Qatar Airways CEO suggests 2050 net-zero goal beyond reach

Qatar Airways CEO suggests 2050 net-zero goal beyond reach
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar al-Baker poses in front of an Airbus A350-1000 at the Eurasia Airshow. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 May 2023
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Qatar Airways CEO suggests 2050 net-zero goal beyond reach

Qatar Airways CEO suggests 2050 net-zero goal beyond reach
  • "There is not enough production of sustainable aviation fuel,” Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said

DOHA: The head of Qatar Airways voiced skepticism on Tuesday over an aviation industry target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, citing inadequate supplies of Sustainable Aviation Fuel and alternative hydrogen designs in their infancy.
“I don’t think that we will be able to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Everybody’s talking about it, but let us be realistic — there is not enough production of sustainable aviation fuel,” Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker told the Qatar Economic Forum, organized by Bloomberg.
The warning by one of the industry’s most high-profile leaders come days before global airlines are due to discuss how to implement the climate pledge at an annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association in Istanbul in June.
Because aviation emissions are seen as hard to abate without radical technology, the main focus has been on “drop-in” fuels that can be placed in the existing generation of jet engines, like plant- or waste-based SAF and synthetic alternatives.
“Really the only significant contributor by way of change in technology is Sustainable Aviation Fuel. That’s the only thing that moves the needle between now and (2050),” Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told the same Doha event.
In a stand-off with the energy industry over supplies available for aviation, airlines are concerned that a gap would hamper efforts to reach the target. There is also little consensus on who should pay to ramp up production, while some environmental groups say the plans are too modest.
Airbus is promoting efforts to develop a small commercial airplane powered by hydrogen by 2035.
Boeing’s Calhoun said such technology would mature only in the second half of the century.
In 2021, nations at a United Nations body agreed to a long-term aspirational goal for net-zero aviation emissions by 2050, giving political weight to a target adopted by IATA and other industry groups including airports and planemakers in 2019.


Pakistan’s PM Sharif arrives in flood-battered Gwadar to inspect relief operations

Pakistan’s PM Sharif arrives in flood-battered Gwadar to inspect relief operations
Updated 05 March 2024
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Pakistan’s PM Sharif arrives in flood-battered Gwadar to inspect relief operations

Pakistan’s PM Sharif arrives in flood-battered Gwadar to inspect relief operations
  • Torrential rains in Gwadar over the past week have triggered floods, destroyed homes in the southwestern port city 
  • PM Sharif distributes relief goods among people, announces compensation for those who lost their relatives in the storm

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif arrived in the southwestern port city of Gwadar on Tuesday, which has been severely battered by floods triggered by heavy rains over the past week, to inspect relief activities and express solidarity with the people. 

Streets and neighborhoods in the deep-sea port city continue to remain inundated with floodwater after torrential rains last week destroyed homes and forced authorities to launch rescue operations to save thousands of people. 

According to a report by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) on March 4, 97 houses have been destroyed by the rains in Balochistan’s Kharan, Kech and Gwadar districts due to heavy rains that began on Feb. 26. 

“The torrential rains that started on Feb. 26 have wreaked destruction in Gwadar and other areas of Balochistan,” Sharif told media representatives and victims of the floods gathered in the city. “Thank God no person in Gwadar died but five people from all over Balochistan lost their lives to these storms.”

Flanked by Balochistan’s newly elected Chief Minister Sarfaraz Bugti and other officials, Sharif said he had arrived in Gwadar to express solidarity with the victims of the floods and to assure them that the government would pay for the damages suffered by the people. 

Sharif announced that 7,000 bags of food would be sent to Gwadar daily starting from Wednesday. 

“I would request my brother [Balochistan chief minister] to distribute them in an efficient way with your organization,” Sharif said. “And this process of providing food will continue till the people do not return to their homes.”

Pakistan's Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif receives a briefing from chairman of the country's National Disaster Management Authority, Chairman Lt. General Inam Haider Malik, on his way to Gwadar, Pakistan, on March 5, 2024. (Government of Pakistan)

The prime minister said the government distributed cheques of Rs750,000 ($2,683) to people whose homes were completely destroyed by the floods while those whose houses were partially damaged were provided Rs350,000 ($1,252). 

“I have decided that those who lost their loved ones [due to the storms] they would be given Rs2 million ($7,155) per head while Rs500,000 ($1,788) will be issued to those who have been injured,” Sharif said. 

Separately, the prime minister also distributed relief goods among the affected people. 

Other parts of the country also remain affected by heavy rain and snowfall. Pakistani officials said on Monday at least 36 people were killed and dozens injured in five days as heavy rains and snowfall battered Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and northern Gilgit-Baltistan region. 

In Balochistan, heavy snowfall brought daily life to a standstill in Quetta and other northern parts of the southwestern province, with main highways and inter-provincial roads blocked since Saturday, disconnecting the province from other parts of the country.

Large swathes of Pakistan were submerged in 2022 due to extremely heavy monsoon rains and melting glaciers, a phenomenon linked to climate change that damaged crops and infrastructure and killed at least 1,700 people and affected over 30 million.

The South Asian country consistently ranks among one of the most adversely affected countries from the effects of climate change. 


Indian farmers cut off as activists warn of pre-election digital blackouts

Indian farmers cut off as activists warn of pre-election digital blackouts
Updated 53 min 7 sec ago
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Indian farmers cut off as activists warn of pre-election digital blackouts

Indian farmers cut off as activists warn of pre-election digital blackouts
  • Farmers march on Delhi to demand higher prices for crops, Internet shutdowns hamper flow of food and aid 
  • Campaigners say shutdowns aim to quell dissent as India tops world charts of Internet switchoffs

SHAMBHU, India: They have been beaten with canes, doused in tear gas and blocked by concrete barricades and metal spikes but the thousands of farmers trying to march to India’s capital to demand higher crop prices also face an invisible barrier — digital blackouts.

As their caravan of tractors and trucks moved from the northern state of Punjab toward New Delhi in February, the farmers found their phones going dead as state authorities imposed temporary Internet shutdowns.

It is not the first time authorities have cut the Internet — India imposed the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the world in 2022 — and campaigners fear more digital crackdowns ahead of elections expected by May.

Farm union leaders are seeking guarantees, backed by law, of more state support or a minimum purchase price for crops.

The farmers, who set off on their “Delhi Chalo” (Let’s go to Dehli) protest in early February, were stopped by security forces about 200 km (125 miles) north of the capital, with water cannons and tear gas used to push them back.

They are now camped out at Shambhu Barrier, on the border between the states of Punjab and Haryana.

Since Feb. 12, Haryana state authorities have cut access to mobile Internet services at regular intervals and for several days at a time. They said they did so to “stop the spread of misinformation and rumors” and to prevent the mobilization of “mobs of agitators and demonstrators,” according to local media.

The farmers, many of whom are members of the Sikh religious minority from Punjab, say the shutdowns made it hard to get medical help for the injured and to source food. It also cut them off from their leaders, making coordination difficult.

“Snapping the communication lines only spreads rumors and distresses our families,” said Hardeep Singh, a 28-year-old who was nursing an injured eye after recent clashes with police.

“We’re already far away from home and the communication blackout adds to our miseries,” he said.

Farmers shout slogans during a protest against India's central government to demand minimum crop prices in Amritsar on March 5, 2024. (AFP)

Neither the chief minister’s office in Haryana nor the state’s telecoms ministry responded to requests for comment.

Campaigners have accused the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of repeatedly using Internet shutdowns to stifle opposition.

“The alarming trend of Internet shutdowns coupled with widespread online censorship is a grim reflection of digital authoritarianism, particularly in the lead-up to elections,” said Gayatri Malhotra of the digital rights organization Internet Freedom Foundation.

“Should this trajectory persist, it threatens to severely impede people’s access to information, curtail their capacity to make informed electoral decisions, and restrict their freedom to organize, assemble and communicate their electoral demands peacefully,” Malhotra told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

NO SIGNAL

India frequently uses Internet shutdowns to control protests, including in disputed Kashmir and northeastern Manipur state, where dozens have died in ethnic clashes since last year.

A farmer performs a fire breathing act during a protest demanding minimum crop prices, at Shambhu Haryana-Punjab border near Ambala some 220 Km from New Delhi on February 14, 2024. (AFP)

Mobile access has also often been cut during elections and examinations and these shutdowns were often imposed for indefinite periods and without the publication of shutdown orders, in violation of a 2020 judgment by the nation’s top court.

The state of Haryana ranks fourth in the country for the highest number of Internet shutdowns, following Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, and Manipur, according to Delhi-based advocacy group Software Freedom Law Center.

The farmers’ protests have already sparked other restrictions.

Dozens of accounts on social media platform X have been suspended for backing the farmers, with rights groups and those affected calling the step a worrying sign in the world’s largest democracy where nearly a billion people will cast their votes in national elections due by May.

Although the farmers’ protest is confined to Punjab for now, their complaints of falling incomes resonate more widely, highlighting a perception in India’s huge rural hinterland that Modi has done too little to support the farming community and raise living standards.

Over 40 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people are dependent on agriculture and many say they have suffered economically under Modi. Hardeep Singh, for example, grows wheat and rice on his four-acre farm, but like many he said poor returns on investments, including pesticides and farm equipment, made it increasingly difficult to make ends meet without guaranteed prices for his produce.

While pollsters say Modi will almost certainly win a rare third term in office, the discontent of farmers will be a headache for years to come.

The federal agriculture ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the protesters’ demands for higher guaranteed prices for all crops.

‘STATE OF DARKNESS’

Farmers hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against India's central government to demand minimum crop prices in Amritsar on March 5, 2024. (AFP)

Farmers said the blackout not only stopped them from spreading their message to the outside world, but also blocked them from receiving information and instructions.

“The Internet was our primary means of ensuring our protests receive adequate coverage and reach a wider audience, free from the interference of mainstream media that often portrays us in a negative light,” said Taranjeet Singh, a 34-year-old farmer. In Punjab, Singh is a common surname and middle name.

To overcome the challenge, many farmers have installed television sets in their tractor trailers to get the latest news.

The blackouts also make it harder to treat injured and sick people, and to contact emergency services such as ambulances.

“We are forced to walk several kilometers away from the protest site to access stable wireless network connections, which wastes our valuable time, and could prove fatal for those injured and requiring immediate medical care,” said Baba Sukhdev Singh, a 50-year-old volunteer with the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, one of the unions leading the march.

Many farmers also said signal jammers were being used in the area, preventing them from contacting people in their villages to ask for food supplies.

Taranjeet Singh said farmers were left walking around in desperation, asking one another about what the protest leaders might want them to do next.

“The communication blackout casts us into a state of darkness, exacerbating the chaos and confusion,” he said.


OIC, Sri Lanka officials discuss cooperation, Palestine

OIC, Sri Lanka officials discuss cooperation, Palestine
Updated 05 March 2024
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OIC, Sri Lanka officials discuss cooperation, Palestine

OIC, Sri Lanka officials discuss cooperation, Palestine

JEDDAH: Hussein Ibrahim Taha, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, met on Monday with Ali Sabry, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, in Jeddah to discuss cooperation and address shared concerns.

Sabry highlighted Sri Lanka’s initiatives aimed at enhancing the well-being of its Muslim community. He reiterated Sri Lanka’s stance on the Palestinian cause, affirming support for the two-state solution.

Taha discussed the OIC’s role in advancing the welfare of Muslim communities worldwide and commended Sri Lanka’s government for supporting Muslims and the Palestinians.


UAE’s PMI grows but Egypt’s index falls to 11-month low: S&P Global

UAE’s PMI grows but Egypt’s index falls to 11-month low: S&P Global
Updated 05 March 2024
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UAE’s PMI grows but Egypt’s index falls to 11-month low: S&P Global

UAE’s PMI grows but Egypt’s index falls to 11-month low: S&P Global

RIYADH: The UAE’s non-oil private sector expanded in February as it delivered the strongest output growth since June 2019, according to S&P Global’s purchasing managers’ index report.

The analysis saw the Middle Eastern country given a PMI standing of 57.1 – up from 56.6 in January – with increased new business, more robust client activity, and intensified marketing and development efforts contributing to this growth.

A PMI above 50 indicates that the sector is expanding, while below that number suggests contraction.

Meanwhile, business activity in Egypt’s non-oil private sector declined at the sharpest rate in just over a year, with the PMI dropping from 48.1 in January to 47.1 in February, according to S&P Global Egypt PMI. This marked the lowest level in 11 months and is weaker than the survey’s long-run trend.

The drop in activity can be attributed to several factors, including the worsening foreign exchange crisis as the sharp decline in Suez Canal trade due to Red Sea shipping disruptions exacerbated shortages of the US dollar and other foreign currencies. 

This, in turn, led to substantial increases in purchasing costs and contributed to the most significant lengthening of supplier delivery times since June 2022.

“Red Sea shipping disruption has roughly halved Suez Canal revenues so far in 2024, which February PMI survey data indicated had a considerable impact on foreign currency inflows and inflationary pressures,” said Senior Economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, David Owen.

Supply chain disruptions from Red Sea shipment issues were also a challenge to the UAE private sector, leading to input delivery delays and a backlog of work. However, according to the report, supplier performance remained generally positive, with prompt input distribution when requested.

“One of the PMI’s largest components, the output index, rose to its highest level since June 2019, pointing to a rapid expansion of business activity ... capacity pressures were apparent, however, with backlogs of work rising at their fastest pace in nearly four years, as Red Sea shipping disruption fed through into transport delays,” Owen commented.

Consequently, hiring activity accelerated to manage workloads and address backlog growth, increasing employment levels at the fastest rate since May 2023, as reported.

While overall input costs rose in the UAE, driven by increases in material prices and wages, firms opted for price cuts. This strategy was aimed at retaining market share, often achieved through offering discounts to clients, according to the report.

In contrast, Egyptian companies opted to transfer increased purchase costs to customers, resulting in a sharp increase in selling charges, the most significant in 13 months. Consequently, new orders experienced the fastest decline since March 2023, particularly in domestic sales facing mounting price pressures.

Heightened inflationary pressures, particularly in wages, were noted as Egyptian firms raised salaries in response to the cost-of-living crisis. Consequently, there was a decrease in hiring activity within the non-oil private sector in the first quarter, with recent data indicating a slight decline in workforce numbers, according to the report.


China boosts defense spending as regional disputes heat up

China boosts defense spending as regional disputes heat up
Updated 05 March 2024
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China boosts defense spending as regional disputes heat up

China boosts defense spending as regional disputes heat up
  • China has the world’s second-largest defense budget behind the United States
  • China’s military spending makes up 1.6 percent of GDP, far less than United States 

China announced Tuesday it would boost its defense spending in 2024, as hostility over Taiwan and in the South China Sea grows.

The 7.2 percent increase, identical to last year’s figure, was announced at the start of the annual meeting of the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC).

China will spend 1.665 trillion yuan ($231.4 billion) on defense in 2024, according to the budget report that lays out the government’s financial plans for the year ahead.

China has the world’s second-largest defense budget behind the United States, even though the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) surpasses the US military by number of personnel.

Still, China’s military spend is around three times smaller than Washington’s in recent years.

The world’s second-largest economy will maintain “reasonable growth” in its defense budget to “safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests,” NPC spokesman Lou Qinjian said Monday.

'Viewed with suspicion'

Soldiers of People's Liberation Army (PLA) march in formation during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China, on October 1, 2019. (REUTERS)

The country’s expenditure on its armed forces has been on the rise for decades, broadly in line with economic growth.

China’s military spending makes up 1.6 percent of its GDP, far less than the United States or Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

But its defense expansion is viewed with suspicion by Washington, as well as other powers in the region including Japan, with which Beijing has a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea.

China has also increasingly flexed its muscles in the South China Sea, which it claims almost entirely despite an international arbitration ruling that declared its stance baseless.

China’s boost in spending is also a cause for concern for self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing says is part of its territory to be claimed by force if necessary.

As the NPC kicked off on Tuesday, the government work report said China would again “resolutely oppose separatist activities aimed at ‘Taiwan independence’” in 2024.

'Biggest challenge to NATO'

China also says it is worried about cooperation between its regional rivals and the United States, as well as NATO.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in January that China was the “biggest long term challenge NATO Allies face.”

“We see them in Africa, we see them in the Arctic, we see them trying to control our critical infrastructure,” he added.

China made “a number of significant acquisitions, including a substantial increase in number of nuclear warheads” last year, James Char, an expert on the Chinese army at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, told AFP.

According to Sipri, Beijing had 410 nuclear warheads in 2023, an increase of 60 from the year before.

However, that still significantly lags behind Washington’s 3,708 and Moscow’s 4,489.

Moreover, “recent military corruption scandals raise doubts about the effectiveness of (Beijing’s) missile force and overall military professionalism,” said Adam Ni, editor of China Neican, a newsletter on Chinese current affairs.

Over the course of the last year there has been a leadership overhaul of China’s Rocket Force — the army unit that oversees its nuclear arsenal — following media reports of a graft probe involving its former chief.

Among a slew of other dismissals, former defense minister Li Shangfu was sacked without explanation last October after just a few months in the job.

'US still top dog'

Corruption needs to be tackled if President Xi Jinping’s “goal of displacing the US armed forces as the world’s pre-eminent military power” is to be realized, said NTU’s Char.

For the time being, Washington remains firmly in the top spot.

The United States has the world’s highest military spending, according to Sipri — standing at $877 billion in 2022, the latest figures available.

China comes second, followed by Russia and India.

The United States also has “global presence and alliance networks, which China cannot replicate in the short term,” said Neican’s Ni.

Washington has hundreds of military bases abroad, while Beijing has just one, in Djibouti.

“Given the PLA’s shortcomings — — particularly in combined arms and joint operations -— it stands to reason that Beijing possesses neither the wherewithal nor the desire to initiate conflict against Washington or launch an invasion across the Taiwan Strait,” said Char.

“A lingering concern, however, is that aggressive interactions between the PLA and other militaries in the region carry the potential to go awry and escalate into a full-blown conflict.”