Talks adopt ‘rulebook’ to put Paris climate deal into action
By FRANK JORDANS
Monday, December 17
KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — Almost 200 nations, including the world’s top greenhouse gas producers, China and the United States, have adopted a set of rules meant to breathe life into the 2015 Paris climate accord by setting out how countries should report their emissions and efforts to reduce them.
But negotiators delayed other key decisions until next year — a move that frustrated environmentalists and countries that wanted more ambitious goals in light of scientists’ warnings that the world must shift sharply away from fossil fuels in the coming decade.
“The majority of the rulebook for the Paris agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,” said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. “But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up” to the dire consequences of global warming as outlined in a report by the U.N Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.
Officials at the talks, which ended late Saturday in the Polish city of Katowice, agreed upon universal rules on how nations can cut emissions. Poor countries secured assurances on financial support to help them reduce emissions, adapt to changes such as rising sea levels and pay for damage that has already happened.
“Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,” said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official who led the talks.
While each country would likely find some parts of the agreement it did not like, he said, efforts were made to balance the interests of all parties.
“We will all have to give in order to gain,” he said. “We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity.”
The talks took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year.
The recent report by the IPCC concluded that while it’s possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, doing so would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels.
Alarmed by efforts to include that idea in the final text of the meeting, the oil-exporting nations of the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an endorsement of the IPCC report midway through this month’s talks. That prompted uproar from vulnerable countries like small island nations and environmental groups.
The final text omitted a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and merely welcomed the “timely completion” of the IPCC report, not its conclusions.
Johan Rockstrom, a scientist who helps to lead the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, called the agreement “a relief.” The Paris deal, he said, “is alive and kicking, despite a rise in populism and nationalism.”
His biggest concern, he said, is that the summit “failed to align ambitions with science, in particular missing the necessity of making clear that global emissions from fossil fuels must be cut by half by 2030” to stay in line with the IPCC report.
Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the talks created “a solid foundation for implementation and strengthening” of the Paris agreement and could help bring the U.S. back into the deal by a future presidential administration.
One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming.
But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system that developed countries say wasn’t credible or transparent.
Among those that pushed back hardest was the United States, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and his promotion of coal as a source of energy.
“Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules,” said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank.
The U.S. is still technically in the Paris agreement until 2020, which is why American officials participated in the Katowice talks.
When it came to closing potential loopholes that could allow countries to dodge their commitments to cut emissions, “the U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it’s largely succeeded,” Diringer said.
In the end, a decision on the mechanics of an emissions-trading system was postponed to next year’s meeting. Countries also agreed to consider the issue of raising ambitions at a U.N. summit in New York next September.
Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested there was no alternative to such meetings if countries want to tackle global problems, especially as multilateral diplomacy is under pressure from nationalism.
“The world has changed. The political landscape has changed,” she told The Associated Press. “Still you’re seeing here that we’re able to make progress. We’re able to discuss the issues. We’re able to come to solutions.”
Read more stories on climate issues by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/Climate .
China’s win-at-all-costs approach suggests it will follow its own dangerous path in biomedicine
December 17, 2018
Author: Hallam Stevens, Associate Professor of History, Nanyang Technological University
Disclosure statement: Hallam Stevens receives funding from the Ministry of Education, Singapore.
The world was shocked by Chinese scientist He Jiankui’s recent claim that he’d brought to term twin babies whose genes – inheritable by their own potential descendants – he had modified as embryos. The genetic edit, He said, was meant to make the girls resistant to HIV infection.
Scientists within China and across the world responded to the announcement with a mixture of incredulity and alarm.
But as a historian of biology who has closely followed biomedicine in China over the past few years, I was less surprised by these developments. Set within the context of China’s approach to biomedical ethics and its rampant global ambitions, He’s actions fit into a wider pattern of dangerous excess.
Since He did not publish any of his results in scientific journals there’s no way of knowing yet whether his claims are true, false or exaggerated in some way. But what seems the most surprising outside of China is that He believed – gambled, perhaps – that his announcement would be met with congratulations and acclaim. Didn’t he know that he’d be condemned? Why take such a risk?
Different history frames what’s acceptable
China’s relationship to biomedical ethics is very different from that of the West.
In the West, after-the-fact condemnation of Nazi medical experiments, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and other patient abuses led to the rise of Institutional Review Boards that carefully regulate medical experimentation on humans. China has its own history of dubious medical research, including by Japanese scientists during World War II, but it didn’t result in the development of similar kinds of home-grown bioethics institutions. Although many hospitals and universities in China do now have Institutional Review Boards, they’re not nearly as established – or consistent in their practices – as those in the U.S. and Europe.
This does not excuse He’s actions. After all, he was trained in the U.S. and was surely aware of Western norms. But He’s willingness to engage in undoubtedly risky and dangerous actions suggests that he was working in a very different ethical context.
Apart from merely an absence of compelling ethical oversight, the broader attitudes toward biomedical research in China are important in explaining He’s annoucement. In the West, the potential benefits of biomedicine and biotechnologies are often weighed against potential harms. In Europe and the U.S., many people view genetically modified foods with caution and treat cloning and stem cells with outright distrust.
China came to biotech late in the game, scraping into the Human Genome Project in the 1990s. Even so, both the Chinese state and Chinese scientists saw the field as an area in which China had a good chance of catching up to the West. As such, it gambled heavily and has invested much in biotech and biomedicine. Having followed one of China’s most prominent biotech companies for years, I can attest that these fields are seen as critical to sustaining China’s growing population: feeding people through agricultural technologies and keeping people healthy through new medicines and therapies.
The upshot of all this is that Chinese view biomedicine in dramatically positive terms. Advances in biomedicine can have an almost heroic status within China.
He’s claims about genetic modification fit this model. He has represented his use of genetic modification as a bold intervention to save the lives of twin girls and eliminate discrimination against HIV patients. He himself is (or at least was) somewhat of a heroic figure. He completed his Ph.D. at Rice University and postdoctoral training at Stanford before being sponsored by the Chinese government to return to his homeland under the “Thousand Talents Plan,” which aims to recruit top scientists back to Chinese universities. In 2018, he was nominated for the China Youth Science and Technology Award. He was a rising star.
Moving fast and breaking things
In 2012, back from the U.S., He Jiankui joined Southern University of Science and Technology, an institution set up in Shenzhen in 2011. This local setting is important too. Shenzhen, the city that sprang up from China’s first Special Economic Zone, was an experiment in China’s reform and opening. Since 1980, Shenzhen has been a zone of experimentation, a place of high risk and high reward. Both penniless farmers and entrepreneurs have gone there to make their fortune.
This has resulted in some great successes: Shenzhen is the home of Huawei, Tencent, BGI, BYD, and hundreds of other thriving companies. But such experiments have also generated problems. The capitalist excesses that have come with reform and opening up – doctored milk, fake vaccines and gutter oil – are now well known. And Shenzhen is a place where such excesses – particularly violations of intellectual property rules – have been particularly rampant.
He’s reckless experimentation looks like the result of such an attitude, as applied to biomedicine. It is not just scientific competition and a “drive to succeed,” but arguably a wider atmosphere of success through excess. The release of a YouTube video alongside He’s announcement suggests that his actions are motivated by personal aggrandizement and fame- and fortune-seeking.
Like those other scandals involving tainted products, He’s genetic modification is yet another failure by the Chinese government to protect its vulnerable citizens – in this case, unborn children – from predatory individuals and companies.
From an even broader perspective, such excesses might be seen as collateral damage from global competition and rapid development. In developing “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and in its reform and opening up, China has followed its own political path, often proving unwilling to follow international norms. And Shenzhen – the world’s capital of tech hardware development – has found its own models of innovation that now rival Silicon Valley’s. Catching up with – and surpassing – the West has motivated divergent, and sometimes ugly, actions. Take the recent scandal involving Huawei, for instance.
China may decide to forge its own path in science, too, following trajectories that would not be possible in the West. For now, He remains shunned within China. But if his reckless experiments do turn out to be a world first, Chinese scientists may embrace them – and him.
Science and public policy scholar Caroline Wagner has argued that He’s actions will threaten China’s position in the global scientific order by undermining the willingness of scientists elsewhere to collaborate with them: “A global system that works by reputation will shun those who do not play by the rules.” But these rules are Western ones. And China may decide it can go its own way.
Christopher Henson is a Friend of The Conversation: In the pending showdown between ‘Capitalism with American characteristics’, whose most notable recent achievement was the global financial meltdown of 2008-09, and ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’ which has not yet got to the level of greatness that will allow it to disrupt entire civilizations, the rest of us should avoid being caught in the middle. The ethical context of both systems is about the same and both sides need to be reined in.
Kosovo president: Decision to form army ‘irreversible’
By FLORENT BAJRAMI
Sunday, December 16
PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The decision to transform Kosovo’s security force into an army is “irreversible,” the country’s president said Sunday while offering assurance that a new national military does not threaten ethnic Serbs living in the former Serbian province.
President Hashim Thaci gave a briefing on the army plan before he left for New York, where the United Nations Security Council is expected in coming days to discuss the small Balkan nation’s decision.
Kosovo’s parliament overwhelmingly approved the army’s formation Friday. Neighboring Serbia has warned that an army in a place it considers Serbian territory could result in an armed intervention.
“Whatever happens at the Security Council, despite the concerns of a certain individual or a country, the formation of the Kosovo army is an irreversible act,” Thaci said.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. Its government insists the army would violate a U.N. resolution that ended Serbia’s crackdown on Kosovar separatists in 1998-1999.
Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic reiterated Sunday that Belgrade will insist at the U.N. Security Council session that the army was formed in violation of the resolution.
“It is important that the position of Serbia will be heard,” Dacic said.
Serbia’s government has warned it might use its own military to respond, with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic saying that’s “one of the options on the table.” An armed intervention by Serbia could bring a confrontation with the NATO-led peacekeepers stationed in Kosovo since 1999.
The U.N. Security Council held closed consultations late Friday on the format of a meeting on the dispute. Russia, Serbia’s close ally, wants the council to meet publicly, and European nations have sought a closed session.
NATO’s chief has called Kosovo’s action “ill-timed.” The United States has expressed support for “Kosovo’s sovereign right” as an independent nation that unilaterally broke away from Serbia.
Thaci said the army would be a professional and multiethnic one, with 5 percent of the troops coming from the ethnic Serb minority; He advised Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to take a cue from Serbs residents in Kosovo “who feel calm and who take part in the army.”
Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.
Follow Llazar Semini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lsemini
US envoy dismisses Russia’s warnings of Ukraine attack
MOSCOW (AP) — The special envoy of the United States on Ukraine has dismissed Russia’s warning of a Ukrainian offensive near Crimea as an attempt to deflect attention from its own aggressive actions.
The long-simmering conflict between Russia and Ukraine broke into the open last month when Russian coast guards near Russia-annexed Crimea fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and their crew.
Several Russian officials including the foreign minister in recent days have raised the alarm about what they called planned provocations by Ukrainian troops near the land border with the Crimean peninsula.
Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy on Ukraine, told reporters Monday that he is not expecting Ukraine to launch any attacks. On the contrary, he said, the Russian remarks might aim to deflect attention from Russia’s ongoing blockade of the Kerch Strait.
Bears clinch NFC North with 24-17 victory over Packers
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears clinched the NFC North and helped knock Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers out of playoff contention.
They could not have asked for a sweeter scenario.
Mitchell Trubisky threw for two touchdowns, Eddie Jackson ended Rodgers’ NFL-record streak without an interception and Chicago clinched the division with a 24-17 victory over the Packers on Sunday.
The Bears (10-4) secured their first playoff appearance since the 2010 team won the NFC North. And even better for them, they did it with a rare victory over their heated rivals.
“We’ve accomplished a lot,” Trubisky said. “But I think I’m most proud of just the type of guy that we have in our locker room, the culture that we’ve kind of created. We know that nobody really believed in us on the outside in the preseason — or even throughout the season. But we knew what type of team we had. And we knew we were just gonna keep getting better every single week.”
The loss coupled with Minnesota’s 41-17 victory over Miami keeps the Packers out of the postseason for the second year in a row.
Chicago had dropped nine of 10 against Green Bay (5-8-1). But the Bears secured their first trip to the playoffs in eight years with their seventh win in eight games .
For a team that came into the season with four straight last-place finishes, it’s quite a turnaround. But with the hiring of coach Matt Nagy and trade for Khalil Mack in a busy offseason, the Bears made a huge jump.
“You could feel it all year long that we knew we had the talent,” Nagy said.
The Bears blew a 20-point lead in a season-opening loss at Green Bay, with an injured Rodgers rallying the Packers. But they’ve been climbing since.
Trubisky gave the Bears a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter with a 13-yard pass to Trey Burton in the left side of the end zone.
After stopping the Packers, Tarik Cohen returned a punt 44 yards to the 15. But he stepped out of bounds a yard short on a third-and-5 at the 10 when he easily could have gotten the first down.
That forced the Bears to settle for a field goal by Cody Parkey, making it 24-14 with 6:43 remaining.
The Packers then drove to the 9, but on third down, Jackson picked off Rodgers, ending his streak at 402 passes.
The throw over the middle was intended for Jimmy Graham near the goal line. But the ball got tipped to Jackson, who had to be helped off the field with a sprained right ankle after his leg bent awkwardly as he tried to slide on the return. The interception was his sixth of the season.
Mason Crosby kicked a field goal in the closing seconds to make it a seven-point game. But Chicago recovered the onside kick.
The Packers are 1-1 since offensive coordinator Joe Philbin replaced fired coach Mike McCarthy on an interim basis.
“The expectation is competing for championships,” Rodgers said. “It’s a good football team. But like I told some of the guys, I look forward to the battles over the years. I like our chances in this division moving forward.”
WORST TO FIRST
The Bears, who finished in fourth place in the NFC North last season, completed a turnaround that make for 15 of the past 16 seasons with at least one NFL team finishing in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place.
And Nagy became the Bears’ first rookie coach with 10 wins since George Halas in 1920, the inaugural season for a franchise then known as the Decatur Staleys.
Mack had 2½ sacks and Leonard Floyd added two. The defense came through with another strong effort after the Monsters of the Midway shut down Jared Goff and the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams the previous week.
Trubisky was 20 of 28 for 235 yards with a 120.4 rating. It was a big improvement over the previous week when he matched a career high with three interceptions after missing back-to-back games because of a right shoulder injury.
Cohen caught a touchdown pass. Jordan Howard ran for a TD, and the Bears improved to 7-1 at home for the first time since 2005.
“Guys grinded, gritted it out, especially toward the end,” Mack said. “We just want to keep this feeling going.”
Rodgers said his groin tightened on him at the end of the first half. He finished 25 of 42 for 274 yards with his second interception of the season and failed to throw a touchdown for the first time this year.
Davante Adams had eight receptions for 119 yards.
The Packers fell to 0-7 on the road with their ninth straight loss away from home, and their eight-game win streak at Soldier Field, counting the postseason, came to an end.
“Nobody anticipated this happening,” Clay Matthews said. “In reality, we’re not getting blown out every week. I’m trying to find a silver lining, that’s all you can do at this point of the season.”
Packers: RT Bryan Bulaga (knee) missed his second game in a row, while DL Kenny Clark sat out with an elbow injury. … RB Aaron Jones left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter. … WR Randall Cobb was evaluated for a concussion following a hard hit by Jackson late in the game.
Bears: LB Aaron Lynch left with an elbow injury in the third quarter.
Packers: Visit New York Jets on Dec. 23.
Bears: Visit San Francisco on Dec. 23.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL