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Trump wins key climate, trade concessions at stormy G20

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Donald Trump

Hamburg : – US President Donald Trump won key concessions on climate and trade Saturday from world leaders at the most fractious G20 summit to date, in exchange for preserving the unity of the club of major industrialised and emerging economies.

In a final statement agreed by all 20 economies, 19 members including Russia, China and the European Union acknowledged Trump’s decision to go his own way on taking the US out of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

But they also accommodated Washington’s wish to “work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently”.

While renewing a key anti-protectionist pledge, the communique for the first time underlined the right of countries to protect their markets with “legitimate trade defence instruments”.

Such wording gives room for Trump to push on with his “America First” policy.

Carried on a wave of public fury over deindustrialisation in vast areas of the United States, Trump had promised to “Buy American” and “Hire American”.

But that stance had set him against many of America’s allies, who warned Trump against an isolationist path.

Nevertheless, the wording of the final agreement marked the group of top economies’ decision to finally close ranks despite bitter differences.

– Trail of destruction –

Just behind the tightly secured G20 summit venue, charred road barricades, trashed shops and stones, debris and shattered glass bore testimony to an anarchic night, when police commandoes with semi-automatic weapons detained militants who hurled rocks from rooftops.

The clashes had blocked US First Lady Melania Trump at her residence on Friday, forcing her to miss a tour of Hamburg harbour, and for G20 organisers to completely alter a programme for spouses of visiting leaders.

On Saturday, thousands of anti-riot cops were on standby and helicopters hovered overhead, as some 70,000 people were on the march again, according to organisers.

– Trump vs. Putin –

Within the summit walls, meetings have also been anything but harmonious.

All eyes were also on Trump’s diplomatic waltz during the billionaire’s first outing to the summit.

His most eagerly awaited encounter was a head-to-head with Russia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin — their first — which lasted two and a quarter hours on Friday.

A day after Trump slammed Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria, the two men had a “robust and lengthy exchange” about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

But Tillerson, who was present at the marathon meeting, also said the two alpha-male leaders “connected very quickly” with “very clear positive chemistry”.

Trump said Saturday that the tete-a-tete was “tremendous”.

Further driving a wedge between the UK and the European Union, Trump met Saturday with British Prime Minister Theresa May and said he was looking forward to a “very powerful” trade deal “very, very quickly”.

His comments came despite the EU warning London against negotiating any separate agreement before Britain’s divorce from the bloc is complete.

But Trump faced another thorny meeting later, when he is due to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

North Korea’s first inter-continental ballistic missile test is expected to top the discussions, with Trump warning Thursday that Pyongyang’s military sabre-rattling would bear “consequences”.

Trump had also said he is considering a “severe” response to its “very, very bad behaviour”.

Ahead of the talks with Xi, Tillerson said the US would continue to press China to do more to rein in Pyongyang.

“Our engagement is unchanged with China and our expectations are unchanged. We have not given up hope,” he added.

AFP

Nature

‘World Ozone Day an opportunity to focus on ozone layer protection’

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world ozone day

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday said the World Ozone Day was an opportunity to focus global attention on protecting the ozone layer.

Observing the 24th World Ozone Day with this year’s theme ‘Keep Cool and Carry on: The Montreal Protocol’ the Minister stressed upon the need to strengthen active collaboration between the government, industries and all stakeholders.

According to the ministry, implementation of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) programme has not only led to the phase-out of around 98 per cent chemicals, but also averted more than 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.

“Nearly two million cases of skin cancer per year have been averted globally” it said.

The ministry has already undertaken an important initiative for up-skilling of one lakh refrigeration and air-conditioning servicing technicians in collaboration with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, he said.

He underlined the Montreal Protocol — international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion.

Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change Secretary C.K. Mishra said it was critical to identify the usage of gases and not merely replacement of gases.

“There are alternative ways to cooling that should be looked at. Another issue is an army of trained manpower to handle manufacturing and maintenance,” Mishra said.

On the occasion, the Minister released the draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), a booklet on ‘Montreal Protocol – India’s Success Story’ and refurbished website on the Ozone Cell.

The event was attended by senior officials of the ministry, UN Environment representatives, officials of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

September 16 was marked by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as the International Day for ozone layer prevention.

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254 copper coins of medieval era discovered at Khirki mosque

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Khirki Mosque Coin

New Delhi, Sep 12 : The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered a hoard of 254 copper coins of medieval period within the Khirki mosque compound here during the conservation of the monument, said Ministry of Culture on Wednesday.

The mosque built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, the prime minister of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88), lies on the southern periphery of the village Khirki, the ministry said in a statement, adding it was believed to be one of the seven mosques built by the latter.

The ministry said that while cleaning the Khirki mosque, the ASI found a hoard of 254 coins of medieval period near the entrance of the monument.

“A few coins got cleaned by ASI experts and on the basis of preliminary observation, it can be said that some of the coins belong to the reign of Sher Shah Suri and his successors” it said.

On the same premises, in the year 2003, ASI had found over 63 coins during cleaning and conservation, ministry said adding the Delhi circle has started scientific clearance of the area under technical supervision of archaeologists.

IANS

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Planet sending a clear message to act now: UN Environment’s Eric Solheim

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United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim

San Francisco, Sep 12 : The planet is sending a clear message — to act and that too within a short time-frame or lose the ability to turn things around, says United Nations Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim.

“Typhoons and floods are not new, but we are seeing a broader pattern of more severe and more frequent extreme weather events,” Solheim told IANS in an interview here.

His concerns came ahead of the three-day Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) that began on Wednesday with the participation of 4,000 plus business and political leaders, investors, citizens and government representatives from all over the world in this California city.

“That’s (natural calamities) what the scientists predicted, and it’s what we’re seeing play out now right in front of our eyes. Our planet is sending us a clear message. We have to act, and we’re a short time-frame to do so before we lose the ability to turn things around.”

He was replying to a question on his thoughts for the people of Kerala in India and Osaka in Japan that have been recently affected by floods and a typhoon.

Solheim, who is also attending the summit, which aims to “take ambition to the next level” and persuade the world’s Presidents and Prime Ministers to go further and faster to reduce emissions, said: “The bottom line is that we need to step up the ambition and create a momentum.”

On India playing a leading role in driving down global emissions, he said “absolutely”.

“I think Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has shown incredible leadership in driving the shift to renewables and steering India towards being a greener, cleaner economy. The innovation that we’re seeing, not just in terms of renewables deployment but also the wider shift to a more circular economic model, is really encouraging.”

From India, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra is one of the Global Climate Action Summit’s Co-Chairs.

In a plenary on September 13, he will provide an update on how many companies that have adopted Science-Based Targets — aligning their pollution reduction plans with the Paris agreement.

Solheim saw business value in companies adopting science-based climate targets.

“We’re seeing more and more examples of businesses wanting to do this, and dozens of global giants on that path.

“For me it’s important for two reasons: Firstly, companies are showing how sustainability can be a core part of business, rather than an on-the-side CSR (corporate social responsibility) exercise. They’re moving beyond PR (public relations),” he said.

“Secondly, the companies doing this are seeing strong support from shareholders and investors. They’re seeing that these targets are also about efficiency and innovation. That makes a business less exposed to environmental risk, which is good for business.”

One recent example he has seen is the company IKEA, which is aiming to be climate positive by 2030 and this requires an 80 per cent cut in emissions, the UN Environment head said: “It’s a sound move as the company will have a head start in making the transition to a low carbon economy.”

“In India I was also really impressed when I visited the Infosys campus in Hyderabad. They have clear targets on waste, cooling, power consumption and overall efficiency, which make them not only commendable from the environmental perspective, but also a compelling investment.”

Favouring electric vehicles that will play a role in decarbonising of the economy, Solheim said: “We have to see the introduction of electric vehicles as part of the wider change we need to see in transport. That includes more public transport or transport-sharing solutions.”

He said the developed countries need to look at the shift not as a constraint or an obligation, but as an opportunity for greater energy security, a more inclusive economy and the lower healthcare burden that comes from tackling the causes of pollution.

“India isn’t making the change because it wants to shoulder the burden of climate action, but because it makes perfect sense from an economic perspective. That’s how more countries need to see it,” he said.

(Vishal Gulati is in San Francisco at the invitation of the Climate Trends to cover the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). He can be contacted at [email protected])

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