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Leaders at global climate talks pledge to cut methane and save forests

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November 2, 2021

By Jake Spring and William James

GLASGOW (Reuters) -Leaders at the COP26 global climate conference https://www.reuters.com/business/cop in Glasgow have pledged to stop deforestation by the end of the decade and slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane to help slow climate change.

The inability of major powers so far to agree more broadly on rapid reductions in the use of fossil fuels, the main cause of manmade global warming, has upset the poorer, smaller countries likely to suffer its worst effects.

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Surangel Whipps Jr, president of Palau, a Pacific state of 500 low-lying islands under threat from rising sea levels, told the leaders of the G20 industrial powers in a speech: “We are drowning and our only hope is the life-ring you are holding.”

Nearly 90 countries have joined a U.S.- and EU-led effort to slash emissions of methane https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/global-watchdog-track-promised-cuts-potent-greenhouse-gas-methane-2021-10-31 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels, a senior Biden administration official said ahead of a formal announcement on Tuesday.

Methane is more short-lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but 80 times more potent in warming the earth. Cutting emissions of the gas, which is estimated to have accounted for 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times, is one of the most effective ways of slowing climate change.

The Global Methane Pledge, first announced in September, now covers emissions from two-thirds of the global economy, according to the U.S. official.

Among the signatories to be announced on Tuesday is Brazil – one of the five biggest emitters of methane, which is generated in cows’ digestive systems, in landfill waste and in oil and gas production. Three others – China, Russia and India – have not signed up, while Australia https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/australia-will-not-back-eu-us-led-pledge-cut-methane-emissions-2021-10-27 has said it will not back the pledge.

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Humanity has also boosted the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by hacking away at the forests that absorb roughly 30% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the nonprofit World Resources Institute.

LOST FORESTS

In 2020, the world lost 258,000 sq km (100,000 sq miles) of forest – an area larger than the United Kingdom, according to WRI’s Global Forest Watch. The conservation charity WWF estimates that 27 football fields of forest are lost every minute.

More than 100 national leaders pledged https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-un-forests/over-100-global-leaders-pledge-to-end-deforestation-by-2030-idUSL4N2RS3VG to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade, underpinned by $19 billion in public and private funds to invest in protecting and restoring forests.

The agreement vastly expands a commitment made by 40 countries as part of the 2014 New York Declaration of Forests, and promises more resources.

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“Let’s end this great global chainsaw massacre by making conservation do what we know it can do and deliver long-term sustainable jobs and growth as well,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

COP26 aims to keep alive a receding target of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/paris-glasgow-cutting-through-climate-jargon-2021-10-27 to avert still greater damage from the intensified heatwaves, droughts, storms, floods and coastal damage that climate change is already causing.

Under the agreement, 12 countries pledged to provide $12 billion of public funding between 2021 and 2025 for developing countries to restore degraded land and tackle wildfires.

At least $7.2 billion will come from private sector investors representing $8.7 trillion in assets under management, who also pledged to stop investing in activities linked to deforestation such as cattle, palm oil and soybean farming and pulp production.

Brazil, which has cleared vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest, did make a new commitment on Monday to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, compared with a previous pledge of 43%.

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And Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time set out a target date for India, heavily reliant on coal, to reduce its carbon emissions to a level it can absorb, albeit only in 2070 – 20 years beyond the U.N.’s global recommendation.

‘IMPOSSIBLE TO NEGOTIATE’

But there is scant sign so far of shared resolve by the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, China and the United States, which together account for more than 40% of global emissions but are at odds on numerous issues.

U.S. President Joe Biden has singled out China and leading oil producer Russia for failing to step up their climate goals in Glasgow, while Beijing has rejected Washington’s efforts to separate climate issues from their wider disagreements.

The Communist Party-run Global Times said in an editorial on Monday that Washington’s attitude had made it “impossible for China to see any potential to have fair negotiation amid the tensions”.China said on Tuesday that President Xi Jinping https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/china-says-xi-was-given-no-option-video-address-cop26-2021-11-02, who decided not to attend in person, had not been given an opportunity to deliver a video address, and had to send a written response instead – in which he offered no additional pledges.

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The British government said it had wanted people to attend the conference in person, and had offered absentees the chance to provide recorded addresses or statements.

“If the world was a private company,” said Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, “imagine that for a minute, and the leaders of the world were to be different CEOs of the corporations – today we would all be fired.”

(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels, Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Jake Spring, Simon Jessop, William James and Ilze Filks in Glasgow; David Stanway, Josh Horwitz and Yew Lun Tian; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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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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