The threat spectrum

Planet A

Nearly 40 heads of state and government along with ministers and high-level representatives gathered in Paris last week to discuss climate finance reform. While there was ‘complete consensus’ on making the financial system fit for purpose, the summit ended without a deal for a tax on global shipping and other carbon-intensive industries. Worldwide shipping accounts for nearly 3% of greenhouse gas emissions, but that could reach 17% or more by 2050 according to the International Maritime Organization.

Governments must now present concrete proposals for loss and damage funds ahead of the UN Climate Conference, COP28, in November, including on potential taxes on shipping, aviation and fossil fuels. The shipping industry has long pushed back against the idea of a patchwork of regulations across different nations and is currently self-regulated. But as the pressure on the industry to decarbonise mounts, its path forward may rely on the development of an equitable, global taxation framework that reinvests in fleet upgrades, zero-carbon bunker fuels, enhanced maritime transport infrastructure, and climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

Democracy watch

Serbia has entered its eighth week of protests triggered by two mass shootings that left 19 people dead in early May. Multiple students and a security guard were fatally shot by a 13-year old boy in the country’s first-ever mass school shooting, and a day later a 21-year old man randomly shot passersby from a moving vehicle in a village near Belgrade.

The shootings resulted in widespread demonstrations calling for gun-control reform, with tens of thousands protesting in Belgrade and other cities. A mere day after the shootings, the government announced several measures to prevent further violence, including a ban on new gun permits and tougher penalties for illegal weapons possession.

Protestors have also criticised the Serbian media’s role in perpetuating violence and have accused the government of oppression and corruption. Calls for the resignation of President Aleksandar Vucic, a populist authoritarian who began his political career as a far-right Serbian nationalist, have been particularly vocal.

Information operations

Twitter has agreed to comply with strict EU laws on fake news, Russian propaganda and online crime. A team of European Commission officials conducted a thorough test at Twitter’s headquarters to assess its ability to operate within the legal framework. The move came shortly after the company’s owner, Elon Musk, withdrew the platform from the voluntary code of practice on disinformation established by the EU.

In a first-of-its-kind exercise, EU officials collaborated with Twitter staff to simulate scenarios and examine the platform’s controls against misinformation, disinformation, Russian propaganda and criminal activities such as child sexual exploitation. Thierry Breton, the commissioner responsible for enforcing the EU’s Digital Services Act, commended Twitter for agreeing to the test and issued a warning to all social media companies emphasising the EU’s determination to firmly uphold the new laws, which are set to take effect in August.

Follow the money

The US has imposed fresh sanctions on Myanmar’s military regime to curb its access to weapons and other imports that fuel its violent oppression of democratic rights.

Following almost 20 rounds of sanctions imposed by the US since the coup in 2021, the measures target Myanmar’s Ministry of Defence and two of its largest state-owned banks—Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank—which are used by the junta to purchase arms and other material from foreign sources.

The regime, however, appears unfazed, with a spokesperson claiming that it isn’t worried about the new sanctions causing losses, reiterating the regime’s long-held stance. Tellingly, scores of sanctions imposed by different states over the past two years have failed to bring about a shift in the military’s approach. Instead, its brutality has remained persistent.

The sanctions stop short of targeting Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, which according to researchers and activists is responsible for half of Myanmar’s foreign exchange earnings and pivotal to bankrolling the junta’s violence.

Terror byte

Israeli security forces have denounced recent settler attacks in the West Bank as ‘nationalist terrorism’ and vowed to boost countermeasures against them. Violence surged in the West Bank over the past few weeks as Israeli settlers rampaged through Palestinian towns and villages, drawing concerned remarks from the US and the United Nations. These attacks came soon after an Israeli airstrike in the area and a Palestinian shooting that killed four Israelis.

To counter the attacks, Israeli security forces will reportedly beef up their presence in the area and use measures such as administrative detention to hold suspects without charge—a practice often used by Israeli forces against Palestinians. Characterising settler attacks as terrorism has drawn criticism from far-right government ministers and government officials.

Some commentary has noted that the government and security forces have, until now, enabled settler violence through their unwillingness or inability to step in, and speculated that the harsh response is likely the only means to dampen international criticism of the government’s policies.