• Europe Migration crisis: EU leaders to meet in Valletta, Malta

    09/Nov/2015 // 286 Viewers

    Leaders of EU member countries and over thirty African nation leaders will be meeting on Wednesday this week  in the Valletta, the capital city of the Mediterranean island nation of Malta for urgent talks.

    This meeting was called to discuss the way forward on how to tackle Europe's migration crisis. EU member countries recently have witnessed an unprecedented migrant surge and still ongoing.

    Many of these migrants mainly from Africa and Syria have perished at sea while trying to cross the Mediterranean sea in rickety boats. The meeting billed for Wednesday amid other  contentious issues is to address this problem.




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  • 2015 world temperatures 'to hit 1C above pre-industrial levels

    09/Nov/2015 // 202 Viewers

    © DPA/AFP/File | Global mean surface temperatures this year are set to reach one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels for the first time, Britain's Met Office said Monday


    LONDON (AFP) - 

    Global mean surface temperatures this year are set to reach one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels for the first time, Britain's Met Office said Monday.

    "This represents an important marker as the world continues to warm due to human influence," the national weather service said.

    Source: Frrance24

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  • Putin on Trump victory: Russia now ready to restore relations with US

    09/Nov/2016 // 2599 Viewers


    Russia is ready and looks forward to restoring bilateral relations with the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, commenting on the news of Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election.
    In a message to Donald Trump, the Russian President expressed hope over the joint efforts on bringing Russian-American relations out of their current crisis.
    Putin also expressed confidence that the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, in keeping with each other’s views, meets the interests of both Russia and the US.
    The Russian leader noted in the message that he hopes to address some “burning issues that are currently on the international agenda, and search for effective responses to the challenges of the global security,” RIA Novosti reported.
    On top of it, Putin has expressed confidence that “building a constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington, based on principles of equality, mutual respect and each other's positions, meets the interests of the peoples of our countries and of the entire international community.”
    Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has also expressed hope that Trump’s victory in the presidential election will help pave the way for a more constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington.
    “The current US-Russian relations cannot be called friendly. Hopefully, with the new US president a more constructive dialogue will be possible between our countries,” he said.
    “The Russian Parliament will welcome and support any steps in this direction,” Volodin added on Wednesday.
    A member of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, Senator Aleksey Pushkov, has meanwhile noted that Hillary Clinton's stake on the conflict with Russia has eventually done her a terrible disservice.
    “[Playing the] ‘Russian card’ and portraying Putin as a bad guy did not help Clinton. On the contrary, staking on the conflict with Moscow has only caused fear, doing her a disservice,” he tweeted.
    According to many observers, US-Russia relations are now at their lowest point since the Cold War. Putin has repeatedly noted that the worsening of Russia’s relations with the US “was not our choice,” however.
    For things to improve between Moscow and Washington, the US should first and foremost start acting like an equal partner and respect Russia’s interests rather than try to dictate terms, Putin said last month.
    “We are concerned with the deterioration of Russian-American relations, but that was not our choice, we never wanted that. On the contrary, we want to have friendly relations with the US, a great country and a leading economy,” Putin said at an economic forum in Moscow.
    The US will have to negotiate with Russia on finding solutions to international issues as no state is now able to act alone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week, adding that problems in bilateral relations began to mount long before the Ukrainian crisis broke out in 2014. - R T

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  • ‘Congratulations’ vs ‘shock’: World leaders & politicians react to US election result

    09/Nov/2016 // 214 Viewers

    Republican U.S. president-elect Donald Trump waves at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. © Carlo Allegri / Reuters

    Politicians all over the world are reacting as Donald Trump has become president-elect of the United States. Some are congratulating him, while others are in shock.

    Japan's Prime Minister Abe congratulated Donald Trump on his victory in the presidential election and described the alliance between the two countries as “unwavering,” .
    “I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations on your election as the next President of the United States of America.
    Japan and the United States are unwavering allies tied firmly with the bond of universal values [...]
    I very much look forward to closely cooperating with you to further strengthen the bond of the Japan-US Alliance, as well as for our two countries to play leading roles for assuring peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region,” he stated in the message to Trump.
    Shinzo Abe will be sending his special adviser, Katsuyuki Kawai, to the United States shortly “to build confidence” with the new White House administration, as cited by RIA Novosti news agency.
    “The United States is our most important ally. It is crucial we create a relationship of trust with the new administration as soon as possible,” Kawai told reporters on Wednesday. Earlier, Secretary-General of the Japanese Government Yoshihide Suga said that regardless of who wins the US election, the policy of mutual cooperation between the two states will remain unchanged.
    In his message to Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the two biggest economies in the world, China and the United States, shared responsibility for promoting global development and prosperity.
    “I place great importance on the China-US relationship, and look forward to working with you to uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Xi said, as cited by Reuters.
    World leaders ‘cautious,’ but ‘ready to cooperate’
    Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said he would prefer to see Hillary Clinton in the White House, but declared his readiness to work with Trump as well.
    “I think the election result will make many individuals, as well as the market, worried. At the same time it is a situation to which we are well prepared. I would have preferred Hillary Clinton to win for a number of reasons. However, Sweden will do everything possible to retain good relations with the United States, no matter who is the president,” he told SVT channel, noting also his concern with the “prevailing political climate of hate” in the United States.
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work closely with him, noting that “Germany and America are bound together by values – democracy, freedom, respecting the rule of law, people’s dignity regardless of their origin, the colour of their skin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views.”
    “On the basis of these values, I am offering to work closely with the future President of the United States Donald Trump,” she said, as cited by Reuters, adding that working with the United States will remain a key part of Germany’s foreign policy.
    German Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Economy and Energy Sigmar Gabriel, however, called Trump’s victory a warning for Germany and Europe.
    “Trump is the pioneer of a new authoritarian and chauvinist international movement. He is also a warning for us,” Gabriel told German newspaper group Funke Mediengruppe, as cited by Reuters.
    German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the news is a “huge shock” while speaking on German TV.
    In France, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that the election results mustn’t weaken relations between Europe and the US, and assured that France remains an ally of the US, and will have to see what the new president’s policies will be.
    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who had previously openly supported Hillary Clinton, congratulated Donald Trump and gave assurances that Italy's ties with the United States remain strong.
    “I wish him well. The Italian-American friendship is solid,” Renzi said at the start of a speech in Rome.
    UK Prime Minister Theresa May expressed readiness to work with Donald Trump “building ties to ensure the security and prosperity of our nations.”  
    Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström also noted that the election results left her worried, especially due to some of Trump’s controversial statements, like the ones regarding the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico.
    But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded to Trump’s victory with the words “what a great news. Democracy is still alive,” posted on his Facebook page.
    Austria will remain a “bridge builder” between the East and West and is ready to cooperate with any head of state chosen by the American people, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said.
    “We are a ‘bridge builder’ and the country in which both the East and the West are well represented. We will continue with this course. We will accept any result of the election and will continue to strive for joint work with the United States,” Kurtz said on radio OE1, as cited by RIA Novosti news agency. He also compared the results of the US election with the Brexit vote.
    “Prior to the announcement of the results of the referendum I went to bed in firm belief that the British will remain in the EU, yesterday I went to bed with the thought that Clinton will win.”
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that he “congratulates the elected American president, Donald Trump, and hopes that peace will be achieved during his term,” as cited by AP.
    Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi also congratulated Trump, tweeting he is “looking forward to working with [Trump] closely to take India-US bilateral ties to a new height.”
    Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said her government is ready to work with “whomever the American people in their wisdom choose to be their president.” She noted that the US administration “will have a number of challenges, particularly in our region, and we want to work constructively with the new administration to ensure the continued presence and leadership of the United States in our region.”
    One of America’s top allies in the Pacific, South Korea, said that they would expect the US to go on with the policy of pressuring North Korea.
    Ankara, meanwhile, wants US policy under Donald Trump to recognize the strategic importance of Turkey and its main priority as an effective force fighting against terrorism, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin.
    Speaking on Turkish broadcaster A Haber, he noted that Trump's comments in the aftermath of the failed military coup on July 15 were sympathetic to the Turkish government.
    Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache said Trump’s victory in the election is the righteous punishment for the corrupt establishment.
    “The political left as well as the aloof and sleazy establishment are being punished by voters and voted out of various decision-making positions,” Strache said on Facebook. His party is hopeful its own anti-immigrant and EU-critical candidate Norbert Hofer will become the European Union’s first far-right head of state on December 4.
    Nigel Farage, UK Independence Party leader, who was a figurehead in Britain’s exit from the European Union, said Trump has fought a brave campaign.
    “I hand over the mantle to @RealDonaldTrump! Many congratulations. You have fought a brave campaign,” Farage wrote on this Twitter. Earlier he said he would accept a job from Donald Trump if the latter became president.

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  • UN backs EU military action against migrant smugglers

    09/Oct/2015 // 132 Viewers

    AFP / Alberto Pizzoli | Migrants and refugees are transported to the German navy frigate ship Werra after being rescued at sea on September 26, 2015, as part of an EU mission to identify, capture and dispose of vessels used by migrant smugglers

    The UN Security Council on Friday gave its approval to a European military operation to seize and dispose of boats run by migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean off Libya's coast.

    A British-drafted resolution won UN backing as Europe struggles to mount a response to its worst refugee crisis since World War II.

    The 15-member council adopted the measure by a vote of 14 in favor, with Venezuela abstaining.

    European warships on Wednesday launched Operation Sophia to seize traffickers' boats in international waters and stem the tide of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

    The UN mandate given to the naval task force was not mandatory for the European Union to take action but does provide Operation Sophia with greater legitimacy.

    "Today's resolution is a small part of the solution to a huge challenge," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the council.

    A five-nation naval task force comprised of an Italian aircraft carrier, two French and British frigates and two German ships launched the second phase of Europe's response to the Mediterranean migration crisis.

    The first phase of the operation, which involved monitoring trafficker networks and rescuing refugees from rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean, has been running since June.

    The resolution authorizes European naval forces to board ships for inspection, seize them and even dispose of vessels suspected of being used by migrant smugglers.

    The measure was adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which authorizes use of force, but it limits the UN mandate to a period of one year.

    It does not authorize action in Libyan territorial waters or on the country's coast, which the European Union wants to carry out in the third phase of its anti-trafficking plan.

    Europe hopes that smashing the refugee trafficking networks will help save lives and deter asylum-seekers from making the dangerous journey.

    Around 3,000 people have died while crossing the Mediterranean to Europe this year, while over half a million have made the voyage, mostly landing in Greece and Italy.

    Use of military force

    Presented to the Security Council last month, the resolution faced initial resistance from African countries while Russia raised questions about the measure.

    Venezuela opposed it from the outset for authorizing the use of force.

    Venezuela's Ambassador Rafael Ramirez told the council that Europe's migrant crisis was "being tackled in an erroneous fashion" by resorting to military force.

    "It's not by raising walls or taking military action that this serious problem can be resolved," he said.

    African countries and Russia changed their stance after Libya's internationally-recognized authorities said they had dropped their opposition resolution.

    Libya's Ambassador to the United Nations Ibrahim Dabbashi sent a letter to the Security Council on Tuesday stating that Libya "is no longer objecting" to the resolution.

    Libya's consent was delivered as UN-led talks on forming a new unity government in Tripoli were making some headway.

    The United Nations hopes that a new power-sharing agreement will allow Libya to tackle human-trafficking gangs on its territory which are fueling Europe's migrant crisis.

    On Thursday, Libyan authorities said they had arrested some 300 migrants as they were preparing to board boats.

    As Europe stepped up resettlement of migrants, UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres warned of looming tragedy if thousands of people are caught on the move when winter hits.

    More than 600,000 people have flooded into Europe so far this year, mainly arriving by boat in Greece and Italy.

    (DailyGlobeWatch with AFP)

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  • Turkish police detain newspaper editor for 'insulting Erdogan

    09/Oct/2015 // 245 Viewers


    Turkish police on Friday detained the editor of a leading English-language daily newspaper on suspicion of "insulting" President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a series of tweets.

    Today's Zaman editor-in-chief Bulent Kenes was detained at the newspaper's offices by plainclothes police who raided the building late in the evening and took him away in a car, the daily said.

    Samanyolu, a television channel close to the newspaper aired live coverage of his departure in police custody.

    Hundreds of staff members could be seen crowding round Kenes in solidarity as the police took him away to Istanbul's main Caglayan courthouse.

    Clutching placards reading "free media will not be silenced!" Kenes' supporters had also stood around him during the dramatic scenes inside the newspaper's offices as he awaited his detention.

    An Istanbul judge had earlier agreed to a request by prosecutors to detain Kenes amid an ongoing investigation into tweets sent in August that allegedly insulted Erdogan.

    Kenes had in June received 21-month suspended jail sentence in a separate case on similar charges of insulting Erdogan.

    The cases come amid growing concern over the spiralling numbers of journalists, bloggers and ordinary people who are being taken to court on charges of insulting Erdogan and other top officials.

    In another case that has garnered huge attention, model and former Miss Turkey beauty queen Merve Buyuksarac went on trial in May on charges of insulting the president.

    Today's Zaman, which is the English version of the Turkish language Zaman daily, is close to the movement of the Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan who has become his sworn enemy.

    Following stunning corruption allegations in 2013 against Erdogan's inner circle, thousands of followers of Gulen were purged from the police force and judiciary.

    Media rights groups -- which have long criticised Turkey for locking up journalists -- have expressed concern over a further decline in press freedoms since Erdogan became president.

    Erdogan caused outrage in the run-up to Turkey's June 7 elections by saying the secular Cumhuriyet newspaper editor-in-chief Can Dundar would "pay a heavy price" over a front-page story which it said proved Turkey had sent arms to rebels in Syria.

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  • Deadly car bomb attack targets soldiers in southeast Turkey

    09/Oct/2016 // 194 Viewers

    Ten Turkish soldiers and eight civilians were killed on Sunday when suspected Kurdish militants detonated a five-tonne truck bomb that ripped through a checkpoint near a military outpost in the country’s southeast, the prime minister said.

    Another 27 people, including 11 soldiers, were wounded in the blast which hit the Durak gendarmerie station, 20 km (12 miles) from the town of Semdinli, in one of the most deadly attacks in the region of recent times.

    The mountainous Hakkari province, where the attack took place, lies near the border with Iraq and Iran and is one of the main flashpoint areas in a conflict that has pitted the Turkish military against the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for three decades.

    The attack occurred around 9:45 am (0645 GMT) when a small truck approached the vehicle checkpoint and ignored an order to stop, prompting gendarmerie troops to open fire, the Hakkari governor’s office said.

    A bomb in the vehicle was detonated, which Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters contained some five tonnes of explosives.

    The governor’s office said extensive air-backed operations were being conducted by commando units in the area to capture PKK militants, who were believed to have opened fire in the run-up to the attack to distract soldiers at the checkpoint.

    Military helicopters flew the wounded to hospitals in the region following the blast, the governor’s office said, as soldiers looked on and locals wandered amid mangled wreckage and debris, video footage on CNN Turk showed.

    Authorities were on high alert for possible attacks on Sunday, 18 years to the day since PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan fled Syria before being captured by Turkish special forces in February the following year.

    He has since been in prison on an island near Istanbul.

    President Tayyip Erdogan often criticises what he sees as inadequate Western support in Turkey’s fight against the PKK, and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak called on Sunday on its allies to show solidarity.

    “This fire of terror continues to burn our country, the whole region and world each day that passes. We have to show more sincerity than ever in this process,” Albayrak said in a speech at an energy conference in Istanbul.

    Surge in violence

    Violence has flared in the mainly Kurdish southeast and elsewhere in Turkey in recent days.

    On Saturday, a man and a woman who authorities suspect were PKK militants preparing a car bomb attack detonated explosives and killed themselves near the capital Ankara in a stand-off with police.

    In the southeast, 12 people were killed on Saturday, including eight PKK fighters. Four civilians were killed by gunfire from an armoured police vehicle in the town of Yuksekova near the Iranian border.

    On Thursday, a bomb attack near a police station in Istanbul wounded 10 people. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a PKK offshoot, claimed responsibility for that blast.

    The PKK, which launched its separatist insurgency in 1984, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

    A two-year ceasefire between the group and Turkish authorities collapsed in July last year and the violence subsequently rose to levels not seen since the height of the conflict in the 1990s.

    The surge in violence coincides with a Turkish military operation in northern Syria in support of rebels and designed to drive away from the border Islamic State militants and a Syrian Kurdish militia closely linked to the PKK.

    President Erdogan chaired a security summit with the head of the armed forces and ministers in Istanbul on Saturday, but details of the meeting have not been disclosed.


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  • Breaking: Pope Francis names 17 new Cardinals!

    09/Oct/2016 // 665 Viewers


    In a surprise announcement on Sunday, Pope Francis named 17 new cardinals – 13 of which are eligible to succeed him as pope one day.
    The newly appointed cardinals, announced during the pontiff's regular Sunday morning address in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square, hail from a diverse range of countries, including Italy, the Central African Republic, Spain, Brazil, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Belgium, Mauritius, Mexico and Papua New Guinea. They also include three Americans: Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, Ind., and former Dallas bishop Kevin Farrell. 
    Cardinals, otherwise known as "princes of the Church," are second in command under the pope in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and serve as his principal advisors around the world. Those under the age of 80 – who account for 13 of the 17 newest appointees – are also eligible to either choose, or become, the next pope, making the appointment of cardinals a highly strategic process that can shape the future of the church. 
    This newest batch of cardinals, Francis's third since his election in 2013, reflects the pontiff's emphasis on making the church a more global institution. Eleven of the new cardinals come from places that have never had a cardinal, according to the National Catholic Reporter. 
    "While historically cardinals have come from certain larger cities known for their Catholic populations or global importance, Francis has sought to diversify representation in the group – choosing men from places long underrepresented or even not represented in the College of Cardinals," writes Joshua J. McElwee for the National Catholic Reporter. 
    Speaking on Sunday, Francis said that the group "expresses the universality of the church, which proclaims and witnesses to the Gospel of the Good News of the Mercy of God in every corner of the earth." 
    The selection may also suggest a shift toward more progressive stances for the American Catholic Church, experts say, as Archbishop Cupich, Archbishop Tobin, and former Bishop Farrell have all been known for their moderate stances. Cupich has expressed a desire to make the church more welcoming to disaffected Catholics, and an openness to finding new pastoral approaches to LGBT Catholics. And Archbishop Tobin of Indianapolis, who has advocated for more roles for women within the church, made headlines last year for rejecting Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's request that the church stop settling Syrian refugees in the state. 
    "The impact on how the church operates in the United States could be immense," writes Michael O'Laughlin, author of “The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters," for America Magazine. "...Their words and agendas will carry significantly more weight with their brother bishops and perhaps even with everyday Catholics. When a cardinal speaks, certain Catholics listen. But how they exert that influence will be key to the amount of impact they can have on the church here."
    The selection could affect the church's stance on several controversial political issues, says Vatican expert John L. Allen. 
    "In one fell swoop ... Francis has reshaped the character of the most senior level of the American hierarchy, steering it away from what some see as the partisan stance of the last two decades and back towards what might be described as the 'consistent ethic of life' ethos," Mr. Allen writes for the Catholic publication Crux. "The outlook, while certainly defending Church teaching on matters such as abortion and euthanasia, is more inclined to see them as part of a spectrum that also includes immigration, the death penalty, the environment, concern for the poor, and so on." 
    While the move likely won't have "any immediate impact" on the church's approach to the upcoming 2016 US presidential election, he adds, "it likely will reshape how the Church engages the aftermath – both in terms of the kinds of issues it prioritizes, and whom the Catholic leadership of the country is able to talk to about them." 

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  • End Times: River in Russia mysteriously turns blood red [See more pictures]

    09/Sep/2016 // 2795 Viewers


    ABC NEWS - Startled residents of a Russian city inside the Arctic Circle have been posting photos of a local river that has mysteriously turned blood red.

    Photos published on Russian social media appear to the show the Daldykan River near the city of Norilsk flowing vivid burgundy. Russian authorities have yet to establish a reason for the river’s unusual appearance, but local people quickly linked it to a giant metals plant upstream. Russia's Environment Ministry said it was investigating a plant leak as the likely cause.

    Norilsk is known as one of the most polluted cities on earth, built around factories mostly belonging to the vast metals company Norilsk Nickel. Some Norilsk residents wrote in a local social media group that they believed the river’s biblical shade is linked to runoff from a nearby smelting plant.

    Some suggested the color was being produced by wastewater mixed with mineral ore leaking into the river from the Hope Metals Plant.

    The posts prompted Russia's Environment Ministry to respond, issuing a statement announcing that it is investigating and that preliminary information suggests the cause was a leak from waste pipes belonging to Norilsk Nickel. A company subsidiary denied the pollution was caused by an accident involving the Hope factory, according to the statement. The ministry said it is still working to locate the pollution's source.
    Reached by ABC News, the factory declined to comment.

    Area residents on social media and a local indigenous group said they were sure the color was coming from the area's metals plants, noting that it was not the first time they contaminated the region's water.

    A user named Evgeny Belikov, who claimed to have worked at the Hope plant, said that workers referred to a reservoir connected to it as the "red sea" on account of its color, produced by ore runoff.

    Other users posted older photos seeming to show the reservoir a similar color in an area that has large pipes running into it.

    "In winter, the snow's also red," Belikov wrote on the social media group. "On the one hand, it's beautiful, but on the other, it's chemical."

    Grigory Dukarev of the Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the Taimir Peninsula, which represents native communities in the area, told ABC News that he was preparing to submit a formal complaint to regional authorities asking them to investigate and was traveling to the river to record the pollution.

    He said he was previously told that the runoff from the factories was not harmful and would cause minimal ecological damage. But he said he was skeptical.

    "I'm going to ask the representative from the company to drink this water," Dukarev said. "Will they drink this water? I doubt that."

    PHOTO: Photos posted by local residents on social media appear to show the Daldykan river close to Norilsk has turned blood red.

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  • Africa can lead on climate change - Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

    10/Dec/2015 // 182 Viewers


    As the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris comes to a close, global leaders have made significant progress in building a framework to tackle issues related to climate change. However, sourcing funding to combat the effects of global warming remains the biggest issue as leaders from around the world try to find ways to avoid the devastating impacts of climate change on the planet. Developed countries have pledged to reach $100 billion-dollar per year in funding by the 2020 to aid the mitigation of the phenomenon in poor countries, as well as to provide solutions to the impact on agriculture and health that are already being felt in their parts of the world, but developing country governments and NGOs have stated that the funding commitments do not go far enough. African countries are asking for special funding interventions, as their environments are highly susceptible to the consequences of climate change and their economies will be most affected by the issue.

    Ventures Africa spoke to Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who since leaving office has become prominent global voice advocating economic solutions for dealing with the impacts of climate Change.

    Ventures Africa (VA): Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, analysts posit that it is quite difficult to ascertain the long-term economic costs of climate change. Do you agree? If so, is it possible for you to give us a short-term projection?

    Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI): There have been many studies, including by Lord Nick Stern, that have shown that climate change is real and costly, and that if we do not manage to keep the world, not even at 2 degrees, but at 1.5 – because this was the chant in Paris, “1.5 to stay alive” – some of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Pacific rim would sink.

    So, the issue the costs have become very prominent, in terms of pollution, which causes a lot of diseases and ill health. Even today in Beijing, the pollution is so high that they have given the highest level of alert. A large number of deaths are caused by pollution and other forms of diseases caused by climate change, loss of productivity of crops and lands, flooding, storms… it’s catastrophic, and many estimates have been given. Therefore, giving an estimation is a very scientific affair, not something someone gets up and projects.

    Many years have been spent trying to study this phenomenon and trying to estimate the damage, and if you look at the work done by the new climate economy, you can get various estimates. I’ve just given you one, about how degraded land leads to more damage to the climate, and it’s going to cost $250 billion a year to restore. That’s one kind of estimate that you can get. It’s a very costly phenomenon.

    But I think that the essential thing is there are solutions which are being discussed in Paris. First, you have $650 billion a year being spent in fuel subsidies, and fossil fuels contribute to carbon dioxide emission, very heavily. If you were to stop subsidising, it would then help to reduce the amount of carbon emission, and you could even take the $650 billion and invest it in alternative sources of energy, such as renewables, which are friendlier to the climate, and dramatically reduce carbon emission.

    In fact, the IMF has estimated that if you take the additional indirect costs of subsidies, that figure of $650 per year becomes $5.4 trillion. So, can you imagine such huge an amount of money that is lost due to this fossil fuels subsidy. I think that this is one area where the world can really make a big difference; phase it out; direct the resources to other alternatives that would actually help to manage climate change, and make the world a safer place to live.

    VA: You recently made the opening remarks at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris at the COP21 in which you emphasized the need for public funding and investments in landscape restoration and conservation. Urbanisation has been named a major source of land degradation, but economists agree that there is a positive connection between urbanisation and economic growth, especially for developing countries. What is your take on the topic? Does this conflict with the agreement that you wish to come to on funding?

    NOI: Urbanisation is not necessarily a form of land degradation. I don’t agree with that. I think that if you have a properly planned urbanisation, you can do it without degrading land. The issue is that, very often people migrate to urban land without adequate services, without adequate housing. And then they sometimes convert areas that should not really be used for building housing, into housing and other uses. That is when you begin to get problems with flood, like for example when they settle on the slopes of hills, or on sewer lines, and other areas where they should not.

    To avoid that form of land degradation, you have to plan ahead. But urbanisation does not have to necessarily result in land degradation, if there’s good planning. However, we know that there is a large amount of land degradation going on now, and the New Climate Economy, the Global Commission on Climate and Economy, has estimated that it would cost around $250 billion per year to restore degraded land, and we know we’re only spending one tenth of that ($25 billion).

    Restoration of these degraded land can also contribute to helping with the issue of climate change, while at the same time trying to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. As you restore, you can also take action that would enable storage and mitigation of emission. The same thing with forestation. If you can reforest, you can help with carbon capture with these forests.

    With regards to the funding, it would take a combination of what we call a structured partnership — not just public sector funds, but you have the public sector coming in to give the governance and the policy cover that is needed to do this, while at the same time putting in some of its money. Also the donor community comes in to put in money and take some risks, so that the private sector can come in and invest because some of these restorations can also be beneficial in a private sector sense. Then, you can have civil society joining in to make sure that this is done in an accountable way.

    VA: Developing agriculture is one of the biggest concerns of the Nigerian Federal Government, and the governments of other African countries. Are there any peculiar immediate impacts that farmers and agriculturists in general likely suffer, in the event of an intolerable level of climate change?

    NOI: Climate change is already evident, and you can see it in abnormal cycle of floods and droughts. Farmers suffer a lot of damage to their crops and livestock. Remember that even Nigeria had abnormal floods two years ago, which caused a displacement of up to two million families at the time, as well as tremendous damage of billions of dollars in terms of crops and livestock. You can measure these damages that are already occurring.

    Climate change is already here. There are people in the Pacific Islands, such as in Tuvalu and Vanuatu whose islands are going to sink beneath the ocean, completely disappearing due to the impact of climate change, if we go beyond the 2 degrees Celsius that the world is aiming at, and they are even asking the world to look at 1.5 degrees Celsius. We don’t have to wait to see the impact of climate change to agriculture and livelihood.

    Now, there are several solutions that have been coming forward, and one of the best ones was by African countries themselves, in the form of the African Risk Capacity (ARC). So, rather than waiting for other countries to come when there is a flood or a drought, African countries started this organisation to insure countries against damage that comes from weather based events and climate change. There is a model that has been developed where the countries have an insurance premium, and when there is an event, if the model triggers in that country, then money is paid out –that is if the event is caused by an abnormal phenomenon such as climate change or extreme weather.

    For instance, last year, Mauritania, Senegal, and Niger received pay outs of $26 million from the ARC when they had severe droughts. We need to start thinking of solutions like this. The G7 has said that this is a good approach, and have agreed to scale up the work of the ARC, as well as that of the Pacific and Caribbean Risk Insurance agencies by $100 million. I think that this is a very important development.

    We are focusing a lot on the problems, but we need to start focusing on solutions. We’ve talked about other solutions the world can take, such as mitigation measures, and every country has put forward their intended national development commitments. What are they going to do in order to make sure that the world stays at a 2 degrees Celsius? What are they voluntarily committing to? These must be considered for development without damaging the climate.

    I want to say one thing on the solution front, and that is that Africa provides the greatest opportunities for the solutions. Therefore, beyond looking at Africa as a victim of climate change, also seeing as it suffering from damage caused by others, we need to look at the solutions the continent can proffer, and they are tremendous. Especially if the world really wants to be serious about managing climate change, and mitigating the impact, and adapting to it.

    Africa presents a clear opportunity where you can build infrastructure, such as power (renewables), and also roads and rails, in a manner that is more environmentally and climate friendly.

    VA: According to a World Bank report from 2013, even a 1.5 Degrees Celsius warming would put Sub-Saharan Africa at risk of massive food insecurity. Can you explain to us why a lower target could not have been put forward?

    NOI: Because the world is already on a course [towards greater than 2 degrees] due to the way we have used the planet with our activities, we aimed for 1.5 [degrees] to minimise the damage and suffering, mainly in the areas that I have previously mentioned. If the world has the will, they can even try to stick at 2 degrees, not above, and even better, aim at 1.5 [degrees]. I don’t know that anybody is talking about going lower at the moment.

    VA: How far would investments made in climate change solutions go in saving Africa? And what are the general plans for such investments?

    NOI: Each country has committed to a certain level of action that it would take to mitigate climate change, but what African countries are saying is, since the impact of climate change is caused primarily by the developed countries, they are asking that of the $100 billion per year that has been pledged, a significant amount should go to them [Africa] to help to mitigate the damage. The developed world should stick to its promise and deliver. I believe that, from what we have heard in Paris, the $100 billion commitment by 2020 is becoming real.

    But I think that African countries need to find other solutions that would draw in and trigger private sector investments — because I’m not sure that the $100 billion per year would be adequate. That is why we advocate solutions like the ARC to help source additional funding. What can we do ourselves? We shouldn’t wait for the $100 billion, even though it is a promise that must be delivered. We definitely should push for it, but we need to find alternative solutions to make sure that keep climate change in check.

    VA: Thank you, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.

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