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Pope leads calls for climate action as rich nations sound alarm

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October 29, 2021

By Jan Strupczewski, Colin Packham and Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) -Leaders of the 20 richest countries will acknowledge the existential threat of climate change and will take urgent steps to limit global warning, a draft communique seen ahead of the COP26 summit https://www.reuters.com/business/cop shows.

As people around the world prepared to demonstrate their frustration with politicians, Pope Francis https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/pope-francis-cop26-must-offer-concrete-hope-future-generations-2021-10-29 lent his voice to a chorus demanding action, not mere words, from the meeting starting in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sunday.

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The Group of 20, whose leaders gather on Saturday and Sunday in Rome https://www.reuters.com/world/climate-set-dominate-g20-summit-ahead-un-conference-2021-10-28 beforehand, will pledge to take urgent steps to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

While the 2015 Paris Agreement committed signatories to keeping global warming to “well below” 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and preferably to 1.5 degrees, carbon levels in the atmosphere have since grown.

“We commit to tackle the existential challenge of climate change,” the G20 draft, seen by Reuers, promised.

“We recognise that the impacts of climate change at 1.5 degrees are much lower than at 2 degrees and that immediate action must be taken to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.”

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that the world was rushing headlong towards climate disaster and G20 leaders must do more to help poorer countries.

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“Unfortunately, the message to developing countries is essentially this: the cheque is in the mail. On all our climate goals, we have miles to go. And we must pick up the pace,” Guterres said.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/protests-proposals-activists-face-climate-talks-test-2021-09-28, who has berated politicians for 30 years of “blah, blah, blah” is among those who took to the streets of the City of London, the British capital’s financial heart, to demand the world’s biggest financial companies withdraw support for fossil fuel.

U.S. BACK IN THE FRAY

U.S. President Joe Biden will join leaders at the G20 meeting after a setback on Thursday https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-give-update-democrats-spending-plans-before-europe-trip-source-2021-10-28 when the House of Representatives abandoned plans for a vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which would have represented the biggest investment in climate action in U.S. history.

Biden had hoped to reach an agreement before COP26, where he wants to present a message that the United States has resumed the fight against global warming.

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The 84-year-old pope will not attend COP26 following surgery earlier this year, but on Friday he led the calls for action at the talks that run from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.

The world’s political leaders, he said, must give future generations “concrete hope” that they are taking the radical steps needed.

“These crises present us with the need to take decisions, radical decisions that are not always easy,” he said. “Moments of difficulty like these also present opportunities https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/pope-francis-cop26-must-offer-concrete-hope-future-generations-2021-10-29, opportunities that we must not waste.”

The pope had a chance to raise his climate concerns at a meeting with Biden in Rome.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting COP26, said this week the outcome hangs in the balance.

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On Friday, Britain sought to align business more closely with net-zero commitments by becoming the first G20 country to make a set of global voluntary disclosure standards on climate-related risks mandatory https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britain-says-company-climate-disclosures-will-be-mandatory-2022-2021-10-29 for large firms.

But leaders of Europe’s biggest oil and gas companies, among big firms conspicuous by their absence at COP26, said only governments can effectively curb fossil fuel demand.

SURVIVAL

The statement from the G20 countries, which are responsible for an estimated 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, said members acknowledged “the key relevance of achieving global net zero greenhouse gas emissions or carbon neutrality by 2050”.

But countries on the climate frontline struggling with rising sea levels want steps taken now.

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“We need concrete action now. We cannot wait until 2050, it is a matter of our survival,” said Anote Tong, a former president of Kiribati.

UN climate experts say a 2050 deadline is crucial to meet the 1.5 degree limit, but some of the world’s biggest polluters say they cannot reach it, with China, by far the largest carbon emitter, aiming for 2060 https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/china-submits-updated-climate-pledges-united-nations-2021-10-28.

In the G20 draft communique, the 2050 date appears in brackets, indicating it is still subject to negotiation.

Current commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions put the planet on track for an average 2.7C temperature rise this century, a United Nations report https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/un-warns-world-set-27c-rise-todays-emissions-pledges-2021-10-26/#:~:text=LONDON%2C%20Oct%2026%20(Reuters),ahead%20of%20crunch%20climate%20talks said on Tuesday.

Tong has predicted his country of 33 atolls and islands that stand just metres above sea level was likely to become uninhabitable in 30 to 60 years’ time. Pacific Island leaders said they would demand immediate action in Glasgow, with an initial focus on G20 leaders, on sweeping changes.

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“A strong commitment and outcome from the G20 Rome Summit will pave the way for an ambitious and successful COP26,” Henry Puna, former Cook Islands prime minister and now secretary of the Pacific Islands Forum, said in a statement.

“We do not have the luxury of time and must join forces urgently and deliver the required ambition at COP26 to safeguard the future of all humankind, and our planet,” Puna said.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski, Costas Pitas, Colin Packham, Jeff Mason, Philip Pullella, Timothy Gardner, Trevor Hunnicutt and Richard Cowan; Writing by Alexander Smith; Editing by Barbara Lewis, Nick Macfie and Angus MacSwan)

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China top representative in Macau to advise govt on national security-state media

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December 3, 2021

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s top representative in the semiautonomous gambling hub of Macau will begin advising the former Portuguese colony’s government on national security matters, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.

The move highlights increased scrutiny from Beijing over Macau affairs after the central government declared outflows of Chinese gambling-related funds into Macau and other gaming hubs a national security risk.

Last week Macau authorities arrested Alvin Chau https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/gambling-group-suncitys-shares-set-rise-61-after-arrested-chairman-resigns-2021-12-02, the founder of Macau’s biggest junket operator, which brings in high rollers to play at casinos, along with 10 others, for allegedly using Macau as a base for an illegal “live web betting platform.”

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A warrant for Chau’s arrest has also been issued by the mainland Chinese city of Wenzhou, accusing him of forming an extensive junket agent network that helps citizens engage in gambling activities and of setting up a company that helps gamblers make cross-border fund transfers.

The move was seen as a warning that Macau and mainland Chinese authorities were adopting a zero-tolerance approach to the promotion of gambling in mainland China where it is illegal.

Xinhua said Macau asked Beijing to appoint a national security affairs adviser in the city and that Beijing tasked the head of its Liaison Office Fu Ziying to “supervise, guide, coordinate, and support” the government on the matter.

Beijing will also appoint three national security technical advisers from within the Liaison Office, which is Beijing’s main representative institution in Macau.

(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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S.Korea makes vaccine pass mandatory for many more venues as Omicron fears rise

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December 3, 2021

By Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea announced on Friday that people visiting restaurants and cinemas and other public spaces will have to show vaccine passes, amid a surge in COVID-19 infections and five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

The government also re-imposed limits on private gatherings, which had been recently relaxed, as the country posted record numbers of new cases this week.

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Desperate to fend off the Omicron variant, authorities halted quarantine exemptions on Thursday for fully vaccinated inbound travellers and made a 10-day quarantine mandatory.

From next Monday, people visiting 14 designated public spaces, including hospitality and entertainment venues, will have to show their vaccines passes, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a coronavirus response meeting, setting out the plan to reduce the risk of community spread. The public will have a grace period of a week to get used to the new rules.

While people have been required to show their vaccine pass at high-risk venues such as gyms, saunas and bars, it is the first time that the requirement has been extended to restaurants and cafes.

From February, anyone aged 12 years or older will have to show a vaccination pass. The government decided to lower the exemption age, currently set at 17 years, to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated as the under-18 age group accounts for 20% of all infections, Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told a briefing.

The limit on private gatherings was cut to six people in the greater Seoul area, and eight outside, from the current limit of 10 in Seoul and 12 outside, Kwon said.

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South Korea has so far confirmed a total of five Omicron cases after a fully vaccinated couple tested positive for the variant after arriving last week from Nigeria. The patients are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms such as headache, low-grade fever, dizziness and sore throat, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

KDCA reported 4,944 COVID-19 cases for Thursday, a slight decline from record high 5,266 cases on Wednesday. It has reported a total of 462,555, with 3,739 deaths overall.

South Korea has fully vaccinated 91.6% of its adult population aged 18 and over, yet the booster dose uptake remains at 8.1%.

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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U.S. House to consider bill to clamp down on products from China’s Xinjiang

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December 3, 2021

By Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider a bill as soon as next week that would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labor, Representative Jim McGovern, the bill’s sponsor, told reporters on Thursday.

“Next week is an important week for human rights,” McGovern said. “… We think it’s important to move some China legislation, hopefully much of it focused on human rights. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act we want to see that get over the finish line in some form.”

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President Joe Biden is hosting a summit of democracies next week, seen as an effort to push back against China’s growing influence.

Republicans and Democrats have been arguing over the Uyghur legislation for months. Most recently, Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been demanding that the measure be included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, delaying the Senate’s consideration of the massive annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon.

Rubio’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether House passage of McGovern’s bill would change his stance on the defense bill.

If the Uyghur measure becomes law, it would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, were made with forced labor.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the U.S. government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.

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Republicans have accused Biden’s Democrats of slow-walking the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda. Democrats deny that.

“I just want to see a strong, a much stronger, approach when it comes to forced labor in Xinjiang,” Democratic Representative Dan Kildee told Reuters in a telephone interview, arguing that domestic production of solar panels could be ramped up.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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