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Our planet

Geopolitics. Environment. Natural resources.

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Episode 4 – Wolfgang Ischinger

Andrew Neil talks to a man once described as Europe’s most powerful ambassador about Germany’s shifting security policy and why he would still invite Russia’s foreign minister to the Munich Security Conference

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Episode 3 – Robert Kagan

Andrew Neil talks to the hawkish US foreign policy thinker about Russia’s war in Ukraine, his belief in liberal interventionism and why he thinks there’s a constitutional crisis in the United States

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Member exclusive – Inside the Interview: General David Petraeus

In a bonus episode for Tortoise members, Andrew Neil reflects on his interview with former CIA director and commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, General David Petraeus

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Episode 3 – A just transition: how to avoid leaving people behind

Can the energy transition help rather than hurt the most vulnerable households and communities? Some say the ‘spiralling costs’ of net zero will hit the poorest hardest. But if the right steps are taken, we can deliver cheaper energy bills, greener jobs and healthier communities – and make sure nobody is left behind.

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Xinjiang: The China Problem

China stands accused of committing crimes against humanity, and possibly even genocide, against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. Yet Beijing compares its system of “re-education camps” to the West’s war on terror and says it’s entitled to protect its citizens from domestic terrorism. This is the sharp end of the China problem; exhibit A of Xi Jinping’s authoritarianism and the West’s impotence to defend human rights within China’s borders

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Universities: The China Problem

Universities in the UK rely heavily on students from China, and on Chinese money and academic collaborations. But does it all come at a price? A chipping away of academic freedoms and a gagging order on discussing sensitive issues? It’s a dilemma which brings the China problem much closer to home

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TikTok: The China Problem

In the technology great game there are plenty of battlefields, but TikTok has been the most public, and the most revealing. This addictive, Chinese-owned video-sharing app has exposed a paranoia from governments in both the east and west over who controls access to information and the power of social media. What does this mean for the future of the internet?

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Retreat from Kabul: 11 days in August – Part II

In Kabul, the Taliban’s takeover was assured. In London, an ignominious retreat, and the betrayal of former comrades in the Afghan army, was more than a group of ex-soldiers, now MPs, could stomach

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Retreat from Kabul: 11 days in August – Part I

As the Taliban closed in on Kabul, and Western troops and desperate Afghans scrambled to leave, Britain found itself frozen out of decision making and incapable of influencing events. It was a stark illustration of the UK’s status, made worse by catastrophic misjudgements at the top of government

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Georgia: A democracy on the edge

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been on hunger strike now for 48 days, in protest against what he alleges is his politically-motivated arrest. It’s a fight that serves as a proxy for the debate over Georgia’s future and its fragile democracy

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“Now it’s a war”

The plight of Romania – suffering horrendously from Covid – shows that getting vaccine doses to the countries that need them is only start of the challenge

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Getting to Net Zero: an Inuit perspective

Nobody understands what is happening in the Arctic better than its Indigenous people. Effective climate change adaptation means giving them more power over the resources on which they depend

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Vaccine hoarding is a scandal. But the problem can be fixed – fast

Poorer nations have barely received any doses, while richer countries build up ever greater surpluses. All that is lacking is the political will to get the jabs to where they are needed

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Orphaned by America

Thousands of children were separated from their parents at the US border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. This is the story of how, five years later, 300 remain lost in a system designed to swallow them

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What are the economics of greening energy?

Significant investment is required to fund the energy transition. Global investment in energy is set to rebound by nearly 10% in 2021 to US$1.9 trillion, reversing most of 2020’s drop caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, spending on a clean energy transition needs to accelerate much more rapidly to meet climate goals, according to a new report from the IEA. So what is the financial cost and the macro-economic impact of a successful transition? What does this mean for greening industries and their shareholders? What kind of support is required from investors and government – and what kind should they expect?   The Readout The most recent IPCC report did not mince words: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” We know, without doubt, that humanity’s habit for carbon-intensive fuel must be broken. We know that whole industries and economies must be radically transformed. What is less certain, is what we – citizens, companies, investors, governments – are willing to pay to make that happen. Greening companies – defined by William Zimmern of bp as any high-carbon company that has the ambition and a credible plan to be low-carbon – say they are linchpins in achieving Net Zero. True enough, 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from energy consumption in three sectors: industry, transport and energy. The International Energy Agency puts the cost of transitioning these industries at trillions of dollars per year. The numbers are daunting, but after an hour spent discussing the challenge at our ThinkIn, the general feeling among attendees was one of radical optimism. The cost Spend now to save later. As Robert Gross, professor of energy policy at Imperial, highlighted early on, a successful transition is going to require huge upfront costs. This is because  1. We are moving from an energy system that is capital-light and energy-intensive to one that is capital-intensive and energy-light.  2. While renewable “fuel” comes free in the form of wind and sunshine, the shopping list of physical kit you need to harness that fuel is comparatively expensive. With oil and gas, the cost of infrastructure has, for the most part, already been sunk. 3. World population and per capita energy consumption are rising, leading to an inevitable strain on total energy supply. Scaling renewables fast reduces the risk of not having enough to go around. The upshot: our energy supply will become cheaper in the long run. As several guests pointed out, there is abundant human capital playing their part in the transition; clever, passionate people who are keen to get the ball rolling. This summer of extreme weather has made environmentalists of us all. We’re up for it. The next question: are governments up for it too? Coherence and clarity The consensus was that both are lacking from government. Unless a greater effort is made to get public and private sectors working together, investors will remain coy. The pinch points: Scale. Jade Pallister, an account manager with PLMR’s energy and sustainability practice, shared an example from one of her clients. To decarbonise aviation, the UK government has pledged £15 million for waste-to-jet-fuel plants. Pallister told us her client pays that amount in EU carbon taxes every year. Government investment needs to be more than seed money. Pricing carbon. High-tech, high-investment and potentially high-risk solutions like hydrogen will only get off the ground if the government puts a high enough price on carbon. On this, William Zimmern, lead author of bp’s Energy Outlook, was crystal clear: “At the moment the carbon price is not high enough… we think we need a carbon price of $100 per ton by 2030 and maybe more than $200 by 2050 in order to achieve climate goals.” Regulation. The regulatory coherence needed for markets to invest isn’t happening. David Claydon, a Tortoise member and financial advisor at St James’s Place, urged clarification from central banks and organisations like the TCFD on what counts as a green investment. The G20 meeting earlier this year ought to have been the moment that global agreements on green finance were inked. They weren’t. Now it’s another line on the Cop 26 to-do list. The investment required to green energy, on a global scale, is colossal. But if businesses and politicians are able to break the tragedy of 5-year horizons, a whole planet of financial opportunities awaits. At this stage, short-term local responses to a global and long-term problem simply won’t cut it. The ball is now in the politicians’ court. Thanks for joining us. Our next Net Zero ThinkIn is on Tuesday 21 September, when we’ll be in conversation with Katherine Ainley, CEO of Ericsson UK & Ireland. Barney Macintyre editor and invited experts Giles Whittell Sensemaker Editor Martijn RatsGlobal Oil Strategist and Head of European Energy Research, Morgan Stanley William ZimmernHead of energy transition and systems analysis, bp

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Genesis: The mystery of where Covid began

The truth of an origin story has never mattered more: did Covid cross to humans from an animal, or did it escape from a laboratory? The arguments between science, politics and, now, the intelligence services have only grown fiercer. And in the fog of war, the World Health Organisation lost its way

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The Arms Race: vaccine failure at Carbis Bay, the G7’s deadly sin

Last month the richest nations on the planet squared up to its greatest public health challenge, how to vaccinate every adult everywhere against Covid. They failed. The story of how and why they came up catastrophically short is a litany of political parochialism, low ambition and poor organisation – with potentially dreadful consequences

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Left to die: Escape from the Amarula – Part 3

Nick Alexander tells the story of his torturous escape from the ambushed Amarula Hotel convoy – and the question left lying in the dust of the attack: who, really, abandoned them all?

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Building Back Better: have the UK’s infrastructure priorities changed?

Breakfast ThinkIn: how do we build our way out of this crisis? Our daily digital ThinkIns are exclusively for Tortoise members and their guests.Try Tortoise free for four weeks to unlock your complimentary tickets to all our digital ThinkIns.If you’re already a member and looking for your ThinkIn access code you can find it in the My Tortoise > My Membership section of the app next to ‘ThinkIn access code’.We’d love you to join us.Infrastructure investment was a key part of the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda. But that was before C19 hit. If the way we live and work is set to change for good, are our pre-virus assumptions about what we need in terms of energy and transport still true? How should major infrastructure projects be funded now? How can they be greener, faster and create more jobs? And how are these decisions best made?Editor: Matt d’Ancona, Editor and Partner, Tortoise `This ThinkIn is in partnership with EDF.Our invited experts include: Jesse Norman MP, Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire from 2010, Financial Secretary to the Treasury from May 2019.Colin Matthews, Non-Executive Chairman of EDF in the UK, and former Chair of Highways England and Chair of the Highways Agency.Tristia Harrison, CEO TalkTalk.How does a digital ThinkIn work?A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on.The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world. Doors open at 7:55am for a welcome and briefing. Come early to get settled, meet the team and chat to other members. ThinkIn starts at 8.00am.Members can enter their unique members’ access code to book tickets. Find yours in My Tortoise > My Membership in the Tortoise app.If you have any questions or get stuck, please read our FAQs, or get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.com What is a Tortoise ThinkIn?A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. It is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.How we work with partners We want to be open about the business model of our journalism, too. At Tortoise, we don’t take ads. We don’t want to chase eyeballs or sell data. We don’t want to add to the clutter of life with ever more invasive ads. We think that ads force newsrooms to produce more and more stories, more and more quickly. We want to do less, better.Our journalism is funded by our members and our partners. We are establishing Founding Partnerships with a small group of businesses willing to back a new form of journalism, enable the public debate, share their expertise and communicate their point of view. Those companies, of course, know that we are a journalistic enterprise. Our independence is non-negotiable. If we ever have to choose between the relationship and the story, we’ll always choose the story.We value the support that those partners give us to deliver original reporting, patient investigations and considered analysis.We believe in opening up journalism so we can examine issues and develop ideas for the 21st Century. We want to do this with our members and with our partners. We want to give everyone a seat at the table.