Crisis Simulation: Navigating Sino-Australian Rivalry in the South China Sea

A collection of policy briefs by the Defence and Diplomacy Policy Centre

The following report compiles the work delivered by a group of seven undergraduate and postgraduate students from King’s College London (KCL) during a crisis simulation event curated by the King’s Think Tank’s (KTT) Defence & Diplomacy Policy Centre, in collaboration with the KCL Geopolitical Risk Society on 9th March 2022.

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Tackling Digital Inequality in the United Kingdom

Ishita Uppadhayay

The national lockdowns and associated mobility restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a substantial shift in the digital sphere. Consumers and businesses going digital, online education, and telemedicine have seen an unprecedented growth globally. Prior to this U-turn, digitalisation has already transformed society by powering rapid changes in economic activities and employment opportunities as digital access has become essential to using public services or participating as an active agent in the economy.

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Carboeconomics, ESG Investments, Green Finance: A Cocoon of Confusion and Implementation Challenges

Shresth Goel and Talvin Bath

Introduction

Sustainable investing is being prioritized by financial institutions across the world following international agreements on the urgency of addressing climate change. Finance executives have been at the forefront of getting creative with green financing through the utilization of financial instruments, both new and old. Inevitably, market sensitivity to green technology has increased quickly, but with cautious skepticism from some. 

Our focus is on the implementation challenges of these methods and their macroeconomic impacts. Generally speaking, the issue at hand is one of excess capital in a relatively young market without the levels of scrutiny received by previous landmark shifts in the market. This problem is exacerbated by a supply-demand mismatch in terms of market investors and reliable investment opportunities. With multiple competitive firms operating in the same sphere – chasing the same resources – failure of some is inevitable. Overbidding on a select few reliable opportunities may lead to underwhelming (but realistic) returns, leading to broad market corrections in the future, with drastic short and long-term effects. [1] [2]

Green enterprises are also heavily reliant on fossil fuels to develop green infrastructure in the first place. The ongoing energy shortage suggests delays in meeting time-bound climate goals, thus indicating potential problems with the timely realization of economic returns. 

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Net Zero 2050: How the UK can get Oil & Gas on Track

David Vergara Schleich, Tanya Lim, and Jenny Su

Introduction and Current Policies

In preparation for the 2021 COP 26 Conference in Glasgow, the United Kingdom (UK) published an ambitious white paper entitled “Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener” in which it outlines policies to achieve a greenhouse gas (GHG) neutral economy by 2050.1 This makes the UK the first country to implement a legally binding timeline. In line with this strategy, the Government aims to mobilize up to £270 billion in public and private sector funds to transition the Power and Energy sector.2 Crucially, instead of viewing the Oil and Gas sector as an impediment to GHG neutrality, the Government envisions the sector to play a leading role in the energy transition .4 As part of the Net Zero Strategy, the relevant UK regulatory body , the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), has echoed the urgency to achieve GHG neutrality. In its “Revised Strategy”, the OGA warned that it would exercise its punitive powers should companies fail to comply with the timeline.5 Thus, the objectives of the government’s Net Zero Strategy are two-fold: in political-environmental terms, it is to achieve GHG neutrality to curb climate change and position the UK as a global paragon in environmental governance; secondly, it seeks to walk the fine line between incentivizing and coercing the Oil and Gas sector to accelerate its transition towards carbon neutrality and beyond 2050, towards renewable energies. 

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What role can International Organisations play in cultivating a greener economy for developing nations?

Alainah Amer, Anahita Roy and Taqi Shah

Introduction

Establishing a greener economy within developing nations is an up and coming topic in policymaking, environment, and economics. The natural foundations that many developing economies possess could be utilised to produce economic benefits is appealing. But before introducing the potential benefits as well as potential drawbacks of encouraging green growth in these countries, it is important to define what a green economy is. Essentially a green economy possesses healthy characteristics such as “low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive” environment (United Nations Environment Programme, 2018, p.1). A green economy contributes to an increase in employment and revenue as a result of investment from both the public and private sectors into economic activities that allow for reduced carbon emissions, green and efficient energy, preservation of biodiversity and the ecosystem as a whole (United Nations Environment Programme, 2018, p.1). 

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Strengthening Climate Policy in China’s Private Sector

At the UN conference in September 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that China will “have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060”. Details of how this target will be achieved will probably not be released until the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) is announced. Nonetheless, if China fully implements a strategy to reach this goal, it will have massive implications for reaching the global 1.5 degrees Celsius target. This is because China accounts for the highest percentage of CO2 emissions worldwide, with Chinese power plants burning 25% of the world’s coal reserves and with renewable energy output only accounting for 9% of the country’s total energy [1]. Paradoxically, despite its massive energy consumption, it is also the largest producer of solar and wind energy and the leading investor in clean energy technologies worldwide [2]. Not only does China have 47% of all electric cars in the global market [3], it also refines four-fifths of the world’s supply of cobalt, an essential component in lithium ion batteries, the most common storage of clean electricity [4]. In addition to investment and manufacturing of sustainable energy technology and following several regional pilot emissions trading schemes (ETS), the Chinese government implemented a National Emissions Trading Scheme (NETS) in 2017 and enforced it in 2020, initially covering 2,267 power plants [5]. 

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Volt Europa: A New Path to The European Dream?

Back in November, the Policy Centre for European Affairs ran a Hackathon on “European cohesion in the age of populism: How should the EU strengthen European identity to counterbalance Eurosceptic forces?”. Euroscepticism and populism aren’t the only forces causing division in Europe and threatening the European project, but the motivation behind this event was to try and understand in what ways the European Union (EU) could strengthen its internal ties in order to secure its future. This is a hard question, because the EU is not in the best position to fight these forces. The EU is clearly more than a conventional international organization, but it has not yet become part of policy discussions at a state level. Even if it wished to increase its influence and assert its leadership position, there would always be strong opposition to giving EU institutions the kind of powers it would need to do so. Perhaps the solution for the future of the European project may not exist via top-down approaches championed by EU institutions. Instead, a bottom-up political movement may be needed.

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Limiting Lies: The Need for Greater Regulation of the Tech Industry in Europe

Although Europe exercises some of the world’s strictest policies towards the technology sector, the EU is considering passing new regulations aimed at ‘gatekeeper’ platforms, including Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, to force big tech companies to remove dangerous content, hate speech, and misinformation. Renewed efforts by the EU to curb the spread of hate speech and misinformation are prompted by concerns over the recent growth of extremist groups, both within Europe and internationally, that are strengthened by their online communities.

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European waters and migration during the pandemic

As a French citizen studying in the UK, encounters with migrants while traveling across the English Channel have become a regular experience. Whether you take the Eurostar from Calais to Dover or the boat from Ouistreham to Portsmouth, you cannot ignore the reality of their situation, especially during the pandemic. One memory will always remain with me: I arrived by car at the harbour of Ouistreham when suddenly a group of migrants started chasing after the lorry ahead of us. They tried to jump on it and, unsuccessfully, attempted to open the back door of the lorry. This shocked me and at that moment I felt privileged. I had a passport and the right to legally cross the border. Meanwhile, they were illegal immigrants attempting something incredibly dangerous to be able to lead a better life. I was unable to help them and felt embarrassed that this was happening in a European country like France. But this is the reality of the lives of many migrants attempting to cross the borders to European countries.

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The Impact of Covid-19 School Closures on Children and Parents’ Mental Wellbeing

With schools having reopened their doors on March 8th, concerns have been raised that Britain’s school children now face a serious mental health crisis. British paediatricians have warned that they are witnessing an “acute and rapid increase in mental health and safeguarding cases”, with anxiety, depression and self-harm amongst young people rising to worrying levels. Parents have also been reported to be suffering psychological stress and breakdowns due to the pressures of managing their child’s remote learning whilst trying to sustain their own jobs. The Lancet has found that single parent families in particular, have the highest levels of self-reported stress. Gingerbread, the UK’s leading charity for single parents, stresses that the impact of dealing with the financial and practical pressures of Covid, whilst also having the sole responsibility for managing their child’s physical and mental health can be very overwhelming. 

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