Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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BEIJING – China and the US agreed ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement, with Beijing setting a goal for its emissions to peak “around 2030”.

It is the first time China — the world’s biggest polluter — has set a date, even approximate, for its emissions to stop increasing, and the White House said China would “try to peak early”.

At the same time the US set a goal to cut its own emissions of the gases blamed for climate change by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

The declaration came as President Barack Obama met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for talks in Beijing.

China will look to “increase the non-fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20 percent by 2030”, the White House said. The proportion stood at 10 percent last year, Chinese officials have previously said.

Scientists argue that drastic measures must be taken if the world is to limit global warming to the UN’s target of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, and failing to do so could have disastrous results.

China and the US, which together produce around 45 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide, will be key to ensuring that a global deal on reducing emissions after 2020 is reached in Paris next year.

The two countries have long been at loggerheads over global targets, with each saying the other should bear more responsibility for cutting emissions of gases blamed for heating up the atmosphere.

Wednesday’s promises are equally fraught with challenges.

While the US — which never ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change — has pledged to cut emissions in the past, goals have shifted or been missed altogether.

Its greenhouse gas emissions increased last year, despite Washington setting emissions reduction goals during a climate summit in 2009.

The deadline for Obama’s new pledge is in more than a decade’s time but he only has two years left in his presidency and faces a Congress controlled by opposition Republicans in both houses, which will make passing crucial environmental legislation more difficult.

Much of his action on climate change so far has been done with executive orders rather than co-operation from an often confrontational legislature.

While it was the first time China agreed to a target date for emissions to peak — officials have previously only spoken of doing so “as soon as possible” — the commitment was qualified, leaving considerable room for manoeuvre.

China has trumpeted its efforts to reduce dependence on coal and oil in the past, and is the world’s largest hydropower producer, with a growing nuclear sector.

But economic growth remains a vitally important priority and has seen demand for energy soar.

The European Union pledged last month to reduce emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

But efforts to make meaningful progress on climate change will by stymied unless the US sets “a concrete and ambitious” goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, Connie Hedegaard, EU climate commissioner, said in October.

The EU accounts for 11 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 16 percent for the United States and 29 percent for China.

Prayut asks world leaders for more time

Posted by pakin On November - 12 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has briefed world leaders including the US and Russian presidents about political developments in Thailand and asked them for time to implement reforms before they make any judgements on his administration.

“I thanked US President Barack Obama for his concern about Thailand and I told him my government would do its best (for national reform),” Gen Prayut said. “I told Russian President Vladimir Putin that order had been restored in Thailand.”

“I told all the leaders that Thailand was relatively peaceful now,” he said.

Gen Prayut said he explained the political situation in Thailand to these and many other leaders at the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing during brief discussions.

The leaders, specifically including presidents Obama and Putin had expressed concerns about the situation in Thailand, he told the Thai News Agency.

He said they asked whether the situation in Thailand had returned to normal.

“The leaders asked about the situation in the country and I replied the political atmosphere was improving but we need more time to implement reforms,” Gen Prayut said.

Mr Obama and Mr Putin expressed their concerns during brief conversations. The Russian president also asked for updates on reform progress, Gen Prayut said.

“I responded to President Obama by thanking him and assuring him that we are doing our best. Mr Putin asked if the situation had returned to normal and I replied that all is in order,” the prime minister said.

The premier also revealed that his Chinese and Japanese counterparts — Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — had promised to lift travel warnings on Thailand. The countries issued the travel warnings soon after the military coup on May 22.

More than 50 countries have issued travel warnings to their citizens about travelling to Thailand since the coup, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry recently said at least six countries had lifted their warnings. Political unrest, the imposition of martial law and the coup have hit the tourism sector in the last year.

Tourists from China and Japan accounted for 23% of 26 million foreign visitors to Thailand last year, according to the Tourism Department. About three million Chinese tourists visited Thailand in the first nine months of this year, a 17% drop year-on-year.

MOSCOW – Russia on Wednesday offered to help the United States with deliveries to the International Space Station after an unmanned American supply rocket exploded on lift-off.

“If a request is made for the urgent delivery of any American supplies to the ISS with the help of our vessels then we will fulfill the request,” Russian space agency official Alexei Krasnov told state-run RIA Novosti news agency, adding that NASA had not yet asked for assistance.

An unmanned rocket owned by private firm Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded Tuesday in a giant fireball and plummeted back to Earth just seconds after a launch from Wallops Island, Virginia on what was to be a resupply mission.

Orbital’s Cygnus cargo ship was carrying 5,000 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of supplies for the six astronauts living at the research outpost, a US-led multi-national collaboration.

Officials said the cost of the rocket and supplies was over $200 million, not including the damage caused on the ground.

Europe stopped delivering supplies to the ISS this summer, and the outpost is now resupplied by Russia and two NASA-contracted private American firms — Space X and Orbital Sciences.

Russia on Wednesday successfully launched its own supply mission from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.

The Russian cargo ship Progress took off for the ISS on a planned mission to replace a sister vessel.

Krasnov said that the impact of the loss of the rocket on Russian operations at the space station would be “minimal.”

WASHINGTON – With no new Ebola cases in five days, US authorities were cautious but hopeful that the virus has been contained in the United States after a flawed response revealed shortcomings in the system.

The fiancee of a Liberian man who died of Ebola earlier this month in Dallas, Texas was among nearly 50 people who emerged from three weeks of quarantine without any signs of illness from exposure to the virus that has killed more than 4,500 in West Africa since the beginning of this year.

About 100 more people, most of them health care workers, are being tracked in Texas after coming in contact with the first patient diagnosed in the United States in late September.

Still, officials said it was reassuring that no new infections had emerged in recent days.

“We are breathing a little bit easier, but we are still holding our breath,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Those who are no longer in danger include a group of health care workers and community members who may have had contact with the Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, between September 24 when he began showing symptoms and September 28 when he was isolated in a Dallas hospital.

“This is a crucial milestone for the city of Dallas and for concerned persons across the United States,” said Mark Rupp, an infectious disease specialist at Nebraska Medical Center, which has treated two US Ebola patients after they were infected in Liberia this year.

“I hope this reinforces the message that the public is safe and that Ebola is not very infectious in its early stages.”

– Two nurses –

Two nurses in the intensive care unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas were infected while caring for Duncan, who died October 8.

Nina Pham’s infection was announced October 12, and her colleague Amber Vinson’s was three days later.

Ebola is spread though close contact with vomit, blood, diarrhea or other bodily fluids. Most people get sick within eight to 10 days of exposure, and health care workers are particularly at risk.

Word of the nurses’ infections sowed panic across the United States, leading to a rash of suspected cases that turned out to be nothing more than common illnesses.

“In the United States, two people have gotten infected with Ebola. Two. Both of them were taking care of a desperately ill patient in a risky situation,” said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a forum at Washington’s Newseum.

“You have to distinguish the two nurses… from the risk to the general public who aren’t anywhere near an Ebola patient, much less a very sick Ebola patient.”

Pham is in fair condition at a specialized government hospital near the US capital, and Fauci declined to speculate on whether she would make a full recovery.

“She still is a bit knocked out,” Fauci said.

“When you get an infection as serious as Ebola it is very, very draining on you.”

Vinson’s family said in a statement they “remain intensely prayerful and optimistic about Amber’s condition and of the treatment she is currently receiving” at Emory University Healthcare, in Atlanta Georgia, but gave no details on the state of her health.

– Mistakes made –

The Dallas hospital which initially sent Duncan away when he sought care for pain and a fever, apologized Sunday for its management of the case.

“As an institution, we made mistakes in handling this very difficult challenge,” Texas Health CEO Barclay Berdan said in a statement.

Jesse Goodman, a doctor and public health expert at Georgetown University, said the United States was learning from the initially flawed response.

“I do think events indicate how important it is to probably be over cautious rather than over confident,” Goodman said.

To that end, US health authorities on Monday issued stricter guidelines for protecting health care workers against Ebola.

The new instructions “provide an increased margin of safety,” said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Tom Frieden.

Prior to working with an Ebola patient, medical personnel must be trained and able to demonstrate competency in putting on and taking off personal protective equipment, said Frieden.

The gear should allow no skin exposure and should include gloves, a waterproof gown or coveralls, a respirator, a face shield and a disposable hood.

Meanwhile, fears loomed that the epidemic could intensify in hardest-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as the death toll continued to climb amid funding shortfalls.

Fauci said the epidemic was far from ending in West Africa, and said all nations need to pour resources into ending the spread of the disease there.

“Right now I don’t think we can predict when this epidemic is going to be over. When you look at it, it is still escalating rather than declining.”