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Last-minute negotiations as UN climate conference set to close

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November 13, 2021

By Elizabeth Piper, Valerie Volcovici and Jake Spring

GLASGOW (Reuters) – Negotiators shuttled between delegations at the U.N. climate talks in Scotland on Saturday, seeking a deal to give the world a fighting chance of avoiding the worst effects of global warming, as the British host told them they had just hours left.

Alok Sharma delayed a public meeting in the plenary hall, saying negotiators needed more time, but that he still intended to close the two-week COP26 https://www.reuters.com/business/cop conference, which has already overrun by a day, later in the afternoon.

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“At the end of the day, what is being put forward here is a balanced package, everyone’s had a chance to have their say,” he told the forum.

The final deal will require the unanimous consent of the almost 200 countries present, ranging from coal- and gas-fuelled superpowers to oil producers and Pacific islands being swallowed by the rise in sea levels.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry was seen moving back and forth between conversations with Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua, EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans and Sharma.

Like earlier versions, the latest draft of the conference agreement attempted to balance the demands of climate-vulnerable nations, big industrial powers, and those whose consumption or exports of fossil fuels are vital to their economic development.

In particular, it retained a significant demand for nations to set tougher climate pledges next year, rather than every five years, as they are currently required to do – an acknowledgement that existing commitments to cut emissions of planet-heating greenhouse gases are nowhere near enough.

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‘KEEPING 1.5 ALIVE’

The meeting’s overarching aim is to keep within reach the 2015 Paris Agreement’s target to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists say that to go beyond that limit would unleash extreme sea level rise and catastrophes including crippling droughts, monstrous storms and wildfires far worse than those the world is already suffering.

But national pledges made so far to limit greenhouse emissions – mostly carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas – would only cap the average global temperature rise at 2.4 Celsius.

While that gap will not be closed in Glasgow, Sharma said he hoped the final deal would pave the way for deeper cuts.

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China, the biggest current emitter https://graphics.reuters.com/CLIMATE-UN/EMISSIONS/jnvwexaryvw/index.html of greenhouse gases, and Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, were seeking to prevent the final deal including language that opposes subsidies for fossil fuels, two sources told Reuters on Friday.

However, Saturday’s draft, published by the United Nations, continued to single out fossil fuels – something no U.N. climate conference conclusion has yet succeeded in doing.

Britain tried to unblock the issue of climate finance, always one of the thorniest, by proposing mechanisms to make sure the poorest nations finally get more of the financial help they have been promised.

Developing countries argue that rich nations, whose historical emissions are largely responsible for heating up the planet, must pay more to help them adapt to its consequences as well as reducing their carbon footprints.

MORE MONEY?

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The draft urged rich countries to double finance for climate adaptation by 2025 from 2019 levels, offering funding that has been a key demand of small island nations at the conference.

Adaptation funds primarily go to the very poorest countries and currently take up only a small fraction of climate funding.

Britain also said a U.N. committee should report next year on progress towards delivering the $100 billion in overall annual climate funding that rich nations had promised by 2020 but failed to deliver. And it said governments should meet in 2022, 2024 and 2026 to discuss climate finance.

Even $100 billion a year is far short of poorer countries’ actual needs, which could hit $300 billion by 2030 in adaptation costs alone, according to the United Nations, in addition to economic losses from crop failure or climate-related disasters.

Disasters that cannot be prepared for or adapted to – such as rising sea levels – emerged as a continued stumbling block.

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Vulnerable nations have argued for decades that rich countries owe them compensation for the “loss and damage” from such events.

But wealthy countries fear being found liable for such disasters and opening the door to bottomless payments. As a result, no U.N. climate conference has yet yielded any funding under this heading for the countries most affected.

On another issue, negotiators began to close in on a deal to settle rules for carbon markets – mechanisms that put a price on emissions to allow countries or companies to buy and sell “permits to pollute”, or credits for absorbing emissions.

New draft documents on implementing Article 6 of the 2015 Paris Agreement suggested progress on all three of the key sticking points that have prevented a deal on the issue at the past two U.N. climate conferences.

Liberian Nellie Dokie, 37, who lives in Glasgow and has been making a daily two-hour trip to cook for conference delegates, ventured her first peep into the main conference area https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/cop26-final-hours-climate-negotiations-2021-11-12 on Saturday.

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“I want to be a part of history,” she said. “I played a small part.”

(Additional reporting by William James, Simon Jessop, Valerie Volcovici, Richard Valdmanis and Kate Abnett; Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Katy Daigle and Frances Kerry)

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Poor weather hampers search and rescue efforts at Indonesia volcano

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December 6, 2021

By Willy Kurniawan

SUMBERWULUH, Indonesia (Reuters) – Officials monitoring Indonesia’s Semeru volcano on Monday warned residents to remain vigilant after a deadly eruption over the weekend, as heavy wind and rain brought search-and-rescue efforts to a halt.

The tallest mountain on the island of Java erupted dramatically on Saturday, shooting a towering column of ash into the sky that blanketed surrounding villages. Fourteen people were killed and dozens more injured.

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Aerial footage showed roofs jutting out of an ashen landscape, while on the ground military officers, police and residents dug through mud with their hands to extricate victims.

GRAPHIC-Indonesia Semeru eruption

To view the graphic, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/INDONESIA-VOLCANO/klvyknzmbvg/INDONESIA-VOLCANO.jpg

On Monday, the head of the Semeru Volcano Observatory, Liswanto, warned people to keep a safe distance from the mountain, amid reports anxious residents had returned to their homes to check on belongings and livestock.

“The status of Mt. Semeru is still at level 2, which means at this level, people need to be more vigilant because the potential threat is still there,” he said.

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More than 50 people had suffered injuries from the eruption, mostly burns. Lava flows destroyed a strategic bridge connecting two areas in the nearby district of Lumajang with the city of Malang.

In the Sumberwuluh area, where two trucks lay half-buried by volcanic ash, recovery efforts came to an abrupt halt because of strong winds, a Reuters witness said.

Public kitchens and health facilities have been set up for more than 1,000 people who have been displaced.

A trauma healing team to work with children affected by the eruption has been dispatched, CNN Indonesia reported, while hundreds of aid packages, including rice, blankets and clothes and other basic necessities have been sent to the area.

Semeru is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a country that straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of high seismic activity that rests atop multiple tectonic plates.

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GRAPHIC-The Pacific Ring Of Fire

To view the graphic, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/INDONESIA-VOLCANO/zjvqkyeamvx/RING-OF-FIRE.jpg

(Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Karishma Singh and Gerry Doyle)

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Solomon Islands prime minister faces no-confidence vote after riots

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December 6, 2021

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare faces a motion of no confidence on Monday, after anti-government riots just over a week ago saw dozens of buildings burnt down and shops looted in the capital of the Pacific island nation.

Boats have been banned from Honiara harbour, and more than 200 police and soldiers from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are on alert, amid fears the vote could trigger another outbreak of violence.

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However, Monday’s motion is not expected to gain enough support from government MPs to pass, even though four of them resigned.

Church leaders called for talks between the national government and the most populous province of Malaita to resolve a range of domestic issues and a dispute over the switching of diplomatic ties to China from Taiwan in 2019.

Sogavare was “in the service of a foreign power,” opposition leader Matthew Wale said in parliament, accusing the prime minister of using money from China in a national fund to prop up his political strength before the vote.

“The prime minister is dependent on the National Development Fund (NDF) money to maintain his political strength,” Wale said. “How can he make decisions only in the interests of the Solomon Islands?”

Sogavare’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Citizens are angry at inadequate healthcare, prime land being taken by foreigners, and logging companies overriding local interests, Wale said.

The looting and violence that erupted November 24 must be condemned, he added, but said, “It pales in comparison to the looting that happens at the top.”

Anti-government protests spiralled into violence that killed four and destroyed large parts of Honiara’s Chinatown after Sogavare refused to speak with protesters who had travelled from Malaita.

The province has a history of disputes with Guadalcanal province where the national government is based, and opposed the 2019 switch.

About 1,000 people gathered in the provincial capital of Auki to listen to a livestream of the parliament session.

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A political aide to Malaita’s premier, Daniel Suidani, told Reuters it appeared the no-confidence motion would be defeated.

Suidani is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday outlining a referendum for independence for Malaita, the adviser, Celsus Talifilu, said by telephone.

Health minister Culwick Togamana backed Sogavare’s leadership amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said he should not resign. There have been 20 cases and no deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

China had agreed to upgrade the Solomon Islands’ hospital and universities, said South New Georgia MP Danny Phillip.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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U.S. condemns militant attack in Mali that killed 31

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December 6, 2021

(Reuters) – The United States “strongly condemns” a militant attack on a bus in central Mali that killed at least 31 people and wounded 17, the State Department said on Sunday.

Unidentified gunmen on Friday opened fire on the bus as it traveled from the village of Songho to a market in Bandiagara, 6 miles (10 km) away.

The villages sit in the heart of the Mopti region, an epicenter of violence in Mali fueled by insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

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“The United States strongly condemns the attack on civilians on Saturday near Bandiagara, Mali, which left 31 dead and 17 injured,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the Malian people and will continue to partner with them in their pursuit of a safe, prosperous, and democratic future,” Price said.

Jihadist attacks have surged across Africa’s Sahel region, killing thousands and displacing millions across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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