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U.N. climate agreement clinched after late drama over coal

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November 14, 2021

By Valerie Volcovici, Kate Abnett and William James

GLASGOW (Reuters) – U.N. climate talks ended Saturday with a deal that for the first time targeted fossil fuels as the key driver of global warming, even as coal-reliant countries lobbed last-minute objections.

While the agreement won applause for keeping alive the hope of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, many of the nearly 200 national delegations wished they’d come away with more.

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“If it’s a good negotiation, all the parties are uncomfortable,” U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said in the final meeting to approve the Glasgow Climate Pact. “And this has been, I think, a good negotiation.”

The two-week conference in Scotland delivered a major win in resolving the rules around carbon markets, but it did little to assuage vulnerable countries’ concerns about long-promised climate financing from rich nations.

The British COP26 president, Alok Sharma, was visibly emotional before banging down his gavel to signal there were no vetoes to the pact, after the talks had extended overtime – and overnight – into Saturday.

There was last-minute drama as India, backed by China and other coal-dependent developing nations, rejected a clause calling for the “phase out” of coal-fired power. After a huddle between the envoys from China, India, the United States and European Union, the clause was hurriedly amended to ask countries to “phase down” their coal use.

India’s environment and climate minister, Bhupender Yadav, said the revision reflected the “national circumstances of emerging economies.”

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“We are becoming the voice of the developing countries,” he told Reuters, saying the pact had “singled out” coal but kept quiet about oil and natural gas.

“We made our effort to make a consensus that is reasonable for developing countries and reasonable for climate justice,” he said, alluding to the fact that rich nations historically have emitted the largest share of greenhouse gases https://graphics.reuters.com/CLIMATE-UN/EMISSIONS/jnvwexaryvw/index.html.

The single-word change was met with dismay by both rich countries in Europe and small island nations along with others still developing.

“We believe we have been side-lined in a non-transparent and non-inclusive process,” Mexico’s envoy Camila Isabel Zepeda Lizama said. “We all have remaining concerns but were told we could not reopen the text … while others can still ask to water down their promises.”

But Mexico and others said they would let the revised agreement stand.

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“The approved texts are a compromise,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today.”

CARBON MARKET BREAKTHROUGH

Reaching a deal was always a matter of balancing the demands of climate-vulnerable nations, big industrial powers, and those like India and China depending on fossil fuels to lift their economies and populations out of poverty.

Sharma’s voice broke with emotion in response to vulnerable nations’ expressing anger over the last-minute changes.

“I apologise for the way this process has unfolded,” he told the assembly. “I am deeply sorry.”

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The overarching aim he had set for the conference was one that climate campaigners and vulnerable countries said was too modest – to “keep alive” the 2015 Paris Agreement’s target to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5C https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/whats-difference-between-15c-2c-global-warming-2021-11-07 (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Scientists say warming beyond this point could unleash irreversible and uncontrollable climate impacts.

In asking nations to set tougher targets by next year for cutting climate-warming emissions, the agreement effectively acknowledged that commitments were still inadequate. National pledges currently have the world on track for about 2.4C https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/world-track-24c-global-warming-after-latest-pledges-analysts-2021-11-09 of warming.

The talks also led to a breakthrough in resolving rules https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/outline-carbon-markets-deal-emerges-un-climate-summit-2021-11-13 for covering government-led markets for carbon offsets. Companies and countries with vast forest cover had pushed hard for a deal, in hopes also of legitimising the fast-growing global voluntary offset markets.

The deal allows countries to partially meet their climate targets by buying offset credits representing emission cuts by others, potentially unlocks trillions of dollars for protecting forests, expanding renewable energy and other projects to combat climate change.

‘THE ERA OF COAL IS ENDING’

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Jennifer Morgan, executive director of the campaign group Greenpeace, saw the glass as half-full.

“They changed a word but they can’t change the signal coming out of this COP, that the era of coal is ending,” she said. “If you’re a coal company executive, this COP saw a bad outcome.”

Developing countries argue rich nations, whose historical emissions are largely responsible for warming the planet, must finance their efforts both to transition away from fossil fuels and to adapt to increasingly severe climate impacts.

The deal offered a promise to double adaptation finance by 2025 from 2019, but again no guarantees. A U.N. committee will report next year on progress towards delivering the $100 billion per year in promised climate funding, after rich nations failed to deliver on a 2020 deadline for the funds. Finance will then be discussed again 2024 and 2026.

But the deal left many vulnerable nations despondent in offering no funding for climate-linked losses and damages https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/vulnerable-states-call-climate-loss-damage-deal-bare-minimum-2021-11-12, a promise made in the original pact https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-un-moments-idAFL1N2RH1XZ called the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.

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Rich nations once again resisted acknowledging financial liability for their years of emissions that drove climate change as they rose to economic prosperity.

While Glasgow agreement laid out a pathway for addressing the issue by establishing a new secretariat dedicated to the issue, vulnerable countries said that represented a bare minimum of acceptability.

“This package is not perfect. The coal change and a weak outcome on loss and damage are blows,” said Tina Stee, climate envoy from the Marshall Islands. Still, “elements of the Glasgow Package are a lifeline for my country. We must not discount the crucial wins covered in this package.”

(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Jake Spring, Simon Jessop, Andrea Januta and Richard Valdmanis; Writing by Katy Daigle; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lincoln Feast.)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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