2020 is the first year of delivery for the EU’s climate ambitions. The European Commission has set itself a goal to tackle climate change with unprecedented urgency and ambition through its European Green Deal plan, at the heart of which is the objective to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. Yet as the EU produces only about 9% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, it is absolutely vital that these ambitions have a strong external element to them as well. The transition must thus be built upon realistic targets and pragmatic diplomatic approach to credibly project the EU’s normative power.
Water is the basis of life. The access, possession and control of water therefore mean power, make it a potential source of conflict. But the hypothesis that as nations run of out of water they may go to war is one-dimensional and linear. It underestimates other factors including how nations operate, what motivates war and the actual cost of war.
Shared water resources i.e. the approximately 276 water bodies, lakes and rivers shared by some 148 countries around the world, are generally seen as issues of potential conflict. Empirical evidence reveals, however, there have been more instances of cooperation than conflict over shared water resources in the past decades. On occasion countries have used their shared water resources to forge ties often leading to cooperation in other spheres as well.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) currently faces the biggest crisis since its inception in 1995. Events that appear as bureaucratic chess games threaten to risk the business rules of major trading nations around the globe. On 11 December, the Appellate Body, the committee dealing with WTO members’ appeals became incapacitated after its membership dropped from three – the minimum to take decisions on cases – to only one remaining adjudicator. New appointments have been blocked by the United States since June 2017. This effectively shuts down the body, because the minimum requirement for any decision is three judges. In a recent move, the U.S. government has placed a veto on any funding for the Appellate Body’s secretariat in Geneva, meaning that it will have to stop operating at the beginning of 2020.
Governance of the Arctic region is robust, orderly and sound. There are multiple forums for cooperation. These forums have survived and thrived through conflict and tension. There is no indication that any state might withdraw from any of these forums, or that the future of any institution is in question.
North Africa is by most measures already an exceedingly hostile environment. It has relatively little arable land, next to no rainfall beyond the narrow coastal strip, and extreme temperature highs, which regularly top 45°C. Such is the region’s stark aridity that one can travel from the Nile river to the Atlantic Ocean, some 4000km (2500 miles), without stumbling on a single surface water source. These natural challenges have long posed considerable governance difficulties for regional states, who have struggled to bring development or prosperity to their poor, unsettled desert interiors. That failure has contributed to much of the Sahara’s emergence as a lawless node of discontent and instability.