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Should the COVID-19 Vaccine become a Global Public Good?

When the inventor of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk, was asked who owns his discovery, he responded, ‘the people. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?’

As we enter the second year of COVID-19, various pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Novavax have completed their final round of vaccine trials at a record pace, and the roll out in some countries has now begun. Despite this being a cause for hope as we finally start to see some light at the end of the long COVID tunnel, the world has started to witness the phenomenon of ‘vaccine nationalism,’ which may hinder the global battle against the pandemic. Such a term is used to define the actions taken by governments of wealthy countries, who have signed direct deals with pharmaceutical companies in order to receive first access to billions of COVID-19 vaccine doses for their own populations. In doing so, these countries restrict the access to vaccines for other states.

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Political Entrepreneurship and Civil Society

Book Review: Catherine E. De Vries and Sara B. Hobolt. Political Entrepreneurs: The Rise of Challenger Parties in Europe. Princeton, United States: Princeton University Press, 2020. 

The European Union brings together 27 democratic member states, which all have individual domestic political arrangements. Issues that divide politics in one nation-state can lead to divisions in supranational decision-making and the increasing fragmentation of political discourse on a national level, therefore, represents challenges for the bloc as a whole. There is a need to study issue emergence on an European level in order to better understand the mechanisms that drive contemporary political debate. Catherine De Vries’ and Sara Hobolt’s work Political Entrepreneurs: The Rise of Challenger Parties aims to advance the academic debate in this field with a quantitative study about political issue emergence. While the work provides valuable insights into why certain parties choose to mobilise certain issues in their programmes, the book does not demonstrate why these issues become important in our society and how they are legitimised in our discourse. 

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Facebook and Australia: Cyber domain in turmoil?

On the morning of the 18th of February, Australians woke up to find that their access to global and local news sites on Facebook had been restricted. The issue of Australia wanting to force Facebook to pay their news institutions for putting their news online has been and still is a hot debate. Nonetheless, people in Australia and the rest of the world were disgruntled to notice how ruthlessly access to certain news sites on Facebook had been restricted. PM Scott Morrison said the following: “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Furthermore, the ex-Facebook Australian boss Mr Scheeler made the following statement: “I’ve come around to the view that the scale, size and influence of these platforms, particularly on our minds, our brains, and all the things that we do as citizens, as consumers, are just so powerful that leaving them in the hands of a few, very closely controlled companies like Facebook is the recipe for disaster.” 

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The power of reforestation: An interview with Felix Finkbeiner from Plant-for-the-Planet

In 2007, 9-year-old Felix Finkbeiner founded the organization Plant-for-the-Planet and his goal became to plant as many trees as he could to advocate for climate mitigation. Only three years later, the organization celebrated with planting their one millionth tree. The slogan ‘Stop Talking, Start Planting’ became a social media success as young people all around the world drew attention to the importance of planting trees. In 2011 the UN General Assembly handed the Trillion Tree Campaign to Plant-for-the-Planet. The world currently has three trillion trees and can host a trillion more. Trees are powerful in combating climate change, so the Trillion Trees Campaign is important in buying time to reduce CO2 emissions. Partner organizations all around the world are committed to this campaign and until now 14 billion trees in over 130 countries have been planted. The aim is to repopulate areas with trees and to work towards a carbon neutral world. Restoring deforested areas and allowing for forests to take back its natural habitat. 

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Back to the Future: A wind powered shipping revolution?

While the aerospace industry has attracted much attention given the terrible blow it was dealt by the Coronavirus crisis, another giant transport industry has also been seeking to adapt to the challenges of this century: the shipping industry. The globalization and intensification of trade links, accompanied by the emergence of transitioning economies, along with a growing culture of consumerism and delivery culture has resulted in cargo ships handling 11 billion tons of product per year. These range from raw materials to manufactured goods and amounts to 90% of the world’s global trade. The cargo shipping industry is now caught in between the pressure of a growing demand for goods and the imperatives of climate change. Nearly everything around us has once been on a boat meaning that ships and ports are a key part of the infrastructure on which our ways of life rely. As such they represent an important source of reducing our environmental footprint. The solution of wind-powered cargo ships is slowly making its return after being replaced two centuries ago by the coal-powered steamships. 

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Event Review: The New EU Taxonomy on Sustainable Activities

On January 18th 2021 the Energy and Environment Policy Centre hosted a panel event to discuss the new EU Taxonomy on sustainable activities as a part of our theme Does the private sector align with a carbon net zero future? The innovative, pragmatic and science-based Taxonomy regulation is yet another example of the European Union’s leadership within climate change and commitment to meeting its ambitious 2030 and 2050 energy and climate targets.  

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Rohingya: Citizens of Nowhere

Nationality has been a cornerstone of every major human rights treaty and statelessness has been a conundrum of it. Article 15 of the 1948 United Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to a nationality”. The Rohingya refugees have been one of the most persecuted groups in the world, and they predominantly belong to the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Myanmar considered them ‘Illegal Bengali Immigrants’ and denied them citizenship, though historical evidence clearly states that they are inhabitants of Myanmar. As per the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Law, Rohingya people were excluded from the list of 135 national ethnic communities. Consequently, it effectively rendered 800,000 Rohingya stateless, denying them their rights to study, access to health services, marry, work, and practice their religion. Post-1992, the situation of Rohingya people worsened when an ‘Interagency Border Protection Force’ was formed to oppress them. After being denied citizenship and persuaded into the country, some 250,000 Rohingya left the country and fled to Cox Bazar, Bangladesh. According to World Vision, since 2017 after genocidal acts and constant brutal campaign violence against them, over 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar. Another brutal campaign, “Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation”, propelled 200,000 Rohingya to flee from Myanmar. 

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Space: The New Frontier for Policy and Strategy

On the 21st of December 2015, SpaceX conducted a successful test of its Falcon 9 Rocket. The partially reusable rocket marked an extraordinary achievement as it demonstrated that the cost of space travel could be significantly reduced. 

Reusable rocketry has been a recurrent theme in space travel since the ‘space race’. The US-led Space Shuttle project and the Soviet Buran spacecraft sought to overcome the cost barrier associated with space travel by developing rugged crafts that may be used multiple times. Both projects failed to economise space travel, and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union left the US unchallenged in space. However, the above-mentioned developments have thrust space travel back into the strategic spotlight. SpaceX is not the only company to be making advances in this area. Boutique companies, such as the New Zealand-based Rocketlab, have found a business selling low-cost launches for satellites to private entities. The “ride-sharing” model allows various prices depending on the weight and value of one’s payload.

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Keeping the Republic: Reflections on the American Constitution

There is an oft told story that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin told a curious group of Philadelphians that the men who assembled during the summer of 1787 had created “a Republic, if you can keep it.” With the events of recent years, it appears that the American people haven’t upheld their end of the bargain in keeping the Republic. Specific revisions to the Constitution of the United States have been so drastic that they barely resemble the Framers’ intent, leading to ruinous implications for national leadership and a lack of concern for what truly matters, state and local governance. 

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Greening the World Trade Organization: five priorities for EU foreign policy

The need to integrate climate and trade agendas

Today, humans have collectively come to constitute a geological force that undermines the very natural balances that have preempted the growth of civilization and the triumph of human nature itself, giving rise to an era of anthropogenic climate change. Human activity has already been responsible for a 1.0ºC increase over pre-industrial levels. It is widely recognized that an increase over 1.5ºC will cause irreversible harm to both human and natural ecosystems, with more extreme and variable weather events, resource scarcity, sea-level rise, biodiversity loss, economic recessions and global conflicts. 

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