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Nations make new pledges to cut methane, save forests at climate summit

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November 2, 2021

By Jake Spring and Jeff Mason

GLASGOW (Reuters) -Leaders at the COP26 https://www.reuters.com/business/cop global climate conference pledged on Tuesday to stop deforestation by the end of the decade and cut emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane to help slow climate change.

On the second day of the two-week summit in Glasgow, Scotland, wealthy nations took some overdue actions to provide long-promised financial help for the developing countries worst hit by global warming.

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The United Nations conference aims to keep alive a receding target of capping temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/paris-glasgow-cutting-through-climate-jargon-2021-10-27, to avert still greater damage than has already been caused by greenhouse gases.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of the event attended by almost 200 countries, said he welcomed the latest steps but urged caution.

“We must take care to guard against false hope and not to think in any way that the job is done, because it is not. There is still a very long way to go,” he told a news conference.

More than 100 countries joined a U.S.- and EU-led effort to cut emissions of methane https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/global-watchdog-track-promised-cuts-potent-greenhouse-gas-methane-2021-10-31 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels, potentially a step in stemming the overheating of the planet.

U.S. President Joe Biden chided Chinese President Xi Jinping for his decision not to attend in person.

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“It’s been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China – with respect to China not showing up,” Biden said at a news conference.

“The rest of the world is gonna look to China and say what value added are they providing? And they’ve lost the ability to influence people around the world and all the people here at COP, the same way I would argue with regard to Russia.”

China said Xi https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/china-says-xi-was-given-no-option-video-address-cop26-2021-11-02 had not been given an opportunity to deliver a video address, and had to send a written response instead. Xi offered no additional pledges.

China was represented in Glasgow by its chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua, who said in remarks to reporters on Tuesday that “five years were wasted” because Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement and it was time to “work harder and catch up”.

MOST AT RISK

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Leaders of developing countries most at risk from the effects of climate change, such as heatwaves, droughts, storms and flooding, told delegates the stakes could not be higher.

“Let’s work for the survival of ours and all species. Let’s not choose extinction,” said Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley.

The Global Methane Pledge, launched on Tuesday after being announced in September with just a few signatories, now covers countries representing nearly half of global methane emissions and 70% of global GDP, Biden said.

Methane is more short-lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but 80 times more potent in warming the planet. Cutting emissions of the gas, estimated to have accounted for 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times, is one of the most effective ways of slowing climate change.

Among the signatories is Brazil – one of the five biggest emitters of methane, 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 https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/australia-will-not-back-eu-us-led-pledge-cut-methane-emissions-2021-10-27 has said it will not back the pledge.

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The United States also unveiled its own domestic proposal to crack down with a focus on the oil and gas sector, where leaky infrastructure allows methane to escape into the atmosphere.

LOST FORESTS

More than 100 national leaders also signed a promise to halt the destruction of the world’s forests which absorb roughly 30% 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.

The pledge https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-un-forests/over-100-global-leaders-pledge-to-end-deforestation-by-2030-idUSL4N2RS3VG to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade is underpinned by $19 billion in public and private funds to be invested in protecting and restoring forests.

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The signatories again include Brazil, which has carried out soaring deforestation under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Together they account for 85% of the world’s forests.

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.

‘DOUBLE STANDARDS’

The funding may help reduce mistrust among developing countries caused by the failure of wealthy nations to deliver on a 2009 promise to stump up $100 billion per year by 2020 to help them tackle climate change.

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This mistrust is one of the main obstacles to climate progress, making some developing countries reluctant to embrace steep emission cuts.

“We see double standards creeping into our thinking, whereby those who have already benefitted from carbon-driven economies would like to prevent emerging economies laying similar foundations for their political stability, social development and economic prosperity,” Suriname President Chan Santokhi said.

On Tuesday, Japan said it would offer up to $10 billion over five years in additional assistance to support decarbonisation in Asia.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said this could leverage another $8 billion from the World Bank and other sources, probably allowing the $100 billion threshold of climate financing to be reached by 2022, rather than 2023 as previously expected.

In another deal signed on Tuesday, Britain and India launched a plan to improve connections between the world’s electricity power grids to help accelerate the transition to greener energy.

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But there was scant sign of shared resolve by the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, China and the United States, which together account for more than 40% of global emissions but are at odds on numerous issues.

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”.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels, Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Jake Spring, Simon Jessop, William James and Ilze Filks in Glasgow; David Stanway, Josh Horwitz and Yew Lun Tian; Writing by Kevin Liffey and Gavin Jones; Editing by Janet Lawrence, Barbara Lewis and Grant McCool)

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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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