From Xi landing in Hong Kong to Putin’s response to Finland and Sweden’s NATO entry – Here’s your July 1 news briefing

From Xi landing in Hong Kong to Putin’s response to Finland and Sweden’s NATO entry – Here’s your July 1 news briefing
China’s President Xi Jinping speaks upon his arrival via high-speed rail, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, China June 30, 2022. Selim Chtayti/Pool via REUTERS

To start off, we’re looking into:

China’s Xi has arrived in Hong Kong

After nearly 900 days in mainland China, President Xi has left for the neighboring semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong to celebrate the city’s 25th anniversary of Chinese rule. He arrived with his wife, Peng Liyuan, to crowds of schoolchildren and a traditional lion dance. He was greeted by both current leader Lam and her successor, Lee – both of whom, alongside around 3,000 other people involved in the festivities, had to hotel quarantine in preparation for his arrival.

In a short speech at West Kowloon railway station, Xi said that Hong Kong had been “… reborn from the ashes, showing vigor and vitality.” He also added that the “one country, two systems” structure the city operates under would ensure its stability and success. The last time Xi visited in 2017, he said that the obstacles to Chinese rule wouldn’t be permitted. Meanwhile, one of the city’s last remaining protest groups, The League of Social Democrats, said it wouldn’t hold a July 1 protest. It’s speculated that Xi will stay in neighboring Shenzhen as Hong Kong battles another surge of over 2,000 daily cases and will return to the city for Lee’s inauguration.

Russia responds to NATO’s expansion

Putin NATO
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends Caspian Summit in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan June 29, 2022. Sputnik/Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via REUTERS

On Wednesday, in a historic move, NATO officially invited Sweden and Finland to join the Western security alliance, expanding the bloc further east. This comes amid the invasion of Ukraine and after gaining Turkey’s support, a country that was initially against the entrance of the new members. Previously, Russia had said that if the two countries joined NATO, it would lead to “serious military and political consequences.” And, when NATO offered membership to the two, Russia called it “destabilizing.”

Since then, Putin has responded, saying that he has no problem with the expansion of the security alliance because Russia has no territorial differences with the two. However, if military infrastructure and capabilities are deployed and built in those countries, then “we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us,” he said.

The US Supreme Court comes after the EPA

US Supreme Court EPA
Exhaust rises from the stacks of a coal-fired power station in West Virginia. Picture taken May 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to limit the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon emissions coming from power plants. The decision is a severe blow to the agency’s ability to grapple with climate change, and it makes it significantly more difficult for the president to make executive decisions that limit carbon emissions.

The majority opinion in the ruling basically said that a previous law passed by Congress doesn’t give the EPA the authority to make such regulations and that, basically, any regulations that the EPA had been handling would have to be more explicitly spelled out by new laws in Congress.

The decision is being praised as a victory by a number of Republican states and coal companies in a multi-year effort to reduce the EPA’s ability to regulate them by curbing carbon emissions.

To end, we’ll look into:

A carbon-sucking plant breaks ground in Iceland

Climeworks Mammoth
A view of groundbreaking at Climeworks’ Mammoth direct air capture plant, Hellisheidi Geothermal Park, near Reykjavik, Iceland in this undated handout picture obtained by Reuters June 28, 2022. Climeworks/Handout via REUTERS

We need a lot of creative solutions to solve the climate crisis, and unique technological advancements will be needed to deal with the increasing amount of carbon emissions that get put into our atmosphere each year.

But there’s also a more straightforward approach, and it pretty much boils down to this: reach up into the air and suck out the carbon dioxide. Sounds easy, right?

Not so much, but it’s not deterring some from trying.

In Iceland, Climeworks, a Swiss climate tech company, just broke ground on its largest facility for sucking carbon dioxide from the air. The new plant, named Mammoth, is one of less than 20 direct air capture (DAC) plants in the world that do this kind of thing, and it’s going to be able to suck around 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air per year.

That all sounds amazing until you realize that the International Energy Agency (IEA) says that to make a serious dent in greenhouse gas emissions, these kinds of plants need to be able to draw down 85 million metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030. The hope is that a new generation of plants will be able to pull about 1 million tons of carbon out of the air, but that’s a way out from the Mammoth under construction for the next year and a half or so. Still, it’s pretty cool to scientifically emulate what trees have been doing for thousands of years.

In other news …

📈Stocks, oil and Bitcoin: Global stocks performed sharply lower on Thursday, with the MSCI’s gauge of global stocks around the world lowering 0.95%. The S&P 500 has posted its worst first half since 1970, losing around 20% since the start of this year, with the ongoing worries about Ukraine and Russia, China’s lockdown, the Fed hike and inflation. On Thursday, the US Commerce Department showed that consumer spending rose less than expected last month. But, inflation is still strong, suggesting that the Fed will continue hiking rates until reaching price stability.

🛢Oil prices fell as OPEC+ members confirmed that August outputs would increase only as much as previously announced. US crude is at US$106.72, and Brent is at US$115.16.

💵Bitcoin settled at around US$18,872.

Bongbong has been sworn in: Ferdinand “Bongbong" Marcos Jr, the son of the Philippines’ late dictator, was sworn in as the country’s new president on Thursday.

🏝Snake Island: Ukraine’s “Snake" (Zmiinyi) Island is on the northwest of the Black Sea, and Russia seized it on the first day of the invasion. But, after four months of ongoing attacks from Ukraine, Russia has retreated and left the island. Experts have said stationing troops on the island makes no sense for either side. Ukraine said this was due to its military efforts; Russia says it’s a “gesture of goodwill" to allow grain to be shipped from Ukraine.

🔎Immediate investigation of migrant treatment at Moroccan-Spanish border: An investigation has been called after as many as 2,000 migrants were trying to enter Spain by climbing fences surrounding Melilla – ​​a Spanish enclave at the edge of Morocco – leading to a stampede and brutal attack by Moroccan security.

📃NATO’s China mention: In NATO’s latest strategy blueprint, the Western security alliance said that one of its main priorities would be to tackle the “systemic challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China to Euro-Atlantic security." It’s the first time NATO’s strategy has explicitly mentioned China, and China wasn’t pleased. “Who’s challenging global security and undermining world peace? Are there any wars or conflicts over the years where Nato is not involved? … When it comes to acts that undermine China’s interests, we will make firm and strong responses," said China’s mission to the EU in a statement.

💻Zoom firing: As the world grows increasingly accustomed to applying, being hired and working through Zoom after rolling out of bed while still in PJs, unsurprisingly, mass job cuts via Zoom have also been rising. US mortgage company fired 900 workers over Zoom in December last year. “If you’re on this call, you’re part of the unlucky group being laid off," its CEO said. “It was very callous," recalled one former employee to the BBC.

🏪Pret is going to India: London and Hong Kong’s favorite go-to, Pret A Manger, is headed to India, partnering with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Brands to launch into the market. Over the next five years, as many as 100 shops will be set up and opened in the South Asian nation.

🎬Cameron Diaz is back: Hollywood rom-com sweetheart Cameron Diaz is exiting retirement for an action film with Jamie Foxx called, ironically, “Back in Action."

Written and put together by Jake Shropshire, Christine Dulion and Krystal Lai