Friday. 29/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Time for action

My first experience of covering a climate summit was in December 2010 in Cancún, Mexico. That gathering was meant to be the big follow-up to Copenhagen, a highly-touted summit in 2009 that wound up failing rather spectacularly. By contrast, Cancún was considered a success. After two days of marathon negotiations that lasted into the early hours, a deal was agreed to by all countries except Bolivia. It then took another five years for the Paris climate accords to be brokered in 2015.

I remember being struck by the passion in Cancún: the halls were filled with climate activists; representatives of small island states, in particular, were urging more aggressive action. When a deal was finally reached, it was celebrated – even if it was hardly as ambitious as many on the ground had hoped for. Fast-forward another 11 years and that passion, like many things in our politics these days, has turned to restlessness. Climate activists have been blocking highways in the UK in the run-up to the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, which begins on Sunday, and scientists and the UN are issuing increasingly dire warnings that this is the last chance for humanity to act.

I often find myself writing columns about the merits of compromise rather than sticking stubbornly to extreme points of view. In that vein, watching a small cohort of activists glue themselves to roads feels counter-productive and unlikely to get the average member of the commuting public on side. That said, it’s true that the climate crisis demands more urgency than the platitudes about determined action that I heard more than a decade ago in Cancún. My sense is that things are truly different this time around; indeed, it feels as though much of society is now moving faster than the politicians. Businesses and manufacturers are busy retooling to cater to consumer demand. The shift in public consciousness has already happened on climate change; it’s time for global leaders to close the deal.

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / Rome

Eternal instinct

All eyes are on Rome this weekend as the city hosts the G20 summit and, apart from the notable absences of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, leaders of the world’s major economies are arriving en masse. With a packed agenda focused on the global economy, health and climate change, it’s imperative that the event runs smoothly. Can the Eternal City cope? Despite its historical standing, Rome’s ongoing transport and waste-management woes have given it a reputation as a difficult place to live and work, making this weekend’s intense security and logistical pressures even more challenging. Dozens of protests are also expected. That said, the recent ousting from municipal government of the populist Five Star Movement, which oversaw this mess, could be cause for optimism. “The huge G20 summit is the first major organisational challenge for Rome’s freshly elected centre-left mayor Roberto Gualtieri,” Rome-based CBC correspondent Megan Williams tells Monocle. A successful G20 could be just what the Italian capital needs to kickstart a more prosperous era.

For more from Megan Williams on the G20 in Rome, tune in to today's edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Japan

Generation X

Japan heads to the polls this Sunday with an ongoing problem: a lack of youth participation. Just 34 per cent of citizens in their twenties voted in the last general election in 2017, compared to 54 per cent of the whole electorate. One reason is disaffection: Japanese citizens in their twenties and thirties have faced a lifetime of economic stagnation, while a Liberal Democratic Party-led government has been in almost continuous power.

Politicians also show little interest in the needs of young people, since voters in their twenties total just 12.6 million compared to 43.7 million aged over 65. Now a group of (mostly younger) Japanese celebrities has released a video encouraging younger voters to find their voice. Candidates might be tempted to fixate on older voters but can Japan really be a proud democracy if future generations show little interest in government?

For full coverage of Japan’s elections, tune in to Monocle 24 this weekend, starting with a report from the campaign trail on today’s edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’.

Image: Getty Images

Business / USA

Name and shame

What’s in a name? That is the question on lips across Silicon Valley now that Facebook has revealed its new moniker, Meta. While it will maintain the existing Facebook name on its social-media platform, it will rename its holding company. With the move, the company hopes to shrug off a barrage of recent criticism. As well as the leak of thousands of documents by Frances Haugen that suggest Facebook knew that its products were causing harm, another whistleblower came forward this week, claiming those at the top of the company gave “constant” reminders to staff to think about investment returns even while they tried to address toxic content. The new name not only seeks to shift away from the negative headlines but also evinces CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s (pictured) goal of becoming a “metaverse company” that enmeshes physical reality with an immersive digital world, weaving augmented and virtual reality technology into our daily lives. “I’m not totally surprised that Mark Zuckerberg is embracing the opportunity to live in an alternative reality at the moment,” Josh Cowls, researcher at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, told The Daily on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Spain

Tunnel vision

Spanish state-owned train operator Renfe is preparing to give Eurostar a run for its money; it has announced plans to open a rival service between London and Paris. But rather than making moves to protect its monopoly on the flagship route between Gare du Nord and St Pancras International, Eurostar is welcoming the competition. According to Getlink, which operates the Channel Tunnel, the hope is that increased services between England and mainland Europe will allow more people to consider making low-carbon train journeys instead of short-haul flights. “The passenger rail line was put forward as a great European link but it’s been greatly underused,” Christian Wolmar, journalist and transport historian, told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “There is a lot of space in the tunnel to run more passenger services and that has never been properly exploited.” While it’s still unclear when Renfe might launch its services, we can all get on board with more options for train travel.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Amass and Clearco

This week we’re off to Los Angeles to meet Morgan McLachlan, head distiller and chief product officer for premium botanical spirits brand Amass. Its range of spirits, hard seltzers and personal-care products are a celebration of the terroir of the Canadian’s adopted home in California. Plus: we get fundraising advice and explore the world of revenue-based financing with Clearco co-founder Michele Romanow.

Monocle Films / Global

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