The stories that could shape 2021


As the world recovers from the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,  2021 will be the year when the world starts to return to – potentially – some version of the new normal.  

Climate change will once again figure as an important issue.  

The French state will stand trial in a landmark case for alleged climate inaction in Paris on January 14 and Britain will host the United Nations’ climate summit known as COP26 in Glasgow in November.

The event, which was due to be held in the Scottish city in November 2020 but was postponed because of the pandemic, is widely seen as the last opportunity for the world to cooperate to fulfil the global temperature targets set by the Paris Agreement of 2016.  

Driving less, avoiding planes, cutting out red meat and eating more locally produced food will be trends, according to a series of polls which suggest that sustainability will be one the big stories in 2021.  

After our experience during the pandemic, many people will seek to change the way they work, live and travel.  

Timothy Garton-Ash, a British author and historian at the University of Oxford, led a survey of more than 13,000 people in 28 European countries.  

It found that two out of three would support a ban on short-haul flights if the destination can be reached within 12 hours by train.  

Justice will also figure highly on the calendar for the coming year.  

Julian Assange, who has been fighting extradition to the US, will appear before a court in London next week – January 4 – to learn his fate as the ruling is made public.  

The Wikileaks founder faces 18 charges in the US of obtaining classified documents and spying.  

Almost twenty years after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York which claimed the lives of over 3,000 people, suspects will face trial in the US military base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in a long-awaited hearing scheduled for January.

And after prolonged demonstrations against China over alleged civil rights abuses in Hong Kong, Britain will start offering Hong Kongers long-term visas from January.

In Spain, regional elections in Catalonia on February 14 might provide the focus to resolve a running sore which has split Spain since a failed independence bid in 2017.  

Spain’s left-wing government is expected to grant pardons to jailed Catalan separatist leaders in a move which it hopes will allow a regional coalition formed between the Socialists and a moderate independence party, Esquerra Republicana Catalana.  

The Spanish government has rejected a call by the country’s regional government of Catalonia to hold a referendum on independence next year

(AFP/Getty Images)

Away from politics, some of the world’s major festivals or sporting events which were cancelled in 2020 may be held in a modified form this year.  

These include the Super Bowl LV on February 7, Rio Carnival (February 14), Mardi Gras (February 16) plus the lunar new year which will be celebrated from February 12 across China.  

2021 will mark the tenth anniversary of the uprising in Egypt. However, March marks two grim milestones: it is ten years since the start of protests against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad on March 15, who remains in power despite a brutal civil war and the NATO-led intervention in Libya (March 19) which deposed Muammar Gaddafi but left a power vacuum.  

As the world recovers from COVID-19, the World Health Assembly on May 18-19, will see the response to the pandemic assessed by an independent panel.  

June will see the Euro 2020 tournament and hopefully Glastonbury Festival will be able to mark its 50th anniversary between June 23-27. Paul McCartney is favourite to top the bill as he was booked for the 2020 event which was another casualty of the pandemic.

China will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party on July 1st with a host of celebrations planned.  

Another era will come to an end on September 26 when Germans vote in parliamentary elections to see who succeeds Angela Merkel, who has been Chancellor for 16 years.  

US government agencies declassify more documents on October 26 relating to the 1963 assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.  

Finally, on December 8 2021, a year after the UK became the first country in the world to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, there are sure to be many who take a glance back on whether the world has changed.

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