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15 Oct

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Global deal on HFCs – greenhouse gases far more powerful than carbon dioxide – seen as ‘largest temperature reduction ever achieved by single agreement’

Air conditioners

The use of hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in air conditioners and refrigerators, will be limited under a new agreement. Photograph: Altaf Qadri/AP

A worldwide deal has been reached to limit the use of greenhouse gases far more powerful than carbon dioxide in a major effort to fight climate change.

The talks on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, have been called the first test of global will since the historic Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions was reached last year. HFCs are described as the world’s fastest-growing climate pollutant and are used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

The agreement announced Saturday morning, after all-night negotiations, caps and reduces the use of HFCs in a gradual process beginning in 2019 with action by developed countries including the US, the world’s second worst polluter. More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world’s top carbon emitter, will start taking action in 2024.

A small group of countries including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states pushed for and secured a later start in 2028, saying their economies need more time to grow. That is three years earlier than India, the world’s third worst polluter, had first proposed.

Environmental groups had hoped the deal could reduce global warming by a half-degree Celsius by the end of this century. This agreement gets about 90% of the way there, said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

This is the largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement.

Zaelke’s group said this is the “largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement”. Speaking as he left the talks late on Friday evening, US secretary of state John Kerry described the deal as a “a monumental step forward”.

The new agreement is “equal to stopping the entire world’s fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years,” David Doniger, climate and clean air program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

Experts said they hope market forces will help speed up the limits agreed to in the deal.

“Compromises had to be made, but 85% of developing countries have committed to the early schedule starting 2024, which is a very significant achievement,” Clare Perry, of the Environmental Investigation Agency, said.

HFCs were introduced in the 1980s as a substitute for ozone-depleting gases. But their danger has grown as air conditioner and refrigerator sales have soared in emerging economies such as China and India. HFCs are also found in inhalers and insulating foams.

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Aid agencies work with UK and France as operation steps up due to imminent demolition of Calais refugee camp

A tent painted with the union flag at the Jungle camp in Calais.

Tents in the Calais camp. The UK government has agreed to take in lone children with existing links to Britain. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of Syrian children could be resettled in the UK in a matter of days as France prepares to demolish the refugee camp in Calais.

Aid agencies have been working with British and French officials to register all unaccompanied children who have links to the UK. The operation to register the children, and bring them safely to Britain, has become more urgent as the French government prepares to demolish the camp next week.

The UK government has agreed to take in lone children with existing links to Britain and about 300 minors are expected to be brought into the country in the coming days. A Home Office spokesman said: “Work is continuing on both sides of the Channel to ensure this happens as a matter of urgency.”

He said the home secretary, Amber Rudd, had made it “crystal clear” to the French interior minister that she intended to “transfer as many minors as possible” who are eligible under the rules.

Although asylum seekers usually have to make a claim for protection in the first safe country they reach, the rules for children mean their claim can be transferred if they have family members living somewhere else.

Officials are working against the clock to complete the process as fears grow of a mass disappearance of children ahead of the planned eviction and demolition. There are also fears those children who are not eligible to seek asylum in Britain will be particularly vulnerable once the authorities move in and raze the camp.

With local councils set to absorb the pressures of the influx of unaccompanied children, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, refugee and migration task group, David Simmonds, said councils will “require long-term funding arrangements from government so that the commitment to support those children starting a new life in the UK is properly funded”.

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Man whose son died in attack on funeral in Sana’a hits out at ‘unjust war’ as kingdom condemned over human rights violations

25-year-old Yemeni man Sadeq Abdullah Saleh al-Guraizea

Sadeq Saleh, who had returned to Sana’a to get married just before the attack. Photograph: sadiqyemen/Facebook

At 25, Sadeq Abdullah Saleh al-Guraizea was close to finishing his education and looking forward to the future.

In August, just three months before the end of his master’s degree in IT at Limkokwing University in Malaysia, the English-speaking Yemeni had returned home to the country’s rebel-held capital, Sana’a, to marry. The wedding 10 days later coincided with the resumption of airstrikes by Saudi Arabia, which led to the closure of the airport, forcing him to stay longer than expected.

Last Saturday, still in Sana’a, he accompanied his 56-year-old father, Abdullah, a security officer, to the city’s al-Sala al-Kubra community hall for the funeral ceremony of a well-known sheikh, the father of the Houthi-led government’s interior minister, Galal al-Rawishan. It was to become the site of one of the single most devastating attacks in a conflict that has turned from a civil war to a regional proxy conflagration.

“We went there to offer condolences,” his father told the Guardian. “I sat in the right side of the hall and my son was approximately 5 metres in front of me.” Among the crowd were senior military officials, but also hundreds of civilians.

At about 3.30am, the first Saudi strike hit. “The roof fell and I got injured. I jumped out of a window to get out, thinking that my son had gone out before me,” Abdullah Saleh recalled. “Then I went to look for my son inside; it was impossible to see amid the devastation and fire, it was then that the second missile landed.”

The two munitions dropped by a Saudi warplane, which Human Rights Watch identified as US-manufactured 227kg (500lb) laser-guided bombs, killed 140 people, among them the newly-wed Yemeni and several children. More than 500 people were also injured in what HRW labelled this week “an apparent war crime” by the Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by the US and the UK.

The Saudi military intervention is aimed at reinstating the exiled president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and countering the advances of Iran-backed Houthi fighters, who control Sana’a.

One in three Saudi air raids on Yemen have hit civilian sites. “My son was scheduled to go back to Malaysia a week after his marriage,” Saleh said. “My son like many other students had nothing to do with this unjust war. He wanted to return to Malaysia in order to complete his study, and continue a PhD – to achieve his dreams.”

Sadeq Saleh was not a political man, according to his family, and in fact, on his Facebook account, which is still accessible, he comes across as a man who was critical of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and his main supporter, Iran – also the country Riyadh accuses of militarily backing Houthi rebels.

“It’s catastrophic and bitter, I don’t believe that I have lost my son; it’s an incident unlike any other,” he said. “It is a heinous crime against humanity, and the oddest thing is that this crime was committed by an Islamic country, the so-called Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the father said.

Washington used unprecedented language to distance itself from the coalition after the funeral attack. A White House statement said that its security cooperation with Riyadh was not a “blank cheque” and that it was reviewing its “already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led coalition”.

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  • Florida supreme court rules against death penalty by majority jury decision
  • State legislature must rewrite law if it wants to retain capital punishment
death chamber georgia

‘It’s a slow process, but the death penalty is gradually dying itself across this country,’ said Professor Jeff Kirchmeier of City University of New York school of law, after the ruling. Photograph: Ric Feld/AP

Executions in Florida and the fate of prisoners on death row will remain on hold after a resounding ruling on Friday from the state’s highest court that the death penalty there is unconstitutional.

Capital punishment has been in limbo in the state since a US supreme court decision in January 2016 that Florida’s system was unconstitutional because judges had the final say on the death sentence, whereas that power should be held by juries.

Now Florida’s supreme court has ruled that a fix that lawmakers attempted in the spring is also unconstitutional.

The Florida justices ruled that death sentences cannot be handed down by a jury deciding in the majority, which was the essence of state lawmakers’ spring fix – the jury must agree unanimously.

The legislature’s rewriting of the law in May to allow juries to award the death penalty on the basis of a 10-to-2 decision was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s court.

Experts declared the decision a major blow to Florida’s death penalty and a further weakening of America’s fraying ties to the principle of capital punishment.

“I’m happy. This is an important ruling. My first reaction is relief that it’s going to require a unanimous decision from a jury to make the ultimate determination of whether or not someone should die,” said Rob Smith, director of the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard law school.

The legislature will now be forced back to the drawing board if it wants to rewrite the law again and keep the death penalty going in Florida.

It is believed lawmakers will not go into a session where this can happen until next spring, meaning that death sentences, and probably also executions, will continue to be on hold, Smith said.

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