In places that had terrible conflict sometimes legitimacy came from, you know, delivering some degree of security from a long-standing insecure situation. So, you know, you look at—I think that’s where sort of President Museveni derived a lot of legitimacy in the late ’80s and through the ’90s. And I think that, you know, now, as you have these very significant young populations whose lived experience is not one of ever knowing a time pre-independence, you know, they’re looking for service delivery, right. They’re looking for opportunity. They’re looking for job creation, and I think legitimacy is increasingly going to be derived from the ability to deliver on these priorities. And so I do think that that makes kind of the governance landscape a little bit different, too, sort of different ideas about where governing legitimacy comes from. And, you know, I think that can be manifest in really different ways. But if I had to try and, you know, grab onto that interesting idea about what’s different, that’s what comes to mind. In this, you know, incredibly important question about what’s it going to take to recognize African states as equal players and African lives as—every bit as urgently valuable as any other, you know, I do think that as the world continues to grapple with this pandemic and with other issues that can only be resolved globally, like climate change, it will, over time, kind of force a reckoning and a rethink about what are the important states and what are not. You know, it’s interesting to me, it’s absolutely true that by not moving out robustly to ensure that the whole world has access to vaccines the richest countries have created opportunities for new mutations to emerge. I hesitate to say that, in some ways, in this context because it sounds like I’m positive that these emerged from Africa, and I’m not. But we do know, you know, as a basic matter of science, right, that we’re not safe until everyone’s safe. And so I do think that as these kinds of issues that military might and economic power cannot address alone, where it really does take global solidarity and an awful lot of multilateral cooperation, which is messy and cumbersome, right, and necessary, my hope is that that will start to change perceptions in framing. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So I’m going to go next to a written question from Abbey Reynolds, who’s an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida. What steps do you think that international and regional organizations can take to preempt future attempts to derail democratic governance in the region—coups, circumvention of constitutional term letter—limits, rigged elections, et cetera? GAVIN: OK. I’m sorry. What steps should who take? I’m sorry. FASKIANOS: Multilateral—international and regional organizations. GAVIN: OK. You know, I think that in a number of cases subregional organizations have been taking steps, right—ECOWAS, certainly, in rejecting coups and suspending memberships, et cetera. I think, you know, if you look at the sort of articulated and documented principles of a lot of these organizations they’re pretty good. It’s really about the gulf sometimes between stated principles and practice. So, you know, I think the Southern African Development Community is sometimes guilty of this where there are—you know, there’s a clear commitment in static kind of principle documents and protocols around democratic governance but you also have an absolute monarchy that’s a member state of SADC. You’ve had, you know, significant repression in a number of states—Zimbabwe leaps to mind—that SADC doesn’t have, really, anything to say about. So you can have organizations that have kind of principles and procedures. At the end of the day, organizations are made up of member states, right, who have a set of interests, and I think that, you know, how governments understand their interest in standing up for certain norms, it’s—I think it’s specific in many ways to those governments in those states how they derive their own legitimacy, the degree to which they feel they may be living in a glass house, and, you know, frankly, relative power dynamics. So I’m not sure. Certainly, it’s always—you know, I’m a believer in multilateralism. I think from an African point of—you know, if you imagine African states trying to assert themselves on the international stage, multilateralism is really important, right, to get if it’s possible, where interests align, to have as many African states speaking with one voice. It’s a much more powerful message than just a couple individual states. But there are always going to be intrinsic limits. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Gary Prevost with the College of St. Benedict. And if you can unmute yourself. Q: Speaking today, actually, as honorary professor and research associate from Mandela University in South Africa. I’ve had several students in recent years—doctoral and master’s students—study U.S. and allied counterterrorism strategies both in the Middle East and in Africa, and they’ve come away with a general perspective that those strategies going back several administrations have been almost solely focused on military action and that it has led them in their recommendations sections of their theses to argue that other steps must be taken if these efforts in places like Nigeria or Somalia or Mozambique or even in the Middle East, Syria, and Iraq, are to be successful they must have a changed mindset about counter terror. What’s your perspective on that? GAVIN: Well, thanks for that. I wholeheartedly agree, right, and I think, you know, you’ll even get plenty of military officers, right, who will say there’s no way we can address some—these problems, these, you know, kind of radical violent organizations aligned to global terrorist groups with a purely military approach. It’s frustrating. I’m sure it’s frustrating for your students, too, because it feels like everyone keeps coming to this conclusion, and, certainly, there have been efforts to, you know, counter violent extremism, provide opportunity for young people. But we’re not very good at it, right. We haven’t been very good at it yet. There’s still a mismatch in terms of the resources we pour into these kind of relative—these different streams of effort, right. But I think also while it’s very clear in a situation like Mozambique that if you want to weaken the insurgency you need to be providing more opportunity and building more trust in a community that’s been disenfranchised and alienated from the center for a very, very long time. But the how to do that, how to do that effectively and how to do it in a climate of insecurity I actually think is an incredibly difficult challenge, and there are, you know, brilliant people working on this all the time. You know, some of the best work that I’ve seen suggests that some of this can be done but it’s an incredibly long-term undertaking and that, you know, is sometimes, I think, a difficult thing to sustain support for, particularly in a system like the United States where, you know, our appropriations cycles tend to be very short term. So people are looking for, you know, quick impact, things you can put on a bar graph quickly and say that you’ve done. And I think that, you know, a lot of the kind of peace building research suggests that that’s—that, you know, building community trust, which is a huge part of what needs to happen, operates on a very different kind of timeline. So it’s a really thorny, thorny problem and how to get—you know, how to sustain political and budgetary support for those kinds of efforts. I don’t know the answer yet. I’m sure somebody really smart on—maybe on the Zoom does. FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Pearl Robinson at Tufts University. Q: Hello, Ambassador Gavin. First of all, I’d like to congratulate you in your new position as Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa, and that’s actually—as I’ve been sitting here listening to this, my thought was I’d like to know if you have thought about ways in which you can use your position at the Council to help actualize forms of partnerships about policy dialogues related to Africa. You began by articulating the U.S.’s new strategic vision for Africa. That was an American statement. I haven’t really heard an African statement that would be engaging with that policy dialogue. These one-on-one trips of the secretary of state and other people going to individual African countries, based on our agenda, and having one-on-one dialogue discussions, in a way, does not get towards that real notion of African agency in policy and partnership. So I’m actually wondering whether you might envision the Council playing a role and creating some kinds of policy dialogue fora that would have American(s) and Africans participating in ways that would be visible to American publics as well as African publics. So I’m suggesting that you might, you know, be uniquely well suited to have the Council play a role in actually making visible and operationalizing this concept. I just thought about this sitting here listening because what I realized was everybody talking is talking from the American side and I’m wondering if—well, my dear colleague, Olufúnké, actually was an African voice. But I think what needs to happen is there needs to be a way for this taking place maybe with African institutions, academics, civil society actors. So I just throw that out for you to think about and I’d like to hear your first response to that idea. GAVIN: So I think it’s exciting and I’d love, actually, to follow up with you. I’m delighted that you’re here. I heard some wonderful things about your work. I think there’s always the hard part of, right, who speaks for Africa, right, because there are so many diverse African perspectives. But I don’t think you’re suggesting there’s necessarily a unitary voice. You’re talking about sort of different actors, and I would agree with you that it’s always incredibly rich to have conversations. You know, I recently did a panel with Professor Ed Vitz, who is working on some—working on a paper, I think, that will eventually be a book about sort of U.S.-Africa policy and particularly interested in the kind of frame of major power rivalry. But it was such a refreshing conversation to examine that and compare notes on what we thought the flaws of that frame might be to hear his perspective on where he thought there might be advantages to be seized from it. It was wonderful, and I agree with you that the more dialogue and the more opportunity not just to sort of talk amongst ourselves in a U.S. community that cares about Africa and about U.S. policy the better. You know, I will be honest with you, I often, in a situation like the one right now, I try hard to stick to—to at least keep circling back to U.S. policy because that’s where my background is and I, you know, have no desire to posit myself as speaking on behalf of Africans. That’s nuts and, you know, not my role. But I do—I have spent a lot of time thinking about how the U.S. engages with the continent. And so I think it’s a really interesting notion. I’d love to follow up with you. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take the next written question from Krista Johnston, who’s a professor at Howard University. The African Continental Free Trade Area will create the largest consumer market. What are the barriers U.S. businesses investing in Africa and positioning themselves to take advantage of this new trade area and what can the Biden administration do to incentivize this kind of engagement with China? And perhaps I can tack on another question to that because we have a lot of questions—(laughs)—both raised hands—is just to talk a little bit about China’s footprint in Africa as well. GAVIN: Sure. Well, so I absolutely agree that the African Continental Free Trade Area is a really incredibly promising step forward for African economic integration and that is, you know, compelling in any number of ways. I think, for example, about the very hot topic of pharmaceutical production, right. And between the Free Trade Area, the standing up of the African Medicines Agency, right, which should help to harmonize regulatory standards for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment throughout the continent, investments seem a lot more attractive, right, when you’re looking at much bigger markets than any one country, even than a giant like Nigeria, can provide. So I think that there’s tremendous potential here. I will go back to what I said earlier, which is that even with these positive steps, right, it’s going to be really important that the peace and security parts start trending in the right direction because it’s very—you know, I would say this. U.S. investors are already quite bad at assessing risk in Africa and a backdrop of instability is not going to help that situation, right, and it is, in many cases, going to make a given investment opportunity or partnership opportunity too risky for many. So, you know, there’s just no way to jettison those concerns. But wholeheartedly agree it’s an exciting development. If the world hadn’t gotten sort of hijacked by COVID, I think we’d be talking about it a lot more. On China, you know, the Chinese engagement on the continent is a fact of life that’s existed for a very long time and is not going anywhere. It is economic, it is political, it is, increasingly, cultural, and I think, you know, for a state like China that aspires to be a major global power it’s entirely predictable and understandable. Do I think that there are some ways in which Chinese investment and engagement are not always beneficial to African states? I do. I have concerns, certainly, about the way China sometimes uses its influence to secure African support for Chinese positions that appear antithetical to stated values in AU documents and other(s) and I have concerns about the transparency of some of the arrangements. I have concerns as well about some of the tech standards and just sort of play for technical dominance that maybe does not have the cybersecurity interests of Africans as its top priority. All that said, I think it’s really important for the United States to, you know, understand that there’s no—there’s nothing to be gained by constantly vilifying China’s engagement, some of which has been incredibly helpful for African states hungry, particularly, for financing on major infrastructure projects, and, you know, it’s a fact of life we all have to learn to deal with. I do think, you know, there’s some natural tension between the Biden administration’s democracy focus, right, and the very explicit and intentional efforts of China to present a different model, and I don’t think that the U.S. needs to shy away from that or pretend that those differences don’t exist. But I do think it’s incredibly unhelpful to frame up all of U.S. policy as if it’s intended to counter China as opposed to intended to find those areas in the Venn diagram of, you know, those overlaps of African interests and U.S. interests and work together on them. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to go next to Anna Ndumbi, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern Mississippi. Please unmute yourself. Q: Thank you very much. I really appreciate the presentation. I have a quick question in regards to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is center of Africa. About three years ago, there was a new president that stepped in by the name of Félix Tshisekedi, and he decided to pass a law saying that all the secondary education should be free because, obviously, in Africa schools aren’t free. And I, personally, think that maybe it wasn’t really—it was something they should have probably considered before passing the law. The result of that is that you have classrooms where there were maybe twenty students and now there’s, like, there could be over a hundred students in one classroom, right. So we spoke about the pandemic. When COVID hit a lot of schools were shut down. They were shut down for a long period of time, and when you look at a lot of schools in Africa they don’t have the ability of giving out maybe laptops or anything like that to assist students to continue school at home. So in result of that, you see a lot of children who are really below what they should be, below the average when it comes to education, and my question with that is where do we see the future going as far as maybe having international organization(s) or United States intervene because the future is not bright when we look at education with the children or the youth. How can United Nation(s) or maybe other international organization(s) assist, especially with what happened during COVID, going forward? What does the future look like for Africa? And I’m speaking more for the Democratic Republic of Congo. How can nonprofit organization(s) or United States intervene and assist in this matter? GAVIN: Well, thank you for that, and I have followed this a little bit because it was an interesting and kind of splashy promise and initiative on the part of President Tshisekedi and it’s been disappointing, I think, to see that some of the, you know, government’s budget that was intended to be allocated for that appears to have found its way into a handful of individuals’ accounts. But I think that, you know, the fundamental point you’re making, which is that in DRC but also throughout the African continent, right, there are these vast populations of young people. It is the youngest region of the world. And if you look at it historically at how other parts of the world have dealt with youth bulges, right, investing in that human capital so that they can be drivers of innovation and economic growth has been a really powerful kind of transformational tool—for example, in Asia. And so I definitely think that you’re onto something really important right now about prioritizing investing in young people and their capacity, and you’re absolutely right that the disruptions of the pandemic have, in many cases, fallen most heavily on children. You know, how to tackle that, I think, is sort of—you know, I can’t design a program in this moment, I’ll be honest with you. But I think that you’re absolutely right, it’s an incredibly important and too often easily overlooked priority. You know, there have been some interesting education innovations on the continent but they’re too often kind of small, not scalable, and the need is so incredibly vast. But here, again, I will be a broken record. We do have to go back to this issue that peace and security matters, right. It’s very, very hard for kids to get a sustained education that’s going to provide them with opportunity in a context of insecurity, which, for a lot of children in eastern Congo, is still the case. FASKIANOS: OK. We have three minutes left. I am going to—and so many questions, and I apologize that we’re not going to be able to get to all of you. So I’m going to give the final question to Caleb Sannar. Q: Hi. Yes. Thank you for joining us today, Ambassador Gavin. As they said, my name is Caleb Sanner. I’m a student from the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater. My question is with the Abraham Accords the Trump administration signed the agreement with Morocco to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. Following that, there was some discrepancies in the southern territory controlled by the U.N., MINURSO, and the Polisario Front, the external Saharawi government, ended up declaring war again on Morocco, resuming the war from nineteen years previously. My question is what is the Biden administration’s policy on that? GAVIN: Great question. Reporters have been asking that question, too, and with great message discipline the administration continues to say is that they’re supporting U.N. efforts. And so whenever they ask, are you are you going to reconsider this decision regarding recognition of Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara, they respond not by answering that question but by saying they’re supporting U.N. efforts. So that’s the most I can report to you in—regarding that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Well, we are at the end of our time. So, Ambassador Gavin, thank you very much for being with us and, again, to all of you for your fantastic questions, and I apologize for not being able to get to all of you. But we will have to continue doing webinars on this important topic and on digging in a little bit deeper. So we will be announcing the winter-spring academic lineup next month through our academic bulletin. This is the final webinar of this semester. Good luck with your finals—(laughs)—and grading and taking the exams and all of that. I know it’s a very busy and stressful time with the pandemic layered on top of all of it. If you haven’t already subscribed for the bulletin, please, you can do so by emailing us at [email protected] You can follow us on Twitter at @CFR_Academic. And of course, please go to CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for new research and analysis on global issues. You can see on CFR.org Michelle’s latest post on Africa—blog posts, so you should follow her there as well. So, again, thank you. Thanks to all of you, and happy holidays, and we look forward to reconvening in 2022.

Climate Change

Our panelists review the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, including climate action since the Paris Accords and how governments and businesses can step up to address the complex challenges of climate change and adaptation. 

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Caroline Bettinger-Lopez
Caroline Bettinger-Lopez

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Manjari Chatterjee Miller
Manjari Chatterjee Miller

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia

India Asia China

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Sebastian Mallaby
Sebastian Mallaby

Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics

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Jerome A. Cohen
Jerome A. Cohen

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies

China Asia International Law

Richard Haass
Richard Haass

President, Council on Foreign Relations

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Bruce Hoffman
Bruce Hoffman

Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security

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Sheila A. Smith
Sheila A. Smith

John E. Merow Senior Fellow for Asia Pacific Studies

Japan Defense and Security Asia

Constitutional Change in Japan

Robert E. Rubin
Robert E. Rubin

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Shannon K. O'Neil
Shannon K. O'Neil

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Edward Alden
Edward Alden

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Henri J. Barkey
Henri J. Barkey

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies

Middle East and North Africa Turkey Kurds

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Adam Segal
Adam Segal

Ira A. Lipman Chair in Emerging Technologies and National Security and Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

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Thomas J. Bollyky
Thomas J. Bollyky

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Steven A. Cook
Steven A. Cook

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Stewart M. Patrick

James H. Binger Senior Fellow in Global Governance and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program

Global Governance Diplomacy and International Institutions International Organizations

Scott A. Snyder
Scott A. Snyder

Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy

North Korea South Korea Asia

Paul B. Stares
Paul B. Stares

General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action

Conflict Prevention Wars and Conflict Defense and Security

Michelle Gavin
Michelle Gavin

Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies

Botswana South Africa Zimbabwe

Rethinking Stability in Africa

Ray Takeyh
Ray Takeyh

Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies

Iran Iran Nuclear Agreement Persian Gulf

The Last Shah

Stephen Sestanovich
Stephen Sestanovich

George F. Kennan Senior Fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies

Russia Europe and Eurasia U.S. Foreign Policy

Joshua Kurlantzick
Joshua Kurlantzick

Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia Asia Democracy

Myanmar’s Junta Still Has Nothing to Fear From ASEAN

Gideon Rose
Gideon Rose

Mary and David Boies Distinguished Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy

Wars and Conflict Middle East and North Africa Southeast Asia

Rose: The Path to American Recovery Remains Unclear

Carla Anne Robbins

The Enemy Uncounted

Explainers

Featured Publications

Middle East and North Africa

A perceptive and provocative history of Henry Kissinger’s diplomatic negotiations in the Middle East that illuminates the unique challenges and barriers Kissinger and his successors have faced in their attempts to broker peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Global

This was an extraordinary year for the Council. Established in the wake of a global pandemic of influenza, CFR experienced its centennial year amid another—COVID-19. Although the celebrations this year could not be in person, CFR marked the occasion with a special website, a new CFR store, dedicated programming, and a short history book.

Climate Change

COVID-19 exposed the world’s failure to prepare for the worst—can we learn to build back better?