Thursday Briefing

Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, center, an Emrati oil executive, presided over the United Nations climate summit.Credit…Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A global climate deal

After two weeks of furious debate, diplomats from nearly 200 countries at the U.N. climate summit in Dubai reached a sweeping agreement that explicitly called for “transitioning away from fossil fuels.”

The deal calls on countries to quit adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere entirely by midcentury, to triple the amount of renewable energy installed around the world by 2030 and to slash emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas.

For insight, we turned to our colleague Lisa Friedman, who was in Dubai to cover the COP28 summit.

What was different about this climate summit?

Lisa: Having a conference in a petrostate was never going to be easy. But as someone who has now covered 12 of these COPs, I think it was very eye-opening. All around us every day, we were confronted with the spoils of oil.

At the same time, you have this very stark contrast of small island leaders and others essentially telling the U.A.E. and the Saudis that their luxury is coming at the expense of island nations’ very existence. For me, the location of the summit really underscores all of the needs of various countries that the U.N. must balance.

How was the agreement reached?

European leaders and many of the nations most vulnerable to climate-fueled extreme weather were urging language that called for a complete “phaseout” of fossil fuels. But that was facing pushback from major oil producers led by Saudi Arabia. In the end, they found a middle ground.

How do countries feel about the agreement?

It left some — particularly island leaders — deeply dissatisfied. In fact, many island leaders said that they didn’t even have a chance to offer changes or relay concerns before Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati oil executive presiding over the conference, gaveled through the decision and declared it adopted by consensus.

At the same time, it’s notable that it took 28 of these annual conferences on climate change before governments would be willing to name the elephant in the room — fossil fuels — the burning of which is the main driver of planetary warming.

What’s your main takeaway from the final agreement?

The decision was a compromise, and it should be regarded as such. But it’s an important one. Many leaders have said it sends the signal that the era of fossil fuels is coming to an end, which is something I could not imagine this body doing even five years ago.

Related: Oil industry executives largely backed the agreement, which does not require countries to take specific actions.

More from COP28: Our Climate Forward newsletter explains how the agreement could change the world, and our DealBook newsletter explores what’s missing from the deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has indicated that it won’t be swayed by criticism of Israel’s war in Gaza.Credit…Pool photo by Ronen Zvulun

Netanyahu’s rift with Biden

A disagreement with the U.S. over what a postwar Gaza Strip should look like poses risks for the Israeli government, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — including how much support it may hope to receive, analysts said. But it also offers Netanyahu an opportunity to repair his domestic approval ratings by presenting himself as a leader unbowed by foreign demands.

Israeli officials indicated that they would not be deterred by growing condemnation from the international community, a day after President Biden highlighted the risk of a loss of support. Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, is expected to arrive in Jerusalem this week to discuss the war and its possible aftermath with Netanyahu.

Analysis: “He’s looking at a potential election campaign a few months down the road,” Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said of Netanyahu. “This is going to be his platform: ‘I am the leader who can stand up to Biden and prevent a Palestinian state.’”

Related: The families of eight Americans still held by Hamas in Gaza had their first in-person meeting with Biden yesterday.

Ukrainian soldiers firing at Russian positions in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine last month.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

A new urgency grips Ukraine

Its counteroffensive having failed, its supplies and support dwindling, Ukraine finds itself at a pivotal moment, while Moscow — once confronting the consequences of a disastrous invasion — is celebrating its capacity to sustain a drawn-out war.

Ukraine must now shift to a defensive posture as it braces for a harsh winter of Russian strikes and energy shortages. The U.S., its most important backer, has become preoccupied by the war in Gaza, and the possible return to office of Donald Trump, a longtime Ukraine detractor, is looming.


Around the World

Credit…Nathan Johnson, via Associated Press
  • A Canadian province that hosted stranded passengers after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks received hundreds of surprise visitors again — this time, because of engine trouble on their Detroit-bound flight.

  • Donald Tusk, Poland’s new centrist prime minister, hopes to reinvigorate European support for Ukraine and push for “full mobilization” against Russia’s military assault.

  • Japan wants to build a stronger military to counter threats from China and North Korea. Its aging population poses an obstacle.

  • Germany resolved a budget crisis that began after a court ruling barred the government from repurposing emergency funds.

From the U.S.

Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times
  • The Republican-led House of Representatives voted to approve a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden, despite a lack of evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors.

  • Federal Reserve officials said that they expected to cut borrowing costs three times in the coming year.

  • Under pressure from regulators, Tesla recalled more than two million vehicles.

  • The Supreme Court will decide on the availability of a commonly used abortion pill, in what is set to be the most significant abortion ruling since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

What Else Is Happening

  • Surging interest rates and waning financing options threaten a “lost decade” for poor countries, the World Bank said.

  • Oprah Winfrey revealed that she had started taking medication to manage her weight.

  • Scientists pinpointed the primary cause of severe morning sickness.

A Morning Read

Credit…Donal F. Holway/The New York Times

George Harrison, his biographer Philip Norman writes, was a “paradox”: a man who was “unprecedentedly, ludicrously, suffocatingly famous while at the same time undervalued, overlooked and struggling for recognition.”

Norman’s new book, “George Harrison: The Reluctant Beatle,” explores these contradictions. He spoke to The Times about his process and his subject.


“I refuse to be old”: Maros Mosehla, an 81-year-old runner, has become a local legend in South Africa.

The world’s sexiest soccer player: From military service to Vogue cover star.

Andrea Stella: The unlikely catalyst for McLaren’s Formula 1 turnaround.


Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A new age of surveillance?

Brian Chen, who writes the Tech Fix column for The Times, has spent the last two weeks secretly snapping photos and recording videos of passers-by. “I wasn’t hiding the camera,” he writes, “but I was wearing it, and no one noticed.”

Brian was testing the recently released $300 Ray-Ban Meta glasses, born out of a collaboration between the eyewear maker and the company formerly known as Facebook. As part of a broader ambition to shift computing away from screens and toward our faces, the high-tech glasses include a camera for shooting photos and videos, and an array of speakers and microphones.

But after weeks of wearing them “practically nonstop,” Brian was relieved to remove them. Read more about why.


Credit…Julia Gartland for The New York Times

Cook: Turn the herbs languishing in your fridge into a fragrant pasta sauce.

Gift: Be the best secret Santa.

Eat: Check out the best cookbooks of 2023.

Travel: Eight cruises to sunny spots like Thailand and Tahiti.

Play the Spelling Bee. And here are today’s Mini Crossword and Wordle. You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Natasha

P.S. Are you using ChatGPT at work? The Times wants to hear about it.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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