🌏 Bye, zero-covid

Plus: A treaty to end single-use plastic
An epidemic control worker wears PPE to protect against the spread of COVID-19 as he guards the gate of a government quarantine facility on December 7, 2022 in Beijing, China.
An epidemic control worker wears PPE to protect against the spread of COVID-19 as he guards the gate of a government quarantine facility on December 7, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo: Kevin Frayer (Getty Images)

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

China eased covid rules nationwide. In a departure from its zero-covid strategy, Beijing dropped many of its quarantine and testing requirements. Meanwhile, the country saw exports fall 9% and imports nearly 11% in November amid slower demand and covid curbs.

Microsoft signed a 10-year “Call of Duty” deal with Nintendo. Pending Microsoft’s buyout of developer Activision Blizzard, which has come under antitrust scrutiny, the video game will be made available on Nintendo platforms.

Vanguard exited the world’s biggest net-zero climate alliance. The investment advisor has quit the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) initiative amid US Republican opposition to ESG investing.

The UK approved its first coal mine opening in over 30 years. The £165 million ($200 million) project in Cumbria is expected to create 500 new jobs and emit 400,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas each year.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was named TIME Magazine’s person of the year. The leader’s decision to stay in Kyiv following Russia’s invasion in February “was fateful,” said editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal.

TikTok was sued by a US state for the first time. Indiana filed two lawsuits against the app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, alleging data security and child safety violations. 

What to watch for

Disney+ is offering its millions of subscribers in the US a not-so-great deal: Keep your current $7.99 monthly service plan, but know there will be ads.

Starting today (Dec. 8), the streaming platform will make an ad-free experience available for extra, ringing in at $10.99 a month. Disney’s decision to introduce a new ad-supported payment tier for its popular streaming service follows the lead of rival Netflix, which launched its own ad-supported plan in November.

But Netflix is planning to pull ahead on the ad-supported subscription front, with more planned for 2023. Ads are set to become a new front of the streaming wars, and Netflix’s choice to release its much-anticipated collaboration with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the docu-series Harry and Meghan, on Dec. 8, could be seen as a direct challenge to the new Disney+ subscription plan launch.

A treaty to end single-use plastic

The world is choking in plastic trash, and the UN wants to do something to fix it. A meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on plastic pollution in Uruguay that ended last Friday (Dec. 2) represented a first, formal step towards a legally binding international treaty to deal with the global plastics problem.

Such a pact would be the most consequential environmental treaty in years, but it has to contend with competing interests. On the one hand, hardline countries and campaigners are pushing for outright bans, and on the other, plastics industry coalitions are calling for a focus on recycling.

Here are a few numbers that summarize the issue:

45: Member countries of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution

50%: Portion of plastic waste represented by single-use plastics

~2,400: Harmful chemicals used in producing plastics

5%: Portion of plastics recycled in the US in 2021, down from 9.5% in 2014

Buy now, pay later is upending cash in Egypt

Egypt’s economic crisis has had a devastating effect on people’s ability to pay for their basic needs. Enter buy now, pay later, a business model that has stood to benefit amid the country’s soaring inflation.

Egyptians have traditionally relied on cash to make payments. Now they’re leaning on a growing number of companies providing BNPL services to pay their monthly bills and expenses. Recent regulations and reforms have helped the consumer finance sector grow, too.

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Surprising discoveries

Neither Ukraine nor the queen were Google’s top search term this year. We’ll give you six guesses—it was Wordle.

A 200-year-long feud over who owns the Parthenon Marbles may soon end. The British Museum is reportedly in advanced talks to return the marbles (we’ve yet to lose ours) to Greece.

Mastodons used to live as far north as Greenland. A new analysis of 2 million-year-old DNA, the most ancient found to date, shows they once roamed the island.

Noise pollution is ticking off the local birds. Countryside robins become more belligerent in areas with loud traffic.

The world’s best passport is from the land of “Make It Happen.” United Arab Emirates citizens can travel 91% of the globe, visa-free.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, Wordle stats, and angry birds to hi@qz.com. Reader support makes Quartz available to all—become a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Sofia Lotto Persio, Diego Lasarte, Aurora Almendral, Julia Malleck, and Morgan Haefner.