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G20 split over coal, 1.5 degree climate limit ahead of Rome summit -sources

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October 21, 2021

By Gavin Jones and Stephen Jewkes

ROME (Reuters) -The Group of 20 rich countries are divided over phasing out coal and committing to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as they prepare for a crucial summit in Rome next week, sources familiar with the negotiations said.

The need to curb greenhouse gases will be high on the agenda of the Rome G20 gathering on Oct. 30-31, seen as a key stepping stone immediately ahead of broader United Nations climate talks, called COP26, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland.

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COP26 president, Britain’s Alok Sharma, said in a speech this month the G20, which accounts for 80% of global emissions, would be “make or break” for achieving success in Glasgow.

Big polluters such as China and India have so far dug in their heels, however, and little progress has been made since G20 energy and environment ministers met in Naples in July, said three sources, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the talks.

“Countries are not moving, at the moment they are still just making sure their positions are heard loud and clear,” said one of the sources.

But he added that such intransigence was normal at this stage and that any concessions were unlikely to come before G20 climate sherpas meet face-to-face next Thursday and Friday, immediately before their leaders’ weekend meeting.

“Where I see the problem is in the commitment to 1.5 degrees and in the phase out of coal and fossil fuels by China, India and Russia,” said another source, a G20 minister.

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In a letter to G20 president, Italy’s Mario Draghi, nine countries including Grenada and the Marshall Islands, both vulnerable to storms and rising seas, urged G20 nations to hike their climate pledges to “set the tone” for COP26.

Climate scientists say capping global warming at 1.5 degrees compared with pre-industrial levels is vital to limit environmental disasters, but a broad and clear commitment to achieve the goal is proving elusive.

The landmark UN Paris Agreement signed in 2015 aimed to limit global warming to “well below 2 degrees” and “preferably” to 1.5 degrees, and since then international gatherings have tried with difficulty to toughen up the language.

In Naples, energy and environment ministers recognised that environmental risks were lower at 1.5 degrees than at 2, but again fell short of clearly stating 1.5 must not be breached.

They also failed to reach unanimous agreement on fixing dates to end fossil fuel subsidies, halt international financing of coal projects and phase out coal power altogether, asking leaders to bridge the gaps at the upcoming Rome summit.

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Coal still powers more than half the electricity generated by China, the world’s largest energy producer and also the largest greenhouse gas emitter.

The country has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2060 but has not committed to a date for halting domestic coal production.

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At least four G20 leaders are not expected to come to Rome, including China’s Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin of Russia, another major oil and gas producer.

One source said while such absences were “not a great political signal,” they would not necessarily prevent progress.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be coming to Rome, officials said, and New Delhi confirmed on Thursday that he will also be at the COP26 in Glasgow.

Neither Russia, China nor India have committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, considered a vital goal in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

So far China is proving most reluctant to commit to the 1.5 degree ceiling, while India is most intransigent in not pledging net zero emissions by 2050, one of the sources said.

China and India are also among a group of countries that have not yet presented new national plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ahead of COP26, on how they will help curb climate change.

A number of countries including the two Asian giants this week criticised rich nations that have broken their own promises to cut CO2 and deliver financial help to weaker countries to battle climate change. In this situation it is unfair to expect poorer peers to commit to tougher emissions targets, they said.

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One of the sources said breakthroughs were more likely in Glasgow than in Rome.

Big emitters like China, India and Russia tend to feel pressured and hectored by the Western countries at the G20, he said, making them defensive and reluctant to concede ground.

The much larger UN forum was more “neutral” and conducive to compromise, he said.

The Rome G20 will also focus on the coronavirus pandemic and how to foster global economic recovery, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who will chair the meeting, said on Wednesday.

(Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by David Evans and Catherine Evans)

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China top representative in Macau to advise govt on national security-state media

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December 3, 2021

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s top representative in the semiautonomous gambling hub of Macau will begin advising the former Portuguese colony’s government on national security matters, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.

The move highlights increased scrutiny from Beijing over Macau affairs after the central government declared outflows of Chinese gambling-related funds into Macau and other gaming hubs a national security risk.

Last week Macau authorities arrested Alvin Chau https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/gambling-group-suncitys-shares-set-rise-61-after-arrested-chairman-resigns-2021-12-02, the founder of Macau’s biggest junket operator, which brings in high rollers to play at casinos, along with 10 others, for allegedly using Macau as a base for an illegal “live web betting platform.”

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A warrant for Chau’s arrest has also been issued by the mainland Chinese city of Wenzhou, accusing him of forming an extensive junket agent network that helps citizens engage in gambling activities and of setting up a company that helps gamblers make cross-border fund transfers.

The move was seen as a warning that Macau and mainland Chinese authorities were adopting a zero-tolerance approach to the promotion of gambling in mainland China where it is illegal.

Xinhua said Macau asked Beijing to appoint a national security affairs adviser in the city and that Beijing tasked the head of its Liaison Office Fu Ziying to “supervise, guide, coordinate, and support” the government on the matter.

Beijing will also appoint three national security technical advisers from within the Liaison Office, which is Beijing’s main representative institution in Macau.

(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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S.Korea makes vaccine pass mandatory for many more venues as Omicron fears rise

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December 3, 2021

By Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea announced on Friday that people visiting restaurants and cinemas and other public spaces will have to show vaccine passes, amid a surge in COVID-19 infections and five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

The government also re-imposed limits on private gatherings, which had been recently relaxed, as the country posted record numbers of new cases this week.

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Desperate to fend off the Omicron variant, authorities halted quarantine exemptions on Thursday for fully vaccinated inbound travellers and made a 10-day quarantine mandatory.

From next Monday, people visiting 14 designated public spaces, including hospitality and entertainment venues, will have to show their vaccines passes, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a coronavirus response meeting, setting out the plan to reduce the risk of community spread. The public will have a grace period of a week to get used to the new rules.

While people have been required to show their vaccine pass at high-risk venues such as gyms, saunas and bars, it is the first time that the requirement has been extended to restaurants and cafes.

From February, anyone aged 12 years or older will have to show a vaccination pass. The government decided to lower the exemption age, currently set at 17 years, to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated as the under-18 age group accounts for 20% of all infections, Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told a briefing.

The limit on private gatherings was cut to six people in the greater Seoul area, and eight outside, from the current limit of 10 in Seoul and 12 outside, Kwon said.

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South Korea has so far confirmed a total of five Omicron cases after a fully vaccinated couple tested positive for the variant after arriving last week from Nigeria. The patients are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms such as headache, low-grade fever, dizziness and sore throat, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

KDCA reported 4,944 COVID-19 cases for Thursday, a slight decline from record high 5,266 cases on Wednesday. It has reported a total of 462,555, with 3,739 deaths overall.

South Korea has fully vaccinated 91.6% of its adult population aged 18 and over, yet the booster dose uptake remains at 8.1%.

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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U.S. House to consider bill to clamp down on products from China’s Xinjiang

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December 3, 2021

By Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider a bill as soon as next week that would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labor, Representative Jim McGovern, the bill’s sponsor, told reporters on Thursday.

“Next week is an important week for human rights,” McGovern said. “… We think it’s important to move some China legislation, hopefully much of it focused on human rights. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act we want to see that get over the finish line in some form.”

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President Joe Biden is hosting a summit of democracies next week, seen as an effort to push back against China’s growing influence.

Republicans and Democrats have been arguing over the Uyghur legislation for months. Most recently, Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been demanding that the measure be included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, delaying the Senate’s consideration of the massive annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon.

Rubio’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether House passage of McGovern’s bill would change his stance on the defense bill.

If the Uyghur measure becomes law, it would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, were made with forced labor.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the U.S. government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.

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Republicans have accused Biden’s Democrats of slow-walking the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda. Democrats deny that.

“I just want to see a strong, a much stronger, approach when it comes to forced labor in Xinjiang,” Democratic Representative Dan Kildee told Reuters in a telephone interview, arguing that domestic production of solar panels could be ramped up.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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