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G20 split over coal, 1.5 degree climate limit ahead of Rome summit -sources

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October 21, 2021

By Gavin Jones and Stephen Jewkes

ROME (Reuters) -The Group of 20 rich countries are divided over phasing out coal and committing to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as they prepare for a crucial summit in Rome next week, sources familiar with the negotiations said.

The need to curb greenhouse gases will be high on the agenda of the Rome G20 gathering on Oct. 30-31, seen as a key stepping stone immediately ahead of broader United Nations climate talks, called COP26, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland.

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COP26 president, Britain’s Alok Sharma, said in a speech this month the G20, which accounts for 80% of global emissions, would be “make or break” for achieving success in Glasgow.

Big polluters such as China and India have so far dug in their heels, however, and little progress has been made since G20 energy and environment ministers met in Naples in July, said three sources, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the talks.

“Countries are not moving, at the moment they are still just making sure their positions are heard loud and clear,” said one of the sources.

But he added that such intransigence was normal at this stage and that any concessions were unlikely to come before G20 climate sherpas meet face-to-face next Thursday and Friday, immediately before their leaders’ weekend meeting.

“Where I see the problem is in the commitment to 1.5 degrees and in the phase out of coal and fossil fuels by China, India and Russia,” said another source, a G20 minister.

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In a letter to G20 president, Italy’s Mario Draghi, nine countries including Grenada and the Marshall Islands, both vulnerable to storms and rising seas, urged G20 nations to hike their climate pledges to “set the tone” for COP26.

Climate scientists say capping global warming at 1.5 degrees compared with pre-industrial levels is vital to limit environmental disasters, but a broad and clear commitment to achieve the goal is proving elusive.

The landmark UN Paris Agreement signed in 2015 aimed to limit global warming to “well below 2 degrees” and “preferably” to 1.5 degrees, and since then international gatherings have tried with difficulty to toughen up the language.

In Naples, energy and environment ministers recognised that environmental risks were lower at 1.5 degrees than at 2, but again fell short of clearly stating 1.5 must not be breached.

They also failed to reach unanimous agreement on fixing dates to end fossil fuel subsidies, halt international financing of coal projects and phase out coal power altogether, asking leaders to bridge the gaps at the upcoming Rome summit.

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Coal still powers more than half the electricity generated by China, the world’s largest energy producer and also the largest greenhouse gas emitter.

The country has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060 but has not committed to a date for halting domestic coal production.

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At least four G20 leaders are not expected to come to Rome, including China’s Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin of Russia, another major oil and gas producer.

One source said while such absences were “not a great political signal,” they would not necessarily prevent progress.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be coming to Rome, officials said, and New Delhi confirmed on Thursday that he will also be at the COP26 in Glasgow.

Neither Russia, China nor India have committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, considered a vital goal in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

So far China is proving most reluctant to commit to the 1.5 degree ceiling, while India is most intransigent in not pledging net zero emissions by 2050, one of the sources said.

China and India are also among a group of countries that have not yet presented new national plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ahead of COP26, on how they will help curb climate change.

A number of countries including the two Asian giants this week criticised rich nations that have broken their own promises to cut CO2 and deliver financial help to weaker countries to battle climate change. In this situation it is unfair to expect poorer peers to commit to tougher emissions targets, they said.

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One of the sources said breakthroughs were more likely in Glasgow than in Rome.

Big emitters like China, India and Russia tend to feel pressured and hectored by the Western countries at the G20, he said, making them defensive and reluctant to concede ground.

The much larger UN forum was more “neutral” and conducive to compromise, he said.

The Rome G20 will also focus on the coronavirus pandemic and how to foster global economic recovery, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who will chair the meeting, said on Wednesday.

(Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by David Evans and Catherine Evans)

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Germany jails Islamic State member for life over role in Yazidi genocide

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November 30, 2021

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A German court on Tuesday jailed a former Islamic State militant for life after convicting him of involvement in genocide and crimes against humanity over mass killings of minority Yazidis by IS in Syria and Iraq.

It was the first genocide verdict against a member of Islamic State, an offshoot of al Qaeda that seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014 before being ousted by U.S.-backed counter-offensives, losing its last territorial redoubt in 2019.

The court in Frankfurt found Taha al-Jumailly, 29, an Iraqi national, guilty of involvement in the slaughter of more than 3,000 Yazidis and enslavement of 7,000 women and girls by IS jihadists in 2014-15.

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This, the court ruled, included the murder of a five-year-old girl the defendant had enslaved and chained to a window, leaving her to die in scorching heat.

Al-Jumailly, who entered the court on Tuesday covering his face with a file folder, was arrested in Greece in 2019 and extradited to Germany where relatives of slain Yazidis acted as plaintiffs supporting the prosecution.

The defendant’s German wife, identified only as Jennifer W., was used as a prosecution witness at the trial. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison last month for involvement in the enslavement of the Yazidi girl and her mother.

The Yazidis are an ancient religious minority in eastern Syria and northwest Iraq that Islamic State viewed as supposed devil worshippers for their faith that combines Zoroastrian, Christian, Manichean, Jewish and Muslim beliefs.

Islamic State’s depredations also displaced most of the 550,000-strong Yazidi community.

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(Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Geagea says delaying vote would condemn Lebanon to ‘slow death’

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November 30, 2021

By Timour Azhari and Maha El Dahan

MAARAB, Lebanon (Reuters) – One of Lebanon’s main Christian politicians accused foe Hezbollah and its allies of working to postpone a parliamentary election set for March over fears of electoral losses, warning such a move would condemn Lebanon to a “slow death”.

Western donors that Lebanon is relying on to stem its financial implosion have said the vote must go ahead. Politicians from all sides, including Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah, have repeatedly said it should happen otherwise the country’s standing would be dealt a further blow.

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But Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces and an ally of Saudi Arabia, pointed the finger at Hezbollah and its ally President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement for moves to delay it “because they are near certain that they will lose their parliamentary majority”.

Aoun said this month he would not sign authorisation for the vote, approved by parliament, to be held on March 27 as the date was too early.

Asked whether a postponement would lead to more fighting after clashes last month between the Lebanese Forces and Hezbollah, Geagea, said: “Not fighting, but to more slow death.”

“With the current way things are going, state institutions – and so the state – is dissolving day by day,” he told Reuters at his residence in the mountains overlooking the coastal town of Jounieh.

Lebanon has no reliable opinion polling but should the election take place, Geagea’s party is widely expected to make gains, with the Free Patriotic Movement expected to lose seats, potentially robbing Hezbollah of its majority.

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Without an election to shake up parliament “you will see more of the same”, Geagea said. The United Nations says the economic meltdown has left nearly 80% of people in poverty.

Lebanon’s government, formed from most major political parties in September following a 13-month period of political paralysis, has already not convened in nearly 50 days amid a push by Hezbollah and its allies to remove the judge investigating the deadly August 2020 Beirut port blast.

Adding to the economic peril, Lebanon is facing a blast of Gulf Arab anger after a prominent broadcaster-turned-minister levelled blunt criticism at Saudi Arabia, in a row that has further strained Beirut’s ties with once generous benefactors.

Geagea, who maintained close contact to the Saudi ambassador in Beirut, said Hezbollah’s increasing influence was the main problem behind the rift that is harmful to Lebanon’s economy.

“We see Saudi and the Gulf as economic lungs for Lebanon,” he said.

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STREET CLASHES

Geagea’s Lebanese Forces is the second largest Christian party in parliament. It has stayed out of the cabinet since a popular uprising against the sectarian elite in 2019.

But the group was thrust back into the headlines when tensions over the probe erupted into the worst street violence in more than a decade last month, reviving memories of the country’s 1975-90 civil war.

Seven people, all followers of Hezbollah and its ally Amal, were killed.

Hezbollah accused the Lebanese Forces of ambushing its supporters at the protest. Geagea confirmed supporters of his party, along with others, were involved in the clashes, but denied the move was pre-meditated and blamed Hezbollah for entering Beirut’s mostly Christian Ain al-Remmaneh neighbourhood, a strong support base for the Lebanese Forces.

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During Lebanon’s civil war, the Lebanese Forces, under Geagea, was a right-wing militia that controlled swathes of territory including eastern Beirut.

Following October’s clashes, Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah accused it of seeking to start a sectarian conflict and warned Hezbollah had 100,000 fighters at his disposal.

Geagea denied Nasrallah’s allegation that the Lebanese Forces had 15,000 fighters, saying the party had 35,000 members of whom only some had personal arms and perhaps more than 10,000 – “the whole old generation” – had military training.

Geagea said the Lebanese Forces did not seek a physical confrontation with Hezbollah and were not concerned about the breakout of sectarian violence due to the role of the Lebanese Army in maintaining civil peace.

However, he said he had limited his movement and was not leaving his mountain residence in Maarab due to security threats, without giving further details.

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(Reporting By Timour Azhari and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Attack on Ukraine would be costly, NATO warns Moscow

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November 30, 2021

By Humeyra Pamuk and Sabine Siebold

RIGA (Reuters) – Russia would pay a high price for any new military aggression against Ukraine, NATO and the United States warned on Tuesday as the Western military alliance met to discuss Moscow’s intentions for massing troops on the border of the former Soviet republic.

The West has already shown that it can wield economic, financial and political sanctions against Moscow, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of talks of the alliance’s foreign ministers in the Latvian capital Riga.

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“There will be a high price to pay for Russia if they once again use force against the independence of the nation, Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to brief his 29 NATO counterparts on Washington’s intelligence on what is going on at the alliance’s eastern flank and in Ukraine, which is not a member.

“Any escalatory actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States… and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences,” he said at a news conference before the meeting.

“We will be consulting closely with NATO allies and partners in the days ahead… about whether there are other steps that we should take as an alliance to strengthen our defences, strengthen our resilience, strengthen our capacity.”

Kyiv’s aspirations for integration with the West have triggered a standoff with Moscow.

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‘MALIGN ACTIVITY’

The Kremlin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then backed rebels fighting government troops in the east of the country. That conflict has killed 14,000 people, according to Kyiv, and is still simmering.

Two Russian troop build-ups this year on Ukraine’s borders have alarmed the West. In May, Russian troops there numbered 100,000, the largest since its takeover of Crimea, Western officials say.

Moscow has dismissed as inflammatory Ukraine’s suggestions that it is preparing for an attack, said it does not threaten anyone and defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it wishes.

Britain and Germany echoed the NATO warnings.

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“We will stand with our fellow democracies against Russia’s malign activity,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “NATO’s support for Ukraine is unbroken… Russia would have to pay a high price for any sort of aggression.”

Adding to Western concerns, Belarus on Monday announced joint military drills with Russia on its border with Ukraine. While also a former Soviet republic, Minsk is an ally of Moscow.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whom the West accuses of seeking to divide the European Union by sending Middle Eastern migrants to the border of NATO members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, warned Minsk would not sit on the sidelines in case of war.

“It is clear whose side Belarus will be on,” he said, referring to Moscow, whose financial and political backing helped him weather mass public protests in August 2020.

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(Additional reporting by John Chalmers in Brussels; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska and Robin Emmott; Editing by Nick Macfie and Andrew Cawthorne)

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