UN warns on heat as climate talks hear pleas for action

Frank Bainimarama, new President of COP 23, attends the opening session of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017, in Bonn, Germany. (Reuters)
Updated 06 November 2017
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UN warns on heat as climate talks hear pleas for action

BONN: This year will be among the three hottest on record, the UN said on Monday as almost 200 countries began talks in Germany to bolster a global climate accord that the US plans to quit.
Temperatures this year would be slightly less than during a record-breaking 2016 and roughly level with 2015, as part of a long-term warming trend driven by greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
“We have witnessed extraordinary weather,” said Petteri Talaas, head of the WMO, pointing to extreme events including a spate of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, monsoon floods in Asia and drought in East Africa.
He said the dip from last year was largely because a natural El Nino event that released extra heat from the Pacific Ocean in 2016 had faded.
Delegates said sweltering temperatures and weather extremes were a spur for action at the annual conference in Bonn from Nov. 6-17, which will to work on a detailed rule book for the 2015 Paris climate agreement and try to step up action before 2020.
“This is our moment of truth,” Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, presiding at the Bonn talks, told delegates, urging them to “lock arms with all other nations and move forward together.”
“Millions of people around the world have suffered and continue to suffer from extreme weather events,” said Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate chief.
“The message cannot get any clearer. We must act right here, right now.”
US President Donald Trump, who doubts mainstream scientific findings that man-made greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate change, said in June he would pull out of the Paris agreement and instead promote US fossil fuels.
None of the speakers at the opening ceremony mentioned Trump by name. The meeting included a traditional Fijian ceremony and children parading with models of a whale, jellyfish and polar bear to urge more action.
A UN list of delegates counts 48 Americans, mostly technical experts and many fewer than in recent years. The US delegation office in a tent village in Bonn has less space, for instance, than those for France or Italy.
A formal US pullout will take until November 2020 and delegates say there are wide uncertainties about how far Washington will balance Trump’s pro-coal agenda with the conference’s goals.
Thomas Shannon, a career diplomat who once called climate change “one of the world’s biggest challenges,” will head the US delegation.
The Paris climate agreement sets a goal of ending the fossil fuel era this century and to limit warming to “well below” 2°Celsius (3.6°Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, ideally 1.5°C.
The WMO report said average surface temperatures in 2017 were about 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era in data from January to September.
Many scientists say the 1.5°C limit is slipping out of reach because of insufficient action by governments.
The UN says the world is on track for a temperature rise of about three degrees by 2100.


Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

Handout photo released by the Mexican presidency showing Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador answering questions during a press conference at the Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City on March 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 32 min 7 sec ago
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Mexico demands apology for colonial ‘abuses,’ Spain hits back

  • “The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement

MEXICO CITY: The 500-year-old wounds of the Spanish conquest were ripped open afresh on Monday when Mexico’s president urged Spain and the Vatican to apologize for their “abuses” — a request Madrid said it “firmly rejects.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist, reopened the debate over Spain’s centuries of dominance in the New World with a video posted to social media, urging Spanish King Felipe VI and Pope Francis to apologize for the conquest and the rights violations committed in its aftermath.
“I have sent a letter to the king of Spain and another to the pope calling for a full account of the abuses and urging them to apologize to the indigenous peoples (of Mexico) for the violations of what we now call their human rights,” Lopez Obrador, 65, said in the video, filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco.
“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the (indigenous) temples,” he said.
“The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.”
Spain’s reaction was swift and unequivocal.
“The government of Spain deeply regrets that the letter the Mexican president sent to his majesty the king, whose contents we firmly reject, has been made public,” it said in a statement.
“The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to present Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” it said.
“Our two brother nations have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective, as free peoples with a shared history and extraordinary influence.”

Lopez Obrador took office in December after a landslide election win that represented a firm break with Mexico’s traditional political parties.
A folksy populist, he pulls no punches in going after traditional elites — but had so far cultivated cordial relations with Spain, including during a visit to Mexico City by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez earlier this year.
Lopez Obrador made the remarks during a visit to his native Tabasco state, in southern Mexico.
He was later due to visit the nearby city of Centla. On March 14, 1519, the site was the scene of one of the first battles between Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and the indigenous peoples of the land now known as Mexico.
With the help of horses, swords, guns and smallpox — all unknown in the New World at the time — Cortes led an army of less than 1,000 men to defeat the Aztec empire, the start of 300 years of Spanish rule over Mexico.