NEW IMF CHIEF: Kristalina Georgieva has been approved by the International Monetary Fund board to take over from Christine Lagarde at the top of fund. The World Bank CEO and former European commissioner had been a candidate for United Nations secretary-general in 2016. Georgieva will bring an eye for green investment and gender equality to her new role.
NIGHT OF THE $250,000 SELFIES: Luckily for U.S. President Donald Trump, he got to spend the early evening Wednesday surrounded by rich and generous friends, raising campaign cash in a 20,000-square-foot former members’ club on East 86th Street belonging to John Paulson, a money manager. Guests didn’t use the pool, but would have enjoyed “portraits of the 12 Caesars … decorated with swags and oxen heads,” according to the New York Times. Wednesday’s dinner and a second event this morning are expected to rake in $8 million for his campaign.
Trump cleared out around 8:30 p.m., after his security closed New York’s Museum Mile along the 5th Avenue side of Central Park to traffic during sunset. It’s a beautiful and peaceful way to enjoy New York for lucky cross-town walkers like Playbook.
Happy Thursday. UNGA is beginning to unwind. After a buzzy pre-game, and intense climate discussions at the start of the week, the energy disappeared yesterday as top leaders jetted out and Trump found himself on the wrong side of an impeachment inquiry.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL IN SLOW MELTDOWN: Officials from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the EU and Iran — all of the architects of the Iran nuclear deal minus, of course, the United States — met at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday in an effort to preserve the agreement, which has been slowly falling apart since Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from it last year.
You know things are tough when the most upbeat line that Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, could muster after the meeting was: “First of all, the agreement is still in place.” In place, perhaps. Also on life support, definitely.
‘Increasingly difficult:’ Noting that the deal hinges on Iran complying with limits on its nuclear program in exchange for economic benefits tied to the lifting of economic sanctions, Mogherini said: “On both elements, there is full determination to try and preserve the agreement. On both elements there are challenges and there is a will to try and preserve the deal. I will not hide that it is increasingly difficult to do it.” She urged Iran to return to full compliance.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif did not come to the stakeout microphone, but in response to a shouted question, told reporters: “It was a good meeting.”
French President Emmanuel Macron is still hoping that his diplomatic flurry in New York this week will ultimately lead to a landmark meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But with Trump distracted by the impeachment frenzy, any immediate breakthrough seems increasingly unlikely.
EAST RIVER OR BLACK SEA? Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lashed out at the U.S. for denying visas to members of the Russian delegation, including at least 10 foreign ministry employees because they are under U.S. sanctions. In an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant, published Wednesday, Lavrov said that denying the visas was a violation of U.S. international obligations as the host country, and he recalled that when the U.N. was founded, Joseph Stalin had suggested putting the headquarters in Sochi, the Russian resort city on the Black Sea. “Now, apparently, we will have to raise the question of what to do with the U.N. headquarters,” Lavrov told the newspaper. “Such rudeness cannot be tolerated.”
ANOTHER NUCLEAR TREATY AT RISK? Lavrov, in a speech Wednesday, slammed the U.S. for never ratifying the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Washington in recent months has accused Moscow of violating the treaty, which Russia ratified in 2000, and some U.S. lawmakers have suggested Trump should “un-sign” it. Russia and the U.S. have each pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty — it officially collapsed last month — and the U.S. recently tested a new missile that would have been banned by that agreement, further raising fears among experts that the global nuclear nonproliferation architecture is being dismantled.
Need more solitude? If you need some inner peace while at U.N. HQ, the wooden benches next to the Rose Garden are a good option (the view here), and provide shade during the middle of the day.
In search of originality: The cliche of the week is that leaders and executives should stop the speeches and bring concrete plans to U.N. discussions. If all the speeches against speeches turned into reality, we might find UNGA 2020 is reduced to an online document hub.
YEMEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Today Yemen, Kuwait, Sweden and the U.K. are co-hosting a meeting that will include the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, examining the conflict in Yemen. The International Crisis Group notes that “the U.N. has spent much of this year struggling to persuade the Yemeni government and the Houthi movement to implement a December 2018 agreement to demilitarize the port of Hodeida, a crucial conduit for food imports.”
Glimmer of hope: The Houthis have announced a unilateral halt on drone and missile attacks on Saudi territory.
THE MEETING OF THE YEAR HAS BECOME A PLATFORM FOR TENSE JOKES: With part of his country occupied by its aggressive neighbor Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky can’t afford to lose rich and powerful friends. Zelensky needs all the money and protection both the United States and European Union countries can provide. So it was no wonder he wanted to keep out of U.S politics, and flatter Trump in his July call and Wednesday New York press conference. While Zelensky said his July call with Trump was “normal,” it’s worth remembering that given the standards of Ukraine politics, that is not saying much.
This is a disaster for Zelensky: He can’t afford to aggravate allies like Germany and the EU (which has pumped more than $16 billion into Ukraine in recent years, and delivered a far-reaching free trade deal), and it’s now likely that nothing short of investigating the Biden family will keep him in Trump’s good books.
Trump rented a parallel swamp, POLITICO’s David Herszenhorn writes. Ukraine politics is messy: It comes with corruption, yet it’s a competitive democracy. The country attracts people who want to make a bunch of money burnishing a client’s reputation and/or winning them office, and mixes it with the dangerous added ingredients of messy energy markets and a low-paid, high-skilled tech workforce. Few people who dive into this emerge without mud attached to them.
Caption this: Zelensky’s face when Trump said, “I really hope you and President Putin can get together and solve your problem.”
HERE’S NATASHA BERTRAND’S LINE-BY-LINE ANALYSIS of the Trump-Zelensky partial phone call transcript.
BY THE NUMBERS: Al Jazeera has an in-depth visualization of how every country has voted over the years at the United Nations General Assembly.
PROVISIONAL LIST OF TODAY’S LEADER SPEECHES: Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde is the biggest name in the morning lineup. Zoran Zaev, prime minister of North Macedonia, will make his country’s first appearance under its new name in the afternoon. And the European Council’s Donald Tusk is due to address the General Assembly at around 1 p.m.
POLAND HITS BACK AT MACRON: Polish President Andrzej Duda hit back at Emmanuel Macron Wednesday after the French president blamed Warsaw for blocking EU climate ambitions. Poland recently led resistance to a proposed commitment of making the EU carbon neutral by 2050, which the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia also rejected.
“There is one country that blocked everything, it’s Poland. My objective over the next few months is to convince the Polish to move,” Macron said. Duda told Polish media on Wednesday that Macron’s statement was “at the least inelegant because it wasn’t true. We organized COP24” — the U.N.’s annual climate jamboree — “last year in Katowice … We consensually approved the Katowice rulebook, the rules that say how to implement the Paris Agreement.”
GOING GLOBAL BY GOING LOCAL: Did you know? Today, fewer than two in five countries have an explicit national strategy for cities and few of them address climate change in the strategies they have, according to a new report by the Coalition for Urban Transitions.
THE ZERO CARBON CITIES MOVEMENT: The Coalition for Urban Transitions claims “faster, fairer economic development by investing in zero-carbon cities.” The coalition claims it’s cheaper to invest now (before another billion people are added to the population of the world’s cities over the next 10 years), and that savings of US$24 trillion could be reaped by 2050 if the changes are adopted soon. The already 820 million people who live in coastal zones less than 10 meters above sea level could be the biggest winners.
For his part, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said, “It is possible and realistic to realize net-zero urban emissions by 2050. But to get there, we will need the full engagement of city governments combined with national action and support.” The Coalition has collected case studies from Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Rwanda and South Korea.
Read this: Five cities of the future, by POLITICO’s Charlie Duxbury.
LOCAL BUSINESS: The U.N. Global Compact’s Making Global Goals Local Business campaign is a multi-year strategy to drive business to help achieve the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Meeting those goals: A new report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows that while “progress on health and development continues unabated,” global inequality remains a “major barrier” to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. “Vast inequalities within countries … are masked by averages,” according to the report. “Governments should prioritize primary health care to deliver a health system that works for the poorest, digital governance to ensure that governments are responsive to their least-empowered citizens, and more support for farmers to help them adapt to climate change’s worst effects.”
WEF UpLink: The World Economic Forum is creating UpLink, “a new digital crowd engagement platform to foster mass participation to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.” Collaborators with WEF include Deloitte, Microsoft and Salesforce. The initiative appears to be an extension of the Forum’s TopLink app for delegates to the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.
DARK ENOUGH TO SEE THE STARS: Today a bunch of celebrities Playbook isn’t authorized to mention by name will push for $350 billion in annual investment to end extreme poverty, in what organizers call “The POSSIBLE Dream.” They’re promising a year-long campaign culminating on Sept. 26, 2020 with the “largest cause-related live event broadcast in history across 5 continents.” Think of it as Band Aid for the post-millennial generation, but instead of Queen, you’ll have to live with folks like Chris Martin.
WINDOW INTO THE WORLD OF ACTIVIST THINKING: Jamie Drummond, the co-founder of ONE, wrote to his network of “UNGA-Bubble Busters” to urge a “super year of activism” in 2020. Those who want to see the U.N.’s global goals achieved need to “move from a B2B brand between a few corporations and NGOs” to a “wider awareness, action and accountability platform” via a revolution in “financing, innovation diffusion and data.”
One of the most interesting campaigns he is pushing is “Make My Money Matter” to push people to urge their pension providers to “reflect their values of equality and sustainability. That’s after all what pensions are for, a sustainable safe future … Watch this space.” The final “uncomfortable question in the air” this week is “Are you 2030 Goals compliant?” The answer for most organizations, Drummond says, is “no.”
BUSINESS AVENGERS: To Drummond’s point, 17 global giants with $500 billion in revenue and 900,000 employees have created “Business Avengers,” a group committed to complying with the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) by 2030. The lineup of companies include: Arm, Avanti Communications, The Coca-Cola Company, Commvault, Diageo, Google.org, Mars Inc, Mastercard, Microsoft Corp., Nike, RB, SAP, Salesforce.com, Salesforce.org and Unilever.
The view from the top floors of the apartment tower that’s home to U.S. and EU ambassadors to the U.N.
U.N. WTF: It pays to be flexible down at U.N. HQ
Belgium’s UNGA Stella Artois-infused press briefings.
THE ECONOMIC INEQUALITY OF GLOBAL WARMING: Human-caused climate change has exacerbated economic inequality between countries, according to two Stanford scientists who based their findings on a variety of climate models and extensive evidence about how temperature fluctuations affect economic development.
“We are at a tipping point with 20 percent deforestation in the Amazon. A tipping point to what? To insufficient rainfall to be ‘a rainforest.’” — Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, who coined the term “biodiversity.” h/t Mark Leon Goldberg
The “worldwide assault on journalists … and the concept of truth itself” — condemned by Amal Clooney and the U.K. government
“Public-private partnership is the key to unlocking a low-carbon future.” — Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All.
“(Stopping) Ebola was the proof that investing in the health of the poorest is an investment in all of us” — Rockefeller Foundation chief Raj Shah.
It’s a case of “pod save the planet” today, as we talk to Antha Williams, who leads the Environment program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, and visit the U.N.’s “pollution pod.”
Your Beyond Coal and Beyond Carbon programs support state and local communities to move into 100 percent clean energy: What are the results? “The Beyond Coal campaign, which to date has closed more than half of the nation’s coal plants and been the leading driver of emissions reductions in the U.S. We really learned that these local partners can just get a ton done and it kind of doesn’t matter what what we see in Washington.”
What’s next as we look at 2020? “Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just end coal here in the United States … The other piece of Beyond Carbon which is really important is the politics … The problems are not primarily technical but political. And so with Beyond Carbon Mike [Bloomberg] put down a marker that he is going to spend his personal money to support candidates for public office who are great on climate change and to those who are blocking progress. He’s going to work to kick them out of office.”
Are we talking local or presidential races? “We see tons of examples where these really important decisions about electricity and transportation are decided by everything from a local permitting board or city board to a public utility commission, all the way up to the state legislators who are making really important decisions on whether or not to pass laws on things like 100 percent clean energy standards.”
U.N. JOB TITLE OF THE WEEK — USGHRFLDCLDCSIDS: Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu is the Undersecretary General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Development States.
HIGH-CLASS ESCORT SERVICE: Wednesday’s Bloomberg Business Forum was … an experience. Playbook arrived late to a rabbit warren, accessible only via escort. If you wanted the toilet, you needed to resubmit to another security check. To attend a roundtable — let’s say, on gender equality — one needed to ask permission to organizers. If granted, reporters were then taken to a holding area via an extensive tour of stairwells, kitchen corridors and stages being dismantled. Also en route: a staged wall of green artificial flowers (let’s hope it wasn’t single use plastic). Once in the holding area, it became apparent that to join a session, you had to agree to stay the whole session of one hour or more, because leaving the session also required an escort. It wouldn’t do to have rogue journalists floating around the Plaza Hotel. The staff were lovely. The system they managed needs to change.
SO STYLISHLY SUSTAINABLE: With young Swede Greta Thunberg capturing so many headlines this week, Playbook went in search of greenie Swedes to find out what they thought of her. Over champagne cocktails in the street level showroom of the Swedish residence on Park Avenue, reputed to be the last single family home on the avenue, the answer was clear. Swedes, both in government and the global business community, are proud of Thunberg, even if she’s not always proud of them.
SSAB, the largest Swedish steel company, told the crowd about how they are working to make steel with hydrogen rather than coal, which has for 1,000 years been essential to steel making. A pilot plant is set to open in 2020 and they want fossil fuel-free steel to the market in 2026.
SICK OF LA GUARDIA AIRPORT DELAYS? Smile, Skanska — the company rebuilding the airport to save it from climate change flooding and reduce its carbon footprint — are “deep green.” Their spokesperson proudly told guests at the Swedish residence that “We reused and circulated 99 percent of the material being demolished, including 21,000 tons of concrete.”
SPOTTED: Christy Turlington, among the full house at the Rockefeller Foundation’s launch of the #DataSavesLives partnership, at the Grand Hyatt Wednesday evening.
U.N. CULTURE WARS: It’s a case of nearly anything goes in the corridors of U.N. HQ. Just as NGOs are using the streets and hotels around New York as a giant megaphone, national governments are doing the same inside the organization’s modernist buildings. U.N. member states may book floor and wall space to promote pet projects, even pet individuals — say, one’s king. So, in addition to brochures promoting the United Nations credit union and internal complaints system, so far this week we’ve seen exhibitions from Egypt in the ground floor corridor, Saudis promoting the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, Bahranis praising King Hamad, and China dedicating a hallway to President Xi Jinping.
SPOTTED: Meg Ryan at the Bank of America Goals House nightcap, which highlighted the bank’s partnership with RED, which is working toward the first AIDS-free generation in 30 years by providing HIV positive mothers with essential antiretroviral drugs for keeping them healthy and their babies HIV-free. Ben Stiller and Woody Harrelson were supporting another Goal House passion, Project Everyone, earlier in the day.
SPOTTED: Around 50 heads of state and delegation, and over 200 CEOs, at the Plaza Hotel for Bloomberg’s Business Forum. That includes: Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, Narendra Modi, Jacinda Ardern, Mark Carney, Michael Corbat, Jamie Dimon, Bob Iger, Christine Lagarde, Cecilia Malmström, Hiro Mizuno, Hank Paulson, Jr., David M. Solomon, Tidjane Thiam, Andreas Utermann, Shemara Wikramanayake, Xie Zhenhua, David Rubenstein, Ruth Porat, Dara Khosrowshahi, Pharrell Williams, Steve Schwarzman, Brian Moynihan, Anand Mahindra, Iván Duque Márquez, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Federica Mogherini, and Sauli Niinistö.
Nuclear weapons: Elimination of Nuclear Weapons High Level meeting
A Conversation With Kyriakos Mitsotakis (prime minister of Greece). Nicholas Burns presiding. Council on Foreign Relations, 58 East 68 Street, New York, NY 10065, 7:45-8:45 a.m.
European Council President Donald Tusk speaks to the General Assembly, around 1 p.m.
Hamdullah Mohib, national security adviser in Afghanistan, speaks at the Asia Society, 725 Park Ave, 2:30 p.m.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the Asia Society, 725 Park Ave, 6:30 p.m.
S&P Global Climate Week Event, Convene, 810 7th Avenue, 23rd floor, 2-5:30 p.m.