🌍 What you need to know about the G20

Plus: The ports are in danger

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Today’s briefing is a 5 min read:

  • 🌏 India wraps up the G20.

  • 🚢 Rising sea levels put ports at risk.

  • Plus: Quite the zoom, how the papers are covering rising oil prices, and why someone tried to cross the Atlantic in a giant hamster wheel.

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇰🇵 North Korea: Pyongyang unveiled a new nuclear assault submarine last week, reportedly capable of carrying 10 nuclear missiles. Over the border, South Korea’s military chiefs said the new sub appears “not capable of normal operation.

  2. 🇦🇹 Austria: The EU has rebuked its own envoy in Austria, Martin Selmayr, for saying Austria was sending “blood money” by continuing to buy Russian gas. Austria’s foreign ministry has also condemned Selamyr’s remarks.

  3. 🇦🇺 Australia: The Philippines and Australia elevated their ties to a strategic partnership on Friday (8 September) and have agreed to conduct joint patrols in the South China Sea. Separately, the US has also upgraded its ties with Indonesia and Vietnam in recent days.

  4. 🇬🇹 Guatemala: A court sentenced former president Otto Pérez Molina to eight years in prison on corruption charges last week. Pérez (72) has been in jail since the day after he resigned in 2015.

  5. 🇲🇦 Morocco: A 6.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 2,100 people after it hit late on Friday night. Rabat hasn’t yet issued an international appeal, but is reportedly receiving specific assistance from Spain, Qatar, Britain and the UAE.

🌏 G20 | Geopolitics

What you need to know about the G20

India's two-day summit of G20 leaders wrapped up yesterday (Sunday).

What's the G20? It's a group of 20 ‘major’ economies, but not the 20 largest: e.g., it includes both South Africa (ranked #39) and Argentina (#23).

The list of members was developed in the 1990s by mid-ranking US official Timothy Geithner (who later became US treasury secretary). He wanted a mix of key advanced and emerging economies, to better coordinate policy.

So the G20 remained a niche finance bloc until 2008, when the US upgraded it to an annual summit of leaders during the global financial crisis (GFC).

What happened this weekend in India? To the surprise of many, G20 members (including Russia) managed to agree on a declaration, including:

  • 🏦 Calling (in broad terms) for bigger and better multilateral banks

  • 🌍 Welcoming the African Union as a G20 member (it was already attending every summit as an invitee), and

  • 🇺🇦 Highlighting the suffering from the "war in Ukraine" (the text lists Russia as a source of grain, but not as the source of the invasion…)

The no-show by China’s leader was also intriguing. There were likely various factors at play, but China’s spoiler role at the summit suggests sheer rivalry was a key consideration. E.g., China tried (unsuccessfully) to:

  • 📖 Cut a Sanskrit term from the G20 declaration, likely seeing India’s phrase (meaning “the world is one family”) as rivalling China’s own vision for “a community of shared future for mankind”, and

  • 🙅 It also tried to oppose any mention of the US hosting in 2026.

Intrigue's take: In diplomacy, there's often a trade-off between legitimacy and effectiveness: adding another voice brings legitimacy (representing more people), but it cuts effectiveness (there are more competing interests).

The G20 was supposed to be the sweet spot: with a manageable 20 voices, yet covering 85% of the world's GDP and two thirds of its population.

But with the GFC in the rear-view, the G20 became a solution in search of a problem, expanding its agenda in search of purpose: its declaration this year is 15,000 words long (quadruple the 2008 statement).

Like all international bodies, the G20 is under pressure. And by most accounts, India was a solid host. But the big picture is the same: the G20 seems adrift, made worse by big power rivalry.

Also worth noting:

  • The G20’s final text on Ukraine reportedly involved "over 200 hours of non-stop negotiations, 300 bilateral meetings (and) 15 drafts".

  • G20 members also made announcements in the margins, including a US-led trade corridor from India to Europe through the Middle East; and an India-led pact on biofuels. Neither involved China.

  • Brazil will host the G20 next year, followed by South Africa in 2025 and the US in 2026.

📰 How newspapers covered…

Rising oil prices

Dubai, UAE

“Oil jumps as Saudi Arabia and Russia extend supply cuts to end-2023”

Atlanta, US

“Oil could hit $107 due to Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s supply cuts, Goldman Sachs warns”

London, UK

“G7 shelves regular Russian oil cap reviews as prices soar, sources say”

Today’s newsletter is supported by: Nice News

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🚢 Global | Shipping

Are ports going under?

A new study (💲) commissioned by Lloyd’s Register, a shipping services group, says a third of the world’s 3,800 ports are “located in a tropical band vulnerable to the most powerful effects of climate change".

Some of the at-risk ports include:

The report says a 40cm sea rise could render some ports unusable by 2050.

What to do? The study calls for more investment in resilience, including flood defence systems like the one built along the Thames in the 1970s-80s.

Intrigue’s take: Bit by bit, the global economy is adapting to what it sees over the horizon. The shipping sector’s International Maritime Organization just adopted a revised net-zero emissions target of around 2050.

But this Lloyd’s Register report suggests cutting emissions in the sector ain’t enough on its own; more ports may need bigger floodwalls, sooner.

Also worth noting:

Extra Intrigue

Your weekly roundup of the world’s quirkier headlines:

🗳️ Poll time!

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📸 Photo of the day

Credits: Mark Bret

Spot anything noteworthy about this photo? That’s the French Alps in the distance, captured from Pic de Finestrelles on the Spanish-French border, an incredible 443km away. The pic holds the world record for the longest ever photographed line of sight. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Thursday’s poll: What festivity are you most looking forward to this northern fall / southern spring?

🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ 👻 Halloween (27%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🍽 Thanksgiving (57%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🕍 Yom Kippur (2%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🪔 Diwali (6%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🎉 National independence day of... (write in!) (2%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (6%)

Your two cents:

  • ✍️ K.A: ”Pay day!”

  • Honourable mentions: Día de los Muertos (🇲🇽), Truth and Reconciliation Day (🇨🇦), National Braai Day (🇿🇦), Oktoberfest (🇩🇪), and Mid-Autumn Festival (🌏), plus the national days of Turkey (🇹🇷), Chile (🇨🇱), Mexico (🇲🇽), and Nigeria (🇳🇬).


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