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U.S., Canada among 20 countries to commit to stop financing fossil fuels abroad

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November 4, 2021

By Kate Abnett and Simon Jessop

GLASGOW (Reuters) – The United States, Canada and 18 other countries committed at the COP26 climate summit on Thursday to stop public financing for fossil fuel projects abroad by the end of next year, and steer their spending into clean energy instead.

Campaigners called the commitment a “historic” step in turning off the funding taps for fossil fuel projects. But it did not include major Asian countries responsible for the bulk of such financing abroad.

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By covering all fossil fuels, including oil and gas, the deal goes further than a pledge made by G20 countries this year to halt overseas financing for just coal.

The 20 countries that signed the pledge include Denmark, Italy, Finland, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Gambia, New Zealand and the Marshall Islands, plus five development institutions including the European Investment Bank and the East African Development Bank.

“We will end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022,” they said in a declaration.

That would cover coal, oil and gas projects that are “unabated” – meaning that they burn fossil fuels without using technology to capture the resulting CO2 emissions.

The deal allowed for exemptions in unspecified “limited” circumstances, which it said must be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s target to cap global warming at 1.5C.

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Countries that signed the pledge together invested nearly $18 billion on average each year in international fossil fuel projects from 2016-2020, according to analysis by non-profit Oil Change International.

But no Asian countries were included. China, Japan and South Korea are the biggest backers of foreign fossil fuel projects in the G20, with most of that support going to oil and gas projects. Those countries have committed to stop overseas funding for coal, the pledge made by all G20 nations.

PRESSURE TO END POLLUTING PROJECTS

By bringing together richer donor countries with poorer nations that receive international financial support, the COP26 deal aims to build a consensus among nations to stop backing polluting projects and instead support clean energy both to curb emissions and to avoid building stranded assets.

Governments and financial institutions are facing increased pressure to stop funding coal, oil and gas projects responsible for producing the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, both at home and abroad.

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Campaigners noted that some signatory countries – such as Canada – were still spending on fossil fuels at home, and urged missing countries and development banks to join.

“The world has no more space or time left to accommodate the expansion of fossil fuel energy,” said Lidy Nacpil of the non-profit Asian Peoples’ Movement for Debt and Development.

Britain ended direct government support for new fossil fuel projects overseas this year and Denmark said on Wednesday it would do the same, with exemptions for some gas projects that meet “strict conditions” until 2025. The European Investment Bank has also committed to end oil and gas project funding this year.

The International Energy Agency has said ending investments in oil, coal or gas supply projects is necessary for the world to reach net-zero global emissions by 2050 – which scientists say is crucial for keeping the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius beyond preindustrial levels. Beyond that threshold, global warming could unleash catastrophic and irreversible impacts.

Enormous investment in green technologies is needed for the task. Bernstein analysts estimate the required low-carbon investments at roughly $2-4 trillion per year until 2050.

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(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels and Simon Jessop in Glasgow; Editing by Katy Daigle, Janet Lawrence and Alex Richardson)

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Poor weather hampers search and rescue efforts at Indonesia volcano

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December 6, 2021

By Willy Kurniawan

SUMBERWULUH, Indonesia (Reuters) – Officials monitoring Indonesia’s Semeru volcano on Monday warned residents to remain vigilant after a deadly eruption over the weekend, as heavy wind and rain brought search-and-rescue efforts to a halt.

The tallest mountain on the island of Java erupted dramatically on Saturday, shooting a towering column of ash into the sky that blanketed surrounding villages. Fourteen people were killed and dozens more injured.

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Aerial footage showed roofs jutting out of an ashen landscape, while on the ground military officers, police and residents dug through mud with their hands to extricate victims.

GRAPHIC-Indonesia Semeru eruption

To view the graphic, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/INDONESIA-VOLCANO/klvyknzmbvg/INDONESIA-VOLCANO.jpg

On Monday, the head of the Semeru Volcano Observatory, Liswanto, warned people to keep a safe distance from the mountain, amid reports anxious residents had returned to their homes to check on belongings and livestock.

“The status of Mt. Semeru is still at level 2, which means at this level, people need to be more vigilant because the potential threat is still there,” he said.

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More than 50 people had suffered injuries from the eruption, mostly burns. Lava flows destroyed a strategic bridge connecting two areas in the nearby district of Lumajang with the city of Malang.

In the Sumberwuluh area, where two trucks lay half-buried by volcanic ash, recovery efforts came to an abrupt halt because of strong winds, a Reuters witness said.

Public kitchens and health facilities have been set up for more than 1,000 people who have been displaced.

A trauma healing team to work with children affected by the eruption has been dispatched, CNN Indonesia reported, while hundreds of aid packages, including rice, blankets and clothes and other basic necessities have been sent to the area.

Semeru is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a country that straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of high seismic activity that rests atop multiple tectonic plates.

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GRAPHIC-The Pacific Ring Of Fire

To view the graphic, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/INDONESIA-VOLCANO/zjvqkyeamvx/RING-OF-FIRE.jpg

(Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle)

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Solomon Islands prime minister faces no-confidence vote after riots

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December 6, 2021

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare faces a motion of no confidence on Monday, after anti-government riots just over a week ago saw dozens of buildings burnt down and shops looted in the capital of the Pacific island nation.

Boats have been banned from Honiara harbour, and more than 200 police and soldiers from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are on alert, amid fears the vote could trigger another outbreak of violence.

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However, Monday’s motion is not expected to gain enough support from government MPs to pass, even though four of them resigned.

Church leaders called for talks between the national government and the most populous province of Malaita to resolve a range of domestic issues and a dispute over the switching of diplomatic ties to China from Taiwan in 2019.

Sogavare was “in the service of a foreign power,” opposition leader Matthew Wale said in parliament, accusing the prime minister of using money from China in a national fund to prop up his political strength before the vote.

“The prime minister is dependent on the National Development Fund (NDF) money to maintain his political strength,” Wale said. “How can he make decisions only in the interests of the Solomon Islands?”

Sogavare’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Citizens are angry at inadequate healthcare, prime land being taken by foreigners, and logging companies overriding local interests, Wale said.

The looting and violence that erupted November 24 must be condemned, he added, but said, “It pales in comparison to the looting that happens at the top.”

Anti-government protests spiralled into violence that killed four and destroyed large parts of Honiara’s Chinatown after Sogavare refused to speak with protesters who had travelled from Malaita.

The province has a history of disputes with Guadalcanal province where the national government is based, and opposed the 2019 switch.

About 1,000 people gathered in the provincial capital of Auki to listen to a livestream of the parliament session.

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A political aide to Malaita’s premier, Daniel Suidani, told Reuters it appeared the no-confidence motion would be defeated.

Suidani is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday outlining a referendum for independence for Malaita, the adviser, Celsus Talifilu, said by telephone.

Health minister Culwick Togamana backed Sogavare’s leadership amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said he should not resign. There have been 20 cases and no deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

China had agreed to upgrade the Solomon Islands’ hospital and universities, said South New Georgia MP Danny Phillip.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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U.S. condemns militant attack in Mali that killed 31

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December 6, 2021

(Reuters) – The United States “strongly condemns” a militant attack on a bus in central Mali that killed at least 31 people and wounded 17, the State Department said on Sunday.

Unidentified gunmen on Friday opened fire on the bus as it traveled from the village of Songho to a market in Bandiagara, 6 miles (10 km) away.

The villages sit in the heart of the Mopti region, an epicenter of violence in Mali fueled by insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

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“The United States strongly condemns the attack on civilians on Saturday near Bandiagara, Mali, which left 31 dead and 17 injured,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the Malian people and will continue to partner with them in their pursuit of a safe, prosperous, and democratic future,” Price said.

Jihadist attacks have surged across Africa’s Sahel region, killing thousands and displacing millions across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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