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16 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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Ranking of countries’ goals shows even EU on course for more than double safe level of warming

Vendors near a state-owned coal-fired power plant in China.

Vendors near a state-owned coal-fired power plant in China. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China, Russia and Canada’s current climate policies would drive the world above a catastrophic 5C of warming by the end of the century, according to a study that ranks the climate goals of different countries.

The US and Australia are only slightly behind with both pushing the global temperature rise dangerously over 4C above pre-industrial levels says the paper, while even the EU, which is usually seen as a climate leader, is on course to more than double the 1.5C that scientists say is a moderately safe level of heating.

The study, published on Friday in the journal Nature Communications, assesses the relationship between each nation’s ambition to cut emissions and the temperature rise that would result if the world followed their example.

The aim of the paper is to inform climate negotiators as they begin a two-year process of ratcheting up climate commitments, which currently fall far short of the 1.5-to-2C goal set in France three years ago.

Guardian graphic | Source: Nature Communications

The related website also serves as a guide to how nations are sharing the burden of responding to the greatest environmental threat humankind has ever faced.

Among the major economies, the study shows India is leading the way with a target that is only slightly off course for 2C. Less developed countries are generally more ambitious, in part because they have fewer factories, power plants and cars, which means they have lower emissions to rein in.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are the industrial powerhouse China and major energy exporters who are doing almost nothing to limit carbon dioxide emissions. These include Saudi Arabia (oil), Russia (gas) and Canada, which is drawing vast quantities of dirty oil from tar sands. Fossil fuel lobbies in these countries are so powerful that government climate pledges are very weak, setting the world on course for more than 5C of heating by the end of the century.

Only slightly better are the group of countries that are pushing the planet beyond 4C. Among them are the US, which has huge emissions from energy, industry and agriculture somewhat offset by promises of modest cuts and more renewables. Australia, which remains heavily dependent on coal exports, is also in this category.

The wealthy shopping societies of Europe fare slightly better – largely because emissions on products are calculated at the source of manufacture rather than the point of consumption – but the authors of the paper say their actions lag behind their promises to set a positive example.

“It is interesting is to see how far out some countries are, even those that are considered leaders in the climate mitigation narrative,” said the study’s author, Yann Robiou du Pont of Melbourne University.

The study is likely to be controversial. Under the Paris agreement, there is no top-down consensus on what is a fair share of responsibility. Instead each nation sets its own bottom-up targets according to a number of different factors, including political will, level of industrialisation, ability to pay, population size, historical responsibility for emissions. Almost every government, the authors say, selects an interpretation of equity that serves their own interests and allows them to achieve a relative gain on other nations.

To get around these differing concepts of fairness, the paper assesses each nation by the least stringent standards they set themselves and then extrapolates this to the world. In doing so, the authors say they can “operationalise disagreements”.

Taking account of the different interpretations, they say the world needs to commit to a virtual 1.4C target in order to achieve a 2C goal. They hope their equity metric can be used in next month’s UN climate talks in Katowice and in climate litigation cases.

The authors said the study could in future be extended to the subnational level, such as individual US states. They also note that a few key sectors are currently omitted, including land-use change (which is fundamental in rapidly deforesting nations such as Brazil, Argentina and Indonesia), international shipping and aviation.

Although the study highlights the huge gap between political will and scientific alarm, Robiou du Pont said it should inspire rather than dispirit people.

“The positive outcome of this study is that we have a metric to assess the ratcheting up of ambition. Civil society, experts and decision-makers can use this to hold their governments accountable, and possibly undertake climate litigation cases as happened recently in the Netherlands,” he said. “This metric translates the lack of ambition on a global scale to a national scale. If we look at the goal of trying to avoid damage to the Earth, then I am pessimistic as this is already happening. But this should be a motivation to ratchet up ambition and avoid global warming as much and as rapidly as possible. Every fraction of a degree will have a big impact.”

Commenting on the study, other academics said it could be used by anyone to show how climate action can be navigated in a world in which each country ranks itself based on what they consider to be fair.

“This paper provides a means for countries to check how their contribution might be perceived by other countries and thus judge whether they are perceived as a climate leader or laggard,” said Joeri Rogelj of Imperial College London.

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World Politics

Israel

Elections to be brought forward from November 2019 after talks among coalition fail

Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with Naftali Bennett.

Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with Naftali Bennett. Photograph: Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty Images

Israel is due to hold elections early next year after the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, lost his defence minister and talks broke down in his coalition government on Friday, a source close to the cabinet told the Guardian.

Netanyahu had met the education minister, Naftali Bennett, who wanted the defence ministry post in the rightwing government, but the meeting ended with a decision by cabinet members to hold national polls, which were previously due in November 2019.

During a frantic few hours, ministers rushed to make media statements before the country shut down for the Friday night sabbath.

A source close to Bennett said that at the end of the cabinet discussion it became clear that “there was a need to go to elections as soon as possible with no possibility of continuing the current government”.

Netanyahu’s office said he would attempt to preserve the administration, but that looked unlikely after he lost support from Bennett’s Jewish Home party.

A statement released by the prime minister’s office said “the rumours that a decision to go to elections had been made were incorrect”. It added that Netanyahu had “stressed the importance of making every effort to preserve the rightwing government”.

However, if Bennett’s Jewish Home party leaves the coalition, as it suggested it would, it has the ability to force a new election. Netanyahu’s coalition has 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset so the withdrawal of Jewish Home, which has eight seats, could bring down the government if a no-confidence motion is called.

Another party could be brought into the coalition, but opposition figures have already declared their intention to run against Netanyahu, whose 11 years in office make him Israel’s longest-serving prime minister after founding father David Ben-Gurion. If he can hang on until 17 July he will beat the record.

Government figures would agree on a date on Sunday, the Bennett source added. The minimum election campaigning period is 90 days, meaning polls will not take place until next year. Observers expect the vote to be held between March and May, while Netanyahu might push for a later date.

Bennett had given Netanyahu an ultimatum to give him the defence ministry portfolio after the resignation on Wednesday of Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman said a ceasefire agreed this week with Hamas militants in Gaza had been “a capitulation to terror”.

In the most intense round of fighting since the war in 2014, militants fired more than 400 rockets and mortar bombs into Israel, which responded with close to 200 strikes in a two-day fight that raised fears of another full-blown conflict.

Violence erupted after Israeli special forces appeared to have been compromised during a covert mission deep inside Gaza, and then engaged in a deadly firefight with gunmen, killing seven and losing a lieutenant colonel, before being airlifted out on a helicopter.

The unofficial ceasefire deal infuriated the more hawkish members of Netanyahu’s cabinet, including Bennett, a hardline Jewish nationalist who rejects any future peace plan that might give Palestinians their own state.

Hamas portrayed the truce as a victory, while a few hundred Israelis living in the country’s south blocked roads and burned tyres this week in protest at the agreement, putting Netanyahu under pressure.

Netanyahu’s Likud party has remained popular in local polls, even as the premier has been linked to several corruption cases, two in which Israeli police have recommended he be indicted for bribery and breach of trust.

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United States

John Kerry: ‘People are going to die because of the decision Trump made’

The former US secretary of state has looked on as Donald Trump has dismantled the Paris climate agreement. Now, 14 years after losing his presidential bid, he is considering another.

by

To look back at the moment John Kerry entered US public life, addressing the Senate foreign relations committee on 22 April 1971, is to be struck by many things. There are the famous words, of course: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” There is the shock of dark, Beatles-inspired hair, the distinctly British-tinged accent. Above all, there is the self-possession. Even though, as he describes it in his new book, Every Day Is Extra, he had not realised he would be the only witness until he had walked in the door, breathless and young and late; even though he was describing a situation about which he was deeply angry, he did not hurry his delivery.

Perhaps – after the vivid pointlessness of months spent in Vietnam, captaining vulnerable “swift boats” up muddy rivers; after being shot at and experiencing the deaths of friends; after watching a wounded Vietnamese soldier bleed to death in a US medical tent, surrounded by well-meaning soldiers who could not give him the most basic words of comfort in his own language, in his own country – the committee held little fear. Perhaps it was his upbringing, as the son of a state department lawyer and a mother whose extended family owned estates in Brittany, France, and an island off Cape Cod in Massachusetts; as a boy who attended elite boarding schools in Switzerland and the US; as a young man who, while a competitive debater and athlete at Yale, once went to visit a girlfriend (Jackie Kennedy’s half-sister) and found himself sailing with JFK for an afternoon. Or perhaps, as he puts it in his publisher’s offices in London, eyes watchful, tired from jetlag and an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, it comes from “being a little kid on the train to Berlin, travelling home alone from school”, a kid who by eighth grade had attended seven schools. “It was just – survival. I am confident. I have a confidence about things.”

The accent is all American now, but the ease is still there, a kind of centred stillness that coexists with mercurial attention: one minute he is leaning back, genial, possibly bored; the next minute he is sitting forwards, engaged, answering questions with a thoughtfulness that, in this age of tweeted ignorance and bile, elicits pangs of regret for what used to be and still could be. He is far from immune to regrets himself and is upfront about what they are: voting for the second Iraq war, for one, and not going all-out to scotch what he argues was the first major irruption of fake news into presidential politics – the airing of ads, during his 2004 presidential campaign, that questioned his war record.

John Kerry testifies about the Vietnam war before the Senate foreign relations committee in 1971

‘It was just survival. I am confident’ … John Kerry testifies about the Vietnam war before the Senate foreign relations committee in 1971. Photograph: Henry Griffin/AP

He is clearly still hurt – and furious at himself for not airing his own ads in response. They had been prepared: “We have records on film; [my swift boat crew are] all on film” – he leans forward, jabbing at the air with his index finger – “at LENGTH, telling the TRUTH.” He lost the race narrowly to George W Bush.

Kerry has a touching faith in truth, in answering falsehood with evidence and with testimony: “You have to expose a lie!” But with someone such as Donald Trump – who has racked up, as Kerry has noted, more than 6,000 documented lies – one would have no time to do anything else, not to mention that responding forces one on to Trump’s agenda. “Well, inevitably, in the mass of back and forth, there’s always something you have to respond to. But how you choose to respond is critical. You don’t have to get down into the dirty-mud name-calling that he gets into – I’d ignore that; that’s stupid stuff.”

But no one seems to have managed it effectively so far – not the media and certainly not the Democrats – although Kerry disagrees on the latter point. “I think we just had an election which shows a lot is working. We just elected more members of Congress as Democrats than in any election since Watergate in 1974. Seven governors flipped from Republican to Democrat. Six legislatures flipped. We had huge additional turnout of young people – a 55% increase. One hundred and thirteen million Americans voted – we’ve never hit 100 before. So, it’s happening. That’s called accountability. And I think you keep organising and building the grassroots movement around the truth.”

Vietnam made Kerry an activist; it also made him a diplomat, a believer in talking, listening, doing whatever it takes to avoid war and to come to an agreement that might be constructive for the country. Kerry, who was elected to the US Senate in 1984 and served there for 28 years, talks fascinatingly and depressingly about how the institution changed in that time. When he arrived, “I had as many daughters as there were women in the US Senate” – two, from his first marriage, to Julia Thorne. The cigar- and alcohol-fuelled banter was locker-room salty, but there were characters such as Ted Kennedy, who provided wise advice. “Never explain,” for one thing – if you explain, you have already lost. (When he became secretary of state, Kerry was assiduous about collecting advice from previous incumbents. Condoleezza Rice told him to remember the big picture; Colin Powell implored him to sort out the ancient email system.)………………..

But who will lead them? Surely an obvious leader is what the Democratic party, going into the presidential election in 2020, needs desperately? “It’s part of the current cynicism,” says Kerry. “I think people want to know that they’re choosing someone with winability, with electability. [But] there is no clarity …” What does he think of Beto O’Rourke? The young former punk rocker did not win his Senate race against Cruz in Texas, but he came close. “I don’t … think so,” says Kerry. “But who knows. I mean, anyone can decide to run. He did energise people. He did a terrific job. But whether that translates into a presidential race – I don’t know.” (Kerry has his own history as a bassist, in a band called John Kerry and the Electras; the clips of his performance in the band, available on YouTube, are the only things he tells me to check out.)

John Kerry, then the US secretary of state, holds his granddaughter while signing the Paris climate accord

‘My kids and my grandkids are going to face a difficult world because of what Donald Trump has done’ … Kerry, then the US secretary of state, holds his granddaughter while signing the Paris climate agreement in 2016. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Perhaps the dubiousness comes from the fact that Kerry himself is considering another presidential run. “I haven’t ruled it out – I’m just going to think quietly about whether I think it’s … necessary. Whether I feel I can bring something to the table that’s essential, that somebody else can’t. I’ve got to see what my friend Joe Biden does, I’ve got to see what Mike Bloomberg does. There’s only so much space for genuine, capable candidates. Do I think I’m capable? Sure – I thought I was very capable and ready to be president 14 years ago, and came within one state of being it [he lost Ohio by 2 percentage points].” But wasn’t one of the problems with Hillary Clinton that she had been around for a long time, that she was part of the old guard? “Well, my own opinion is that people want somebody who knows what they’re doing. I don’t think we have time for a learning curve – Donald Trump has proved that.”

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