Monday. 13/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

With power comes responsibility

We’re almost halfway through January and I’d bet that you – like me – are already struggling to keep to your new year’s resolutions. I’d also bet that one of those resolutions for 2020 had something to do with being more sustainable. Maybe you promised yourself to never buy anything in plastic unless strictly necessary, or perhaps it was about travelling more ecologically. But the supermarket always seems to be out of loose carrots when you visit and your seafaring skills won’t be up-to-scratch in time for that city break somewhere warm in February.

Don’t despair. First, it’s great that you’re trying – keep at it. And second, as much as every little bit counts, some count more than others. The changes needed to really tackle climate change have to come from two places: the government and business, especially the really big companies that are able to find important large-scale solutions and change the way whole industries work. To move forwards, we need to think big and think long-term – using your own tote bag when shopping is only going to get us so far.

Denmark has the right idea. As part of its ambitious goal to cut CO2 emissions by 70 per cent by 2030, Copenhagen recently launched 13 climate partnerships with some of the biggest Danish companies, including Maersk (shipping), Netto (a budget-supermarket chain), Ørsted (energy) and Novo Nordisk (pharmaceuticals). The idea is for these firms to work with other industry leaders to identify ways to reduce emissions. Let’s hope other global leaders also made new year’s resolutions and embark on a similarly enlightened path. And let’s hope they are better at sticking to them than the rest of us.

Resources / Ethiopia

Troubled waters

Ministers from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt will meet in Washington today to report on progress made in talks over the controversial $4.6bn (€4.1bn) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Tensions centre around Ethiopia’s use of the Blue Nile’s waters, something that Egypt says will pose an unacceptable threat to its own supply of fresh water. Ethiopia, meanwhile, insists on its sovereign right to use the river as it sees fit and is relying on the dam as an energy generator to supply electricity both for domestic use and export. Though talks stalled last week, there are glimmers of hope. “Population pressures drive a lot of this,” says Ahmed Soliman, a research fellow at Chatham House specialising in the Horn of Africa. But he thinks that the countries can find common ground. “The idea of having broader regional integration and engagement is a positive one,” he says.

Elections / USA

Still in the race

Democrats Kamala Harris and Julián Castro might have dropped out of the race to be the party’s presidential candidate but one surprise contender is hanging in there: the billionaire former hedge funder, and longtime campaigner for Donald Trump’s impeachment, Tom Steyer, who qualified for the latest debate in Des Moines on Tuesday. With just six hopefuls still standing – fewer than ever at this stage of the debates – the remaining candidates will have more time to respond to questioning in this make-or-break point ahead of the Iowa state caucus on 3 February. Though Joe Biden is still clinging to frontrunner status, Pete Buttigieg, who has recently had to withstand attacks from his opponents, will be hoping for the best night. He needs the momentum of an early win (or a good showing, at the very least) if he’s going to have any chance of becoming the Democrats’ nominee.

Privacy / China

Faces in the crowd

With fewer than two weeks to go until the Lunar New Year, the world’s largest annual mass migration is set to begin. About three billion trips will be made over the next 40 days as hundreds of millions of Chinese embark on journeys back to their respective hometowns via land, air and train to mark the occasion. This year some Chinese state railway stations have introduced ID scans and facial-recognition technology as ways of checking tickets efficiently. Although this might ease congestion, it raises concerns about how the data is used. Facial recognition is fast becoming common in smart cities worldwide but trust in the authorities that wield the technology is important. A survey last month found that 80 per cent of Chinese have security concerns about the software. “There is obviously a privacy issue,” says professor Kai-Lung Hui of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “So it depends on whether the benefit outweighs the risk.”

Transport / Seattle

Breaking the gridlock

Seattle gained something of a taste for cycling in 2019. According to data from city hall, the number of cyclists on some of its major transit routes increased by 79 per cent from 2018. The increase has been attributed to traffic congestion caused by the temporary closure of Highway 99, which meant that commuters who set out on two wheels enjoyed faster travel times than those on four. It’s a trend that’s long been in evidence in older European cities with warrens of streets that weren’t designed with cars in mind; in London, for example, bikes move at twice the speed of cars. Perhaps Seattle offers a basic lesson for cities looking to make themselves more bicycle-based: just close a few roads.

M24 / The Stack

‘Sandwich’, ‘Ìrìn Journal’ and ‘The Golfer’s Journal’

This week we speak to the editors of two new magazines – ‘Sandwich’ and ‘Ìrìn Journal’. Plus: beautiful sports quarterly ‘The Golfer’s Journal’.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: The Entrepreneurs

To celebrate the launch of our new annual publication The Entrepreneurs, we interviewed this savvy and successful lot about the ups and downs of running your own business. Available now at The Monocle Shop.

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