UN chief urges action to avert climate change ‘catastrophe’

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs Shamma Al-Mazrui and UAE minister of climate change Thani Al-Zeyoudi chair a panel during the opening of the Abu Dhabi climate meeting Summit on June 30, 2019 in Abu Dhabi. (AFP)
Updated 30 June 2019

UN chief urges action to avert climate change ‘catastrophe’

  • The UN chief held out hope in the Paris Agreement to cut harmful emissions and reduce global warming
  • Under the Paris Agreement, the world is required to keep temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century

ABU DHABI: UN chief Antonio Guterres said climate-related devastation was striking the planet on a weekly basis and warned Sunday that urgent action must be taken to avoid a catastrophe.
“We are here because the world is facing a grave climate emergency,” Guterres told a two-day Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting to prepare for a Climate Action Summit in New York in September.
“Climate disruption is happening now... It is progressing even faster than the world’s top scientists have predicted,” the UN secretary general said.
“It is outpacing our efforts to address it. Climate change is running faster than we are,” he said.
“Every week brings new climate-related devastation... floods, drought, heatwaves, wildfires and super storms,” Guterres said.
He warned the situation would only deteriorate unless “we act now with ambition and urgency,” but some of the world’s decision-makers still did not realize the dangers.
The UN chief held out hope in the Paris Agreement to cut harmful emissions and reduce global warming.
“But we know that even if the promises of Paris are fully met, we still face at least a three-degree temperature rise by the end of the century — a catastrophe for life as we know it,” Guterres said.
He was convening the Climate Action Summit because many countries were not even keeping pace with their promises under the Paris Agreement.
Under the Paris Agreement, the world is required to keep temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
A landmark report last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said a safer cap of a 1.5 degree rise would see nations rapidly slash planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions via a sharp drawdown of fossil fuel use.
But some high-polluting nations, led by Saudi Arabia, have questioned the IPCC’s findings, leading to angry exchanges at closed-door talks in Bonn.
It is thought that $300 billion will be needed annually by 2030 to help nations deal with climate-related disasters.
IPCC warned in October that warming was on track toward a catastrophic 3C or 4C rise, and that avoiding global chaos would require a major transformation.
“The Climate Action Summit is an opportunity for political, business and civil society leaders to set an example,” Guterres said.


UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.