Issues to watch in 2022

We have asked Chatham House experts and cover-story contributors to The World Today to highlight the issues that will dominate the international agenda for the year ahead

The World Today Updated 6 July 2022 Published 3 December 2021 3 minute READ

Climate priorities

Antony Froggat, Deputy Director, Environment and Society Programme, Chatham House

Fossil fuels were mentioned in a COP decision. However, 2030 emission reduction targets are projected to lead to warming of 2.4C by the end of the century. This is far above the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep 1.5C within reach. It is crucial governments return to the table with significantly enhanced targets before next year’s COP27. COP26’s Glasgow Climate Pact called on developed countries to double their financial support for adaptation, while establishing a two-year dialogue on loss and damage finance arrangements. The latter was deemed inadequate by developing countries. During the latter part of 2022, the Sixth Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be released, which will examine the impacts, mitigation efforts and adaption needs of climate change. As a result, decisions on financing and emissions will come under the spotlight.  

EU-China relations

Lizza Bomassi, Deputy Director, Carnegie Europe

The current EU-China framework allows Brussels to oscillate between labelling Beijing as a ‘cooperation and negotiating partner’, an ‘economic competitor’ or a ‘systemic rival’ as circumstances dictate – a flexible approach that will continue. However, there are three trends to watch. First are the ongoing global supply chain problems. While the pandemic has forced a rethink of existing approaches, industries’ problems are coming to a head with the challenge of increasing capacity while dealing with increased protectionism in countries of origin, especially China. Second, the ‘on-again, off-again’ transatlantic relationship will compel the EU to retain its toeing of the middle line approach. The EU is caught between US pressure for allies to decouple from China and the Chinese dual circulation strategy. Finally, China’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy will continue to hamper the EU’s efforts to show a united front. More emphasis on shoring up the global multilateral system is necessary.

Global South urban innovation

Deljana Iossifova, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies, University of Manchester

In 2022, my eyes will be on the leaders of the Global North and the progress towards just infrastructural reconfigurations everywhere. The actions needed should be geared towards social and environmental sustainability – rather than unchecked economic growth. The Global South is undergoing rapid urbanization. This involves accelerated rural-to-urban migration and the participation in an increasingly global economy that ties livelihoods into capitalist modes of production that transform human-nature interlinkages from relationships of synergy to relationships of exploitation. The post-pandemic ‘return to normal’ will be one of the key challenges. However, a return to normal may be the worst possible outcome. It suggests a return to unsustainable and exploitative economic activity. If we are to achieve sustainable development, new forms of transnational collaboration across cities will have to replace the global economy mechanisms.

Nigerian democracy

Rinu Oduala, Strategist, community organizer and founder, Connect Hub

This is a pre-election year in Nigeria and it is unclear if the issues being faced by Nigerians will galvanize citizens into actions or further alienate them. The prospects are not encouraging. Nigeria is rich in culture and camaraderie but lacks leadership. There is a trust gap between government and citizens. This has contributed to the animosity between tribes, unsolved differences and needless suffering and deaths of millions of Nigerians. In the run-up to the election season, young Nigerians are losing hope. My country is becoming a place young people want to leave because of the untreated issues of bad governance, insecurity, police extortion and extrajudicial killings. To get things done, young people are turning into activists. Coming into Nigeria as a stranger, you may feel it is chaotic but one thing you would not miss is that palpable resilience evident on everyone’s faces. We need to realize there is no one coming to save us. And that the only saviour we find is in ourselves.

China’s digital authoritarianism

Ian Williams, London-based journalist

China enters 2022 with big ambitions for leadership in cutting-edge technology, but equally large challenges, many of its own making. The Chinese Communist Party is clipping the wings of the country’s tech giants and exerting greater control over China’s most dynamic companies and their data. This is only one aspect of a tightening of party control over all aspects of life in China. At the same time, western investment in Chinese tech is stalling. The technological eco-systems of China and the West are moving apart and becoming more competitive. This process is gathering pace and being pursued by both sides. Joe Biden is expanding policies launched under Donald Trump that restrict access to western know-how, while Beijing is protecting and nurturing its own tech champions. A key question in the year ahead is whether a system in which the CCP is turning inwards, and increasingly in every boardroom and lab, is capable of the sort of innovation that Xi Jinping aspires to.

Turkey’s refugee crisis

Nigar Goskel, Turkey Project Director, International Crisis Group

Turkey acts as host to more than 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees, as well as being both a transit and destination country for people escaping other conflicts in the region and irregular migrants seeking better life prospects. While Turkey has managed the vast influx of refugees relatively well, the country has reached its absorption limits and there is widespread ‘compassion fatigue’. Dynamics in both the domestic and regional scene make for a volatile mix. At home, a rising public backlash to refugees could be compounded in the run-up to the 2023 elections. If security in Syria’s northwest deteriorates there could be a new influx of people, including jihadist militants. That will largely depend on whether Russia backs a regime assault. The reluctance of some European countries to repatriate their nationals will continue to strain bilateral ties and pose security risks. Funding from the European Union for refugees in Turkey is vital given the deteriorating Turkish economy.