Tim Benton

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French farmers stop their tractors on the A16 motorway near L'Isle-Adam, on January 30, 2024, as French farmers maintain roadblocks on key highways into Paris (Photo by SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images)

As many countries prepare to go to the polls in 2024, the need for a transition to Net Zero emissions has become a key political battleground. In Europe, the sustainability of farming practices is the latest flashpoint, intertwining political interests, ideologies and food supply.

Farmers’ protests have spilled into the streets of Paris, Berlin and Brussels, transforming urban centres and turning motorways into battlegrounds where the clashes between agricultural interests, sustainability policies, economic inequality and nationalist manipulation play out.

In France, the EU’s biggest agricultural producer, a blockade of 800 tractors has surrounded the capital to ‘ starve Paris’. The farmers’ grievances range from government taxes, cheap imports and water storage issues to price pressures from retailers and red tape from regulations, particularly around the controls on nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides.…  Seguir leyendo »

The climate is on its way to exceeding a 1.5°C increase in the global temperature. World leaders can stop it – but they have to act now.

In the run up to COP28, its incumbent president, Dr Sultan Al Jaber made an impassioned plea, saying: ‘We must deliver, let this process prove that multilateralism still works.’

But optimism is in scant supply. Russia’s war in Ukraine and now the war between Israel and Hamas has ratcheted up tension, enhancing distrust and undermining willingness to cooperate, and retrenching the idea that fossil fuels are key to energy security in turbulent times.

This palpable distrust was not helped by revelations, this week, that the COP presidency had allegedly planned to use COP28 as an opportunity to discuss new oil and gas deals for the UAE.…  Seguir leyendo »

Crop spraying in Ens, The Netherlands. (Photo by Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images)

This year’s international climate change conference, COP28, will be the first such conference to have a major focus on food, which the UAE as COP28 president sees as important aspect of its agenda.

This is long overdue: food systems are responsible for about a third of all greenhouse gases produced by human activity. Modern farming methods are the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss. In turn, the world’s ability to provide healthy diets (‘food security’) is threatened by the impacts of climate change, with severe weather like storms and drought affecting the ability to produce and transport food.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine have also emphasized the global food system’s lack of resilience, and how easily events drive up food prices.…  Seguir leyendo »

'1.5 Degrees' is projected on the Eiffel Tower on 11 December 2015 in Paris, France. Photo by Getty Images.

The target of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels has been a totemic threshold ever since the 2015 Paris Agreement, indicating whether climate change is within manageable limits, whatever the political rhetoric.

In June 2023, the global temperature temporarily passed the threshold, with heatwaves, wildfires and flooding affecting every part of the world.

With COP28 approaching, scientists, journalists, and politicians are proclaiming either ‘keep 1.5 alive’, ‘1.5 is dead’, or ’every fraction of a degree matters’.

However, both the ‘keep 1.5 alive’ and ‘1.5 is dead’ narratives may be missing the point.

1.5°C matters – it represents a level of heating beyond which critical ‘tipping points’ may be breached.…  Seguir leyendo »

Walking under an array of potted succulent plants in the Green Zone of the UNFCCC COP27 climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Loss and Damage fund is a historic moment

Anna Aberg

COP27 will go down in history as the UN climate change conference where the Loss and Damage fund was agreed. After decades of pushing, this is a momentous victory for climate-vulnerable developing countries.

The shift in the conversation – and in the positions of developed countries – since COP26 is remarkable. It is critical parties continue to build on the positive momentum created in Sharm as challenging discussions on how the new loss and damage fund will work – and who will contribute to it financially – ensue.

Tim Benton

Overall COP27 was a hectic, sometimes chaotic, event that advanced some matters but left others trailing behind where they need to be to drive ambition towards the sort of climate action required to keep alive the possibility of restricting climate change within the envelope of the Paris agreement.…  Seguir leyendo »

10 Downing Street in London, United Kingdom as seen on 05 September 2022 as Liz Truss was announced as the UK's next prime minister. Photo: Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

It says something of the UK that the incoming prime minister has ordered a rewrite of British foreign policy barely 18 months after the last one was published.

Liz Truss, who has become the fourth prime minister in Downing Street in six turbulent years, is not prone to risk aversion or offering bland reassurances. She made clear during the campaign for the Conservative leadership that she wants the 2021 Integrated Review redrawn with a far greater focus on combating the ‘growing malign influence’ of Russia and China. She has also pledged to increase defence spending from its current 2.1 per cent of GDP, to 2.7 per cent, and then to 3 per cent by 2030, which will include more support for the intelligence services and cyber security, a further £10 billion overall at a time when public finances are in dire straits.…  Seguir leyendo »

Harvesting wheat in the Novovodolazhsky district of the Kharkiv region in Ukraine. Photo by Pavlo Pakhomenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Russia and Ukraine rank 11th and 55th respectively in terms of their national economies but, for the global supply of critical resources such as energy, food, and minerals, these two countries together are far bigger hitters – and both the threat and reality of resource flows from them being reduced have already driven up global prices.

The world is already facing a cost-of-living squeeze coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, so further price spikes or supply constraints have the potential to seriously undermine food and energy security, equitable access to basic goods and services, and social stability around the world – which can then potentially create systemic risks for economies and societies.…  Seguir leyendo »

UK president for COP26 Alok Sharma reacts during his concluding remarks at the 2021 COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images.

Overall verdict is not enough done

Professor Tim Benton

Not enough has been done at this meeting to reduce emissions consistent with avoiding dangerous climate change in decades to come.

There have been lots of pledges and the launching of encouraging new international initiatives, some more meaningful than others. But genuine urgency and a willingness to match words with action and to close the yawning gap between pledges and detailed, short-term plans is still missing.

Governments need to move forward from this summit with renewed determination to cooperate, urgently build on what’s been agreed here, and strengthen their nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) in the next year, while providing the finance that poor countries and vulnerable populations need.…  Seguir leyendo »

UK prime minister Boris Johnson visits the Colosseum during the 2021 G20 summit in Rome, Italy. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

Success at Glasgow depends on bridging fault lines

Renata Dwan

The G20 summit’s lack of progress on climate highlights the scale of the challenge – and the stakes – for COP26.  The countries responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions recognized but failed to agree concrete action to limit global warming to 1.5C.

The leaders’ gathering reveals multilateralism’s fault lines. One is the tension between domestic politics and international priorities, reflected in the lack of ambition to reduce coal dependency.  The second is the tension between industrialized and developing states over responsibility for delivering global goods.

The G20 failed to endorse the G7’s pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or to accelerate the mobilization of previously agreed climate financing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Farmer standing in his field in the agricultural landscape of Cotabato Province, Mindanao Island, the Philippines. Photo: Tessa Bunney/Contributor/Getty Images.

This paper explores the role of the global food system as the principal driver of accelerating biodiversity loss. It explains how food production is degrading or destroying natural habitats and contributing to species extinction. The paper outlines the challenges and trade-offs involved in redesigning food systems to restore biodiversity and/or prevent further biodiversity loss, and presents recommendations for action.

The paper introduces three ‘levers’ for reducing pressures on land and creating a more sustainable food system. The first is to change dietary patterns to reduce food demand and encourage more plant-based diets. The second is to protect and set aside land for nature, whether through re-establishing native ecosystems on spared farmland or integrating pockets of natural habitat into farmland.…  Seguir leyendo »

Six Aspects of Daily Life Rapidly Changed by COVID-19

When the pandemic struck, many countries were quick to close their borders, turning inward in the scramble to protect lives and livelihoods. Sadly, the crisis has done little to bond nations against this shared, invisible foe – in some cases, blame for the outbreak and rows over responses actually exacerbating geopolitical tensions.

However, some effects of COVID-19 may yet unite us, in the profound ways the disease has impacted almost every part of life across the planet, giving us a rare opportunity to pause and consider how we live. News of an effective vaccine makes the prospect of a ‘return to normality’ more hopeful but have these dramatic accelerations in existing trends already changed how we travel, work, and consume, and the face of our cities for good?…  Seguir leyendo »

The authors of this collection consider the most pressing foreign policy challenges for the next US president, and examine how the outcome of the 2020 election will affect these.

The president will determine how the US’s diplomatic, economic and military resources are invested, and what value the administration will attach to existing alliances and multilateral institutions.

Whoever sits in the White House will shape the trajectory of the US–China relationship and the global economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as international cooperation on climate action, international trade and technology policy, and health.


  • The last four years have confirmed that the choices the US makes are highly consequential for international politics.
…  Seguir leyendo »

Experts across Chatham House shared their views on Trump and Biden’s performance and their key takeaways from the last debate. More than 47 million Americans have already cast their vote and few voters are undecided, but the debates still provide a good lens into these two very different candidates.

Throughout the presidential race, there have been concerns regarding foreign interference in the election. How did candidates respond to this threat?

Leslie Vinjamuri: The candidates deflected the question, but it could not have been more timely. Only two days ago, John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, and Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, announced that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data and used this to send threatening emails to voters.…  Seguir leyendo »

Axios Delta National Park near Thessaloniki in Greece. The park has four rivers and 295 bird species including pelicans, black-winged stilts, ducks and flamingos. The park is protected despite being located next to an industrial zone and the city which has a population of over 1,000,000 people. Photo: Getty Images

Throughout history, humans have been afflicted by diseases transmitted from animals. The current coronavirus outbreak is the latest to have taken place in recent years from the 1998 Nipah virus in Malaysia to the 2014 Ebola virus across West Africa.

Over the past decade, the World Health Organization has declared four global health emergencies and research reveals outbreaks are becoming more common. How do diseases transmit from animals to humans and why are we seeing an increase around the world?

Tim Benton: The fundamental job of pathogens throughout evolution has been to maximize their chances of infecting susceptible organisms.

Pathogens can live in lots of different host organisms and so they are continually looking for an opportunity to jump from one species to another.…  Seguir leyendo »

Professional divers maintain underwater bells at Nemo's Garden in Noli, Italy, an innovative agriculture project with no need to water or use pesticides, and the possibility of countries without arable soil using this method. Photo by Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images.

The way we grow, process and consume food — our food system — underpins human social and economic development for centuries. Innovations such as domesticating plants and animals, bread-making, the plough or the refrigerator have transformed what we grow, how we grow it, and how we prepare and consume food.

But our food system now faces its biggest ever challenge. How to feed a growing human population to avoid diet-related ill-health (through too much or too little food) but in a way that does not drive climate change or biodiversity loss.

Research on the future of our food systems has largely focused on incremental changes possible with existing technologies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents look on as flames burn through bush on 4 January 2020 in Lake Tabourie, NSW. Photo: Getty Images.

The 2019–20 fire season in Australia has been unprecedented. To date, an estimated 18 million hectares of fire has cut swathes through the bush – an area greater than that of the average European country and over five times the size of blazes in the Amazon.

This reflects previous predictions of Australian science. Since  2008 and as recently as  2018, scientific bodies have warned that climate change will exacerbate existing conditions for fires and other climatic disasters in Australia. What used to be once-in-a-generation fires now re-appear within 10–15 years with increased ferocity, over longer seasons.

In a country known for climate denial and division, debate has erupted around bushfire management and climate change.…  Seguir leyendo »

A shared agenda: strengthening democracy at home

Leslie Vinjamuri

As Britain is set to leave the EU, many have argued that the US–UK relationship is bound to suffer a lasting setback, since a UK outside the EU cannot possibly be as important or helpful to the United States as one that is in.

To make matters worse, Trump’s policies on Iran, trade and climate are making it hard for the UK to align with its American ally. And Trump’s popularity among the UK electorate is reported to be as low as 21%, so the UK’s candidates for prime minister are likely to be cautious when considering how to engage this American president.…  Seguir leyendo »

Theresa May visits a farm in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Photo: Getty Images.

Whatever one thinks of Brexit, the process has highlighted a fundamental problem with the UK’s governance mechanisms – namely, that policymaking is often trapped within departmental silos too focused on the short term. In a complex world, decisions made for the benefit of one sector, or group, have the potential to affect other sectors in myriad ways over long periods of time, but government struggles to manage these competing interests.

For example, producing more food – in order to make it cheaper – impacts water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions, and potentially degrades the environment. That trade may allow these impacts to happen overseas and play out over many years doesn’t mean they go away.…  Seguir leyendo »