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News brief: climate summit, China's historical resolution, Britney Spears

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Climate negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland, are down to the wire.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

And what diplomats from more than 100 countries decide could lay a path for international climate action for decades to come. The conference president released a new draft of an agreement overnight, but bitter differences remain on key points. Former Secretary of State John Kerry is the U.S. climate envoy, and he spoke with NPR on the summit sidelines.

JOHN KERRY: We need to land on reasonable cooperation and consensus on the key sectors that we're working on here. We need to help countries adapt. There needs to be greater focus on adaptation.

MARTIN: OK, so what does that mean in practice? NPR's Dan Charles is in Glasgow. He joins us this morning to talk about all of it. Hey, Dan.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: First off, what do we know about what is in the draft agreement?

CHARLES: A couple of key things. The first thing is it recognizes that countries are not coming up with plans that would do enough to limit the warming of the planet as they agreed to in the Paris Agreement six years ago. You may remember the U.S. signed onto that deal; the Trump administration rejected it; now the U.S. is embracing it again.

MARTIN: Right.

CHARLES: This draft asks country to come back a year from now with better targets for the next decade that would get them on track to meeting that Paris goal. There's also a section about money, basically global burden-sharing, calling on richer countries to deliver on promises they haven't made - that they haven't kept so far to help poorer countries deal with climate change, build clean energy systems, also pay for the damage caused by the changing climate.

MARTIN: And how close are all the representatives to being in agreement about this deal?

CHARLES: This is just a draft. It's a proposal. I haven't heard too much reaction yet, but based on debates over a similar previous draft, probably not. And under the rules of this conference, they have to adopt this by consensus, you know, no voting.

MARTIN: OK, so why? Where are the disagreements here?

CHARLES: So some countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, also some developing countries, do not like this specific demand to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In practice, that means a quick phase out of burning fossil fuels. Another big sticking point is finance. Poorer countries want this money to help them deal with climate change. They point out that richer countries caused the problem. There have been broken promises on this in the past - rich countries promised $100 billion a year, never delivered that much. Developing countries are looking for more specific amounts and timelines.

MARTIN: Are they going to get those?

CHARLES: (Laughter) You know...

MARTIN: Tell us, Dan. Don't you know? Don't you know how this ends?

CHARLES: (Laughter) Among - you know, climate advocates here were worried about the possibility that this conference would come out without a kind of a least-common-denominator result...

MARTIN: Right.

CHARLES: ...Where some countries, like the U.S. or the Europeans, would refuse to deliver money and then the developing countries would work together with, you know, sort of, say, the Saudis to water down calls to cut greenhouse emissions. That looks less likely now with this new draft. It's pointing in the other direction toward a resolution that would, say, provide more money to help poor countries adapt and also sign onto more ambitious targets for cutting emissions. But nothing is decided.

MARTIN: Stay tuned. NPR's Dan Charles reporting from Glasgow. Thank you so much, Dan. We appreciate it.

CHARLES: Thank you, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Chinese Communist Party leaders just finished this big political meeting in Beijing. It's called the sixth plenum.

MARTINEZ: And at the meeting, they announced a resolution on history. The resolution summarizes the official interpretation of the last 100 years of party history in China. And it positions the chairman, Xi Jinping, to continue ruling the party after 2022.

MARTIN: What are the repercussions of that? We are joined by NPR's Emily Feng. She is in Beijing. Hey, Emily.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: Explain why this meeting is such a big deal.

FENG: So this meeting was one where Chairman Xi Jinping was maneuvering to remain in power for a third term. And he has succeeded because he's gotten the entire party behind him to pass this resolution on history, which I admit is a banal-sounding name. But keep in mind that there have been only two other such resolutions in party history. The first one was in 1945. That allowed Chairman Mao Zedong to cement his control over the party. And the second resolution was in 1981. That ushered in economic reforms, which have made China this economic powerhouse, which we know today. This third one this week declares a new epoch, and that epoch will be led by none other than Xi Jinping.

MARTIN: Wow.

FENG: The resolution omits many of the failures and human rights tragedies of modern Chinese history. Instead, it tells us that the last century of party rule was overwhelmingly successful and Xi Jinping is the only person possible who can lead China towards another successful century going forward.

MARTIN: I mean, this is really amazing, right? He's getting his own epoch. The Chinese government is basically saying Xi Jinping is as important to China as Mao Zedong.

FENG: Absolutely. He's just not - he's not a regular human political leader anymore. He is a historical figure. And according to this resolution, first, you had Chairman Mao who helped found the country. Second, you had Deng Xiaopoing and other leaders who made China rich through these economic reforms. Now you have Xi Jinping, who says he will make China strong, according to this resolution. I attended this highly scripted government press conference earlier today where officials were explaining the significance of the resolution. Here's one of them named Zhang Chua Xin (ph) a party research official.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ZHANG CHUA XIN: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: He says, "we cannot rely on a political system that does not have a core leader, and a country as big as China, it would be unimaginable to have no one leading the party and the country as their core. We would get nothing done. We would be scattered." And of course, the core he is mentioning here is Xi Jinping. This resolution does not mean everyone supports him, but by passing this resolution, Xi has shown that there is no one strong enough politically to challenge him.

MARTIN: I mean, does that mean he just gets to be the leader as long as he wants to?

FENG: Technically, according to the Constitution, he can remain in power as president for as long as he wants because he got rid of term limits. With this resolution, he has said he can stay in power as head of the Communist Party for at least another third-year term - a third five-year term. Excuse me. And that's what really matters. And this has huge ramifications for Chinese society because he's already made his mark as a much more authoritarian leader. He's purged millions of communist officials for corruption or because they were rivals. He's ordered the mass incarceration and detention of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs in the region of Xinjiang. He's reintroduced this more nativist, party-centered style of rule that's put it on a collision course with other countries, including the U.S. And now he's setting his sights farther. He wants to control private businesses. He wants to censor more of China's pop culture. He's a much more aggressive in foreign policy. Now with this resolution, he's won himself another at least five years to realize these political ambitions.

MARTIN: NPR's Emily Fang reporting from Beijing. Emily, thank you.

FENG: Thanks, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: OK. Hashtag #FreeBritney could take on new meaning today.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. A judge today in a Los Angeles probate court could decide what happens to the legal conservatorship that has controlled Britney Spears' life for the past 13 years. And fans of the 39-year-old entertainer and legal observers are watching to see what happens next.

MARTIN: So is NPR's Andrew Limbong. Hi, Andrew.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: What's on the line today?

LIMBONG: So, yeah, today the whole conservatorship could end, you know, which would mean Britney Spears would solely be in charge of her own legal decisions, where she can and can't go and, you know, importantly, her money, right?

MARTIN: Right.

LIMBONG: And this is something she has repeatedly asked for. But importantly, she had wanted this to be done without having to go through any sort of mental or psychological evaluation, right? And the judge may or may not agree to that. But, like, even ending the conservatorship might not be super clean cut because so just remember there are two conservatorships at play here, right? There's the conservator of her estate, who's in charge of her financial dealings, and then there's the conservator of her person, who is in charge of overseeing her, like, health and well-being and stuff.

MARTIN: Yeah.

LIMBONG: And so while Britney and her lawyer are hoping for both to end completely, it could be that, like, one stays while the other goes away or vice versa. Or there's, like, a gradual, like, timeline to wean off both of them.

MARTIN: I mean, this case, yes, it's about Britney Spears and her legions of fans are rapt with what's going to happen, but it also has implications for broader guardianship laws, right?

LIMBONG: Yeah, yeah. A lot of people interested in guardianship law or guardianship law reform has been watching this intensely. It's really put the issue into the spotlight, right? Because, you know, most people in guardianships are, like, elderly or have disabilities. And there's been a movement for years advocating that these laws violate conservatees', like, civil rights in that, you know, these systems are rife with abuse and corruptions, right? But, you know, these victims generally don't have legions of fans behind them bringing their support to this - bringing their attention here. And it's interesting because #FreeBritney, advocates have told me that they might not have known about these issues pre Britney. But guardianship reform has become kind of a big cause for them, and you can see it gaining traction too, right? If you listen to the rallies, there's always somebody talking about somebody else besides Britney who has been going through these issues, right? So it's definitely just bigger than Britney Spears herself.

MARTIN: What about her father, Jamie Spears? I mean, he's been at the center of all this. What has he said since he was actually suspended from being her conservator, right?

LIMBONG: Yeah, he was suspended back in September, and that has been the biggest thing that Britney had wanted to get done, right? So after she first went public, like, her first - the first thing on her to-do list - right? - was to get rid of her father, who she has kind of a tenuous relationship with. But now Jamie Spears, her father, has actually asked the judge to end the conservatorship through legal paperwork. He has said that he "unconditionally loves and supports his daughter full stop," right? And that's a quote. But we should - something that should be taken with a grain of salt because of Britney's lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, suggested that he only took that position either to boost his own reputation or to avoid a deposition because he's actually being investigated, right? Rosengart has already started the process - the discovery process of looking into how Jamie has dealt with Spears' money all these years and is asking for correspondence between Jamie Spears and anyone in Britney's orbit. So that includes, like, former business managers or any doctors or lawyers that she might have dealt with.

MARTIN: Last question, Andrew, how has all this affected her career?

LIMBONG: She hasn't toured since the big one. And I think there have been rumblings that she might actually retire after all of this, so it might be it for her.

MARTIN: Wow. NPR's Andrew Limbong talking about the possible ruling in the #FreeBritney case. Andrew, thanks, as always. We appreciate your reporting.

LIMBONG: Thanks, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRONGER")

BRITNEY SPEARS: (Singing) But now I'm stronger than yesterday. Now it's nothing but my way. My loneliness... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.