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Xi’s not there? COP26 hopes dim on Chinese leader’s likely absence

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October 26, 2021

By David Stanway

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The leaders of most of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters gather in Glasgow from Sunday, aiming to thrash out plans and funds to tilt the planet towards clean energy. But the man running the biggest of them all likely won’t be there.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s expected absence from the talks could indicate that the world’s biggest CO2 producer has already decided that it has no more concessions to offer at the U.N. COP26 climate summit in Scotland after three major pledges https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/its-down-world-leaders-honour-climate-pledges-says-uk-cop26-chief-2021-10-11 since last year, climate watchers said.

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Instead, China will likely be represented by vice-environment minister Zhao Yingmin along with the veteran Xie Zhenhua, who was reappointed as the country’s top climate envoy earlier this year following a three-year hiatus.

“One thing is clear,” said Li Shuo, senior climate adviser with Greenpeace in Beijing. “COP26 needs high-level support https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/uks-johnson-says-touch-go-whether-cop26-secures-agreements-needed-2021-10-25 from China as well as other emitters.”

The head of the world’s third-biggest source of climate-warming emissions, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has committed to attending https://www.reuters.com/world/india/exclusive-indian-pm-modi-will-attend-glasgow-climate-conference-minister-2021-10-21 the COP26 summit, which runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12. Like other leaders, he will come under pressure from summit organisers to commit to quicker emissions cuts and set a target date to reach carbon neutrality – a target set by Xi for 2060 in a surprise move last year.

But China will be unwilling to be seen yielding to international pressure for more ambitious goals, according to one environmental consultant, especially as it grapples with a crippling energy supply crunch https://www.reuters.com/world/china/what-is-behind-chinas-power-crunch-2021-09-29 at home. Beijing is “already maxed out”, said the consultant, speaking on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter.

Though there has been no official announcement, analysts and diplomatic sources said few had been expecting Xi to attend COP26 in person. He has already missed several high-profile global summits since the COVID-19 outbreak began in late 2019, and didn’t physically attend the Global Biodiversity Conference in China’s Kunming earlier this month.

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They also said Xi was unlikely to lend his physical presence – a virtual video appearance remains a possibility – to a meeting that had little prospect of any significant breakthrough, especially after China brushed off U.S. attempts to treat climate as a ‘standalone’ issue that could be separated from the broader diplomatic disputes between the two sides.

Rather than making more concessions, China and India’s top priority is to secure a strong financing deal allowing richer countries to meet their Paris Agreement commitment to provide $100 billion per year to help pay for climate adaptation and transfer clean technology in the developing world. Xi did attend the Paris summit in person in 2015.

DOMESTIC CONCERNS

Although Xi has not travelled outside China since before the pandemic, he has made three major climate announcements on the international stage.

His unexpected net zero commitment came in a video address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2020. That announcement encouraged enterprises, industry sectors and even other countries to respond with their own net-zero action plans.

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Xi also said in a message to the U.S.-led Leaders Summit on Climate in April that China would start cutting coal consumption by 2026. And he used this year’s UNGA to announce an immediate end to overseas coal financing https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/chinas-overseas-coal-power-retreat-could-wipe-out-50-bln-investment-2021-09-22, a major bone of contention.

Like India, China has been under pressure to add more ambition to its updated “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) on climate change, which are due to be announced before the Glasgow talks begin.

However, the revisions are expected to focus on implementing the targets that have already been announced, rather than making them more ambitious.

China has repeatedly stressed that its climate policies are designed to serve its own domestic priorities, and will not be pursued at the expense of national security and public welfare.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based non-government group that monitors corporate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, said China already had enough climate challenges to deal with and has little leeway to go further in Glasgow.

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“With all the headwinds and all the pledges that have been made, it is important to take stock and consolidate,” he said.

“It’s not enough to put these (commitments) on paper,” he added. “We have to translate them into solid actions.”

(Reporting by David Stanway; Additional reporting by Neha Arora in New Delhi; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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