Developing world says rich nations shirking on climate pledges

Former US Vice President Al Gore poses for selfies with delegates and observers of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference 2017, hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany, Friday. (Reuters)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Developing world says rich nations shirking on climate pledges

PARIS: The failure of wealthy nations to deliver on short-term climate commitments could hinder the rollout of a landmark treaty, a bloc of 134 developing countries, including India and China, warned at UN negotiations in Bonn.
The diplomatic spat has underscored the difficulty of reaching a consensus at the 196-nation talks.
“If we do not respect decisions that we have made, then how can we build trust among the parties?” said Chen Zhihua, China’s senior negotiator, referring to long-standing pledges by rich nations to enhance financial support and “revisit” targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions before 2020.
“And how can we lay a good foundation for the implementation of the Paris Agreement?” he added at a press conference Thursday, flanked by diplomats from India, Iran, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
The treaty, inked outside the French capital in 2015, calls on the world to cap global warming at “well below” 2˚C (3.6˚ Fahrenheit), and even 1.5˚C if possible.
With one degree of warming so far, the planet has already seen an increase in drought, deadly heatwaves and superstorms engorged by rising seas.
The pact rests on voluntary carbon-cutting pledges from virtually every country in the world.
But those pledges are not enough to keep Earth in the safe zone, and would still see global temperatures rise a devastating 3˚C (5.6˚F) by century’s end.
Moreover, they don’t kick in until 2020, and developing nations say that’s too long to wait to ramp up action.
“The science is clear: If we don’t get our act together before 2020, you can forget about the 2˚C and 1.5˚C targets,” said Paul Oquist, Nicaragua’s chief negotiator at the talks.
“There has been a failure to comply with existing commitments,” he added.
Under the terms of the UN’s core climate convention, the burden for action before 2020 falls mainly on wealthy countries historically responsible for the rapid rise of greenhouse gases.
China is the world’s top carbon polluter, followed by the US, the European Union, India and Russia.
Developing countries sought to have a “pre-2020 agenda” formally added to the negotiating process, but the move was shelved at the start of the 12-day talks. Efforts to resolve the issue have so far been fruitless.
“It would be a bad thing if this hangs over into the second week and becomes a political issue for ministers,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington DC.
“It has been a pretty sterile debate that has degenerated into a finger-pointing exercise,” he told AFP.
Some 20 heads of state, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are scheduled to appear at the UN climate forum next week.
The European Union, Australia and the United States — which continues to participate in the talks despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris pact— have balked at training a spotlight on the issue, but are looking for a middle ground.
“There is no disagreement about the pre-2020 urgency,” Elina Bardram, head of the EU’s delegation for COP23, told AFP.
“But we must find solutions that ... do not compromise progress on the agreed negotiations program” for the Paris Agreement.
For Teresa Ribera, director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris, the stand-off also reflects the negotiating process.
“It is in part tactical positioning to deflect mounting pressure” on some emerging economies — China and India, in particular — to deepen their own carbon-cutting pledges, she said.
Both countries are projected to easily meet their Paris targets.
But the poor nation-rich nation split that bedevilled these talks for many years has not entirely disappeared.
“This is creating a trust deficit,” said Mohamed Adow, international climate lead for Christian Aid. “How can developing countries trust these very same countries that haven’t taken seriously their previous commitments?“


UK’s official Brexit campaign fined, referred to police

Updated 17 July 2018
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UK’s official Brexit campaign fined, referred to police

  • The report found that the Vote Leave campaign exceeded its legal spending limit of £7.0 million ( $9.3 million) by almost £500,000
  • Vote Leave returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report

LONDON: Britain’s official Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, has been fined for breaking spending rules in the 2016 EU membership referendum, the Electoral Commission said Tuesday, adding that it had referred the case to the police.
The Electoral Commission said the winning side in the referendum had worked together with a smaller pro-Brexit group called BeLeave to get around campaign finance rules.
“We found substantial evidence that the two groups worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits,” said Bob Posner, the commission’s director of political finance and regulation.
“These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums,” Posner said.
A Vote Leave spokesman accused the Electoral Commission of being “motivated by a political agenda rather than uncovering the facts.”
The spokesman said there were “a number of false accusations and incorrect assertions that are wholly inaccurate and do not stand up to scrutiny.”
The report found that the Vote Leave campaign exceeded its legal spending limit of £7.0 million (7.9 million euros, $9.3 million) by almost £500,000.
Vote Leave, which had support from leading euroskeptic Boris Johnson, also returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report and failed to submit some invoices for its spending.
The report said the BeLeave group, which was founded by fashion student Darren Grimes, spent more than £675,000 with Aggregate IQ, a Canadian digital political advertising company, under a “common plan” with Vote Leave.
The company was mentioned in the scandal over Cambridge Analytica, a now defunct British company accused of misusing data obtained from Facebook to micro-target political ads.
Christopher Wylie, a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, alleged that pro-Brexit groups worked together to get around campaign finance rules by using the services of Aggregate IQ.
Wylie said that Aggregate IQ was linked to Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.
The Electoral Commission said it had referred the case to police.
“Investigation files have been shared with the Metropolitan Police in relation to whether any persons have committed related offenses which lie outside our regulatory remit,” the report said.
Vote Leave was fined £61,000 and Grimes was fined £20,000, the maximum levy for an individual.
But the Vote Leave spokesman said it had provided evidence to the Electoral Commission “proving there was no wrongdoing.”
“And yet, despite clear evidence of wrongdoing by the Remain campaign, the commission has chosen to ignore this and refused to launch an investigation.”
“We will consider the options available to us, but are confident that these findings will be overturned,” he said.