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G20 leaders struggling to toughen climate goals, draft shows

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October 30, 2021

By Jan Strupczewski and Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) -Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies will say they aim to cap global warming at the 1.5 degrees Celsius level scientists say is vital to avoid disaster, but will largely avoid firm commitments, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

The joint statement on the need for climate action reflects tough negotiations among diplomats as the leaders gathered for a two-day summit in Rome, but the draft details few concrete actions to limit carbon emissions.

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“We remain committed to the (2015) Paris Agreement goal to hold the global average temperature increase well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” the draft says.

The statement also says the leaders recognised “the key relevance” of achieving net zero carbon emissions by the middle of this century.

This is a goal that United Nations experts say is needed to achieve the 1.5 degree cap on warming, but some of the world’s biggest polluters have still not committed to it.

China, the largest global emitter of greenhouse gases, has set a 2060 target date.

Overall, the fifth draft produced does not seem to have toughened up the language on climate action compared with previous versions, and in some areas it has slightly softened it.

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The role of the G20 is crucial ahead of a broader U.N. climate summit https://www.reuters.com/business/cop known as “COP26” to be held in Glasgow, Scotland next week involving almost 200 countries.

The G20 bloc, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for more than 80% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), 60% of its population and an estimated 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Keeping 1.5°C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions by all countries,” the latest draft says.

That compares with a previous draft which said “immediate action” was needed, reflecting the painstaking discussions over wording involved in climate diplomacy.

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The reference in the latest draft to the importance of reaching net zero emissions “by mid-century”, replaces a previous version which referred to the more specific “by 2050”. This was in brackets, indicating it required negotiation.

The latest draft acknowledges that current national plans on how to curb emissions will have to be strengthened, but offers little detail on how this should be done.

U.N. experts say that even if current national plans are fully implemented, the world is headed for global warming of 2.7 degrees, with a catastrophic acceleration of events such as drought, storms and flooding.

The draft includes a pledge to halt financing of overseas coal-fired power generation by the end of this year, and to “do our utmost” to stop building new coal power plants before the end of the 2030s. Both these commitments were in previous drafts, as was another reiterated pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies “over the medium term.”

In the latest draft the G20 leaders also say they will “strive to reduce our collective methane emissions significantly”. Methane has a much more potent, but less long-lasting, impact on global warming than carbon dioxide.

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The willingness of wealthier countries to help finance the ecological transition of poorer ones, known as “climate financing”, is likely to be crucial to the success of the G20 and the Glasgow summits.

In 2009, rich nations promised to provide $100 billion per year of climate financing but they have failed to meet the pledge, generating mistrust and a reluctance among some developing nations to accelerate their emissions reductions.

“We stress the importance of fulfilling the joint commitment to the goal of developed countries to mobilize USD 100 billion annually from public and private sources through to 2025 to address the needs of developing countries, in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation,” the latest G20 draft says.

There is no reference to retroactive payment of the money promised by 2020, which some developing countries and activists say is needed.

(Reporting by Jan StrupczewskiWriting by Gavin JonesEditing by Crispian Balmer and Helen Popper)

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Pope says willing to go to Moscow to meet Orthodox Patriarch

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December 6, 2021

By Philip Pullella

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Monday he was willing to go to Moscow for to meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill “brother to brother” in what would be the first trip by a pope to Russia.

The pair’s meeting in Cuba in 2016 was the first by a pope and a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since the great schism that split Christianity into Eastern and Western branches in 1054.

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Both sides have declared a willingness to work towards unity but they are still far apart theologically and over what role the pope would play in an eventually reunited Church.

“We are brothers and we talk straight to each other. We do not dance the minuet,” Francis told reporters aboard his plane returning from a trip to Cyprus and Greece.

“We have to move forward, walking and working towards unity.”

He said he was willing to go Moscow and that a top Russian Orthodox official was expected in Rome next week to decide the time and location of the meeting.

Francis said working out the protocols would be less important than meeting “brother to brother” with Kirill.

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The Pope normally travels to countries with a joint invitation from its religious authorities as well as one from the government, meaning that Francis would most likely need an invitation from President Vladimir Putin to visit Russia.

The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest in Christian Orthodoxy, with about 100 million members, is closely aligned with the Kremlin.

Francis said the meeting with Kirill was “on the not too distant horizon”.

He said Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, who is responsible for the Russian Orthodox Church’s external relations, would be coming to the Vatican to meet him to discuss where and when the next meeting can take place.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams)

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Yemen Houthis bury their dead as Marib fighting rages

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December 6, 2021

By Adel Al-Khader

SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis held military funerals on Monday for 25 fighters killed in battles with a Saudi-led coalition, as fighting shows no sign of abating despite intense international diplomacy to end the seven-year-old conflict.

The funerals took place as fighting has raged in the gas-rich Marib region, while warplanes from the coalition have intensified their bombing of Sanaa, Marib and other areas.

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The Houthis have also stepped up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia using armed drones and missiles.

An honour guard carried the coffins – draped with flags, flowers and photographs of the dead – with military music through the capital Sanaa. Relatives gathered to mourn their loved ones.

“We are in these days inspired by these martyrs’ pride and dignity and say to them: ‘congratulations! You have preceded us to a paradise as wide as the heavens and earth’,” said Ali Muhyaddin, a relative of one of the dead.

The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands and caused what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

U.N.-led efforts to agree a ceasefire have stalled in the conflict, which is seen largely as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign invasion.

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Houthi media showed fighters exchanging heavy artillery fire with coalition forces in Marib on Sunday as warplanes flew overhead. All the 25 fighters buried in Sanaa were killed in Marib, Houthi officials said.

The Houthis have launched a year-long offensive to take Marib, which hosts Yemen’s biggest gas fields. The city is the last stronghold of the internationally recognised government.

Marib is home to 3 million people, including nearly 1 million who fled other parts of Yemen after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene.

The number of displaced people in camps in the province has risen nearly 10-fold since September, with more than 45,000 people fleeing their homes as Houthi forces press the offensive, the U.N. migration agency IOM said last month.

(Writing by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Putin and Modi discuss trade, humanitarian situation in Afghanistan

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December 6, 2021

By Alasdair Pal and Neha Arora

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on Monday, with trade and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan both on the agenda.

Afghanistan’s takeover by the Taliban earlier this year has led to a humanitarian crisis in the country, which New Delhi and Moscow have both previously said risks destabilising the region.

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“The fight against terrorism is also a fight against drug trafficking and organised crime,” Putin said in introductory remarks broadcast by Indian media. “In that regard, we are concerned about developments of the situation in Afghanistan.”

The visit by Putin and several top Russian officials comes amid increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States, also a key Indian ally.

Earlier on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a deal to supply India with S-400 air defence missile systems was being implemented despite what he said were U.S. efforts to undermine the accord.

India and Russia are expected to cement several trade and defence pacts at the summit.

“The relation between India and Russia is truly a unique and reliable model,” Modi said.

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(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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