Your Friday Briefing – The New York Times

World leaders and climate activists are heading to Egypt for the annual U.N. climate talks, which begin on Sunday.

The two weeks of negotiations to be held at COP27 come at a tense time. Since last year’s meetings in Scotland, just 26 of the 193 countries that agreed to step up their climate actions have followed through with more ambitious plans.

To understand the stakes, we spoke with our colleague Lisa Friedman.

What are the major themes?

Countries that failed last year to put forward strengthened targets were expected to do so before COP27. And the protection of vulnerable countries is going to be really high on the agenda.

We’ll hear a lot on the subject from the small island nations that are the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to climate change, as well as from very vulnerable countries in Asia and Africa.

We’re most likely going to see developing countries make a dramatic stand and call for wealthy nations to provide compensation for a problem that these poorer nations didn’t cause but with which they have to deal.

How does the war in Ukraine affect the talks?

A lot of countries are finding it very hard to move forward this year with their climate commitments.

Germany is moving back toward coal. President Biden is leaning on oil-producing nations to produce more oil in the short term. And European nations are pushing African countries to develop more gas, when, just a few years ago, you saw Europe pressuring Africa to focus on renewables.

But a lot of leaders make the case that one can focus on oil and gas supplies in the short term, while also aiming to phase out fossil fuels. In fact, the International Energy Agency said last month that the war could actually speed up the shift to clean energy. COP27 will be one place where we will see if leaders are as serious about climate change as they are about their near-term energy needs.

Even though this is the 27th meeting, climate change is still barreling forward. Is anything going to change this time around?

I have medium expectations. There are big COPs and little COPs, and every five years or so there is a big decision-making protocol: Kyoto, Paris, Glasgow.

I do expect there to be agreements and deals that move things farther along in the right direction. But the thing we’ll be looking for is whether governments will keep the promises they make at these summits.

Ethiopia began taking steps toward peace yesterday, a day after the government and forces in the northern Tigray region agreed to a surprising cessation of hostilities that could end a two-year civil war.

But experts said the deal has clear winners and losers: It appears to be a decisive victory for Ethiopia’s government and could be hard for leaders of the Tigray region to sell to their people.

Details: The agreement calls for the full disarmament of Tigray’s forces within 30 days, according to a copy of the final deal, which has not been published but was obtained by The New York Times. The deal also paves the way for Ethiopia’s federal troops to take over all airports, highways and federal facilities within the Tigray region. Those federal troops have been fighting the Tigrayans for the last two years, and some have been accused by the U.N. of carrying out atrocities that amount to war crimes.

Analysis: Kjetil Tronvoll, a scholar of Ethiopian politics at Oslo New University College, said that convincing Tigrayan forces to “voluntarily disarm and make themselves indefensible in the face of an enemy they have been fighting for two years” will be “an extremely controversial issue.”

Background: Just before the peace talks began, the Ethiopian military captured several towns in Tigray — leaving Tigrayan negotiators in a weaker position during the touchy negotiations, analysts said.

Europe has taken in 4.4 million Ukrainians this year, in addition to more than 365,000 first-time asylum applicants, many fleeing threats in Syria and Afghanistan.

That number is even more than in 2015, which stood out as the landmark period of migration in contemporary European history, when 1.2 million refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East arrived.

The new refugee crisis is raising uncomfortable questions about the distribution of refugees — and their uneven treatment — while heightening concerns over the anticipated arrival of more Ukrainians. The new humanitarian crisis holds an increasing risk of political fallout.

Quotable: “This is going to be a tough winter in Europe, which is facing the biggest forced displacement since World War II,” said Hanne Beirens, director of Migration Policy Institute Europe. “The conflict in Ukraine is being protracted, and the Ukrainians are going to stay longer.”

Context: The war in Ukraine has forced more than 14 million people to leave their homes, the U.N. said.

The coconut-and-chocolate Bounty bar is perhaps Britain’s most controversial confection. Recognizing the candy’s less-than-stellar reputation, Mars Wrigley said this week that it would test versions of a popular holiday season collection of chocolates without the confection. The news is stirring a national debate.

What was promised and what is actually being delivered at the Qatar World Cup: Qatar’s 700-page bid book made plenty of grand promises about what would happen at World Cup 2022, but how much of it stands up to scrutiny?

World Cup participating countries give their views on Qatar: Australia became the first team to publicly call for the decriminalization of homosexuality in Qatar, but what do other countries say? We have answers.

Planes, trains and automobiles! Inside a mad journey to the World Cup: What happens when you send two writers through 17 countries, on at least seven modes of transportation and over 4,000 miles to get to Qatar and the World Cup? We are finding out, in real time. Will they make it?

For decades, Gabon has relied on petroleum to drive its economy. But officials know their oil won’t last forever. So they’ve turned to the country’s other abundant resource — a huge Congo Basin rainforest, full of valuable trees — to help make up the difference once the oil is gone.

However, unlike Brazil and other countries that have stood by as rainforests are decimated, Gabon has adopted strict rules designed to keep the most of its trees standing.

The country has banned raw timber exports (France was a major buyer) and created tax breaks to attract furniture companies, plywood makers and others to build factories and create jobs. Rules limit logging to just two trees per hectare, about 2.5 acres, every 25 years. And, to fight illegal logging, a new program tracks logs with bar codes.

Gabon’s aim is to strike a balance between the needs of a single nation and those of a world facing a climate crisis. The approach appears to be working, and other countries are already copying aspects of Gabon’s plan, making it a potential blueprint for rainforest protection.

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