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Last-minute negotiations as UN climate conference set to close

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November 13, 2021

By Elizabeth Piper, Valerie Volcovici and Jake Spring

GLASGOW (Reuters) – Negotiators shuttled between delegations at the U.N. climate talks in Scotland on Saturday, seeking a deal to give the world a fighting chance of avoiding the worst effects of global warming, as the British host told them they had just hours left.

Alok Sharma delayed a public meeting in the plenary hall, saying negotiators needed more time, but that he still intended to close the two-week COP26 https://www.reuters.com/business/cop conference, which has already overrun by a day, later in the afternoon.

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“At the end of the day, what is being put forward here is a balanced package, everyone’s had a chance to have their say,” he told the forum.

The final deal will require the unanimous consent of the almost 200 countries present, ranging from coal- and gas-fuelled superpowers to oil producers and Pacific islands being swallowed by the rise in sea levels.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry was seen moving back and forth between conversations with Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua, EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans and Sharma.

Like earlier versions, the latest draft of the conference agreement attempted to balance the demands of climate-vulnerable nations, big industrial powers, and those whose consumption or exports of fossil fuels are vital to their economic development.

In particular, it retained a significant demand for nations to set tougher climate pledges next year, rather than every five years, as they are currently required to do – an acknowledgement that existing commitments to cut emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases are nowhere near enough.

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‘KEEPING 1.5 ALIVE’

The meeting’s overarching aim is to keep within reach the 2015 Paris Agreement’s target to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists say that to go beyond that limit would unleash extreme sea level rise and catastrophes including crippling droughts, monstrous storms and wildfires far worse than those the world is already suffering.

But national pledges made so far to limit greenhouse emissions – mostly carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas – would only cap the average global temperature rise at 2.4 Celsius.

While that gap will not be closed in Glasgow, Sharma said he hoped the final deal would pave the way for deeper cuts.

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China, the biggest current emitter https://graphics.reuters.com/CLIMATE-UN/EMISSIONS/jnvwexaryvw/index.html of greenhouse gases, and Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, were seeking to prevent the final deal including language that opposes subsidies for fossil fuels, two sources told Reuters on Friday.

However, Saturday’s draft, published by the United Nations, continued to single out fossil fuels – something no U.N. climate conference conclusion has yet succeeded in doing.

Britain tried to unblock the issue of climate finance, always one of the thorniest, by proposing mechanisms to make sure the poorest nations finally get more of the financial help they have been promised.

Developing countries argue that rich nations, whose historical emissions are largely responsible for heating up the planet, must pay more to help them adapt to its consequences as well as reducing their carbon footprints.

MORE MONEY?

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The draft urged rich countries to double finance for climate adaptation by 2025 from 2019 levels, offering funding that has been a key demand of small island nations at the conference.

Adaptation funds primarily go to the very poorest countries and currently take up only a small fraction of climate funding.

Britain also said a U.N. committee should report next year on progress towards delivering the $100 billion in overall annual climate funding that rich nations had promised by 2020 but failed to deliver. And it said governments should meet in 2022, 2024 and 2026 to discuss climate finance.

Even $100 billion a year is far short of poorer countries’ actual needs, which could hit $300 billion by 2030 in adaptation costs alone, according to the United Nations, in addition to economic losses from crop failure or climate-related disasters.

Disasters that cannot be prepared for or adapted to – such as rising sea levels – emerged as a continued stumbling block.

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Vulnerable nations have argued for decades that rich countries owe them compensation for the “loss and damage” from such events.

But wealthy countries fear being found liable for such disasters and opening the door to bottomless payments. As a result, no U.N. climate conference has yet yielded any funding under this heading for the countries most affected.

On another issue, negotiators began to close in on a deal to settle rules for carbon markets – mechanisms that put a price on emissions to allow countries or companies to buy and sell “permits to pollute”, or credits for absorbing emissions.

New draft documents on implementing Article 6 of the 2015 Paris Agreement suggested progress on all three of the key sticking points that have prevented a deal on the issue at the past two U.N. climate conferences.

Liberian Nellie Dokie, 37, who lives in Glasgow and has been making a daily two-hour trip to cook for conference delegates, ventured her first peep into the main conference area https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/cop26-final-hours-climate-negotiations-2021-11-12 on Saturday.

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“I want to be a part of history,” she said. “I played a small part.”

(Additional reporting by William James, Simon Jessop, Valerie Volcovici, Richard Valdmanis and Kate Abnett; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Katy Daigle and Frances Kerry)

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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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