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Explainer-Sticking points at the U.N. climate conference

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October 27, 2021

By Nina Chestney

LONDON (Reuters) – Representatives from nearly 200 countries will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31-Nov. 12 for climate talks to strengthen action to tackle global warming under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Against the backdrop of extreme weather events around the world and a United Nations’ climate report that said global warming was close to spiralling out of control, the actions of governments at this conference will determine whether it is a success.

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Here are some of the issues which need to be resolved:

EMISSIONS CUT PLEDGES

Six years ago in Paris, countries agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit). To do this, emissions need to be cut in half by 2030 and reach net-zero by around mid-century.

As the U.N. conference was postponed last year due to the pandemic, this year is the deadline for countries to make steeper emissions cut pledges (called nationally determined contributions or NDCs).

The annual “emissions gap” https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/un-warns-world-set-27c-rise-todays-emissions-pledges-2021-10-26 report by the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP), which measures the gap between anticipated emissions and those consistent with limiting the temperature rise this century as agreed in the Paris accord, said updated pledges only reduce forecast 2030 emissions by an additional 7.5%, compared to the previous commitments.

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If continued throughout this century, this would lead to warming of 2.7C, slightly less than the 3C UNEP forecast in its last report. A 30% cut is needed to limit warming to 2C and a 55% cut is needed to limit to 1.5C.

It said current commitments to net zero could limit warming to around 2.2C by the end of the century, but 2030 pledges so far do not put major emitters on a clear path to this.

Major emitters China and India – together responsible for around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions – have not yet come forward with strengthened NDCs and need to do so at this conference, known as COP26.

FINANCE

As far back as 2009, developed countries agreed to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries deal with the impacts of climate change.

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But a plan on how to do so, prepared by Canada and Germany ahead of the United Nations COP26 summit in Scotland, said the annual target would now not be met until 2023. https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/developed-nations-say-they-can-deliver-100-bln-climate-change-fund-by-2023-three-2021-10-25

As rich nations are not meeting the $100 billion a year goal, it can break down trust at the climate talks, experts say. And a new finance goal needs to be worked out for 2025 onwards.

LOSS AND DAMAGE

Governments agreed to address the impact of climate change on developing countries but there is no detail about liability or compensation, a bone of contention for many poorer countries.

A platform to enable technical assistance for vulnerable countries was established in 2019 but developing nations want a more robust mechanism to include financing.

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FOSSIL FUELS

The UK COP26 president, Alok Sharma, has said he wants this conference to be the one where coal power is consigned to history.

The U.N. has called for phasing out coal by 2030 in OECD countries but environment ministers from the Group of 20 big economies have failed to agree a timeline.

ARTICLE 6

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which covers the role of carbon markets, has not been resolved since the pact was struck. Progress on it broke down at the last talks in 2019.

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The article calls for “robust accounting” to avoid “double counting” of emissions reductions. It also aims to establish a central U.N. mechanism to trade carbon credits from emissions reductions generated from low-carbon projects.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Barbara Lewis)

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Malaysia court upholds guilty verdict for former PM Najib in 1MDB-linked case

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December 8, 2021

By Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – A Malaysian appeals court on Wednesday upheld former premier Najib Razak’s guilty verdict in a case linked to a corruption scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Najib was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $50 million last year by a high court after being found guilty of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering for illegally receiving about $10 million from SRC International, a former unit of now-defunct 1MDB.

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He had pleaded not guilty and consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Judge Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil said he agreed with the high court judge on the conviction and sentencing over all seven charges against Najib.

“We dismiss the appeal on all seven charges and affirm the conviction on all seven charges,” the judge said.

Najib has been free on bail pending the appeal.

His lawyer Shafee Abdullah told the court the former premier would appeal the verdict at the Federal Court, Malaysia’s top tribunal.

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The judge allowed Najib’s request for a stay on the sentence and Najib will be released on bail.

Wearing a black suit, Najib showed no emotion as the judgment was read out and was seen taking notes occasionally during the hearing.

Najib and his lawyers joined the proceedings via Zoom after a member of his legal team tested positive for COVID-19.

The former prime minister remains influential within his party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which returned to power in August after being voted out three years earlier amid widespread corruption allegations.

Najib told Reuters in September he has not ruled out seeking re-election to parliament, a move that would require his conviction to be overturned.

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U.S. and Malaysian authorities say $4.5 billion was believed to have been stolen from 1MDB, and that more than $1 billion made its way into Najib’s personal accounts.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Ed Davies and Stephen Coates)

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Australia joins diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Games

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December 8, 2021

By Renju Jose and Gabriel Crossley

SYDNEY/BEIJING (Reuters) – Australia will join the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, as other allies weighed similar moves to protest China’s human rights record.

The United States on Monday said its government officials will boycott the Beijing Olympics nL1N2SR0F6 because of China’s human rights “atrocities”, just weeks after talks aimed at easing tense relations between the two superpowers.

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China said the U.S. will “pay the price” nL1N2SS22N for its decision and warned of “resolute countermeasures” in response.

Morrison said the decision was made because of Australia’s struggles to reopen diplomatic channels with China to discuss alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Beijing’s moves to slow and block imports of Australian goods.

A spokesperson from China’s embassy in Canberra said “some Australian politicians” were engaged in “political posturing.”

“The blame for the current predicament of China-Australia relations lies squarely on the Australian side,” they added in an online statement.

Other allies have been slow to commit to joining the diplomatic boycott.

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Britain is considering approving limited government attendance at the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Olympics that would stop short of a full diplomatic boycott, The Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

An outright ban on ministerial and diplomatic representation at the Winter Games remains a possibility, the report said.

Japan is considering not sending cabinet members to the Beijing Winter Olympics after the United States announced its diplomatic boycott, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun daily reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed government sources.

President Joe Biden’s administration cited what the United States calls genocide against minority Muslims in China’s far western region of Xinjiang. China denies all rights abuses.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday told a media briefing that his country opposes the U.S. diplomatic boycott and promised “resolute countermeasures” in response.

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“The United States will pay a price for its mistaken acts,” he said, without giving details. “Let’s all wait and see.”

The Winter Games are due to begin about six months after the conclusion of the Summer Games in Tokyo, which were delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We always ask for as much respect as possible and least possible interference from the political world,” said Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC’s coordination commission chief for the Beijing Olympics. “We have to be reciprocal. We respect the political decisions taken by political bodies.”

The United States is set to host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and is preparing a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Asked whether China would consider a diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games in the United States, Zhao said the U.S. boycott has “damaged the foundation and atmosphere” of sports exchange and cooperation on the Olympics.

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The American diplomatic boycott, encouraged for months by some members of the U.S. Congress and rights groups, comes despite an effort to stabilize ties between the world’s two largest economies, with a video meeting last month between Biden and China’s Xi Jinping.

‘THE ONLY OPTION’

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told a U.S. congressional hearing on Tuesday that unless other countries join the boycott it would undermine the message that China’s human rights abuses are unacceptable.

“Now I think the only option really that is available to us is to try to get as many countries as we can to stand with us in this coalition,” Glaser said.

Announcing Australia’s plans, Morrison said Beijing had not responded to several issues raised by Canberra including alleged human rights abuses.

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“So it is not surprising therefore that Australian government officials would not be going to China for those Games,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

Relations between Australia and China, its top trade partner, are at a low ebb over after Canberra banned Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

Beijing responded by imposing tariffs on several Australian commodities, including coal, beef, barley and wine.

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley, and Renju Jose; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Lincoln Feast.)

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Swiss group lights 11,288 candles for COVID-19 victims

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December 8, 2021

BERN (Reuters) – More than 11,000 candles – one for each Swiss victim of the coronavirus pandemic – lit up the December darkness outside the Swiss parliament in Bern on Tuesday.

“We want to create a space to remember and mourn the victims,” Simon Gehren of the “Corona-Mahnwache” (corona vigil) movement told Reuters.

Around 40 volunteers helped light the candles arranged geometrically on the square that is Switzerland’s political centre. The group organised a similar event last year.

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Gehren said the vigil was also an appeal to the government to take firmer action to contain soaring infection numbers.

Switzerland has seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases over the last weeks. It tightened measures last week, but has been less strict than neighbouring countries, such as Germany or Austria.

Swiss health authorities said on Tuesday that 11,288 people had died with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

(Reporting by Arnd Wiegmann and Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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