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World ‘way off track’ in halting warming, UN warns ahead of COP26

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October 25, 2021

By Emma Farge and Gerry Mey

GENEVA/GLASGOW (Reuters) -Greenhouse gas concentrations hit a record last year and the world is “way off track” in capping rising temperatures, the United Nations said on Monday in a stark illustration of the tasks facing UN climate talks in Scotland.

A report by the U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) showed carbon dioxide levels surged to 413.2 parts per million in 2020, rising more than the average rate over the last decade despite a temporary dip in emissions during COVID-19 lockdowns.

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WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the current rate of increase in heat-trapping gases would result in temperature rises “far in excess” of the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average this century.

“We are way off track,” he said. “We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life,” he added, calling for a “dramatic increase” in commitments https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/un-warns-world-way-off-track-greenhouse-gases-soar-2021-10-25 at the COP26 conference beginning on Sunday.

The city of Glasgow was putting on the final touches before hosting the climate talks https://www.reuters.com/business/cop, which may be the world’s best remaining chance to cap global warming at the 1.5-2 degrees Celsius upper limit set out in the Paris Agreement.

Under countries’ current pledges, global emissions would be 16% higher in 2030 than they were in 2010, according to a separate analysis by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

That is far off the 45% reduction by 2030 that scientists say is needed to cap warming at 1.5 degrees and avoid its most devastating impacts.

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“Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilised world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the (greenhouse gas) emissions in the atmosphere,” said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.

“We are nowhere near where science says we should be,” Espinosa said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a news conference with children the summit was going to be “very, very tough”.

“I am very worried because it might go wrong and we might not get the agreements that we need and it is touch and go, it is very, very difficult, but I think it can be done,” he said.

The German government announced Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Glasgow to take part. Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend in person. He and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to make video appearances instead.

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Britain is seeking support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle global warming. Johnson urged Putin, for instance, to bring forward by 10 years Russia’s target for achieving net zero carbon emissions, from 2060 to 2050, Johnson’s office said on Monday.

The Kremlin said Putin promised that Russia’s delegation to Glasgow “will contribute to a successful work of such an important international forum”.

‘SOURCE OF DEEP FRUSTRATION’

The stakes for the planet https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/climate-change-what-are-economic-stakes-2021-10-25 are huge – among them the very survival of low-lying countries, the impact on economic livelihoods the world over and the future stability of the global financial system.

Alok Sharma, the president of COP26, said developed nations are set to be three years late meeting a pledge to commit a total of $500 billion to help poorer countries tackle climate change.

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Rich nations vowed in 2009 to deliver $100 billion a year for five years, starting in 2020. But a plan on how to do so, prepared by Canada and Germany ahead of the summit, said the annual target would now not be met until 2023.

“Understandably, this has been a source of deep frustration for developing countries,” Sharma told a televised news conference.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry, attending an event in Saudi Arabia, said the private sector must step in to help governments achieve emission targets.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Saturday that the world’s top oil exporter aims to reach “net zero” emissions of greenhouse gases by 2060 – 10 years later than the United States. He also said it would double the emissions cuts https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/saudi-arabia-worlds-biggest-oil-exporter-unveil-green-goals-2021-10-23 it plans to achieve by 2030.

A Reuters poll of economists found that hitting the Paris goal of net-zero carbon emissions will require investments in a green transition worth 2%-3% of world output each year until 2050, far less than the economic cost of inaction https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/climate-inaction-costlier-than-net-zero-transition-economists-2021-10-25.

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By contrast, governments since January 2020 have spent a total of $10.8 trillion – or 10.2% of global output – in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A “business-as-usual” trajectory leading to temperature rises of 1.6C, 2.4C and 4.4C by 2030, 2050 and 2100 respectively would result in 2.4% lost output by 2030, 10% by 2050 and 18% by 2100, according to the median replies to the survey.

In London, climate activists restarted their campaign of blockading major roads by disrupting traffic in the city’s financial district, while in Madrid a few dozen people staged a sit-in protest, briefly blocking the Gran Via shopping street.

“Greenhouse gas emissions are provoking climate catastrophes all over the planet. We don’t have time. It’s already late and if we don’t join the action against what’s happening, we won’t have time to save what is still left,” said Alberto, 27, a sociologist who took part in the protest.

(Additional reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan in London, Zuzanna Szymanska in Berlin, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow, Aziz El Yaakoubi and Ghaida Ghantous in Riyadh; Marco Trujillo in Madrid, Kate Abnett in Brussels and Emma Farge in Geneva; Writing by Michael Shields, Editing by William Maclean, Nick Macfie and Toby Chopra)

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Germany’s Free Democrats back coalition agreement

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December 5, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) – Members of Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) voted on Sunday by a large majority to back a coalition agreement with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, paving the way for the three-way alliance to form a new government next week.

The coalition, the first at federal level between the environmentalist Greens, the FDP and Olaf Scholz’s centre-left SPD, will end 16 years of conservative governments led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The SPD approved the agreement on Saturday and the Greens are due to announce the outcome of a member survey on the deal on Monday. The three parties hope the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, will vote Scholz in as chancellor on Wednesday.

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The “traffic light” alliance, named after the parties’respective colours, will usher in a new era of relations with Europe, and plans to speed up digitalisation of the continent’sbiggest economy and put a focus on fighting climate change.

(Reporting by Alexander Ratz; Writing by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Gambian President Barrow on course for resounding election win

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December 5, 2021

By Bate Felix

BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambia’s incumbent president, Adama Barrow, was on course for a resounding election win on Sunday, partial results indicated, that could help to draw a line under recent political turmoil.

Saturday’s vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former president Yahya Jammeh, who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.

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Jammeh, whose 22-year rule over the tiny nation of 2.5 million people was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents, had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.

But his lingering influence was not enough to dent Barrow’s showing. The president, who only needs to win more votes than the second-placed candidate, won 36 of the first 41 constituencies announced, taking 315,547 votes.

His nearest rival, political veteran Ousainou Darboe, had 133,177 votes, with four other candidates far behind.

Only 12 constituencies remained to be announced.

The election was seen as a test of Gambia’s democratic progress and its ability to leave the Jammeh era behind.

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Barrow’s first term was marked by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.

(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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S.Africans protest against Shell oil exploration in pristine coastal area

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December 5, 2021

By Siyabonga Sishi

PORT EDWARD, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africans took to their beaches on Sunday to protest against plans by Royal Dutch Shell to do seimsic oil exploration they say will threaten marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins on a pristine coastal stretch.

A South African court on Friday struck down https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/shell-wins-court-case-start-seismic-surveys-offshore-south-africa-2021-12-03 an application brought by environmentalists to stop the oil major exploring in the eastern seaboard’s Wild Coast, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, especially migrating hump-back whales.

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The Wild Coast is home of some of the country’s most undisturbed wildlife refuges, and it’s stunning coastal wildernesses are also a major tourist draw.

At least 1,000 demonstrators gathered on a beach near Port Edward, a Reuters TV correspondent saw.

“It’s just absolutely horrendous that they are even considering this. Look around you?” said demonstrator Kas Wilson, indicating an unspoilt stretch of beach. “It’s unacceptable and … we will stop it.”

Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company said on Friday that its planned exploration has regulatory approval, and it will significantly contribute to South Africa’s energy security if resources are found.

But local people fear the seismic blasting conducted over 6,000 square kilometres will kill or scare away the fish they depend on to live.

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“I don’t want them to operate here because if they do we won’t be able to catch fish,” said 62-year-old free dive fisherwoman Toloza Mzobe, after pulling a wild lobster from the ground. “What are we going to eat?”

Environmentalists are urging Shell and other oil companies to stop prospecting for oil, arguing that the world has no chance of reaching net zero carbon by 2050 if existing oil deposits are burned, let alone if new ones are found.

Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.

South Africa’s environment ministry referred Reuters to a statement late last month that “the Minister responsible for environmental affairs is … not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey.”

(Writing by Tim Cocks;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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