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Paris delivers ”historic” climate accord:Aims at ‘well below’ 2 degree Celsius limit

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The Paris climate summit (also known as COP 21) has adopted a new “Paris Agreement”. Amid cheers, hugs and tears of joy, delegates from 196 countries at the Paris climate summit  adopted on Saturday the first universal pact committing them to curb global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and outline a roadmap to raise $100 billion annually towards a green fund for developing nations.

India immediately welcomed the pact, saying it was balanced and addressed most of its concerns.

The Paris Agreement — as the 32-page accord is called and reached after two weeks of hectic talks, a day’s extension and and some sleepless night for negotiators — was declared adopted after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, also the chair of the conference, struck the gavel.

“You’ve done it — reached an ambitious agreement, a bindin g agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud that to stand before your children and grandchildren,” said French President Francois Hollande.

India’s Environment and Foreign Minister Prakash Javadekar felt the pact could have been more ambitious as the commitment from rich nations was “much below” what was expected of them, but felt the basic concept of common but differentiated responsibilities towards environment protecting was largely addressed.

“To achieve big things as there are languages and many issues, when 196 countries are putting their efforts together. One needs to be accommodative without changing the thrust of the agreement. We’ve done everything to maintain that thrust,” Javadekar said.

“Today is a historic day. What we have adopted today is not only an agreement but a new chapter of hope in the lives of seven billion people,” he said at the closing plenary, adding: “Today we reassure our future generation that we all will mitigate the challenge posed by climate change and give them a better future.”

Earlier in the day President Hollande had called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his support.

Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement by the 21st Conference of Parties, under the aegis of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, it will be taken to the UN headquarters. Then on Earth Day, falling on April 22, 2016, it will be opened for the signatures of members for one year.

It will enter into force once 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of emissions ink it.

“For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Then there is is a firm commitment for countries to engage in a process on mitigation opportunities and put added focus on adaptation opportunities, with rich members working towards a clear path to outline a road map on raising the climate finance for developing countries to $100 billion annually by 2020.

Immediately after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, two largest multilateral financing institutions threw their weight behind the accord and said they will help countries across the globe fight climate change.

Poor and emerging economies had been demanding that they get clean and green technology and funding from the rich nations to pursue their national interests without harming the environment further as they hold the industrialised world responsible for polluting the earth in the past.

Among the other decisions reached included a commitment that countries will submit updated climate plans — nationally determined contributions — every five years to steadily increase their long-term ambitions. India has already pledged to reduce the carbon intensity by 33-35 percent over 15 years.

India’s negotiating position, as a key member of a number of informal groupings on climate change was evident at the conference was evident, as even US President Barack Obama called up Prime Minister Modi to ensure that Paris delivers a deal.

The country’s engagements were kicked off by Modi himself here, as global leaders this time converged at the beginning of the conference as opposed to attending the closing plenaries, as has been the practice in the past.

Apart from making a pitch for the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities at the conference talks, the Indian prime minister also launched a grand alliance of some 120-odd nations to harness solar energy better, besides committing $30 million for a proposed secretariat.

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Italian PM Giuseppe Conte wins crucial vote of confidence

Conte will now lead a minority administration in a country prone to political disputes.

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Giuseppe Conte Italy PM

Italy averted further political chaos on Tuesday after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte survived a confidence vote in the upper house of Parliament.

The country had been embroiled in fresh political uncertainty over the past week after a smaller party withdrew its support for the coalition government — thus stripping it off from having a majority in Parliament.

However, Italian lawmakers in the Senate supported Conte during a vote on Tuesday, by 156 to 140, allowing him to remain in office. He was also backed by the lower house of Parliament in a vote on Monday evening. Conte will now lead a minority administration in a country prone to political disputes.

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Joe Biden to propose eight-year citizenship path for immigrants

The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino and immigrant communities.

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Joe Biden

President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on day one of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the United States without legal status, in what would be a reversal from the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.

The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations.

It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favoured by many Republicans, putting passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.

Expected to run hundreds of pages, the bill is set to be introduced after Biden takes the oath of office on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the legislation who spoke to the Associated Press news agency anonymously.

As a candidate, Biden called Trump’s actions on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and said he would “undo the damage” while continuing to maintain border enforcement.

Under the legislation, those living in the US as of January 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other basic requirements. From there, it is a three-year path to naturalisation, if they decide to pursue citizenship.

For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the US without documentation as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status, could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.

The bill is not as comprehensive as the last major immigration overhaul proposed when Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.

For example, it does not include a robust border security element, but rather calls for coming up with strategies. Nor does it create any new guest worker or other visa programmes.

It does address some of the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States, and provides grants for workforce development and English language learning.

Biden is expected to take swift executive actions to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including an end to the prohibition on arrivals from several predominantly Muslim countries.

During the Democratic primary, Biden consistently named immigration action as one of his first-day priorities, pointing to the range of executive powers he could invoke to reverse Trump’s policies.
Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and enough other Republican senators to avoid the impasse that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades.

That kind of major win – even if it involves compromise – could be critical as Biden looks for legislative victories in a closely divided Congress, where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities that involve rolling back some of the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending.

As a candidate, Biden said the Obama administration went too far in its aggressive deportations.

SOURCE : AP

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Trump administration determines China committed Uighur ‘genocide’

The determination, issued on the last day of Trump’s term, has no immediate effects but likely to strain US-China ties.

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Uighur Muslim rights

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Trump administration has determined China has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” in its repression of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

“After careful examination of the available facts, I have determined that the [People’s Republic of China], under the direction and control of the [Chinese Communist Party], has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.

he statement claims “exhaustive documentation” of the events “confirms that since at least March 2017, local authorities dramatically escalated their decades-long campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, including ethnic Kazakhs and ethnic Kyrgyz”.

The determination comes a day before US President-elect Joe Biden is to take office. Biden’s campaign declared genocide was occurring in Xinjiang before the president-elect’s victory.

“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo added.

The Reuters news agency reported that US officials briefing reporters on the move said in a call that “an exhaustive documentation of [China’s] own policies, practices and abuse in Xinjiang” viewed by Pompeo led him to make the determination that such acts had been committed since at least March 2017.

“This is a very serious and tragic set of actions that are taking place there in the western part of China,” Pompeo said in an interview on Tuesday on US TV station Fox News.

“This is forced sterilisation, forced abortions – the kind of things that we haven’t seen in an awfully long time in this world,” Pompeo said.

He said the designation is something they have been working on “for an awfully long time”.

The move is likely to place a further burden on the deteriorating ties between the world’s leading economies.

Washington has ramped up sanctions on Beijing over alleged abuses in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and military incursions in the disputed South China Sea.

The Trump administration has also sanctioned Huawei, one of China’s leading telecommunications companies, as it plans to expand throughout Europe and North America.

The rare determination comes after Congress passed legislation on December 27 requiring the US administration to determine within 90 days whether forced labour or other alleged crimes against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are crimes against humanity or genocide.

China has been widely criticised for complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centres” to stamp out “extremism” and give people new skills, but which others have called concentration camps.

Pompeo’s determination does not have immediate effects, though it places a spotlight on Xinjiang, one of the world’s leading regions for producing cotton.

Last week, the United States imposed a ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang.

Pompeo said on Tuesday “the threat from the Chinese Communist Party is real. It is existential to the United States”, and that he is “counting on the next administration continuing our work”.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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