Hopes for climate pact shift to diplomatic sphere

In this April 3, 2014 file photo giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a smoking power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany. (AP)
Updated 20 May 2017
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Hopes for climate pact shift to diplomatic sphere

BONN: After frustrating talks in Bonn with an American delegation in limbo, UN climate negotiators are pinning their hopes for the Paris Agreement’s future on diplomatic arm-twisting at the highest level.
On the campaign trail, now-President Donald Trump vowed to “cancel” the 196-nation pact to rein in global warming by curbing emissions from burning oil, coal and gas. He has not yet executed his threat, but Trump has made it clear where he stands.
His secretary of state was a CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil, and the Environmental Protection Agency head an anti-climate litigator. Trump has moved to slash EPA funding, and to loosen restrictions on coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions.
Now the man who has called climate change a “hoax” perpetrated by China, is scheduled to rub shoulders with some of the world’s most influential leaders in a duo of high-stakes huddles.
The first is a May 26-27 summit in Sicily of the G-7 rich nations, followed on July 7-8 by a meeting in Hamburg of the G-20 major economies, of which the G-7 also forms part.
Key members of both groupings have already called on Trump to stay the climate course.
“If Donald Trump is unclear on the lethal implications of his muddled climate policy then it’s up to the other leaders of the G-7 to ensure he is aware of just how damaging his actions can be,” said Mohamed Adow, an analyst with Christian Aid, which advocates for poor country interests at the UN climate forum.
“They must make a strong case for action when they meet.”
At the G-7 meeting, Trump will talk with his peers from Germany, Canada, France, Britain, Italy and Japan. The leaders of Germany and Canada, as well as France’s new President Emmanuel Macron, are viewed as champions of the climate cause.
But this type of multilateral discussion involves much diplomatic give-and-take on a wide range of political and economic issues of national interest. There are some doubts there will be time or space for a strong focus on global warming.
The White House has said Trump will not announce his decision on the Paris Agreement until after the G-7.
Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s state secretary of the environment, said in Bonn this week that climate change was “one of the issues of highest priority” for his country’s presidency of the G-20.
“We work very hard together with many other friends in the world to convince the US that staying in the Paris Agreement is the right way to go,” he said.
There are fears in the UN climate forum that an American withdrawal may prompt others to follow suit, or simply undermine the collective will — crafted over two decades of tough negotiations — to ramp up climate action over time. Also under threat is US climate funding.
Trump is unlikely to honor an outstanding $2 billion (€1.8 billion) pledged under his predecessor to the Green Climate Fund, or America’s contribution to the budget of the UN climate secretariat (UNFCCC).
The uncertainty cast a long shadow over technical negotiations, hosted by the UNFCCC in Bonn from recently, on a nuts-and-bolts “rule book” to implement the deal.
Some delegates said it might be better to let the US break ranks than let it undermine the negotiations from the inside.
“It may be the case that he (Trump) is listening to the ExxonMobils and wanting to actually think through how to use that seat at the table,” commented Adow.
Others say the rest of the world should better “ride out” Trump’s presidency and wait for the next administration to pursue America’s commitments under the deal. But this comes with uncertainty.
“After four years will there be a new president who is favoring” climate action? “Maybe not,” said Qimin Chai of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation. For Adow, China will be key in cranking up the pressure in the coming weeks.
China’s Xi Jinping was instrumental, alongside Barack Obama, in pushing the Paris deal through.
On Sunday, Beijing hosted a meeting on international trade, attended by the leaders of such countries as Russia, Argentina, Belarus, Indonesia, the Philippines, Switzerland and Turkey.
In what is considered a message of climate solidarity against Trump, the leaders’ closing statement encouraged “all parties which have ratified it to fully implement the Paris Agreement.”
Other key opportunities for building diplomatic pressure, say observers, include the so-called Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin on May 22 and 23, which will draw participants from 35 countries, and an EU-China business summit in Brussels on June 2.
Trump is also due to meet Pope Francis, a strong proponent of global action against climate change, at the Vatican on May 24.


Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

Updated 26 April 2018
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Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

NORRISTOWN-PENNSILVANIA: Bill Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era,
completing the spectacular late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as America’s Dad.
Cosby, 80, could end up spending his final years in prison after a jury concluded he sexually violated Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He claimed the encounter was consensual.
Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele and called him an “a--hole” after the prosecutor asked that Cosby be immediately jailed because he might flee. Cosby denied he has an airplane and shouted, “I’m sick of him!“
The judge decided Cosby can remain free on bail while he awaits sentencing.
Shrieks erupted in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and some of his accusers whimpered and cried. Constand remained stoic, then hugged her lawyer and members of the prosecution team.
“Justice has been done!” celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represented some of Cosby’s accusers, said on the courthouse steps. “We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed.”
The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors put five other women on the stand who testified that Cosby, married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too. One of those women asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?“
The panel of seven men and five women reached a verdict after deliberating 14 hours over two days, vindicating prosecutors’ decision to retry Cosby after his first trial ended with a hung jury less than a year ago.
Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison on each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He is likely to get less than that under state sentencing guidelines, but given his age, even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.
Constand, 45, a former Temple women’s basketball administrator, told jurors that Cosby knocked her out with three blue pills he called “your friends” and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized, unable to resist or say no.
It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said the former TV star drugged and molested them over a span of five decades.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan said in his closing argument. “It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences.”
Another prosecutor, Kristen Feden, said Cosby was “nothing like the image that he played on TV” as sweater-wearing, wisdom-dispensing father of five Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”