Nations inch towards climate deal at marathon UN summit in Poland

Janek Skarzynski, AFP | Participants pose for a picture during the final session of the COP24 summit on climate change in Katowice, Poland, on December 14, 2018.

|AIWA! NO!|Nations on Saturday inched towards a deal to implement the Paris climate goals, after all-night negotiations to hammer out a plan to limit global temperature rises exposed a range of conflicts.

A senior negotiator told AFP at the COP24 summit in Poland that delegates from nearly 200 nations had reached a “landing zone” of agreement.

But sources close to the talks said differences remained stark on the issues of ambition, how the climate fight is funded and how best to measure and ensure the fairness of each nation’s efforts to reduce emissions.

Delegates at the UN summit, held this year in the Polish mining city of Katowice, must agree on a common rule book to put the pledges nations made in the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord into practice.

This means all countries, rich and poor alike, must agree to action that will cap global temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and stave off the worst effects of planetary warming, and to a safer cap of 1.5C if possible.

The final draft decision text has been repeatedly delayed as negotiators seek to form guidelines that are effective in slashing emissions while protecting the economies of rich and poor nations alike.

“I think we have a landing zone. It is a compromise,” Gebru Jember Endalew, chair of the Least Developed Countries negotiating group, told AFP.

“It is a bit difficult to compromise when there are 190-plus countries.”

At the heart of the matter is how each nation funds action to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as how those actions are reported.

Developing nations want more clarity from richer ones over how the future climate fight will be funded and have been pushing for so-called “loss and damage” measures.

This would see richer countries giving money now to help deal with the effects of climate change many vulnerable states are already experiencing.

Brazilian villain?

Another contentious issue concerns the integrity of carbon markets, looking ahead to the day when the patchwork of distinct exchanges — in China, the Europe Union, parts of the United States — may be joined up in a global system.

“To tap that potential, you have to get the rules right,” said Alex Hanafi, lead counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund in the United States. “One of those key rules — which is the bedrock of carbon markets — is no double counting of emissions reductions.”

The Paris Agreement calls for setting up a mechanism to guard against practices that could undermine such a market, but finding a solution has proved so problematic that the debate may get kicked down the road to next year.

Some observers cast Brazil as the villain, with several sources accusing it of seeking to muddy the date by which the provisions should enter into force.

“There are still a range of possible outcomes and Brazil continues to work constructively with other parties to find a workable pathway forward,” Brazil’s chief negotiator J. Antonio Marcondes told AFP.

‘A deal within reach’

Another stumbling block could be how ambitious countries are in their renewed pledges ahead of a 2020 stock-take of the Paris deal’s progress.

Most nations wanted the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to form a key part of future planning. It highlighted the need for greenhouse gas emissions to be slashed to nearly half by 2030 in order to hit the 1.5C target.

But the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected, leading to watered down wording.

The European Union’s climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete on Saturday morning tweeted a photo of himself poring over the draft decision text from the talks — which were meant to wrap up Friday — submitted by host Poland.

“A deal to make the #ParisAgreement operational is within reach,” he said.


UK CHRISTMAS Shopping; Stores slashing prices by 80% as Brexit hits the high street

Cash-strapped stores have continued their Black Friday sales through the Christmas period over fears Brexit could have an impact on the retail market.

|KATE BUCK, METRO|AIWA! NO!|Some shops have made reductions of up to 80% to ensure shoppers go through their doors and spend their hard-earned money. Price tracking of more than 800,000 products have shown the average discount of sale items is around 44%.

A male clothing shop in the last week of a closing down sale on Oxford Street, London, United Kingdom. The recent recession has forced many shop closures, especially small and independent shops. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Some shops have made reductions of up to 80% to ensure shoppers go through their doors and spend their hard earned money (Picture: Getty)

Retail analysts also expect there to be a 4% fall in the number of shoppers compared to last year. Diane Wehrle, from retail experts Springboard, said: ‘There has been more discounting this year by retailers, Black Friday was not a success and there is low consumer confidence because of the maelstrom of Brexit.’

She added that the average discount amount will come to around 52% from Boxing Day. Expert Richard Hyman told the Daily Mail: ‘We don’t want to blame Brexit for too much. But the inescapable truth is that it is definitely having an impact. ‘Christmas 2018 will come very late, and fail to deliver the respite many in the industry need. Most retailers will enter 2019 with less fat than needed to see them through the weakest trading period of the year. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.’

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2018/11/23: Shoppers are seen at the H&M shop taking advantage of the Black Friday deals that many high street stores are offering. A very busy Black Friday on London's Oxford Street. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Experts have said there is lack of consumer confidence because of Brexit (Picture: PA) 

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, who this year bought House of Fraser out of administration, has taken the decision to close a number of the stores and has warned that Debenhams will not be able to survive without an injection of cash. Bon Marche issued a profits warning this week, and Primark has warned of tough trading conditions.

Household names such as Next, Laura Ashley, Hobbs, and Argos are currently all promoting clearance stock and winter sales in the run up to the festive season.

British yellow vest protesters demanding ‘true Brexit’ plan ‘day of action’ in London

DISRUPTION: Protesters brought traffic to a standstill on Tower Bridge on Friday (Pic: RPMAIN)
DISRUPTION: Protesters brought traffic to a standstill on Tower Bridge on Friday (Pic: RPMAIN)

EUROSCEPTIC protesters demanding a “true Brexit” are planning to descend on London for a “day of action” in unison with the yellow vest demonstrations sweeping France.

Joshua Nevett, DAILY START|AIWA! NO!|Pro-Brexit campaigners are urging fellow protesters to “bring your vest and join us” at 1pm on Parliament Square for demonstrations against the “Westminster elite”.

A Facebook event hosted by activist James Goddard includes a rallying cry to “make history” by occupying central London after bringing “mass rebellion to the capital” on Friday. 

Hundreds of people have shown interest in attending the event which has been widely shared on social media by blogs carrying posts about grooming gangs and right-wing activist Tommy Robinson.

The event organisers appear to be linked with the protesters who stormed three bridges – Westminster Bridge, Tower Bridge and Waterloo Bridge – in central London on Friday. 

A group of around 60 demonstrators gathered outside the Houses of Parliament before blocking vehicles from passing on London Bridge. 

After being ushered away by police, their next target was Downing Street, where they chanted pro-Brexit songs and “you’re not British anymore”.

Protesters then brought traffic to a standstill on Tower Bridge, where they had heated verbal exchanges with pedestrians and motorists. 

Demonstrators, some of whom waving placards with pro-Brexit messages, later amassed outside the Royal Courts of Justice and then Waterloo Bridge. 

The group, which calls itself “Fighting for Justice”, was established in response to the deaths of teeagers George Wilkinson, Josh McGuinness and Harry Rice.

The EU has a simple message on the Brexit deal: Like it or lump it

Jean-Claude Juncker has described the prime minister as “nebulous and imprecise” as she tries to seek assurances on the backstop.

Mr Juncker has called Theresa May a woman of 'great courage'
Image:Mr Juncker has called Theresa May a woman of ‘great courage’

‘You called me nebulous!’: Theresa May angrily confronts Jean-Claude Juncker

Sky News
Brexit blow for Theresa May as EU leaders say there will be no renegotiation

Sky NewsBrexit blow for Theresa May as EU leaders say there will be no renegotiation

Dominic Waghorn, Diplomatic editor, Sky News|AIWA! NO!|There was plenty of distracting detail in this summit.

A spat about the word “nebulous” and a tense Juncker-May encounter played out for the cameras.

But in terms of substance? This summit added up to one simple message from the EU: The deal is the deal.

It is what it is.

Like it or lump it and accept the consequences.

May came here hoping to be thrown a bone – some diplomatic slack she could take home with her to persuade MPs to drag her deal across the line.

Video:Watch: May and Juncker face off in Brussels

There was, according to some reports, a draft conclusion agreed between the EU and the UK giving the PM some politically comforting words.

They would have included a promise to carry on working towards assurances on the agreement.

And there would be an acknowledgement that no one believes the use of the Irish border backstop is a “desirable outcome”.

But those lines, innocuous as they were, were ripped out, according to some reports because the Dutch, French and Belgians feared they would only encourage the Brexiteers to ask for more.

Video:May on ‘robust’ discussion with Juncker

Others claim the final conclusions were hardened because the prime minister did an appalling job persuading European leaders she had a plan to get them all out of the unholy mess they are all now in.

But whatever the details, the outcome of this summit remains the same.

The withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated.

Work will go on towards seeking assurances about the backstop, but it will be cosmetic.

By day’s end there were warm words from Mr Juncker and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk.

At the closing press conference they paid tribute to the prime minister’s courage and said they remained at her disposal.

But they were sugaring the pill.

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker at the summit in Brussels
Image:Mrs May and Jean-Claude Juncker at the summit in Brussels

Mrs May goes home with nothing substantial to show for her mad dash around Europe.

At some point soon probably next month, she may have to say: “I have run out of options, here is the deal, hold your noses and vote for it, or risk losing everything.”

That jeopardy will not be the same for everyone.

For Brexiteers the risk will be events moving towards a second referendum and Brexit never happening.Force leaders to debate on TVMore than 120,000 people have signed the petition – have you?

The rest will fear the clock running out and a “no-deal” Brexit happening by default.

EU leaders have used this summit deliberately to raise those stakes.

One source told The Times: “We want all parties and factions in the British parliament to feel the bleak mid-winter.”

In other words, Brussels is deliberately blowing a chill wind through Westminster hoping it will concentrate the minds of MPs and get them behind the deal or else.

Plenty for our politicians to mull over this Christmas.

‘Mayhem’ & ‘Revolution’ If Brexit Not Delivered – Yellow Vests UK Protesters Say

'Yellow Vests' protesters in London

|AIWA! NO!|Yellow vest-wearing activists took to the streets of London on Friday, blocking traffic and chanting pro-Brexit slogans. They spoke about their mistrust in politicians and hopes for a clean exit from the European Union.

An activist told Sputnik they voted for Brexit because they wanted to reclaim control of their own country.

“We don’t want to be part of the federal European superstate that’s going to erode our rights and take away democracy. This is Britain. We are not European. We have never been European. This is our land and we are taking it back. If the political class don’t like it, they will see a revolution like they’ve never seen before. It is time to take up the spirit of Oliver Cromwell, rise up and reclaim what’s rightfully ours,” a protester said.

Inspired by the recent “gilet jaunes” movement in France, the London protest saw activists on Friday protest outside Downing Street, as well as Westminster Bridge, Tower Bridge and London Bridge.

They warned they were not going anywhere and were determined to support the Brexit cause among others.

“The yellow vests is just a start. This will spread out to the whole country,” an activist said.

'Yellow Vests' protesters in London

© PHOTO : EVGENIA FILIMIANOVA’Yellow Vests’ protesters in London

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May battles for concessions on the current Brexit withdrawal deal in Brussels, prompted by deep mistrust and opposition in the UK Parliament.

READ MORE: ‘Robust Discussions’ With EU But London Prepping for No Deal — PM May at Presser

During a press conference on Friday, the PM confirmed Downing Street is also making preparations for a no-deal scenario.

“We don’t want the deal. Dump the deal. No deal Brexit but trading under World Trade Organization terms. Our fishing industry was decimated by the European Union. We have seen mass migration. We’ve the outsourcing of all of our factories going into the EU. We can’t have this anymore. This country is being raped and pillaged. It is time we stood up for what we believed in,” an activist told Sputnik.

Speaking about the possibility of a second referendum on the nature of the deal, another activist said:

“If there is a second referendum, there will be mayhem. We will make sure that the polling stations are unreachable. The will of the people has to be respected. If it isn’t — you will see riots that make riots in France seem like nothing.”

Global funding for tuberculosis research hits all-time high

But investment still falls short of the US$2 billion needed each year to eliminate the disease by 2030.

Lab assistant pours liquid in a P3 level tuberculosis laboratory in 2010
Scientists say we are at a promising moment in TB research globally.Credit: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Munyaradzi Makoni, nature|AIWA! NO!|Global spending on tuberculosis research hit a high in 2017, according to a report released on 3 December1.

Investment reached US$772 million, up from $726 million in 2016, says the report, from the activist organization Treatment Action Group (TAG) in New York City.

The report, which tracked funding since 2005, shows that investment has gone up and down over the years, with a general upward trend.

The 2017 total is the most spent on research into tuberculosis (TB) in a year, according to the data, but it still falls short of the $2 billion a year that the TB research community says is needed to end the disease by 2030 (see ‘Tuberculosis funding shortfall’). That target is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and part of the World Health Organization Global Plan to End TB.

The rise in funding comes at a time when the disease remains prevalent but science is generating new hope. “We’re at an incredibly promising moment in TB research globally,” says Mike Frick, TB project co-director for TAG.

Source: Treatment Action Group

Around 25% of the world’s population — 1.8 billion people — is infected with TB, the World Health Organization estimates. In 2017 alone, some 10 million people fell ill with the disease, and 1.6 million died.

TB is treated with antibiotics, but health officials say that new treatments are urgently needed for children, as are better and shorter treatments for drug-resistant strains of TB and improved drugs for people living with both HIV and TB.

These treatments might be on the horizon. “Our understanding of the basic biology of TB has also advanced considerably thanks to investments in TB basic science,” says Frick.

For example, Frick notes that last year saw promising results from a vaccine trial and from trials of drugs intended to tackle drug-resistant TB and prevent the disease in people with HIV. And there has been progress in the development of simple tools to diagnose TB, including one that uses a urine dipstick, he says.

Poor market interest

Most of the $46-million increase in 2017 was driven by funding from the public sector. The US government was the largest investor, putting in $312 million. Unitaid, an global initiative that raises money for innovations in health diagnoses and treatments, nearly doubled its investment from $15 million in 2016 to $29 million in 2017.

Private-sector funding has risen slightly, but is at its lowest level since 2009. “We continued to see low funding from private industry, which collectively has spent less than $100 million on TB research each year since 2013,” Frick says.

This shows that there is a need for innovative ways of financing to reach the necessary funding levels. “We need to make sure that a commitment to provide more money for research comes with a commitment to doing research differently — moving beyond the market-based system that hasn’t worked for TB,” he says.

More funding could lead to improved vaccination, diagnosis and treatments, says Adrie Steyn, a molecular geneticist at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa.

Christoph Grundner, a biologist at the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Washington in Seattle, agrees. “TB research is still vastly underfunded,” he says. “A lot of really good and promising TB research is not being done or is done too slowly just because of lack of funding.” He thinks that the public sector should step in to plug the gap.

An earlier version of the TAG report was released in September to inform the first ever high-level meeting of the UN on TB, where UN member states committed to closing the $1.3-billion annual gap in funding.

Marine Le Pen Offers Hardline Solution to France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ Crisis

Protesters build a barricade during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris

The last time France’s National Assembly was dissolved was over twenty years ago, but Le Pen claims that now is the time for action as France is suffering from violence unseen in years. Emmanuel Macron decision to increase fuel taxes stirred tensions in the country; the president stood by it, angering protesters and provoking clashes with police.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s right-wing National Rally party, proposed to dissolve the lower chamber of the French Parliament and hold new parliamentary elections amid the ongoing massive protests against rising fuel prices.

“It is necessary to implement proportional representation and dissolve the National Assembly in order to hold new proportional elections,” she said in an interview with TV channel France 3 which aired on Sunday, adding that the authorities have no choice in the current situation.

The Assembly has not been dissolved since April 1997, when Jacques Chirac made the move in a bid to seek support for his conservative economic programme.

Le Pen, who lost to Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the 2017 presidential election, chastised the President for his insufficient response to the protests, which have been stirring unrest in France for over two weeks. “We are the best in policing the world,” she said. “In this case, we’ve been very bad.”

READ MORE: Macron Has Shown ‘High-Level of Arrogance in His Presidency’ – Political Blogger

Nearly 36,000 protesters, including some 5,500 in Paris alone, took to the streets on Saturday, angry over Macron’s proposal to increase fuel tax rates. Thousands of police officers were deployed to contain the protests.

Paris police repeatedly used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd. The capital’s officials reported, as quoted by AP, that a total of 133 people were injured during the riot and 412 were arrested. The French authorities indicated that they could introduce a state of emergency to quell the unrest.

Yellow vests protests in Paris, December 1, 2018.

© SPUTNIK /‘Yellow Vests’ Set Building on Fire Near Champs Elysees, New Incidents Possible (VIDEO)

Protests against raising taxes on fuel flared up in France in mid-November. Participants of the demonstrations call themselves “Yellow Vests” — the name is derived from the high-vis capes for motorists that the protestors are wearing.

In late 2017, the French government approved the decision to raise a national direct tax on diesel fuel, which is the most popular type of fuel in the country. Diesel prices in France have risen by around 23 percent since the beginning of the year, while petrol prices have gone up 15 percent. Prices are set to increase further in January.

President Emmanuel Macron stressed, commenting on the protests, that he would not revise his decision on the fuel price hike. He harshly condemned the violence and pledged to bring perpetrators to justice.