TEHRAN: Iran recorded over 34,900 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, setting the nation’s single-day record for cases as vaccinations lag, public complacency deepens and the country’s outbreak spirals further out of control.
The previous record of 31,814 infections had been set only a day earlier, providing a sense of how quickly Iran’s latest surge, fueled by the contagious delta variant, is mounting. Health authorities recorded 357 COVID-19 fatalities on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll to 89,479 — the highest in the Middle East.
The alarming spread of the variant prompted new anti-virus restrictions last week. The government ordered the closure of state offices, public places and non-essential businesses in the capital of Tehran. But as with previous government measures, the lockdown looked very little like a lockdown at all. Tehran’s malls and markets were busy as usual and workers crowded offices and metro stations.
Iranian authorities have avoided imposing heavy-handed rules on a population that can little afford to bear them. The country, which has suffered the worst virus outbreak in the region, is reeling from a series of crises: tough US sanctions, global isolation, a heat wave, the worst blackouts in recent memory and ongoing protests over water shortages in the southwest.
Now, health officials warn that hospitals in the capital are overwhelmed with breathless COVID patients too numerous to handle. Fewer than 3 percent of Iranians have been fully vaccinated in the sanctions-hit country. Many front-line medical workers have been vaccinated with Iran’s locally produced shots or the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm vaccine that may be less effective than other inoculations.
Iran’s government announced that its homemade vaccine provides 85 percent protection from the coronavirus, without disclosing data or details. Iran also imports Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, as well as the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot through the United Nations-backed COVAX program.
Macron urges new Lebanese PM to undertake ‘urgent’ reforms
Reforms should include improving public finances, reducing corruption, improving public finances: Macron
Mikati vowed to respect the country’s political timetable and hold general elections next year
Updated 28 min 5 sec ago
PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday urged the new Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati to undertake “urgent” reforms to help his crisis-wracked country, as the two men met for the first time in Paris.
After repeating previous criticism of Lebanon’s political class, Macron told Mikati it was “urgent to implement measures and essential reforms” and that Lebanon “could count on” former colonial power France for support.
The reforms should include tackling power and other infrastructure problems, improving public finances, reducing corruption, and stabilising the banking system, he said.
Mikati said he had come to the French capital to reassure Macron that he and his new government, approved by the Lebanese parliament on Monday, were committed to reforming.
“I expressed my determination to implement ... the necessary reforms as soon as possible in order to restore confidence, to give hope and reduce the suffering of the Lebanese population,” he said.
He also vowed to respect the country’s political timetable and hold general elections next year.
The billionaire’s nomination has brought an end to 13 months of political deadlock since an August 2020 blast that killed at least 214 people and devastated swathes of the capital Beirut.
An economic meltdown since then has depleted central bank reserves, devalued the currency by more than 90 percent and plunged three out of four citizens below the poverty line, while those who can are emigrating by the thousands.
France has led the international response to the tragedy, organizing three international conferences devoted to Lebanon and delivering aid in exchange for promises of political reform and accountability.
Macron traveled to Lebanon two days after the blast, and returned for a second trip.
The 43-year-old French leader has repeatedly expressed exasperation over the failure of Lebanon’s leaders to end the political crisis and tackle the economic emergency.
“It’s a secret for nobody that the negotations took too long while the living conditions of Lebanese people were getting worse,” Macron said on Friday.
Speaking next to Mikati on the steps of the Elysee Palace, he said that the Lebanese population had “a right to know the truth” about the August 2020 blast in Beirut.
One of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history, the explosion was caused by a vast stock of highly explosive ammonium nitrate that had sat for years in a port warehouse, a stone’s throw from residential districts.
Iran says nuclear talks to resume ‘very soon,’ gives no date
Senior US official this week made clear Washington's frustration with Tehran over the absence of any "positive indication" it is prepared to return to the talks
European diplomats have served as chief intermediaries between Washington and Tehran
Updated 13 min 19 sec ago
NEW YORK: Iran will return to negotiations on resuming compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal "very soon," Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told reporters on Friday.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will return to the table of negotiations. We are reviewing the Vienna negotiations files currently and, very soon, Iran’s negotiations with the 'four plus one' countries will recommence," Amirabdollahian said.
He was referring to talks that began in April between Iran and the five other nations still in the 2015 deal - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. European diplomats have served as chief intermediaries between Washington and Tehran, which has refused to negotiate directly with US officials.
Under the deal Iran curbed its uranium enrichment program, a possible pathway to nuclear arms, in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. Then-US President Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, crippling Iran's economy and prompting Iran to take steps to violate its nuclear limits.
Libyan leader to hold international conference on country’s security, stability
Mohammed Al-Menfi revealed that security, military, and economic issues would top the agenda of the meeting that would also shore up support for the upcoming national elections
Updated 24 September 2021
WASHINGTON: The chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya on Thursday said he would be staging an international conference next month to gain backing for efforts to bring stability and security to the country.
Mohammed Al-Menfi revealed that security, military, and economic issues would top the agenda of the meeting that would also shore up support for the upcoming national elections.
Al-Menfi, who is attending the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, added that the conference would host Libyan groups eager for reconciliation along with regional and international parties to push for the stability and security that has eluded Libya since the 2011 fall of Muammar Qaddafi who ruled the country for 40 years.
The Libyan leader said despite working on reconciliation efforts among Libyan groups, challenges still lay ahead on the road to achieving democracy.
He noted that Libya had made “significant strides” in implementing solutions that were mandated through agreements between the different Libyan groups and UN resolutions.
However, despite the progress, Al-Menfi pointed out that the country was still “faced with serious challenges and fast-paced developments” that could stall the ongoing political process.
On the ground, Libya remains confronted by many daunting challenges toward achieving political unity among its entrenched warring parties. Conflict still persists between the Tripoli-based Presidential Council and Gen. Khalifa Haftar who controls the eastern half of the country as well as the Libyan armed forces.
A transitional government was formed earlier this year to move the country forward toward elections on Dec. 24.
“Libya has the choice to either succeed toward becoming a democracy through free and transparent elections or go back to square one of infighting and military conflict,” Al-Menfi said.
He called on the international community to assist Libya in removing foreign militaries and mercenaries from the country as a way to build a “conducive environment for safe and transparent elections.”
Al-Menfi also demanded that European countries share their responsibilities in addressing the issue of illegal African migrants who pass through Libya on the way north to Europe, adding that his country had carried the burden alone and deserved support from the international community.
On the issues of human rights abuses that plagued Libya during its decade-long civil war, and the presence of terrorist groups on Libyan soil, he said his government was committed to safeguarding the human rights of the Libyan people and had worked toward bringing meaningful reconciliation through detainees and prisoners exchange, reparation, and addressing the fate of missing people.
Al-Menfi reiterated Libyan support for the Palestinian people and said his country was committed to the establishment of the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
How circular carbon economy provides a framework for a sustainable future
CCE is a closed-loop system designed to promote the reuse of resources instead of wasting them
Governments urged to consider adopting inclusive, flexible pathways offered by the CCE platform
Updated 24 September 2021
DUBAI: Floods, storms and other extreme weather events have grown in frequency and intensity in many parts of the world over the past two decades, primarily as a result of global warming. To prevent temperatures rising any further, scientists are urging nations to drastically reduce their carbon emissions.
Governments in the Middle East have accelerated action toward reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the lead-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this November, including the adoption of renewables and methods for the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.
One innovative strategy embraced by Saudi Arabia is the circular carbon economy (CCE), a closed-loop system designed to promote the reuse of resources that would otherwise have been wasted or discarded.
The Middle East region is particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Several of its nations regularly experience temperatures in excess of 50C, leading to droughts, the destruction of delicate ecosystems and the loss of livelihoods, particularly among poor farming communities.
In Iraq, Syria and Turkey, for instance, once mighty rivers are beginning to run dry, destroying fragile fishing communities along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates and allowing the desert to consume lands once considered a breadbasket.
The knock-on effects of climate change have resulted in the mass displacement of rural populations and the exacerbation of conflicts — trends that experts warn will only get worse if immediate and radical action is not taken at a global level.
“These events have not been directly caused by climate change, but they will be exacerbating the more frequent occurrence in the coming decades if action on climate is not taken,” said Saudi Arabia’s Princess Noura bint Turki Al-Saud, speaking virtually at the 9th World Sustainability Forum (WSF 2021) earlier this month.
Princess Noura is a founding partner at AEON Strategy and an advisory board member of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Circular Carbon Initiative.
CCE is an energy strategy that advocates the reduction, reuse and recycling of carbon products and their removal in an effort to eliminate harmful pollutants from the atmosphere.
Energy ministers from the G20 group of leading economies endorsed Saudi Arabia’s CCE approach to managing greenhouse-gas emissions last year when the Kingdom held the G20 presidency.
In partnership with Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom has made energy efficiency and the minimization of flaring at its oilfields top priorities in mitigating climate change, alongside fossil-fuel reduction through substitution with low-carbon energy sources such as renewables, hydropower, nuclear and bioenergy.
Using innovative technologies, carbon dioxide can be captured from the air and reused for useful products, such as fuels, bioenergy, chemicals, building materials, food and beverages. It can also be chemically transformed into new products such as fertilizer and cement, or other forms of energy such as synthetic fuels.
Technologies can also be used to capture and store CO2 to achieve a large-scale reduction of emissions. Countries can also increase the process of photosynthesis by planting more trees — a strategy that is key to the Kingdom’s Saudi Green initiative.
Although the need to cut carbon emissions to halt global warming is now widely accepted, Princess Noura cautioned that the reduction is currently happening too slowly to prevent global temperatures climbing 1.5 to 2 C above pre-industrial levels.
“Despite three decades of continued efforts in climate diplomacy and policy making, there has been little impact on curbing emissions,” she told the WSF panel. “Five years into the Paris Agreement, global CO2 concentrations continue to increase in the atmosphere, driven by unabated global emissions.”
In fact, by the end of 2020, CO2 emissions were 2 percent higher than they were at the same time the previous year. Now global CO2 emissions are creeping ever closer to their pre-pandemic peak due to an increasing demand for coal, oil and gas as economic life resumes.
The International Energy Agency estimates that in the absence of further policy changes, global oil demand could reach 100.6 million barrels a day by the end of 2020. “This recent and historic trend underscores the challenge of curbing emissions and decarbonizing the global energy system,” Princess Noura said.
In a world that remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels — both as a source of energy and, for many countries, a source of revenue — Princess Noura says there is a critical need to scale up adaptation and mitigation efforts globally and to focus on the humanitarian response in those countries most vulnerable to the physical impacts of climate change.
She urged governments to consider adopting the inclusive and flexible pathways offered by the CCE platform, which aggregates all mitigation and carbon management options into a single framework.
“It is allowing nations to collaborate in mutual areas of benefit and collectively address emissions in a coordinated manner,” she said.
“The CCE framework highlights the importance of renewable energy technologies and enhanced energy efficiency, which will be crucial to decarbonizing our energy system, but it also stresses the value of the best carbon management technologies.
“These remove carbon already in the atmosphere or from a point source before it enters the atmosphere, to either store or to utilize through recycling into other products, or using directly for specific purposes.”
The CCE platform also emphasizes nature-based solutions, requiring a whole ecosystem for innovation, deployment and scale, underpinned by strong commitment from governments, Princess Noura said.
“(There is a) need to scale up solutions and drive innovation at a rate that is faster than the rates of changing climates. Much of the policies, regulations and support that brought modern renewables to the market over the past decades are necessary to deploy the technologies that are needed today to reduce carbon emissions.”
In its latest report published in August this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that without the widespread adoption of carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies, long-term global climate goals may be unobtainable.
According to the IEA, annual clean energy investment worldwide will need to more than triple by 2030 to about $4 trillion to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
“CCUS is one of the few technologies available that can decarbonize both power generation and heavy industries, such as cement, steel and chemical production with verifiable emissions reductions,” it said.
Although the international community has been discussing the adoption of such technologies for some time, implementation has been slow.
“Any further delay in CCUS implementation will make it even harder to achieve the climate goals,” said Aqil Jamal, chief technologist leading the carbon management research division of Aramco’s R&D Center in Dhahran, speaking on the same WSF 2021 panel.
Trouble is, CCUS technologies are more readily available to rich countries, and energy access remains a problem for many developing countries.
“There is a huge portion of the global population that doesn’t have electricity nor clean cooking fuels,” Adam Sieminski, senior adviser to the board of trustees of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, told the panel.
“We have to find a way to do that — cleanly. The idea is gaining political traction, which means the ability to craft policies to put real pragmatic approaches in place is increasing.”
Sieminski added: “The CCE framework is something that’s being taken very seriously in Saudi Arabia.
“Many people seem to look at the whole concept of managing carbon as (costly), and the most important thing is that we have to move toward looking at this as value creation and how carbon can create value in the global economy.”