UN Chief Warns Paris Climate Goals Still Not Enough

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took his global message urging immediate climate action to officials gathered in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, where production of hydrocarbons remains a key driver of the economy.
 
Guterres is calling on governments to stop building new coal plants by 2020, cut greenhouse emissions by 45% over the next decade and overhauling fossil fuel-driven economies with new technologies like solar and wind. The world, he said, is facing a grave climate emergency.''<br />
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In remarks at a summit in Abu Dhabi, he painted a grim picture of how rapidly climate change is advancing, saying it is outpacing efforts to address it.<br />
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 He lauded the Paris climate accord, but said even if its promises are fully met, the world still faces what he described as a catastrophic three-degree temperature rise by the end of the century.<br />
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Arctic permafrost is melting decades earlier than even worst-case scenarios, he said, threatening to unlock vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas.<br />
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It is plain to me that we have no time to lose,” Guterres said. Sadly, it is not yet plain to all the decision makers that run our world.''<br />
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 He spoke at the opulent Emirates Palace, where Abu Dhabi was hosting a preparatory meeting for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in September. Guterres was expected to later take a helicopter ride to view Abu Dhabi's Noor solar power plant.<br />
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When asked, U.N. representatives said the lavish Abu Dhabi summit and his planned helicopter ride would be carbon neutral, meaning their effects would be balanced by efforts like planting trees and sequestering emissions. The U.N. says carbon dioxide emissions account for around 80% of global warming.<br />
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Guterres was in Abu Dhabi fresh off meetings with The Group of 20 leaders in Osaka, Japan. There, he appealed directly to heads of state of the world's main emitters to step up their efforts. The countries of the G-20 represent 80% of world emissions of greenhouse gases, he said.<br />
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At the G-20 meeting, 19 countries expressed their commitment to the Paris agreement, with the only the United States dissenting.<br />
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In 2017, President Donald Trump pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement as soon as 2020, arguing it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers. Trump has also moved steadily to dismantle Obama administration efforts to rein in coal, oil and gas emissions. His position has been that these efforts also hurt the U.S. economy.<br />
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The secretary-general's special envoy for the climate summit, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, told The Associated Press it was disappointing that the U.S. has pulled out from the accord. However, he said there are many examples of efforts at the local and state level in the United States to combat climate change.<br />
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I think it is very important to have all countries committing to this cause… even more when we are talking about the country of the importance and the size – not only in terms of the economy but also the emissions – of the United States,” he said.
 
Guterres is urging business leaders and politicians to come to the Climate Action Summit later this year with their plans ready to nearly halve greenhouse emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
 
He suggested taxing major carbon-emitting industries and polluters, ending the subsidization of oil and gas, and halting the building of all new coal plants by next year.
 
We are in a battle for our lives,'' he said.But it is a battle we can win.”

 

 

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Thousands of Protesters Demand Civilian Rule in Sudan

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Sudan on Sunday against the ruling generals, calling for a civilian government nearly three months after the army forced out the long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The mass protests, centered in the capital, Khartoum, were the first since a June 3 crackdown when security forces violently broke up a protest camp. In that confrontation, dozens were killed, with protest organizers saying the death toll was at least 128, while authorities claim it was 61, including three security personnel.

Sunday’s demonstrators gathered at several points across Khartoum and in the sister city of Omdurman, then marching to the homes of those killed in previous protests.

The protesters, some of them waving Sudanese flags, chanted “Civilian rule! Civilian rule!” and “Burhan’s council, just fall,” targeting Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military council. Security forces fired tear gas at the demonstrators.

Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council, said the generals want to reach an “urgent and comprehensive agreement with no exclusion. We in the military council are totally neutral. We are the guardians of the revolution. We do not want to be part of the dispute.”

The European Union and several Western countries have called on the generals to avoid bloodshed.

The June 3 raid followed the collapse of talks on a new government, whether it should be led by a civilian or soldier.

Ethiopia and the African Union have offered a plan for a civilian-majority body, which the generals say could be the basis for new negotiations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ancient Peruvian Water-Harvesting System Could Lessen Modern Water Shortages

Sometimes, modern problems require ancient solutions.  
 
A 1,400-year-old Peruvian water-diverting method could supply up to 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of water to present-day Lima each year, according to new research published in Nature Sustainability.
 
It’s one example of how indigenous methods could supplement existing modern infrastructure in water-scarce countries worldwide. 
 
More than a billion people across the world face water scarcity. Artificial reservoirs store rainwater and runoff for use during drier times, but reservoirs are costly, require years to plan and can still fail to meet water needs. Just last week, the reservoirs in Chennai, India, ran nearly dry, forcing its 4 million residents to rely on government water tankers.  
 

Animation showing monthly rainfall in the tropical Andes. Humid air transports water vapor from the Amazon and is blocked by the Andean mountain barrier, producing extreme differences between the eastern and western slopes. (B. Ochoa-Tocachi, 2019)

Peru’s capital, Lima, depends on water from rivers high in the Andes. It takes only a few days for water to flow down to Lima, so when the dry season begins in the mountains, the water supply rapidly vanishes. The city suffers water deficit of 43 million cubic meters during the dry season, which it alleviates with modern infrastructure such as artificial reservoirs. 
 

Panoramic view of the Andean highlands in the Chillon river basin where Huamantanga is located. The city of Lima would be located downstream in the horizon background. (S. Grainger, Imperial College London, 2015)

Artificial reservoirs aren’t the only solution, however. Over a thousand years ago, indigenous people developed another way of dealing with water shortages. Boris Ochoa-Tocachi, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London and lead author of the study, saw firsthand one of the last remaining pre-Inca water-harvesting systems in the small highland community of Huamantanga, Peru. 

Water diverted, delayed
 
The 1,400-year-old system is designed to increase the water supply during the dry season by diverting and delaying water as it travels down from the mountains. This nature-based “green” infrastructure consists of stone canals that guide water from its source to a network of earthen canals, ponds, springs and rocky hillsides, which encourage water to seep into the ground. It then slowly trickles downhill through the soil and resurfaces in streams near the community.  
 
Ideally, the system should be able to increase the water’s travel time from days to months in order to provide water throughout the dry season, “but there was no evidence at all to quantify what is the water volume that they can harvest from these practices, or really if the practices were actually increasing the yields of these springs that they used during the dry season,” said Ochoa-Tocachi. 
 

A diversion canal as part of the pre-Inca infiltration system during the wet season. Canals like this divert water during the wet season to zones of high permeability. (M. Briceño, CONDESAN, 2012)

To assess the system’s capabilities, the researchers measured how much it slowed the flow of water by injecting a dye tracer high upstream and noting when it resurfaced downstream. The water started to emerge two weeks later and continued flowing for eight months — a huge improvement over the hours or days it would normally take. 
 
“I think probably the most exciting result is that we actually confirmed that this system works,” Ochoa-Tocachi added. “It’s not only trusting that, yeah, we know that there are traditional practices, we know that indigenous knowledge is very useful. I think that we proved that it is still relevant today. It is still a tool that we can use and we can replicate to solve modern problems.” 

Considerable increase in supply
 
The researchers next considered how implementing a scaled-up version of the system could benefit Lima. Combining what they learned from the existing setup in Huamantanga with the physical characteristics of Lima’s surroundings, they estimated that the system could increase Lima’s dry-season water supply by 7.5% on average, and up to 33% at the beginning of the dry season. This amounts to nearly 100 million cubic meters of water per year — the equivalent of 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. 
 
Todd Gartner, director of the World Resources Institute Natural Infrastructure for Water project, noted that this study “takes what we often just talk about — that ‘green [infrastructure] is as good as grey’ — and it puts this into practice and does a lot of evaluation and monitoring and puts real numbers behind it.” 
 
Another benefit of the system is the cost. Ochoa-Tocachi estimated that building a series of canals similar to what exists in Huamantanga would cost 10 times less than building a reservoir of the same volume. He also noted that many highland societies elsewhere in the world have developed ways of diverting and delaying water in the past and could implement them today to supplement their more expensive modern counterparts. 
 
“I think there is a lot of potential in revaluing these water-harvesting practices that have a very long history,” Ochoa-Tocachi said. “There are a lot of these practices that still now could be rescued and could be replicated, even though probably the actual mechanics or the actual process is different than the one that we studied. But the concept of using indigenous knowledge for solving modern engineering problems, I think that is probably very valuable today.” 

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White House: Trade Agreement with China Not Close

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday resumption of trade talks between the U.S. and China “is a very big deal,” but acknowledged there is no immediate prospect for an agreement between the world’s two largest economies.

“The talks will go on for quite some time,” Kudlow told the Fox News Sunday interview show.

He said the countries had reached agreement on 90 percent of a new deal by early May, before talks broke down in what has turned out to be a seven-week stalemate. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit in Japan to restart negotiations.

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a bilateral meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping during the G-20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019.

But Kudlow assessed that “the last 10 percent could be the toughest,” with such unresolved issues as cyberattacks, Chinese demands that U.S. companies turn over proprietary technology they use, Chinese government support for its companies and the sale of U.S. technology components to the giant Chinese multinational technology giant Huawei.

Trump agreed in his meeting with Xi to ease sales of some U.S.-made components to Huawei, a policy change that some of Trump’s Republican colleagues in the U.S. disagree with because they contend that Huawei can insert Chinese intelligence eavesdropping chips in their consumer products sold overseas. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called it a “catastrophic mistake.”

Kudlow said he realizes “there are national security concerns” with sales to Huawei. “We will look at this carefully,” Kudlow said, adding that Trump’s easing of sales of components to Huawei “is not a general amnesty.”

Trump, in a series of Twitter comments, said, “I had a great meeting with President Xi of China yesterday, far better than expected. I agreed not to increase the already existing Tariffs that we charge China while we continue to negotiate. China has agreed that, during the negotiation, they will begin purchasing large amounts of agricultural product from our great Farmers. At the request of our High Tech companies, and President Xi, I agreed to allow Chinese company Huawei to buy product from them which will not impact our National Security.”

I had a great meeting with President Xi of China yesterday, far better than expected. I agreed not to increase the already existing Tariffs that we charge China while we continue to negotiate. China has agreed that, during the negotiation, they will begin purchasing large…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2019

He said the U.S. relationship with China “continues to be a very good one. The quality of the transaction is far more important to me than speed. I am in no hurry, but things look very good! There will be no reduction in the Tariffs currently being charged to China.” 

….again with China as our relationship with them continues to be a very good one. The quality of the transaction is far more important to me than speed. I am in no hurry, but things look very good! There will be no reduction in the Tariffs currently being charged to China.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2019

China Daily, an English-language daily Beijing often uses to relay messages, agreed with Kudlow’s assessment that a trade agreement is not close.

“Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” the Chinese Daily editorial published late Saturday said.

“Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level,” the editorial said.

 

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Trump Meets Kim at DMZ, Crosses Into North Korea

Donald Trump on Sunday became the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea, stepping across the border during a meeting at the demilitarized zone with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. At the impromptu summit, Trump said they agreed to resume working level negotiations, which had been stalled, as VOA’s William Gallo reports from Seoul.

 

 

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Trump Meets Kim at DMZ, Crosses Into North Korea

Donald Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea, stepping across the border during a meeting at the demilitarized zone with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

After shaking hands with Kim at the Panmunjom border village, Trump walked across the military demarcation line separating the two Koreas. Kim and Trump then crossed the border back into South Korea. 

“Good to see you again,” Kim told Trump. “I never expected to see you in this place.” 

“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” said Trump, who invited Kim to the United States for another meeting.


Trump Meets Kim at DMZ, Crosses Into North Korea video player.
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WATCH: William Gallo’s video report

Trump on Saturday had said the meeting would only last two minutes. However, Trump’s private talks with Kim lasted about 50 minutes, turning into an impromptu summit.

When Trump emerged from the meeting, he announced he and Kim had agreed to form teams to restart working level talks. 

“They will meet over the next few weeks and they’re going to start a process and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “Speed is not the object…we want a really comprehensive, good deal.” 

Leaving South Korea after a wonderful meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un. Stood on the soil of North Korea, an important statement for all, and a great honor!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2019

It is the third meeting between Kim and Trump, following meetings in Singapore last June and in Vietnam in February. Though the DMZ summit raises hopes of revived nuclear talks, it’s not clear how much progress was made.

Nuclear progress?

Trump announced his negotiating team would continue to be led by Steve Biegun, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea. He said that North Korea “was also putting someone in charge who we know and who we like,” though he didn’t elaborate.

After the Singapore summit, Trump also announced his deputies would soon start working level negotiations. But those talks soon broke down over disagreements about how to pace sanctions relief with North Korea’s steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons. 

“It’s where we were about 15 months ago,” says Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “One step forward, two steps back. But this is one step forward.” 

“Given where we were last week, it’s not nothing,” he added. 

 

U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (Reuters)

The disagreements between the U.S. and North Korea remain vast. Not only has North Korea not provided a list of its nuclear sites, Washington and Pyongyang have not even agreed on what the idea of denuclearization means. 

In recent weeks, North Korea expressed increasing levels of anger at the U.S. refusal to relax sanctions. Trump prefers a “big deal” under which North Korea commits to completely abandoning his nuclear weapons before relaxing any sanctions.

In their public comments Sunday, neither Trump nor Kim gave any indication of softening their stances.

“There was no sign that the two sides were prepared to address the underlying substantive problems, like differences over sanctions relief, that have made diplomacy so difficult,” says Mintaro Oba, a former State Department official and Korea specialist.  

“Unless the working-level negotiators have a mandate to try new, more constructive approaches to these problems, it’s hard to see what they can achieve,” he adds.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stand on the North Korean side in the Demilitarized Zone, June 30, 2019 at Panmunjom. (AP)

U.S. officials have given mixed signals about whether they are open to an incremental approach, whereby Pyongyang would give up its nuclear program in stages in exchange for reciprocal steps by Washington.

Building trust or theatrics?

Trump visited the DMZ with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Though the three leaders did not make any public statement together, they briefly appeared together before Trump and Kim met for private talks.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during his visit to U.S. troops based in Osan Air Base, South Korea, June 30, 2019. (Reuters)

At an earlier military briefing with Moon at a DMZ lookout point, Trump said the demilitarized zone used to be “very, very dangerous… but after our first summit, all the danger went away.” 

Trump also defended his North Korea policy and blasted media that have questioned whether he should meet with Kim, given that talks with North Korea are stalled.  

“I say that for the press, they have no appreciation for what we’ve done,” Trump said.

While many warn the latest summit risked normalizing friendly relations with a brutal dictator, South Korea’s President Moon said the meeting was an important step toward building trust with North Korea.

“We have taken one big step forward,” Moon said. “The… Korean people have been given hope thanks to today.”

But Bonnie Glaser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that for Trump, stepping inside North Korea might not signify any change in policy.

Trump, she said, delights in doing things no president has done before.”

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