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.”


Netanyahu will soon address joint session of US Congress, Johnson says

Updated 5 sec ago
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Netanyahu will soon address joint session of US Congress, Johnson says

WASHINGTON: Republican US House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon address a joint session of Congress amid heightened tensions with President Joe Biden, a Democrat, over the Israeli leader’s handling of the war in Gaza.

(Developing story)

 


HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests

Updated 32 min 57 sec ago
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HPV vaccines prevent cancer in men as well as women, new research suggests

  • For the study, researchers compared 3.4 million people of similar ages — half vaccinated versus half unvaccinated — in a large health care dataset
  • Research suggests vaccinated men have fewer cancers of the mouth and throat — twice as common in men than in women — compared to those who didn’t get the shots

New research suggests the HPV vaccine is preventing cancer in men, as well as in women, but fewer boys than girls are getting the shots in the United States.

The HPV vaccine was developed to prevent cervical cancer in women and experts give it credit, along with screening, for lowering cervical cancer rates. Evidence that the shots are preventing HPV-related cancers in men has been slower to emerge, but the new research suggests vaccinated men have fewer cancers of the mouth and throat compared to those who didn’t get the shots. These cancers are more than twice as common in men than in women.
For the study, researchers compared 3.4 million people of similar ages — half vaccinated versus half unvaccinated — in a large health care dataset.As expected, vaccinated women had a lower risk of developing cervical cancer within at least five years of getting the shots. For men, there were benefits too. Vaccinated men had a lower risk of developing any HPV-related cancer, such as cancers of the anus, penis and mouth and throat.
These cancers take years to develop so the numbers were low: There were 57 HPV-related cancers among the unvaccinated men — mostly head and neck cancers — compared to 26 among the men who had the HPV vaccine.
“We think the maximum benefit from the vaccine will actually happen in the next two or three decades,” said study co-author Dr. Joseph Curry, a head and neck surgeon at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “What we’re showing here is an early wave of effect.”
Results of the study and a second were released Thursday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and will be discussed next month at its annual meeting in Chicago. The second study shows vaccination rates rising but males lag behind females in getting the HPV shots.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is very common and is spread through sex. Most HPV infections cause no symptoms and clear up without treatment. Others develop into cancer, about 37,000 cases a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the US, the HPV vaccine has been recommended since 2006 for girls at age 11 or 12, and since 2011 for boys the same age. Catch-up shots are recommended for anyone through age 26 who hasn’t been vaccinated.
In the second study, researchers looked at self- and parent-reported HPV vaccination rates in preteens and young adults in a large government survey. From 2011 to 2020, vaccination rates rose from 38 percent to 49 percent among females, and among males from 8 percent to 36 percent.
“HPV vaccine uptake among young males increased by more than fourfold over the last decade, though vaccination rates among young males still fall behind females,” said study co-author Dr. Danh Nguyen at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Parents of boys, as well as girls, should know that HPV vaccines lower cancer risk, said Jasmin Tiro of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center who was not involved in the research. And young men who haven’t been vaccinated can still get the shots.
“It’s really important that teenagers get exposed to the vaccine before they’re exposed to the virus,” she said.


German police clear pro-Palestinian protesters from Berlin university

Updated 50 min 19 sec ago
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German police clear pro-Palestinian protesters from Berlin university

  • Activists had occupied several rooms of the Humboldt University’s Institute for Social Sciences in downtown Berlin on Wednesday

BERLIN: German police cleared about 150 pro-Palestinian demonstrators from a Berlin university faculty on Thursday, ending one of a wave of student-led protests across Europe over Israel’s conduct in its war against Hamas.
Activists had occupied several rooms of the Humboldt University’s Institute for Social Sciences in downtown Berlin on Wednesday.
Student Coalition Berlin, the group which organized the protest, called in a statement posted on social media for the university to “take an active role in ending the genocide against the people of Palestine and their decades-long suffering.”
University administrators agreed after talks with protest leaders to let them stay until Thursday evening. But they called in the police when some of them refused to leave, German news agency dpa reported.
Police spokeswoman Beate Ostertag said that, while some of the demonstrators left voluntarily, police officers had to lead others from the building. Police said about 130 people were briefly detained during the operation, in which officers broke through several barricaded doors.
Student protests over the war in Gaza that began in the United States have spread to university campuses in many European countries. In Germany, protests have taken place this week at universities in cities including Munich and Leipzig.
Berlin authorities have taken a tough line against anti-Israeli demonstrations, urging police to step in if demonstrators use slogans that could incite hatred against Jews – taboo in a country marked by the memory of the Holocaust.
“There is no place for hate and anti-Semitism in Berlin and at our universities,” said Burkard Dregger, a lawmaker for the Christian Democratic Union, which leads the Berlin state government.


Promising pipelines and fracking, Trump rakes in millions at Texas fundraisers

Updated 24 May 2024
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Promising pipelines and fracking, Trump rakes in millions at Texas fundraisers

  • While the oil and gas industry has boomed under Biden despite increased regulation, they are pushing back against Biden’s ban on fracking on federal land a recent halt in approving new gas export facilities

HOUSTON: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raised tens of millions of dollars during a fundraising swing through Texas this week, promising he would support the oil and gas industry by backing new pipelines and restoring fracking on federal land.

Trump has courted support from the energy industry with a pro-fossil fuel and anti-regulation agenda and regularly criticizes President Joe Biden’s policies to accelerate the energy transition toward a low-carbon economy.
The oil and gas industry has boomed under Biden despite increased regulation and the more climate-focused administration, making record profits and pumping more oil and gas than ever before. The industry has pushed back against Biden’s ban on fracking on federal land a recent halt in approving new gas export facilities.
A Houston fundraiser on Wednesday was hosted by oil billionaires Jeff Hildebrand, founder of Hilcorp Energy, the largest closely held US oil firm; George Bishop, founder of GeoSouthern Energy; Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources; and Kelcy Warren, head of pipeline firm Energy Transfer Partners.
Trump drew standing ovations when he promised to get more natural gas pipelines built if elected and to restore fracking to areas barred under Biden, said Mark Carr, a Houston entrepreneur who was in attendance. Many oil and gas pipelines were delayed or abandoned under both Trump and Biden’s administrations due to community opposition, legal challenges and lengthy permitting processes.
“He’s going to get energy going again in the United States,” said Carr, who founded the Houston-area Christian Brothers Automotive chain.
Trump said America needs to quit taking Venezuelan “tar” oil and instead use American oil, said another attendee, who declined to be named. The United States has resumed limited imports of Venezuelan crude under Biden for processing at US refineries.
Trump has emphasized tax cuts for the industry, “streamlining” the permitting process, and removing certain regulations, said donor and oil executive Dan Eberhart, who was in Houston for the event. “We can drill our way to energy security and low gas prices,” said Eberhart.
The Houston fundraiser was held by the Trump 47 Committee, a fundraising tie-up between the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, a fundraising group that has spent tens of millions of dollars on Trump’s legal fees, and a raft of Republican state parties. The Houston luncheon and a smaller, more intimate roundtable with a group of about 45 executives was followed by a fundraising event in Dallas on Wednesday night.
A Trump campaign official said the Texas swing brought in at least $15 million. Two sources told Reuters the various Texas events took in a total of around $40 million. Reuters was not immediately able to confirm that number.
After a raft of high-dollar donor events across the country, Trump overtook Biden in fundraising last month for the first time.
Meanwhile, the US Senate finance and budget committees on Thursday launched an investigation into Trump’s reported offer to roll back a slew of environmental regulations in exchange for $1 billion in campaign contributions.
The investigation came a week after the top Democratic lawmaker on a US House oversight panel sought information from nine oil companies about reports about “quid pro quo propositions” made by the former president at a campaign event this spring at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The Texas events were pricy affairs: Host committee members were asked to pay $250,000 per couple and agree to raise another $500,000, according to the invitations. The chair was asked to donate about $845,000 per couple and raise another $1.69 million.
An after-luncheon roundtable drew Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub and Houston entertainment and sports magnate Tillman Fertitta, who owns the hotel where the event was held. They were offered a question-and-answer period with the candidate.
Also in attendance in Houston was North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a former Trump rival for the Republican nomination and now a possible running mate, according to another attendee.
Teofilo Lingi, chief operating officer of EK-Petrol, said the former president was “good for the oil industry” and relations with Angola, where his trading and oil exploration company was founded.
Stricter environmental regulations since Trump’s term in office have “made it more difficult for us to import from Angola,” Lingi said, citing customs duties.


Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’

Updated 24 May 2024
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Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’

  • Oliver Varhelyi, EU commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement, says he regrets making the warning
  • The EU official says his remarks on the Slovak assassination attempt was 'taken out of context

TBILISI/BRUSSELS: Georgia’s prime minister on Thursday said an EU commissioner had hinted he could face an assassination bid over a controversial law but the official said the conversation had been distorted.
Georgian premier Irakli Kobakhidze said the unnamed commissioner told him to be “very careful,” citing this month’s assassination attempt on Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, while discussing the legislation likened by critics to Russian-style laws.
The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

President Salome Zourabichvili has vetoed the bill, but the ruling Georgian Dream party has the numbers in parliament to override her veto in a vote next week, despite mass protests and sweeping global condemnation.
Critics say the measure mirrors Russian legislation used to stifle dissent, while Brussels warns it is “incompatible” with Tbilisi’s longstanding bid for European Union membership.
Kobakhidze said that “amid open blackmail” by high-ranking foreign politicians, an EU commissioner had called him to outline “measures, which Western politicians could take if the presidential veto is overridden.”
In what Kobakhidze called a “horrific threat,” he quoted the commissioner as saying: “You’ve seen what happened to (Robert) Fico and you must be very careful.”

Fico, a Euroskeptic populist, was shot four times at point-blank range on May 15. Slovak police arrested a 71-year-old suspect who said he had wanted to hurt Fico because he disagreed with government policies.

“As a precautionary measure, I decided to inform Georgian society of that threat,” Kobakhidze added in a statement.
EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said later: “I would like to express my very sincere regret that a certain part of my phone conversation was taken out of context.”
Georgia’s ruling party has faced widespread accusations of derailing the country from its EU membership path and leading the ex-Soviet republic back toward the Russian orbit.
But the party insists it is committed to EU and NATO membership — which are enshrined in the country’s constitution and supported by more than 80 percent of the population.
It has repeatedly accused Western countries of attempts to drag Tbilisi into Russia’s war on Ukraine.