Britain to become first G7 country with net zero emissions target

Volunteers take part in the Zero Plastiko Urdaibai ocean and coastal cleanup on Laida beach near Bermeo, Spain June 8, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 June 2019
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Britain to become first G7 country with net zero emissions target

  • Households would also need to be weaned off natural gas heating and switch to low-carbon alternatives such as hydrogen or heat pumps

LONDON: Britain will toughen its climate targets and commit to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the government said late on Tuesday, becoming the first G7 nation to set such a goal.
The country currently aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. However, campaigners say this does not go far enough to meet pledges made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to try to limit a rise in global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.
“Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”
Legislation will be put before parliament on June 12 to amend the existing climate change act to incorporate the new target, the statement said.
Britain’s independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, last month said that the country should move to the new target, which would require more renewable electricity generation and could require the phasing out of new petrol and diesel cars by at least 2035.
Households would also need to be weaned off natural gas heating and switch to low-carbon alternatives such as hydrogen or heat pumps.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), welcomed the move.
“Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low-carbon technologies, and it is vital that there is cross-government coordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future,” she said.
Britain hopes its decision will encourage other countries to adopt more ambitious climate targets and said that a further assessment will take place within five years to confirm whether other countries are taking similar action.
It also said it would retain its ability to use international carbon credits to help to meet the target.
“Using international credits within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework is the right thing to do for the planet, allowing the UK to maximize the value of each pound spent on climate change mitigation,” the government statement said.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 min 50 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”