Wednesday Briefing: What to Watch at the U.N. Climate Talks

Credit…Alanah Sarginson

The U.N. climate summit starts tomorrow

Two facts loom over the COP28 U.N. climate talks, which begin tomorrow in Dubai: Earth is careening toward climate disaster, and governments are acting too slowly to avert it.

Diplomats from nearly 200 countries, and many heads of state and government, will gather to try to draft a plan to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The United Arab Emirates, the world’s fifth-largest oil producer, is hosting COP28, drawing the anger of activists. The conference is taking place against a backdrop of wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, making international cooperation even more difficult.

For some insight, I reached out to my colleague Lisa Friedman, who is covering the annual conference for the 12th time.

What will you be watching this time around?

Lisa: There are a number of important things set to take place, including a global assessment of how successful nations have been in meeting the climate targets they set in Paris in 2015; and finalizing the details of a new fund to help vulnerable countries cope with the loss and damage caused by global warming. But the big thing I’ll have my eye on is the political agreement nations are debating around phasing out fossil fuels. Fossil fuel burning is the main driver of climate change, but so far nations have been unwilling to collectively call for a phase-out.

Of the two main issues — the “loss and damage” fund and a deal to replace fossil fuels with clean energy like solar and wind — which do you think is most likely to be finalized?

Lisa: The “loss and damage” fund has a deadline to be operational by the end of COP28, and it seems likely at this stage that it will happen. There have been a number of battles this year over how it would operate. Developing countries did not want to see the fund based at the World Bank, which many feel is dominated by the U.S. Developed countries, like the U.S., wanted to ensure that their taxpayers did not foot the entire bill, and that the wealthiest developing nations, like China, Qatar, Singapore or Saudi Arabia, would also contribute.

In early November, the U.S. signed off on draft U.N. guidelines for the fund that stipulate that the fund will be housed at the World Bank for at least four years. Neither developed countries nor anyone else would be obliged to pay into the fund.

As for the energy transition, I think most people expect there to be an agreement. It’s just a question of how ambitious it will be.

Here are more facts about COP28.

Leaked documents: Behind the scenes of the summit, the Emirates has sought to use its position as host to lobby on oil and gas deals around the world, according to an internal document obtained by the Centre for Climate Reporting and the BBC.

Vietnam: The country’s government was awarded a multibillion-dollar deal by nine wealthy nations last year to work on reducing its use of coal. Then, it arrested several prominent environmentalists from organizations that helped it secure the funding.

Climate migration: Lawyers for Indigenous Hondurans hope to test a novel idea that extreme weather wrought by climate change can be grounds for asylum.

Palestinians in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.Credit…Yousef Masoud for The New York Times

The Israel-Hamas truce continues to hold

Both Hamas and Israel accused the other yesterday of violating the truce as it entered a fifth day. The Israeli military said that explosive devices were detonated near its troops in two places in northern Gaza, and that militants in one area fired on them. Hamas said its fighters had engaged in a “field clash” provoked by Israel, without offering additional details. But neither side signaled that it was pulling out of the agreement.

Twelve hostages were released from Gaza, the Israeli military said. Israeli authorities later released another 30 imprisoned Palestinians.

Here’s the latest.

Extending the truce gives time for Hamas to regroup and for more aid to enter Gaza. It also returns to Israel more of the hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attacks. But the extension also increases the pressure on Israel to make a decision about its military plans.

More than war: Disease may kill more Gazans than Israel’s bombardment if the enclave does not receive enough medical services and supplies, the W.H.O. said, calling for a full cease-fire.

Casualties: Israel says Hamas is holding the remains of three soldiers killed during the Oct. 7 attacks.

Chinese tourists at a jewelry store in Hong Kong on Sunday.Credit…Billy H.C. Kwok for The New York Times

How money is flowing out of China

In a worrying sign for China’s economic and political future, wealthy Chinese families have moved hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country this year, aided by a cheaper currency.

With Covid restrictions having ended, Chinese travelers have bought apartments in Japan — often with suitcases of cash — and have poured money into accounts in the U.S. or Europe that pay higher interest than those in China, where rates are low and falling. In some cases, Chinese are getting around Beijing’s controls on transferring money overseas by buying gold bars small enough to fit in carry-on luggage or stacks of foreign currency.


Asia Pacific

Ambulances transported workers rescued from a collapsed tunnel in India.Credit…Sajjad Hussain/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Rescuers in India finally cleared a path through debris and pulled out 41 construction workers who had been trapped inside a road tunnel since Nov. 12.

  • New Zealand’s new right-wing government said it would repeal a law that would have gradually banned all cigarette sales.

  • Why are there only 350 Americans studying in China?

Around the World

Marianna Budanova with her husband, Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief.Credit…Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters
  • Ukrainian officials said that Marianna Budanova, the wife of Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, had been poisoned.

  • A Russian court extended the detention of the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

  • A teenager who killed a woman in Toronto was sentenced to life in prison in a case that labeled gender-based violence as terrorism for the first time in Canada.

Other Big Stories

  • Egypt wiped out hepatitis C. Now it’s trying to help the rest of Africa.

  • Longevity drugs for dogs are moving closer to becoming a reality, and so are ethical questions about them.

  • Amazon introduced Q, an A.I. chatbot for companies.

A Morning Read

The Maori Wardens on a walk in Auckland, New Zealand. Credit…Cornell Tukiri for The New York Times

Policing has recently come under the microscope in New Zealand, where lurid crime stories have dominated headlines. As the government resorts to crackdowns, the Maori Wardens, a group of about 1,000 Indigenous volunteers, take a different approach.

The group ministers to the vulnerable, calms the vexed and occasionally intervenes with the violent, working independently of — but in tandem with — the police.


Fawn Veerasunthorn, the co-director of the new Disney film “Wish.”Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

Battling Disney’s rejections to make ‘Wish’

Fawn Veerasunthorn was studying medicine in Thailand and hating it. Then she remembered a guest lecture at her Bangkok high school given by Paitoon Ratanasirintrawoot, a visual effects editor who had worked on “The Lion King” and “Mulan.” She sent him a letter. Should she switch careers?

Their correspondence inspired Veerasunthorn to drop out of medical school and move to the U.S. to study art. She pushed past multiple rejections at Disney until she eventually got her foot in the door in 2011. She spent the past 12 years climbing the ranks, working on films like “Frozen,” “Moana,” “Zootopia” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Those lessons about perseverance informed her directorial debut alongside Chris Buck on “Wish.”

Read our review of the film.


Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero.

Cook: Naengmyeon, cold noodles in chilled beef broth, has a secret ingredient.

Predict: Here’s what T Magazine thinks we’ll all be obsessed with next year.

Drink: The book“Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs and Juice” chronicles how Black people have contributed to American cocktail culture.

Watch: These are the best sci-fi movies you can stream right now.

Play Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

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

P.S. Take this week’s Flashback history quiz.

We welcome your feedback. Send us your suggestions at [email protected].

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