COP26 - Biggest Climate Change Summit

With Climate change and related weather disasters being more common and rising today, the annual COP26 Climate Change Summit that begins tomorrow in Glasgow, Scotland, will see the international approach and necessary action to bring down greenhouse gas emissions to keep the global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius due to climate change.

This is the biggest climate summit since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. It comes at a pivotal moment for the planet as the countries and companies hope to move to a fossil-fuel-free economy.

It will seek to address the burning of fossil fuels that add carbon dioxide and other gasses to the atmosphere, due to which the Earth’s temperature has already gone up an estimated 2 degrees F, or 1.1 degrees C.

World leaders will gather in Glasgow for this summit – the meeting of 197 countries that have agreed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, originally adopted in 1992. It is held to assess how well nations are dealing with climate change.

About 20,000 people will be attending the formal talks – including government representatives, scientists and policy experts. Aside from hundreds of world political leaders, many other well-known names related to combating climate change will attend this event, with large numbers of climate change protesters too.

Queen Elizabeth II of the UK who was scheduled to attend the summit, as Head of State of the UK, having much interest in Climate Change will not attend due to recent health conditions, but will make a virtual address to the summit.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will play a key role at the summit, as the leader of the host county. Among the many other leaders to attend are President Joe Biden (US), PM Mario Draghi (Italy), President Emmanuel Macron (France), PM Justin Trudeau (Canada), PM Scott Morrison (Australia), PM Naftali Bennett (Israel), President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), PM Stefan Lofven (Switzerland).

Notable by their absence will be Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has said he will be unable to attend, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who has also expressed support for the summit.

National Climate Plans – too low

India’s Supreme Court

National plans to cut carbon fall far short of what’s needed to avert dangerous climate change, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Their Emissions Gap report says country pledges will fail to keep the global temperature under 1.5C this century. The UNEP analysis suggests the world is on course to warm around 2.7C with hugely destructive impacts.

But there is hope that, if long term net-zero goals are met, temperatures can be significantly reined in.

Just a few days before COP26 opens in Glasgow, another scientific report on climate change is “another thundering wake-up call”, according to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.

Now in its 12th year, this Emissions Gap report looks at the nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) or carbon-cutting plans that countries have submitted to the UN ahead of COP.

These pledges run up to 2030 and have been submitted by 120 countries. UNEP has also taken account of other commitments to cut warming gases not yet formally submitted in an NDC. The report finds that when added together, the plans cut greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by around 7.5% compared to the previous pledges made five years ago.

This is nowhere near enough to keep the 1.5C temperature threshold within sight, say the scientists who compiled the study.

To keep 1.5C alive would require 55% cuts by the same 2030 date. That means the current plans would need to have seven times the level of ambition to remain under that limit.

“To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions: eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “The clock is ticking loudly.”

According to the authors, the current pledges would see the world warm by 2.7C this century, a scenario that Antonio Guterres calls a “climate catastrophe”.

He believes the report highlights the failures of political leaders. “The emissions gap is the result of a leadership gap,” he said at the launch of the study. “But leaders can still make this a turning point to a greener future instead of a tipping point to climate catastrophe.”

As Mr. Guterres suggests, there are some hopeful signs in the report. Around 50 countries plus the EU have pledged a net zero target for the middle of this century.

These strategies cover over half of greenhouse gas emissions.

The UNEP analysis finds that if these plans were implemented fully, this could shave 0.5C off the temperature rise by 2100. This would bring the global temperature level down to 2.2C, which would see dramatic and deadly impacts from warming but would be a step in the right direction from where the world is currently headed.

India – Protection of Freedom

India’s Supreme Court Chief has expressed particular concern about the protection of journalistic freedom, and that the State should not create an atmosphere that has a “chilling effect” on freedom of the Press.

It has said that every citizen has a “reasonable right to privacy, choices, liberties and freedom”. Technology is useful, but it cannot be used to take away freedoms or launch a cyberattack on privacy.

The SC has appointed an independent expert technical committee overseen by a former apex court judge, to examine allegations that the government used an Israeli spyware, Pegasus, to snoop on its own citizens.

Noting that the snooping allegations are ‘grave’ and truth should be out, a Bench led by the Chief Justice of India, asked the committee to submit its report ‘expeditiously’. The next hearing will be in eight weeks.

The court said it did not want to wander into any ‘political thicket’ but India cannot remain mute in the face of the allegations, when other countries across the globe have taken them seriously and kick started efforts to know the truth.

The reasons which compelled the court to form this committee include reports that the snooping exercise had widely impacted the rights to privacy and freedom of speech of ordinary citizens. The Court said it could not just stand there and ignore allegations that Pegasus affected the individual rights of the citizenry as a whole.

The Supreme Court highlighted in its order about how the government refused to take a ‘clear stand’ on whether the allegations were true or not. Even repeated suggestions made by the Court to file a detailed affidavit in response to the allegations produced no effect on the government, which had ended up filing a two-page affidavit “providing no light” and, and, at the very most, a “vague denial”, when the first allegations of Pegasus snooping surfaced two years ago.

“There was no specific denial of the allegations by the Union of India…Had the Union of India made its stand clear, there would have been less burden on the Court”, CJ Justice Ramana said.

The Court dismissed the state’s apprehension that any disclosure whatsoever on the Pegasus issue would affect national security.

Chief Justice Ramana, and two Justices, said the government cannot get a “free pass” citing the ‘bugbear’ of violation of national security, when constitutional rights of the citizens were at stake. The government cannot merely evoke ‘national security’ to stonewall judicial review. There cannot be an omnibus denial of information. A balance has to be struck between cherished liberties and “necessary” surveillance by the State to protect the citizens’ liberties.

Brazil – Bolsonaro

A Senate committee in Brazil has voted to recommend that President Jair Bolsonaro face charges over his handling of the COVID pandemic.

Seven of the panel’s 11 members backed a report calling for nine charges to be filed against Mr. Bolsonaro, including crimes against humanity.

Mr. Bolsonaro has maintained he is “guilty of absolutely nothing”.

More than 600,000 people in Brazil are confirmed to have died from COVID, second only to the death toll in the United States.

The report alleges that Mr. Bolsonaro’s government pursued a policy of allowing the coronavirus to rip through the country in the hope of achieving herd immunity. He is accused of misusing public funds and spreading fake news about the pandemic.

In addition to crimes against humanity, the senate committee has recommended charging him with eight other infractions, including incitement to crime, falsification of documents and the violation of social rights.

The 1,300-page report also recommended bringing charges against two corporations and 77 other people, including three of the president’s adult sons.

Following the announcement, Senator Renan Calheiros, the centrist politician who was the report’s lead author, said that the “chaos of Jair Bolsonaro’s government will enter history as the lowest level of human destitution”.

The vote concludes a six-month inquiry which has revealed scandals and corruption inside Brazil’s government.

Throughout the process, Mr. Bolsonaro has insisted that his government “did the right thing from the first moment” of the pandemic and his allies have been quick to dismiss Tuesday’s recommendations as being driven entirely by “political and electoral” motivations.

Social activists report that for many, it’s too little, too late – the families of more than 600,000 people who died from the virus will want to know where this inquiry will lead. Will Bolsonaro have to stand up in court to defend his actions?

The inquiry’s president Omar Aziz said the federal prosecutor had a duty to investigate the evidence gathered these past few months – but not everyone thinks justice will be done.

ASEAN Summit – No Myanmar

Southeast Asian leaders kicked off an ASEAN summit Tuesday but Myanmar refused to send a representative after being angered by the bloc’s decision to exclude the country’s junta chief.

The virtual gathering marked the start of three days of meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with US President Joe Biden as well as Chinese and Russian leaders set to attend.

Myanmar topped the agenda of Tuesday’s talks between regional leaders, with the country still in chaos following February’s military takeover and the subsequent deadly crackdown on dissent.

Facing calls to defuse the crisis, ASEAN, which includes Myanmar, has drawn up a roadmap aimed at restoring peace but there have been doubts over the junta’s commitment to the plan.

Its refusal to let a special envoy meet ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi prompted the bloc to exclude junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from this week’s summit.

The coup snuffed out Myanmar’s short-lived experiment with democracy, with Nobel laureate Suu Kyi now facing a raft of charges in a junta court that could see her jailed for decades.

Min Aung Hlaing’s exclusion was an unprecedented snub from an organisation often criticised for being toothless, and was slammed by the junta as a breach of the bloc’s policy of non-interference in member states’ affairs.

The 10-member group had invited Chan Aye, director-general of the junta-appointed Foreign Affairs Ministry, in the chief’s place.

But a junta spokesman said Monday that sending a more junior figure could “affect our country’s sovereignty and image”, and no Myanmar representative was present at the opening of the virtual summit.

Aaron Connelly, a Southeast Asia expert from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the decision to bar the junta chief was “tremendously significant”…”It is the most significant sanction that ASEAN has ever handed to a member state, and it is in direct response to the non-compliance that we have seen from the (junta),” he told a panel discussion.

But observers think it unlikely the bloc will go further, such as by suspending Myanmar, and see little chance of decisions at this week’s meetings that could prompt a change of course from the junta.

While member states including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have pushed for the bloc to take action, others with more authoritarian governments have been less vocal.

It is the first time in four years that a US president has attended the ASEAN summits, as Biden seeks to rally support in the region against a rising China.

Sudan – Military Coup

As the UN, The European Union and many African countries opposed the coup d’etat in Sudan, the African Union has said it suspended Sudan from all its activities after the country’s military overthrew the civilian-led transitional government in a coup.

The pan-African body said the suspension would be in place until “the effective restoration” of the transitional authority steering the country towards elections.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Tuesday for the immediate release of Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. He “must be released immediately”, Guterres said as the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the putsch in Sudan.

Sudan’s military seized control of the country in a coup on Monday, arresting the prime minister and other civilian leaders. The country’s transitional sovereign council has been dissolved and the military has declared a state of emergency.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, now the country’s de facto leader, said the military still supports a transition to democracy and will appoint a technocratic government before elections take place in July 2023. Nonetheless, at least seven people were shot dead and 140 wounded as pro-democracy protesters took to the streets.

Following an April 2019 coup that toppled longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, Sudan has spent the past two-and-a-half years with a transitional government led by both civilian and military leaders. The power-sharing arrangement, though, came under growing pressure after a failed military coup on Sept. 21. Thousands had been participating in competing street protests between those supporting the transitional authorities and others calling for a return to military rule.

Security Forces have used live bullets to disperse protesters who were trying to reach the Army Headquarters. The demonstrators burned tyres in the streets, as seen in videos published on social networks, despite heavy internet disruptions. At least three people were killed by gunshot wounds in the crackdown, and more than 80 were wounded.

As the protests continue, the PM Hamdok has been allowed to return home. The release of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and his wife followed international condemnation of the coup and calls for the military to release all the government officials who were detained when Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan seized power on Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok late on Tuesday and welcomed his release from custody, the US State Department said. Blinken reiterated his call on Sudanese military forces to release all civilian leaders in detention, the State Department said in a statement.

The European Union threatened Tuesday to suspend financial support for Sudan if the military does not immediately return the civilian government to power. ..”This attempt to undermine Sudan’s transition to democracy is unacceptable. If the situation is not reversed immediately, there will be serious consequences for the EU’s commitment, including its financial support,” EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell warned in a statement.

Sudanese ambassadors to 12 countries, including the United States, the United Arab Emirates, China, and France, have rejected Monday’s military takeover, a diplomatic source told Reuters.

The President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, and Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), condemned Monday’s military coup in Sudan, stressing that this was “not the African way” to deal with differences.

Russia has said that external interference could exacerbate the situation in Sudan following the military takeover.

As the international community has called for detained Prime Minister Hamdock and other Sudanese officials to be released, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week criticised the “shortcomings” of the transitional civilian government.

US – China: Telecom clash

The US communications regulator has voted to revoke China Telecom’s licence in America over national security concerns in the latest pushback by Washington against what it deems possible infiltration of key networks by Chinese companies.

The decision by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) means China Telecom Americas must now discontinue US services within 60 days. China Telecom, the largest Chinese telecommunications company, has had authorization to provide telecommunications services for nearly 20 years in the United States.

The FCC found that China Telecom “is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government’s requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight”.

The regulator added that Chinese government ownership and control “raise significant national security and law enforcement risks by providing opportunities” for the company and the Chinese government “to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications”.

In response, a China Telecom America spokesperson said the FCC’s decision was “disappointing” and that it would “pursue all available options while continuing to serve our customers”.

Former US President Donald Trump in 2019 declared a national emergency to ban technology from “foreign adversaries” and subjected the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei to strict export controls. In May 2019, the FCC banned another state-owned Chinese telecommunications company, China Mobile, from providing US services.

Trump then successfully brought pressure on American allies such as the UK and Australia to follow suit and ban Huawei from their 5G networks.

China Telecom served more than 335 million subscribers worldwide as of 2019 and claims to be the largest fixed line and broadband operator in the world, according to a Senate report. It also provides services to Chinese government facilities in the United States.

– Daily News Sri Lanka

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