Climate justice: Rich nations dodge finance pledge

Climate justice: Rich nations dodge finance pledge
Protesters take part in a demonstration against climate change in Brussels, on October 10, 2021, ahead of the COP26 climate summit. (AFP)
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Updated 11 October 2021

Climate justice: Rich nations dodge finance pledge

Climate justice: Rich nations dodge finance pledge
  • China may be the world's top carbon polluter today, accounting for more than a quarter of global emissions

PARIS: A hundred billion dollars every year — that's the aid promised more than a decade ago to help developing nations curb their carbon pollution and adapt to devastating climate impacts.
But rich countries have not delivered on that pledge, a failure that could undermine a critical COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next month already riven with tensions, experts say.
The vow to gradually ramp up aid for the Global South to $100 billion (86.5 billion euros) per year by 2020 was first made at the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen.
A decade later, wealthy nations were still far from the mark, with the total below $80 billion in 2019, according to the OECD, which took on the role of tracking climate finance.
If only outright grants and not loans are considered, the amount drops by almost half, say NGOs that monitor money flows.
With a Democrat back in the White House, the US has doubled its aid and promises $11.4 billion per year by 2024, but it's still not enough to close the gap. Canada and Germany are expected to announce enhanced commitments before the Glasgow summit opens on October 31.
China may be the world's top carbon polluter today, accounting for more than a quarter of global emissions, but the United States and other rich countries are historically the main emitters of greenhouse gases.
COP26 host Boris Johnson recently reminded leaders at the UN that Britain had pioneered the industrial revolution and was the first country "to send enough acrid smoke into the atmosphere to disrupt the natural order".
"We understand that when developing countries look to us for help, we have to shoulder our responsibilities," the British Prime Minister continued.
One of the biggest challenges facing climate negotiations is a deficit of trust among parties, and climate finance may be the most fraught issue on the table.
"The shortfall in funds is costing lives and livelihoods," Sonam Wangi, chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) negotiating bloc, said in a statement.
"Developed countries delivering on their decade-old commitment to support vulnerable countries ... will be critical for building trust and accelerating the global response to climate change."
UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa agrees that living up to those promises could be a key for unlocking other logjams.
"The complexity of the outcome of COP26 is that it is not one or two or three decisions, it has to be a package," she told journalists.
"If we can get a good perspective regarding the $100 billion, that would ... give us the means to make progress on some other issues."

In 2009, $100 billion sounded like a lot of money, but the recent crescendo of heatwaves, flooding caused by extreme rainfall, drought and evermore powerful storms has made it clear that it's not nearly enough, experts agree.
The sum seems especially paltry compared to the multi-trillion dollar Covid recovery packages that have been cobbled together to prop up rich economies.
"A combined global fiscal response to the crisis of close to $12 trillion begs a question," climate finance experts commissioned by the UN wrote in a recent report.
"If a pandemic can provoke such a rapid and far-reaching response, at scale, surely the world can muster the necessary will to act with similar decisiveness and urgency in response to the climate crisis?"
"The $100 billion target therefore needs to be seen as a floor and not as a ceiling," the added.
Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, representing the Climate Vulnerable Forum of 48 countries home to a billion people, said financing should be broadened to include sovereign debt relief.
"We are so threatened that we might not have an island or a country much longer, so it's hardly possible for us to pay the debt if we are not around," he said.
"Is it not then reasonable for climate vulnerable countries to call upon debt holders to restructure their debt?", he added, saying he would be taking this proposal to the Glasgow talks.

The $100 billion figure — earmarked for emissions reduction and preparing for future climate impact — has become a symbol of the perceived need for "climate justice", many observers point out.
The failure of rich nations to honour their pledge is especially galling in light of a separate track in the negotiations over "loss and damage", meant to cover the costs of climate-enhanced damages that have already occurred.
"The people and communities the least responsible for the rise in global emissions are facing the worst of the climate crisis right now," said Vanessa Nakate, a young climate activist from Uganda.


Asylum offshoring plan threatens to create ‘British Guantanamo,’ MP warns

Asylum offshoring plan threatens to create ‘British Guantanamo,’ MP warns
Updated 12 sec ago

Asylum offshoring plan threatens to create ‘British Guantanamo,’ MP warns

Asylum offshoring plan threatens to create ‘British Guantanamo,’ MP warns
  • David Davis: ‘At worst, we could inadvertently create a British Guantanamo Bay’
  • Britain is grappling with an influx of asylum seekers and migrants via the English Channel

LONDON: Government plans to process migrants and asylum seekers in offshore facilities risk creating a “British Guantanamo Bay,” a former cabinet member has warned.

Conservative MP David Davis, who served as Brexit secretary from 2016 to 2018, said the Home Office’s plan to send people offshore for processing would create a British facility that could rival Guantanamo Bay in notoriety.

The plans, introduced as part of the Nationality and Borders Bill, would see asylum claims processed from overseas facilities and would also introduce a host of other new restrictions on who can claim asylum.

Davis described UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s plans as deeply flawed, noting that the Home Office is unable to explain where its widely criticized offshore asylum processing facilities would even be located.

The issue has proved controversial in recent weeks. When reports emerged that Britain was in talks with Albania to establish a facility there, various Albanian politicians and diplomats angrily and publicly rebuked the idea.

Davis, who is no longer serving in the Cabinet, said that the proposed changes ignore the fact that most asylum seekers were eventually granted refugee status.

“Pushing the problem to another part of the world is just a costly way of delaying the inevitable,” he wrote in The Observer newspaper.

Davis continued: “From mountains of paperwork and chartering RAF flights, to building the required infrastructure and dealing with foreign bureaucracies, the labyrinthine logistics would involve colossal costs the British taxpayer could well do without. At worst, we could inadvertently create a British Guantanamo Bay.”

Over the course of 2021, tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers have arrived in Britain via the English Channel, and the controversial issue has put pressure on the Conservative government to do something to slow the arrivals.

Some 37,562 asylum applications were made in the year to September — more than double the entire amount for 2020 — with a significant proportion of claimants arriving from Iran, Iraq, and Syria. 

MPs will debate the Nationality and Borders Bill in parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.


Lebanese scientist honored by Italy for environmental work

Lebanese scientist honored by Italy for environmental work
Updated 06 December 2021

Lebanese scientist honored by Italy for environmental work

Lebanese scientist honored by Italy for environmental work
  • Nizar Hani knighted in recognition of his conservation efforts at Shouf Biosphere Reserve

ROME: A Lebanese scientist who specializes in the preservation of his country’s environment has been honored with a knighthood by the Italian Republic.

Nizar Hani, the general manager of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, the largest of Lebanon’s nature reserves, was awarded the Order of the Star of Italy by Italian Ambassador to Beirut Nicoletta Bombardiere during a ceremony at the ambassador’s residence in Naccache on Friday.

This distinction, Italy’s second-highest civilian honor, is given by order of the Italian president to Italians or foreigners who have acquired special merit in the promotion of friendly relations and cooperation between the republic and other countries.

The Shouf Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO-recognized site that is blanketed with oak and juniper forests, stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to the mountains of Niha in the south. The reserve’s most famous attractions are its three magnificent cedar forests of Maasser Al-Shouf, Barouk and Ain Zhalta-Bmohary, which account for a quarter of the remaining cedar forests in Lebanon. Some of its trees are estimated to be 2,000 years old.

A popular destination for hiking and trekking, as well as bird-watching, mountain biking and snowshoeing, the reserve’s large size makes it a good location for the conservation of medium-sized mammals, such as the wolf and Lebanese jungle cat, as well as various species of plant.

“By decorating Nizar Hany, we decorate the Shouf Biosphere Reserve and all those who have contributed to this success story,” said Bombardiere. 

“Today, the Shouf reserve is a living laboratory of integrated strategies that respond to the ultimate goal of protecting and promoting the territory, taking care of its fragility and exploiting at the same time its natural strengths and resilience, and engaging the local communities, whose involvement is critical for any lasting achievement.

“With this decoration, Italy intends to encourage political leaders and civil society in Lebanon to raise their engagement in the environmental issues in the country as a matter of priority and to increase their joint efforts to reduce the environmental impact, in fields like solid waste, water treatment, air quality and energy production,” she added.

The Italian envoy encouraged “everyone to bear in mind that, if the environment in Lebanon is doomed, there is not a spare Lebanon. There is just one Lebanon and it must be saved. As well as there is only one Mediterranean, to which Italy and Lebanon belong, that must be preserved.”

Hani thanked Italy and all those who have supported the reserve, including the Italian government’s Agency for International Development Cooperation. In addition, he expressed gratitude to UN institutions and other donors, as well as the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, which runs all the country’s nature reserves.

“All these efforts made the Shouf Biosphere Reserve a Mediterranean success story for nature protection, conservation and mitigation of climate change,” he said, while stressing the importance of the support Italy has provided to the reserve and to many other environmental protection activities, “especially those that support the local communities.”


Pakistan army helicopter crashes in Kashmir; 2 pilots killed

Pakistan army helicopter crashes in Kashmir; 2 pilots killed
Updated 06 December 2021

Pakistan army helicopter crashes in Kashmir; 2 pilots killed

Pakistan army helicopter crashes in Kashmir; 2 pilots killed
  • Rescue helicopters and troops have been dispatched to Siachen

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani army helicopter crashed on Monday in bad weather in the Pakistan-administered section of disputed Kashmir, killing the two pilots on board, the military said.
A statement from the military said the helicopter went down on the Siachen glacier, one of the world’s longest mountain glaciers, located in the Karakoram Range, and often referred to as the “highest battleground on earth” because of the wars that Pakistan and India have fought over the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Rescue helicopters and troops have been dispatched to Siachen, the military said. No further details on the crash were immediately available. The two pilots were identified as Maj. Irfan Bercha and Maj. Raja Zeeshan Jahanzeb.
Siachen is known for tragedies, a desolate place where more troops have died from avalanches or bitter cold than in combat. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

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Gunmen kill town mayor, wound another in south Philippines

Gunmen kill town mayor, wound another in south Philippines
Updated 06 December 2021

Gunmen kill town mayor, wound another in south Philippines

Gunmen kill town mayor, wound another in south Philippines
  • Investigators were trying to identify the two gunmen and two companions who escaped on motorcycles and determine their motive
  • The two mayors were reportedly running in May 9 elections

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines: Motorcycle-riding gunmen killed a town mayor and wounded another in a brazen attack Monday that also killed their driver and caused villagers to flee to safety in a coastal village in the southern Philippines, police said.
Mayor Darussalam Lajid of Al-Barka town was killed and Mayor Alih Sali of Akbar town was wounded by at least two men armed with pistols while walking in Zamboanga city shortly after arriving on a speedboat from their island province of Basilan, police said.
A bodyguard of the two mayors was wounded and a driver who came to pick them up was killed, police said.
Investigators were trying to identify the two gunmen and two companions who escaped on motorcycles and determine their motive, including the possibility that it involved a political rivalry.
The two mayors were reportedly running in May 9 elections. Philippine elections have been marred in the past by bloody feuds and accusations of cheating, especially in rural regions with weak law enforcement and a proliferation of unlicensed firearms and private armies.


Italy imposes new COVID-19 rules on unvaccinated

Italy imposes new COVID-19 rules on unvaccinated
Updated 06 December 2021

Italy imposes new COVID-19 rules on unvaccinated

Italy imposes new COVID-19 rules on unvaccinated
  • Only those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 are exempt from the rules

ROME: People in Italy unvaccinated against COVID-19 can no longer go to the theater, cinemas, live music venues or major sporting events under new rules that came into force Monday.
Only those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 are exempt from the rules, which represent a significant tightening of restrictions in the face of rising infections.
New measures are also being enforced on public transport, with a so-called Green Pass showing proof of vaccination, recent recovery or a negative COVID-19 test now required even on local services.
A man in his 50s was fined $452 (€400) for not having his pass on Monday morning as he got off a bus near Piazza del Popolo in Rome, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“I don’t have it because I wanted to get vaccinated in the next few days,” he was reported as saying.
A record 1.3 million Green Passes were downloaded on Sunday ahead of the change.
Meanwhile in Rome at the weekend, new rules requiring face masks to be worn outdoors in the busiest shopping streets came into effect.
Italy was the first European country to be hit by coronavirus in early 2020 and has one of the highest death tolls, at more than 134,000.
However, it is currently faring better than many of its neighbors, with 15,000 cases out of a population of 60 million reported on Sunday.
Almost 85 percent of over 12s have been vaccinated, a booster campaign is in full swing and jabs will soon be available for younger children.
The Green Pass was introduced in August for access to theaters and cinemas, museums and indoor dining, and extended to workplaces in October — a move that sparked widespread protests.
From now until January 15, a new “Super Green Pass,” which can only be obtained through vaccination or recent recovery, will be required for cultural activities — although not museums — and inside restaurants.
However, having a coffee at the bar of a cafe and eating outside is allowed without a Green Pass.
The restrictions will be further tightened in regions at higher risk of coronavirus.
Currently most of Italy is classed as the lowest of four levels, which range from white to yellow, orange and red.
Two regions are yellow — Friuli Venezia Giulia and Bolzano, which both border Austria, a country in partial lockdown over the number of cases there.