Leaders at global climate talks pledge to cut methane and save forests

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Highway BR-163 stretches between the Tapajos National Forest, left, and a soy field in Belterra, Para state, Brazil, Nov. 25, 2019. (AP Photo)
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Clamping down on methane flaring and leaks from oil wells and gas pipelines is considered one of the easiest ways to cut emissions. Cow’s are trickier. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 02 November 2021
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Leaders at global climate talks pledge to cut methane and save forests

  • Clamping down on methane flaring and leaks from oil wells and gas pipelines is considered one of the easiest ways to cut emissions
  • Brazil, which has cleared vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest, did make a new commitment on Monday to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030

GLASGOW: Leaders at the COP26 global climate conference in Glasgow have pledged to stop deforestation by the end of the decade and slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane to help slow climate change.
The inability of major powers so far to agree more broadly on rapid reductions in the use of fossil fuels, the main cause of manmade global warming, has upset the poorer, smaller countries likely to suffer its worst effects.
Surangel Whipps Jr, president of Palau, a Pacific state of 500 low-lying islands under threat from rising sea levels, told the leaders of the G20 industrial powers in a speech: “We are drowning and our only hope is the life-ring you are holding.”
Nearly 90 countries have joined a US- and EU-led effort to slash emissions of methane 30 percent by 2030 from 2020 levels, a senior Biden administration official said ahead of a formal announcement on Tuesday.
Methane is more short-lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but 80 times more potent in warming the earth. Cutting emissions of the gas, which is estimated to have accounted for 30 percent of global warming since pre-industrial times, is one of the most effective ways of slowing climate change.
The Global Methane Pledge, first announced in September, now covers emissions from two-thirds of the global economy, according to the US official.
Among the signatories to be announced on Tuesday is Brazil — one of the five biggest emitters of methane, which is generated in cows’ digestive systems, in landfill waste and in oil and gas production. Three others — China, Russia and India — have not signed up, while Australia has said it will not back the pledge.
Humanity has also boosted the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by hacking away at the forests that absorb roughly 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the nonprofit World Resources Institute.
In 2020, the world lost 258,000 sq km (100,000 sq miles) of forest — an area larger than the United Kingdom, according to WRI’s Global Forest Watch. The conservation charity WWF estimates that 27 football fields of forest are lost every minute.
More than 100 national leaders pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade, underpinned by $19 billion in public and private funds to invest in protecting and restoring forests.
The agreement vastly expands a commitment made by 40 countries as part of the 2014 New York Declaration of Forests, and promises more resources.
“Let’s end this great global chainsaw massacre by making conservation do what we know it can do and deliver long-term sustainable jobs and growth as well,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
COP26 aims to keep alive a receding target of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels to avert still greater damage from the intensified heatwaves, droughts, storms, floods and coastal damage that climate change is already causing.
Under the agreement, 12 countries pledged to provide $12 billion of public funding between 2021 and 2025 for developing countries to restore degraded land and tackle wildfires.
At least $7.2 billion will come from private sector investors representing $8.7 trillion in assets under management, who also pledged to stop investing in activities linked to deforestation such as cattle, palm oil and soybean farming and pulp production.
Brazil, which has cleared vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest, did make a new commitment on Monday to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030, compared with a previous pledge of 43 percent.
And Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time set out a target date for India, heavily reliant on coal, to reduce its carbon emissions to a level it can absorb, albeit only in 2070 — 20 years beyond the UN’s global recommendation.
But there is scant sign so far of shared resolve by the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, China and the United States, which together account for more than 40 percent of global emissions but are at odds on numerous issues.
US President Joe Biden has singled out China and leading oil producer Russia for failing to step up their climate goals in Glasgow, while Beijing has rejected Washington’s efforts to separate climate issues from their wider disagreements.
The Communist Party-run Global Times said in an editorial on Monday that Washington’s attitude had made it “impossible for China to see any potential to have fair negotiation amid the tensions.”
China said on Tuesday that President Xi Jinping, who decided not to attend in person, had not been given an opportunity to deliver a video address, and had to send a written response instead — in which he offered no additional pledges.
The British government said it had wanted people to attend the conference in person, and had offered absentees the chance to provide recorded addresses or statements.
“If the world was a private company,” said Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, “imagine that for a minute, and the leaders of the world were to be different CEOs of the corporations — today we would all be fired.”


Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

Updated 4 sec ago
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Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

  • Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year
  • Judge rules new regulations gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests
LONDON: Britain unlawfully gave police wider powers to impose conditions on peaceful protests which cause “more than minor” disruption to the public, London’s High Court ruled on Tuesday.
Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year, which it says gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests.
The case was heard in February amid a wider crackdown on protest movements in Britain and across Europe, as environmental activists have used direct action protests to demand urgent government action against climate change.
Judges David Bean and Timothy Kerr ruled in the group’s favor on Tuesday, finding that the regulations granting the new powers were unlawful.
The High Court granted the government permission to appeal and suspended its decision that the new powers should be quashed pending the outcome of the appeal.
Liberty’s legal action focused on the Public Order Act, under which the police can impose conditions on a protest if it could cause “serious disruption to the life of the community.”
The law was amended last year, so police could impose conditions in cases where a protest could cause “more than minor” disruption, which Liberty said was unlawful.
Government lawyers argued that ministers were given express powers to amend the law on what amounted to serious disruption.
But the High Court ruled that the government exceeded its powers, which “did not extend to lowering the threshold for police intervention.”

Thai minister quits over legal complaint seeking PM’s dismissal

Updated 41 min 3 sec ago
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Thai minister quits over legal complaint seeking PM’s dismissal

  • Pichit Chuenban says his resignation would allow the country ‘to move ahead and not impact the administrative work of the prime minister that needs continuity’

BANGKOK: A Thai minister at the center of a pending legal complaint seeking the dismissal of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin resigned on Tuesday, in an effort to insulate the premier from possible repercussions.
A group of 40 senators lodged a complaint to the Constitutional Court last week against Pichit Chuenban, 65, saying his appointment last month as minister to the prime minister’s office breached the constitution, as he has a criminal record.
The court was due on Thursday to decide whether or not to accept the case, which could lead to Srettha’s suspension.
“Even though I have been vetted and honestly believe that I am qualified by law, this matter is linked to the prime minister,” Pichit said in his resignation letter, shared with media by Srettha’s office.
He said his resignation would allow the country “to move ahead and not impact the administrative work of the prime minister that needs continuity.”
It was not immediately clear whether the resignation would have any impact on the complaint submitted to the court.
Pichit was jailed for six months in 2008 for contempt of court after an alleged attempt to bribe court officials with 2 million baht ($55,000) hidden in a paper grocery bag.
His law license was suspended for five years by the Lawyers Council of Thailand after the incident. The government has said it carefully vetted Pichit’s qualifications and was confident it could defend his appointment before the court.
Pichit becomes the third minister to quit Srettha’s cabinet, after his foreign minister and deputy finance minister resigned following a cabinet reshuffle last month.
The senators, whose term has ended, are currently lawmakers in a caretaker capacity pending the selection of a new chamber. They have accused Pichit of lacking integrity and ethical standards to hold a ministerial post.
Government critics say Pichit was appointed due to his close relationship with a client, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who returned to Thailand last year after 15 years in exile. Thaksin, an ally of Srettha, still wields considerable political influence, despite officially being retired.
The government has insisted Pichit was appointed due to his capabilities.


Arab Americans reject Biden, Trump reelection: Survey

Updated 45 min 2 sec ago
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Arab Americans reject Biden, Trump reelection: Survey

  • President gets 7%, predecessor 2% support because of Gaza ‘genocide’
  • Much higher backing for third-party candidates Jill Stein, Cornell West

CHICAGO: A national survey of Arab Americans released on Monday shows that most respondents overwhelmingly reject the reelection of both President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump.

Conducted by the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Truth Project on May 17 and 18, the survey shows support for Biden at 7 percent and Trump at 2 percent.

Arab and Muslim voters played a significant role in helping Biden defeat Trump in several key swing states in the November 2020 presidential election.

After taking office in January 2021, Biden responded by unveiling “A Plan for Partnership” with the Arab-American community that was to help strengthen ties with his administration.

But Biden’s unequivocal backing of Israel, including helping to approve more than $40 billion in military aid for the country’s alleged genocide in Gaza — which has taken more than 35,000 Palestinian lives — has all but erased that support and his edge over Trump in key swing states, according to the survey organizers.

“Since the start of the genocide many have speculated about who Arab Americans would vote for — Biden or Trump. The answer is neither, with third-party candidates getting substantial support,” ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said in a statement to Arab News.

Third-party candidates Dr. Jill Stein and Dr. Cornell West received much higher support among Arab Americans.

Stein, who is Jewish and with the Green Party, received 25 percent support while West, who is African American, received 20 percent.

Not mentioned in the survey was leading third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. His views have varied from calling for peace and recognition of Palestine to rejecting accusations that Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute genocide. Kennedy has declined repeated requests from Arab News for interviews.

Five national polls released in March and April from Quinnipiac University, Fox News, Marquette Law School, NBC News and Marist College showed Kennedy with 13 percent support for his independent presidential bid. Stein and West received only 3 percent each in the national polls.

As the presidential election approaches, “it is evident that Arab-American and allied voters are supporting candidates that are listening to our concerns and demands,” ADC said.

In its survey, 19 percent of Arab Americans said they were “undecided” and 3 percent said they would not vote in November.

ADC said support for Stein and West is based on the two running on an anti-genocide platform.

Stein has been a “strong and vocal supporter of Palestine” throughout her career, ADC noted, adding that West has also adopted this stance.

Arab, Muslim and other voters have shown significant opposition to Biden’s reelection in more than 30 state primaries, including five key swing states where he won by slim margins over Trump.

The primary election campaigns have been led by the #AbandonBiden movement, which told Arab News that it is considering hosting its own “Presidential Convention” in the autumn to galvanize Arab, Muslim and “progressive” voters to consider alternatives to Biden.

The ADC / Truth Project survey is based on outreach to 36,139 Arab Americans and “allied voters” who were asked one question: “Who are you voting for in November?”

Over the two days, 2,196 (6 percent) responded. ADC said this was “a high level of enthusiasm” in the presidential election race.

The Truth Project is a social welfare body committed to uniting a diverse coalition of Americans and organizations who support justice and equality in Palestine.

ADC has a large national grassroots membership base, and was founded in the 1980s to fight for civil and Arab-American rights.


North Korea’s Kim was ‘sincere’ in Trump talks: Seoul’s former president Moon

Updated 53 min 35 sec ago
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North Korea’s Kim was ‘sincere’ in Trump talks: Seoul’s former president Moon

  • Former South Korean president Moon Jae-in was instrumental in brokering two high-profile summit meetings between Kim Jong Un and then-US president Donald Trump
SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to give up his nuclear arsenal if America guaranteed his regime would survive, former South Korean president Moon Jae-in said in a recently released memoir.
Moon, who led South Korea for five years from 2017, was instrumental in brokering two high-profile summit meetings between Kim and then-United States president Donald Trump, aimed at securing Pyongyang’s denuclearization in return for sanctions relief.
But after the second summit collapsed in 2019, diplomatic outreach was abandoned, with relations between the two Koreas now at one of their worst points in years, as Kim doubles down on weapons production and draws closer to ally Moscow.
In the memoir released Friday, titled “From the Periphery to the Center,” former president Moon outlined in great detail his interactions with the North Korean leader.
“Kim said he would forsake nuclear weapons if there was a guarantee of regime survival,” Moon said in the book, adding that he felt the young North Korean leader was “very honest.”
According to Moon, Kim’s reasoning was: “I have a daughter and I do not wish her generation to live with nuclear weapons... Why would we continue to live in difficulty, under sanctions, with nuclear weapons if our security can be guaranteed?“
But the North Korean leader was “well aware of mistrust from the international community and the (belief from the) US that the North had been lying” about its commitments to denuclearization, Moon said.
Kim specifically asked him how the North could manage to “make Washington believe in our sincerity” to disarm.
In five years since the Hanoi summit, Pyongyang has declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear weapons power, accelerated weapons development, branded Seoul its “principal enemy” and threatened war over “even 0.001 mm” of territorial infringement.
It has also moved closer to Moscow, purportedly supplying it with arms in exchange for space technologies, something which would violate rafts of United Nations sanctions on both countries.
Despite how things have played out, Moon said in his memoir that he still believed Kim was sincere in his plans to denuclearize, but that it was strongly contingent on “corresponding measures” from the US.
Kim and Trump failed to strike a deal because Washington demanded complete denuclearization before it would consider providing sanctions relief, Moon wrote.
“In retrospect, I regret that (South Korea) did not mediate more effectively by listening to the North’s demands and relaying them to Washington if deemed reasonable,” he said.
“Though there are negative views about Trump, he was a very good fit for me as a counterpart in alliance diplomacy,” he said.
“While there are assessments that he is rude and harsh, I liked him for his honesty. A person who has a smiling face but acts differently and thus can’t be read is more difficult to deal with,” he added.
Trump was both apologetic and regretful that the Hanoi summit ended without a deal, Moon wrote.
Trump was “willing to accept (the North Koreans’ terms) but then-Security Adviser John Bolton fervently opposed it,” Moon wrote.
When Trump asked then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a second opinion, he agreed with Bolton, leaving Trump no option but to walk away, Moon wrote.
It is impossible to take Kim’s words at face value now, Hong Min a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said.
What was clear “is that Kim tried to change the status quo by expressing his intention to denuclearize,” he said.
The only way to know if Kim was serious, would have been to strike a deal in Hanoi and “gauge how far the North would go toward denuclearization,” he added.
Moon was succeeded by conservative Yoon Suk Yeol, who has taken a significantly more hawkish stance on North Korea.
Yoon has not commented on the memoir but his minister for unification Kim Yung-ho said on Monday that taking Kim’s words at face value could have lead to a security-related “miscalculation.”
“While ignoring North Korea’s (nuclear) capability, if we only focus on the North’s intentions, this could result in a miscalculation of the security situation,” he said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Charges dropped against 9 Egyptians in migrant shipwreck case

Updated 31 min 1 sec ago
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Charges dropped against 9 Egyptians in migrant shipwreck case

  • International human rights groups argue the defendants’ right to a fair trial is being compromised as they face judgment before an investigation is concluded

KALAMATA, Greece: Greek prosecutors recommended dismissing charges against nine Egyptian men accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants last year and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations, as their trial was opening on Tuesday.

Speaking at the opening of a trial against the nine in the southern Greek city of Kalamata, public prosecutor Ekaterini Tsironi said that Greek jurisdiction cannot be established as the overcrowded trawler sank outside Greek territorial waters.

The defendants, most in their 20s, face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges over the sinking of the “Adriana” fishing trawler on June 14 last year off the southern coast of Greece.

More than 500 people are believed to have gone down with the fishing trawler, which had been traveling from Libya to Italy. Following the sinking, 104 people were rescued — mostly migrants from Syria, Pakistan and Egypt — and 82 bodies were recovered.

International human rights groups argue that their right to a fair trial is being compromised as they face judgment before an investigation is concluded into claims that the Greek coast guard may have botched the rescue attempt.

Defense lawyer Spyros Pantazis asked the court to declare itself incompetent to try the case, arguing that the sinking occurred outside Greek territorial waters. “The court should not be turned into an international punisher,” Pantazis told the panel of three judges.

Kontaratou questioned all nine defendants through an interpreter. The accused said their intention was to travel to Italy, not Greece, and several declared their innocence.

Kontaratou acknowledged that there “were no Greeks on board, it was not under a Greek flag and all the documents refer to the (vessel being) 47 nautical miles away.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the judge’s remarks indicated she would dismiss the case.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres last year described the shipwreck as “horrific.”

The sinking renewed pressure on European governments to protect the lives of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the continent, as the number of people traveling illegally across the Mediterranean continues to rise every year.

Lawyers from Greek human rights groups are representing the nine Egyptians, who deny the smuggling charges.

“There’s a real risk that these nine survivors could be found ‘guilty’ on the basis of incomplete and questionable evidence, given that the official investigation into the role of the coast guard has not yet been completed,” said Judith Sunderland, an associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.

Authorities say the defendants were identified by other survivors and the indictments are based on their testimonies.

The European border protection agency Frontex says illegal border detections at EU frontiers increased for three consecutive years through 2023, reaching the highest level since the 2015-2016 migration crisis — driven largely by arrivals at the sea borders.