Weekly News Blast | Nov. 6-13
A summary of key developments from the week of November 6-13, 2022.
Delegates from around the world are meeting in Egypt to discuss policies toward combating climate change (Matthew TenBruggencate, Unsplash)
1. The COP 27 Climate Conference Kicks Off in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
On November 6, 2022, the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) convened in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. In the following days, delegates and leaders from countries signed onto the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol, and Paris Agreement discussed various plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating the effects of climate change.
Because of the conference’s location (in Africa, the continent hardest hit by climate disasters), one of its focuses was climate justice and aid for developing countries. For example, several delegates proposed a loss and damage fund in which developed countries (who are primarily responsible for greenhouse gas emissions) would lend money to developing countries (who disproportionately face the consequences of climate change). Countries like New Zealand and Germany have already offered some money, but only about half a dozen other countries have made such commitments; most major Western powers, like the U.S. and U.K., have yet to make any monetary pledges. However, delegates from developing countries were persistent. “[If we delay] putting loss and damage on an actionable agenda with a framework, then the signal we’re sending each other and the rest of the world is that vulnerability is a death sentence,” said Sherry Rehman, climate minister of Pakistan, a country that faced devastating climate-induced floods earlier this year.
Still, funding was only one of many topics on the agenda at COP27. Several other solutions were proposed, such as the U.S. Energy Transition Accelerator, in which businesses would buy “carbon credits” from developing nations. This program would theoretically allow Western businesses to offset their emissions and help developing countries stimulate their economies. Regardless, for any solution to be effective, all countries will have to commit fully. In the coming days, delegates will continue to debate and deliberate in search of a solution to one of the world’s most pressing and expansive problems.
2. Federal Judge Strikes Down Biden Student Debt Cancellation Program
On Thursday, November 10, a federal judge in Texas rejected President Joe Biden’s executive action to cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt. In late August, Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced a plan to cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year. Nearly 26 million people have already applied for the program, and 16 million have been approved. However, because of the decision, the Department of Education has been forced to pause all applications and suspend repayments.
In his opinion, Judge Mark Pittman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas argued that the Heroes Act of 2003, which allows the education secretary to waive student loans in times of war or national emergency, does not provide “clear congressional authorization” for the president’s action as Biden has previously argued. “In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone,” Pittman wrote. However, following the decision, the Justice Department appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Pittman’s holding was contrary to other district courts’ decisions. It is expected that the issue will work its way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Amy Coney Barrett has already, without comment, unilaterally rejected two previous challenges to the debt cancellation program. Still, the conservative majority on the court means that anything is possible. Regardless, Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to President Biden, says she is confident in the Biden administration. “We believe we’re going to prevail in court,” Dunn told CBS News, “because the arguments and the law are on the administration’s side.”
3. Democrats Maintain Senate Majority With Win in Nevada
The 2022 midterm elections were slated to be a big win for Republicans; historically, midterms have favored the party opposite of the president. With inflation and the economy on the minds of many voters, pundits on both sides predicted a “red wave,” several going so far as to reference a possible “red tsunami.” However, Democrats defied all expectations and, in a series of tight races, managed to maintain control of the Senate.
Following Democrat John Fetterman’s victory in the Pennsylvania Senate race, the tally was tied 48-48. On Friday, incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly was reported to have defeated Republican Blake Masters in the swing state of Arizona, bringing the Democrat tally to 49. Finally, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto was declared the victor on Saturday of an extremely tight race in Nevada against Trump-backed former state attorney general Adam Laxalt. With 48.7 percent of the vote to Laxalt’s 48.2 percent, Cortez Masto won by just about 5,000 votes.
Following the news of the Democrat success, President Biden told reports that he was “incredibly pleased by the turnout” and was “looking forward to the next couple of years.” In a victory speech in New York, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer added that “this election is a victory; a victory and a vindication for Democrats, our agenda, and for America and the American people.”
Following Cortez Masto’s win in Nevada, attention turned to Georgia, where Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock will face Republican Herschel Walker in a Senate run-off race. The American people are also looking to the House, where it is still unclear whether Democrats will be able to maintain their majority. However, even if the Republican Party wins the House, winning the Senate has opened several doors for Democrats. For one, they will be able to continue to approve judicial nominees, a process that does not require House votes. And while they may have to focus on more middle-of-the-lane policies, Democrats have the comfort now of controlling at least one house of Congress.
Sources & Further Reading
The COP 27 Climate Conference Kicks Off in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
Federal Judge Strikes Down Biden Student Debt Cancellation Program
Democrats Maintain Senate Majority With Win in Nevada