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Was Glasgow pact a win for climate? Time will tell

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November 14, 2021

By Kate Abnett and Valerie Volcovici

GLASGOW (Reuters) -Its ambition was clear: the U.N. climate summit was meant to secure a deal to give the world a chance to avert the worst impacts of climate change by capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The accord met that bar, but barely, and its ultimate success will be determined by the future actions of the governments that thrashed it out, according to the summit’s UK hosts, participants, and observers.

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“I think today we can say with credibility that we’ve kept 1.5 within reach. But its pulse is weak, and we will only survive if we keep our promises,” the summit’s president Alok Sharma said late on Saturday after the pact was adopted.

The deal, backed by nearly 200 countries, for the first time explicitly targeted fossil fuels, the biggest driver of manmade global warming, asked governments to accelerate emissions cuts, and promised more money for poor countries struggling with climate chage.

It also ushered in voluntary pledges and pacts from countries, companies and investors to clean up emissions from cars and planes, curb the powerful greenhouse gas methane, protect forests and bolster green finance.

But the agreement was packed with compromises, leaving all sides – from wealthy nations seeking faster action, to resource-rich developing countries and low-lying island states – dissatisfied.

“The approved texts are a compromise,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today.”

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That leaves the world highly vulnerable.

“We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. It is time to go into emergency mode,” he said.

AMBITION

The summit did not deliver enough emissions-cutting pledges from countries to set a clear path to limiting warming to 1.5C. Instead, it struck a deal for the nearly 200 countries represented at the event to increase their pledges next year to close the gap.

The gap is huge. Governments’ current pledges to cut emissions this decade would lead to 2.4C of warming.

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To align with the 1.5C target, countries need to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels. Under current pledges, emissions would rise by nearly 14% by 2030.

“While compromises at COP26 keep the 1.5C target within reach, it is hanging by a thread,” said Bert Wander, the acting CEO of environmental group Avaaz.

China, the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter, announced in a joint declaration with the United States last week that it would accelerate efforts to reduce emissions by curbing coal use, tackling methane, and preserving forests. It provided few details, however.

China was also among a group of resource-rich developing nations that watered down language targeting fossil fuels in the text of the Glasgow deal.

The draft called on countries to phase out coal use and fossil fuel subsidies. But as the negotiations played out, words were changed: coal became “unabated coal,” leaving scope for continued use of coal that uses emissions-capturing technology.

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Subsidies became “inefficient subsidies”, without a definition of which types of subsidies counted as inefficient, providing wriggle room for governments to continue funding oil, gas and coal.

A last-minute intervention by India and China just before the pact was adopted also changed the requested coal “phase out” to a “phase down”.

FAIRNESS

The Glasgow agreement delivered a mixed bag on finance, a contentious issue between poor countries and their rich and powerful counterparts.

Finance boils down to the issue of fairness, and whether rich nations whose historical emissions are largely responsible for causing climate change will pay the costs it is imposing on the world’s poorest countries.

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The deal made some headway. It asked developed countries 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 “loss and damage” in the cover section of the agreement. Loss and damage refers to the costs countries are already facing from climate-driven disasters, for which those countries have for years sought compensation.

But after resistance from the United States, the European Union and other rich nations, the accord failed to secure funds for that compensation.

The world’s most vulnerable countries backed the final deal grudgingly. Antigua and Barbuda negotiator Lia Nicholson said her country and other small island states at the talks “will express our grievances in due course.”

Rich countries broke a 2009 promise to deliver $100 billion annually by 2020 in climate finance, making poor countries wary that promised cash will not arrive. They now expect to deliver the $100 billion by 2023.

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(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Barbara Lewis)

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Calm returns as clean-up begins in Solomon Islands -media

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November 28, 2021

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Soldiers and police from Australia and Papua New Guinea were helping to restore calm in the Solomon Islands as clean-up operations started, after several days of rioting left three dead and led to dozens of arrests, local media reported.

The Solomon Star newspaper said Australian soldiers and police and troops from Papua New Guinea had helped to restore normalcy in the country’s capital Honiara, halting the looting, rioting and burning of buildings and shops.

Overnight, clean up operations began in earnest in areas that were particularly hard hit, including the city’s Chinatown, the newspaper said. Footage obtained by Reuters showed heavy machinery moving rubble from burned out shops.

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Three charred bodies were discovered in a store on Friday in the Chinatown district, an area targeted by protesters still resentful the government in 2019 ended diplomatic ties with Taiwan to establish formal links with China.

More Australian Federal Police would arrive in the South Pacific nation on Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a televised news conference.

“Although things are very unstable at this point … plans, we know, are being made, to ensure there can be calm,” he said.

Some 50 officers from the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary arrived in Honiara on Friday, a day after Australia sent its own forces to the capital, both in response to requests from the Solomon Islands government for help.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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Australia to introduce new laws to force media platforms to unmask online trolls

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November 28, 2021

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia will introduce legislation to make social media giants provide details of users who post defamatory comments, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

The government has been looking at the extent of the responsibility of platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, for defamatory material published on their sites and comes after the country’s highest court ruled that publishers can be held liable for public comments on online forums.

The ruling caused some news companies like CNN to deny Australians access to their Facebook pages.

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“The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others are anonymously going around and can harm people,” Morrison said at a televised press briefing.

“That is not what can happen in the real world, and there is no case for it to be able to be happening in the digital world.”

The new legislation will introduce a complaints mechanism, so that if somebody thinks they are being defamed, bullied or attacked on social media, they will be able to require the platform to take the material down.

If the content is not withdrawn, a court process could force a social media platform to provide details of the commenter.

“Digital platforms – these online companies – must have proper processes to enable the takedown of this content,” Morrison said.

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“They have created the space and they need to make it safe, and if they won’t, we will make them (through) laws such as this.”

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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In Honduras, parties flag fears of fraud ahead of pivotal vote

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November 28, 2021

By Gustavo Palencia and David Alire Garcia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Warnings of potential foul play are flying from all sides ahead of Sunday’s presidential election in Honduras, raising fears of possible disputes and unrest if leading challenger Xiomara Castro does not win by a clear margin.

The charged political atmosphere reflects memories of the disputed 2017 election, which the ruling National Party won after a delayed count and that the Organization of American States said was riddled with irregularities before calling for a fresh vote.

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The opposition said the result was fraudulent and both sides claimed victory. More than two dozen people were killed in the ensuing riots and repression.

The current election cycle has already claimed more political violence than four years ago, with more than 30 killed so far, according to researchers at Honduras’ national university.

Salvador Nasralla, the 2017 runner-up, is the current candidate for vice president for the leading opposition slate led by self-declared democratic socialist Castro. He accuses the National Party of planning a repeat of what he said was voter suppression in 2017.

“I don’t have any confidence in our electoral process,” he told Reuters.

The conservative National Party routinely uses its full control of government institutions and funds to reward supporters, punish opponents and influence elections, politicians from both sides say.

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This week, the party itself issued a statement blasting the electoral authority for already committing errors including a lack of transparency that could lead to a “national crisis” with delayed and suspect results.

“It creates a situation of high risk to the election,” it said.

Sunday’s vote will mark the latest fraught political showdown in Central America, after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega cruised to re-election this month after detaining all leading rivals.

In a sign of concerns in the final week before the election, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden took the unusual step of sending a high-level delegation to meet with the main candidates, government officials and election organizers.

After the visit, a senior U.S. State Department official said the main objective of the delegation was to encourage a fair, free and peaceful election, given what it describes as democratic backsliding in the region.

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If poll leader Castro wins, she would bring the Honduran left to power for the first time since her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a 2009 coup.

If ruling party candidate Nasry Asfura prevails, he will have overcome the unpopularity of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who is fighting accusations of corruption and links to drug smugglers.

Hernandez denies wrongdoing.

A LOOK AT THE CANDIDATE’S PHONE

During an interview, Nasralla showed Reuters a video on his phone he said was captured by his home-security cameras a few days ago. It showed someone painting slurs on a wall of his house. In the video, the person can be seen removing an outer layer of clothing to reveal a shirt bearing the logo of Castro’s Libre party underneath.

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Nasralla said the video was evidence that National Party agitators were disguising themselves as Libre supporters, and worried they will provoke violence or property destruction to erode opposition votes.

“They’re the ones that cause violence,” he said.

The National Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Friday, a handful of businesses in the capital Tegucigalpa covered glass store entrances with wood and metal panels, in a sign some were taking the possibility of unrest seriously.

Rixi Moncada, the Libre Party’s representative on the electoral council, said the government and the National Party have caused “a lot of obstruction” in its efforts to organize a fair vote.

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She specifically accused the finance ministry of interfering with the council’s budget and causing delayed deliveries of polling station equipment, like printers and finger-print readers.

Moncada, a lawyer, expressed concern that any post-election dispute might reach the courts, widely seen as loyal to the ruling party.

“This country has very little faith in our system of justice,” she said.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia and David Alire Garcia; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Daniel Flynn and Nick Zieminski)

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