Tuesday. 17/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Peter Firth

Slow going

Naming an environmental campaign The Glacier Initiative might fail to communicate the urgency of its aims. But for those in Switzerland who are arguing that a target to reduce emissions to zero by 2050 should be enshrined in the country’s constitution, things are moving fast. After launching a petition to do exactly that, the Swiss Association for Climate Protection has collected more than 120,000 signatures in less than five months.

Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, which decrees that plebiscites may be held four times a year – on anything from gambling laws to the building of minarets – this constitutes enough public attention to bring the matter to a national yes/no vote. Will it work? Probably not: there is considerable red tape to overcome before a referendum can be called. Meanwhile the government made its own pledge last month: exactly the same as the association target but with none of those inconvenient legally binding bits.

The Federal Council has said that Switzerland’s CO2 emissions could be cut by 95 per cent with existing technologies and green energy but it has yet to unveil any, ahem, concrete policies aimed at hitting the target. Without the force of the law to strong-arm governments into action, announcements of this kind are a load of hot air.

Politics / Asia

Take two

For a moment yesterday it looked as though Taiwan’s presidential election might not be the two-horse race that pundits were expecting. Terry Gou (pictured), the billionaire founder of electronics company Foxconn, was rumoured to be considering a bid for the presidency as an independent, intending to join incumbent Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling DPP and Han Kuo-yu of the opposition KMT on the ballot (pending the necessary support) in January. But yesterday evening he opted out of the competition. The billionaire had been mulling an independent run at the leadership since losing the party primary to Han in July. Gou is considered to be pro-China with close ties to Beijing. Opposition leader Han will be pleased that his votes won’t be siphoned off by the mogul.

Defence / The US

Full speed ahead

The US Air Force is aiming to rush out its next generation of fighter jets: a new model is expected to be produced in five years or less. A major restructuring of its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programme will come into effect at the start of next month, according to information obtained by Defence News. The US is moving quickly to eschew the extended timelines that have caused the F-35 fighter (pictured) to founder. Defence analyst Robert Fox, a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, thinks that this is a way to turn the page on the troubled programme. “The F-35 was far too long and has been far too expensive in its development,” he says. “It’s also pretty clear that the Russians and the Chinese got hold of most of what they needed [from the programme] to improve their own planes.”

Hospitality / Syria

Heartbreak hotels?

At the outbreak of Syria’s brutal civil war in 2011, investment, business and development ground to a halt. Among those to close down and ship out were western hotel firms. Now France’s Louvre Hotels Group has announced plans to open two stopovers in Damascus. The move has drawn criticism from those who believe that investors should boycott the Assad regime, but attempts to re-establish a functioning, peaceful society should be welcomed. Giorgio Talocci, fellow in development planning at UCL, believes that improving the lives of ordinary Syrians will be an uphill task. “The ethics are unsteady,” he says. “[These cases] can work if some of the income goes into the country’s social development – but this is rare. And with a regime like Assad’s, it is a very problematic case.”

Culture / India

On location

The Indian film industry’s biggest players will descend on Mumbai this week as the city hosts the Bollywood Oscars. And attendees will be in a celebratory mood: the thriving Hindi film industry grew 12.2 per cent in 2018 and is now worth an estimated €2.5bn. The boom can be attributed in part to the arrival of major online streaming services in the country, some of which have been investing in original Indian content. Netflix, for instance, recruited Bollywood superstars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan for its series Sacred Games and teamed up with producer Karan Johar to make films and series that are exclusive to the platform. With about 1,800 titles released last year, India is home to the world’s biggest film industry; as Netflix has shown, tapping into this prospering market is a wise investment.

M24 / The Urbanist: Tall Stories

The Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

We head to north Africa where we visit the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Completed in 1993 after six years of round-the-clock work, this hulking structure can house 25,000 worshippers. With some ambitious features to go along with its hefty price tag, the mosque is a symbol of postwar Morocco and the reign of Hassan II. Monocle 24’s Melkon Charchoglyan tells us more.

Monocle Films / Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro: The Monocle Travel Guide

Rio de Janeiro is one of the few global cities that strikes a balance between cosmopolitan hub and natural wonder. As well as its openness and unique mix of people it has a wide range of galleries, restaurants and world-famous beaches. Our travel guide will help you discover every pocket of the city; it’s published by Gestalten and available now at The Monocle Shop.

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