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FACTBOX-What’s in the Glasgow Climate Pact?

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November 14, 2021

GLASGOW (Reuters) – Nearly 200 nations agreed to adopt the Glasgow Climate Pact on Saturday after more than two weeks of intense negotiations, with the UK host of the talks saying the deal would keep alive international hopes of averting the worst impacts of global warming.

Here are the biggest achievements of the deal https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/cma2021_L16_adv.pdf:

RATCHETING UP AMBITION

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The agreement acknowledges that commitments made by countries so far to cut emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases are nowhere near enough to prevent planetary warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures.

To attempt to solve this, it asks governments to strengthen those targets by the end of next year, rather than every five years, as previously required.

Failure to set, and meet, tougher emissions-cutting goals would have huge consequences. Scientists say that to go beyond a rise of 1.5C would unleash extreme sea level rise and catastrophes including crippling droughts, monstrous storms and wildfires far worse than those the world is already suffering.

“I think today we can say with credibility that we’ve kept 1.5 (degrees Celsius) within reach,” said Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26 summit. “But its pulse is weak, and we will only survive if we keep our promises.”

TARGETING FOSSIL FUELS

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The pact for the first time includes language that asks countries to reduce their reliance on coal and roll back fossil fuel subsidies, moves that would target the energy sources that scientists say are the primary drivers of manmade climate change.

The wording was contentious, though.

Just before the Glasgow deal was adopted, India requested that the deal call on countries to “phase down”, instead of “phase out” unabated coal. That minor word change triggered a lot of angst in the plenary hall, but delegations agreed to the request to save the deal.

The deal’s wording on “inefficient subsidies”, meanwhile, kept the “phase out” phrasing.

Questions remain about how to define “unabated” and “inefficient”.

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PAYMENTS TO POOR AND VULNERABLE NATIONS

The deal made some headway on the demands of poor and vulnerable countries that wealthy countries responsible for most emissions pay up.

The deal, for example “urges developed country Parties to at least double their collective provision of climate finance for adaptation to developing country Parties from 2019 levels by 2025.”

It also, for the first time, made mention of so-called “loss and damage” in the cover section of the agreement. Loss and damage refers to the costs that some countries are already facing from climate change, and these countries have for years wanted payment to help deal with it.

Under the deal, though, developed countries have essentially just agreed to continue discussions on the topic. We will see where that leads.

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RULES FOR GLOBAL CARBON MARKETS

Negotiators also closed a deal setting rules for carbon markets, potentially unlocking trillions of dollars for protecting forests, building renewable energy facilities and other projects to combat climate change.

Companies as well as countries with vast forest cover had pushed for a robust deal on government-led carbon markets in Glasgow, in the hope of also legitimising the fast-growing global voluntary offset markets.

Under the accord, some measures would be implemented to ensure credits are not double-counted under national emissions targets, but bilateral trades between countries would not be taxed to help fund climate adaptation – that had been a core demand for less developed countries.

Negotiators also reached a compromise that sets a cut-off date, with credits issued before 2013 not being carried forward. That is intended to ensure too many old credits don’t flood the market and encourage purchases instead of new emissions cuts.

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SIDE DEALS

There were a number of notable side deals too. The United States and the European Union spearheaded a global methane cutting initiative in which around 100 countries have promised to reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.

The United States and China, the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, also announced a join declaration to cooperate on climate change measures, a deal that reassured observers of Beijing’s intention to accelerate its efforts to combat global warming after a long quiet period.

Companies and investors also made a slew of voluntary pledges that would phase out gasoline-powered cars, decarbonize air travel, protect forests, and ensure more sustainable investing.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis and Kate Abnett; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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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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