North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted

Reuters reports: Two North Korean shipments to a Syrian government agency responsible for the country’s chemical weapons programme were intercepted in the past six months, according to a confidential United Nations report on North Korea sanctions violations.

The report by a panel of independent U.N. experts, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council earlier this month and seen by Reuters on Monday, gave no details on when or where the interdictions occurred or what the shipments contained.

“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea),” the experts wrote in the 37-page report. [Continue reading…]

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How Trump is enabling famine

Jackson Diehl writes: Last month, eight large private U.S. relief organizations formed an unprecedented alliance to call Americans’ attention to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II: 20 million people at imminent risk of famine in four countries, including millions of children the United Nations says are “acutely malnourished.” Thinking of the popular anti-famine movements of the 1980s and ’90s, the groups enlisted support from big corporations and rock stars; the hope was to get through to the 85 percent of Americans whom polling showed were unaware of the crisis, and make a dent in the more than $2 billion deficit in funding needed to head off mass starvation.

For the most part, the two-week campaign didn’t work. Officials from the groups say they raised about $3.7 million and got more coverage than they would have working separately. But there was no eruption of public interest; news stories about the famine remain few and far between. The reason is fairly obvious: The continuing Trump circus sucks up so much media oxygen that issues that otherwise would be urgent — such as millions of people starving — are asphyxiated.

The U.N. tried to call attention to the looming hunger crisis in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria in March. Nearly six months later, the grim facts are these: Just 54 percent of the $4.9 billion the U.N. said was needed to head off a catastrophe has been raised. Though aid deliveries have pulled a state in South Sudan formally out of famine, more than half the population there and in Somalia need emergency food assistance, along with 5.2 million people in northeastern Nigeria. [Continue reading…]

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Why are the United Nations’ sustainable development goals stalling?

Pacific Standard reports: It’s the most ambitious project in the history of humankind. If successful, it would solve many of civilization’s most pressing challenges. But due to a single, fatal defect, it’s poised to fail—catastrophically.

“It” is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres recently reported, the efforts to meet the goals are lagging and must pick up the pace to hit the 2030 target. Fortunately, there’s still time to save the project, and it can be done by applying a straightforward fix.

But first, it’s worth slowing down and adding a bit of context to this endeavor. The goals—known as the SDGs—were adopted just two years ago by 193 nations, with the aim to guide global, regional, and national efforts to reduce poverty, address climate change, and build inclusive societies. They are, in a sense, the sequel to the blockbuster Millennium Development Goals, which was arguably the most successful anti-poverty initiative in history.

Why are the SDGs stalling? For one, it’s because, in their very conceit, they’re defective. While this list of 17 goals and 169 targets is longer than the Constitution, it’s not the goals’ breadth, depth, or even ambition slowing us down; it’s the absence of internal logic. The SDGs are a postmodern, deconstructed, Jackson Pollock-version of a to-do list.

The reason for this is simple. The U.N. reacted to legitimate critiques of the original Millennium Development Goals—that the goals were conceived by a too-small group with “relative casualness,” with insufficient input from the public, and from developing countries. Thus, the successor SDGs were informed, in contrast, by years of meetings, consultations, stakeholder forums, online input, and door-to-door surveys.

That was undoubtedly wise. But the U.N. stopped there, with an indiscriminate list of objectives. Virtually every perspective is reflected and no perspective is subordinated. The pithiest analysis came from an executive at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “No targets left behind.” [Continue reading…]

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U.S., North Korea have few channels through which to resolve crises

Reuters reports: Washington and Moscow have over decades established mechanisms to prevent crises from spinning out of control, from hotlines to satellites and over-flights that allow the nuclear-armed adversaries to track each other’s military deployments.

No such safety nets exist between Washington and Pyongyang, worrying experts who say an accident, misstatement or erroneous reading by one side of the other’s actions could spiral into full-scale conflict even though neither side wants war.

Tensions have risen markedly in the past few days after North Korea warned Washington of a “severe lesson” following U.N. action against it and U.S. President Donald Trump in turn warning that any threats to the United States from Pyongyang would be met with “fire and fury.”

Trump’s unexpected remarks prompted North Korea to respond by saying it was considering plans for a missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Experts said there are limited channels through which the two sides can try to exchange proposals to ease tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.

“We have some ad hoc and analogue ways of communicating with North Korea but we don’t have anything that has proven itself and can withstand the stress of crises,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a top non-proliferation adviser to former President Barack Obama.

The two sides have no diplomatic relations, so they have no embassies in each other’s capitals. They maintain contacts through their United Nations missions, their embassies in Beijing and meetings between military officers at Panmunjom, the location on the militarised frontier dividing the Korean Peninsula where the truce that stilled the 1950-53 Korean War was signed. [Continue reading…]

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North Korea vows to retaliate against U.S. over sanctions

BBC News reports: North Korea has vowed to retaliate and make “the US pay a price” for drafting fresh UN sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons programme.

The sanctions, which were unanimously passed by the UN on Saturday, were a “violent violation of our sovereignty,” the official KCNA news agency said.

Separately, South Korea says the North has rejected an offer to restart talks, dismissing it as insincere. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: The U.N. Security Council’s move to block countries from buying North Korean coal plugs a large loophole that allowed Chinese companies to import more North Korean coal after the first U.N. ban in 2016.

Previous bans have allowed Pyongyang to sell coal for “humanitarian” trade, but Saturday’s vote banned all coal sales in an effort to choke off funding for Kim Jong Un’s weapons programs, where much of the money was funneled, according to recent U.S. court filings.

The coal trade cited in the court documents accounted for as much as one-third of North Korean exports and helps explain how North Korea continued to develop its weapons programs despite being impoverished and under trade sanctions. The connections to the military also undermine Chinese claims that their imports were benefiting North Korean civilians. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: A Southeast Asian diplomatic meeting quietly turned into the first real multiparty bargaining session in eight years to tackle North Korea’s nuclear program, as the country’s top diplomat held a rare round of talks with his counterparts from China, South Korea and Russia.

The United States and Japan were the only members of the so-called six-party talks on the North’s nuclear ambitions, which ended in failure in 2009, whose diplomats did not meet this week with Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho of North Korea. But Rex W. Tillerson, the American secretary of state, kept the door open for talks, saying at a news conference on Monday that he had no specific preconditions for negotiating with Pyongyang.

“Well, the best signal that North Korea could give us that they are prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Mr. Tillerson said.

But when asked how long such a pause would have to last before talks could go forward, Mr. Tillerson demurred. [Continue reading…]

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UN Security Council imposes punishing new sanctions on North Korea

The New York Times reports: The United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously adopted a resolution to impose the most punishing sanctions yet against North Korea over its repeated defiance of a ban on testing missiles and nuclear bombs.

The resolution, intended to press North Korea to renounce its nuclear militarization, could reduce the isolated country’s already meager annual export revenue by $1 billion, or about a third of its current total.

Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States, which introduced the resolution, said its adoption by all 15 Council members signified what she called “a strong, united step toward holding North Korea accountable for its behavior.”

Ms. Haley described the new penalties, which the United States painstakingly negotiated with China, North Korea’s most important trading partner, as “the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.” She also said they would give North Korea’s leaders “a taste of the deprivation they have chosen to inflict on the North Korean people.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump administration delivers notice U.S. intends to withdraw from Paris climate deal

Politico reports: The Trump administration outlined the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement in an official notice delivered to the United Nations on Friday.

It was the first written notice to the U.N. that the administration plans to pull out of the 2015 pact, which has won the support of nearly 200 nations.

In a statement, the State Department said the administration will nonetheless continue participating in international climate change negotiations, including talks aimed at implementing the Paris climate deal, “to protect U.S. interests and ensure all future policy options remain open to the administration.”

Trump announced in June that the U.S. will leave the agreement.

Under the terms of the Paris deal, the U.S. can’t fully withdraw until Nov. 4, 2020 — one day after the next presidential election. The next president could decide to rejoin the agreement if Trump doesn’t win a second term. [Continue reading…]

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Palestine envoy to UN: Al-Aqsa crisis at tipping point

Al Jazeera reports: The Palestinian envoy to the UN has told the Security Council that al-Aqsa Mosque compound crisis in East Jerusalem is at a tipping point, urging the council members to help protect Palestinians and their holy sites from Israel’s “reckless and destructive agenda”.

Riyad Mansour warned in his speech to the Council on Tuesday that “the stoking of a religious conflict is rapidly unfolding as Israel persists its illegal actions in occupied East Jerusalem”.

He accused Israel of “aggressive behaviour and provocative violation” of the historic status quo at the Muslim-administered al-Aqsa Mosque compound, referring to a brief closure of the holy site after a deadly shooting there that was followed by installation of CCTV cameras and metal detectors.

“We are clearly at the tipping point,” he said. “We must therefore again warn against the dangers of such provocations and incitement, and fuelling of yet another cycle of violence which will surely have far-reaching consequences.” [Continue reading…]

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North Korea promises nuclear strike on U.S. if regime is threatened

CNN reports: North Korea threatened a nuclear strike on “the heart of the US” if it attempts to remove Kim Jong Un as Supreme Leader, Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Tuesday.

The threat was in response to comments from CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who said last week that the Trump administration needed to find a way to separate Kim from his growing nuclear stockpile.

“As for the regime, I am hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this system,” Pompeo said. “The North Korean people I’m sure are lovely people and would love to see him go.”

KCNA reported that a spokesman from the North Korean Foreign Ministry said, “The DPRK legally stipulates that if the supreme dignity of the DPRK is threatened, it must preemptively annihilate those countries and entities that are directly or indirectly involved in it, by mobilizing all kinds of strike means including the nuclear ones.” [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year, U.S. officials have concluded in a confidential assessment that dramatically shrinks the timeline for when Pyongyang could strike North American cities with atomic weapons.

The new assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which shaves a full two years off the consensus forecast for North Korea’s ICBM program, was prompted by recent missile tests showing surprising technical advances by the country’s weapons scientists, at a pace beyond which many analysts believed was possible for the isolated communist regime.

The U.S. projection closely mirrors revised predictions by South Korean intelligence officials, who also have watched with growing alarm as North Korea has appeared to master key technologies needed to loft a warhead toward targets thousands of miles away.

The finding further increases the pressure on U.S. and Asian leaders to halt North Korea’s progress before it can threaten the world with nuclear-tipped missiles. President Trump, during his visit to Poland earlier this month, vowed to confront Pyongyang “very strongly” to stop its missile advances. [Continue reading…]

Newsweek reports: While North Korea’s leadership celebrates its successful testing of a missile that it claims can strike the United States with a nuclear warhead, its citizens are facing the prospect of its worst drought in 16 years, which could lead to even greater food shortages in the isolated country.

A report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released last week said that rainfall between the critical period of April to June was lower than for the same period in 2001, when cereal production reached an unprecedented low.

“More rains are urgently needed to avoid significant decreases in the main 2017 cereal production season,” the report said. “Should drought conditions persist, the food security situation is likely to further deteriorate.”

North Korea has long been criticized for spending a large proportion of its budget on developing weapons while failing to provide adequate food for its people. Between 2004 and 2014, it spent nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product on the military, by far the highest percentage relative to GDP of any country in the world. Meanwhile, two in five North Koreans are undernourished with more than two-thirds relying on food aid, according to the United Nations. [Continue reading…]

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ACLU urges senators to oppose bill targeting Israel boycotts

JTA reports: The American Civil Liberties Union called on U.S. senators to oppose a measure targeting boycotts of Israel and its settlements.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, introduced in March by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would expand 1970s-era laws that make illegal compliance with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations. Those adhering to boycotts would be the subject of fines.

While the measure is aimed at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Israel from those manufactured in West Bank settlements.

In a letter Monday, the ACLU urged senators not to co-sponsor the measure and to oppose its passage.

“We take no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country, for that matter,” wrote Faiz Shakir, ACLU’s national political director. “However, we do assert that the government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, punish U.S. persons based solely on their expressed political beliefs.”

Shakir added that “the bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.” [Continue reading…]

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More than 20 million people are at risk of starving to death. Will the world step up?

In an editorial, the Washington Post says: More than 20 million people in four countries are at risk of starvation in the coming months, in what the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. But the global response to the emergency has been lacking, both from governments and from private citizens. As of Monday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was reporting that only 43 percent of the $6.27 billion needed to head off famine this year in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria had been raised. A poll by the International Rescue Committee showed that 85 percent of Americans are largely uninformed about the food shortages. The IRC calls it “likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time.”

Accounts by the United Nations, the U.S. government and private aid groups more than back up that claim. More than half the populations of Somalia and South Sudan are in need of emergency food assistance, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Civil wars in those countries have combined with meager spring rains to drastically reduce food supplies. In Nigeria, some 5 million people are at risk in the northeastern provinces where the terrorist group Boko Haram is active.

The most harrowing reports come from Yemen, where the United Nations says a staggering 20 million people need humanitarian aid. In addition to millions who lack food, more than 330,000 people have been afflcited by a cholera epidemic since late April, with one person dying nearly every hour on average. Donors have supplied less than 40 percent of the aid Yemen needs to prevent starvation, and officials have recently been forced to divert some of that assistance to fight cholera. In all four countries, children are disproportionately affected: Aid groups say 1.4 million severely malnourished children could die in the next few months if more help is not forthcoming. [Continue reading…]

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G-20 leaders’ statement on climate change highlights rift with U.S.

The Guardian reports: World leaders have made clear the US’s isolated stance on climate change, with 19 of the G20 countries affirming their commitment to the “irreversible” Paris climate agreement.

After lengthy negotiations that stretched well into Saturday, the final joint statement from the meeting in Hamburg notes Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris deal while stating that the world’s other major economies all still support the international effort to slow dangerous global warming.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Saturday she “deplored” the US exit from the agreement and added that she did not share the view of Theresa May, the British prime minister, that Washington could decide to rejoin the pact.

“I think it’s very clear that we could not reach consensus, but the differences were not papered over, they were clearly stated,” Merkel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting. “It’s absolutely clear it is not a common position.”

The communique reads: “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” adding: “The leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris agreement is irreversible” and “we reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris agreement”. [Continue reading…]

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Tensions with North Korea could get ‘out of control’, China tells UN

AFP reports: China’s ambassador to the United Nations has warned of “disastrous” consequences if world powers fail to find a way to ease tensions with North Korea which he said could “get out of control”.

Ambassador Liu Jieyi made the remarks a day after US president Donald Trump spoke by phone with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the threat posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.

“Currently tensions are high and we certainly would like to see a de-escalation,” Liu told a news conference at UN headquarters as China takes over the security council presidency in July.

“If tension only goes up … then sooner or later it will get out of control and the consequences would be disastrous,” he said. [Continue reading…]

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Trump is handing the world to China, says UN secretary-general

Politico reports: Can António Guterres scare Donald Trump into taking the United Nations seriously?

Since taking office in January, the United Nations secretary-general has done his level best to build a decent working relationship with the new administration. He has kept criticisms of the White House’s nationalist agenda to a bare minimum. While pleading with Washington to refrain from deep cuts to the U.N. budget, he has worked assiduously to build a rapport with U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley. Testifying in Congress on Tuesday, Haley noted that Guterres had agreed that the U.S. could safely make some cuts to its funding of blue-helmet peace operations – a message likely to rile up other U.N. members who may have to make up the difference.

But there are limits to even the most discreet international civil servant’s patience. Over the last month, Guterres has been trying out a new message: Trump is handing the world to China.

The secretary-general, who is also visiting Washington this week for consultations on Capitol Hill, tried out this line for the first time in late May. Speaking on the eve of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement, he warned that if the U.S. created a “geostrategic vacuum” by giving up its global role, “I guarantee that someone else will occupy it.” He clearly implied this would be Beijing.

Guterres, who was once a professional physicist, summoned up the vacuum metaphor in a mid-year press conference last week, but with more of a pro-American twist. “I don’t think this is good for the United States,” he said of other powers’ potential power grab, “and I don’t think this is good for the world.”

Many pundits have highlighted how China is benefiting from Trump’s foreign policy mess in far starker terms. But it is striking that a U.N. secretary-general is talking even this frankly about geostrategic power shifts. Whatever the U.N.’s conservative foes say about the organization, international officials hate criticizing America in public. The U.S. remains the organization’s predominant funder. Washington has been brutal with previous secretaries-general who have criticized its policies, as Kofi Annan did over Iraq.

So Guterres will not have played the China card lightly. He is not the sort of politician who picks unnecessary fights. A former Portuguese prime minister with decades of experience in top-level political wheeling and dealing, the secretary-general prefers to work quietly behind closed doors. [Continue reading…]

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No one is paying attention to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II

Jackson Diehl writes: The never-ending circus that is Donald Trump’s presidency has sucked attention from all kinds of issues that desperately need it, from health-care reform to the creeping expansion of U.S. engagement in Syria. Still, it’s shocking that so little heed is being paid to what the United Nations says is the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945: the danger that about 20 million people in four countries will suffer famine in the coming months, and that hundreds of thousands of children will starve to death.

Not heard of this? That’s the problem. According to U.N. and private relief officials, efforts to supply enough food to stem the simultaneous crises in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria are falling tragically short so far, in part because of inadequate funding from governments and private donors. Of the $4.9 billion sought in February by the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for immediate needs in those countries, just 39 percent had been donated as of last week.

That resource gap could be attributed to donor fatigue, or to the sheer size of the need. But, in part, it’s a simple lack of awareness. “We can’t seem to get anyone’s attention to what’s going on,” says Carolyn Miles, the president and chief executive of Save the Children. [Continue reading…]

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Forced displacement worldwide at its highest in decades

UNHCR reports: War, violence and persecution have uprooted more men, women and children around the world than at any time in the seven-decade history of UNHCR according to a report published today.

The UN Refugee Agency’s annual Global Trends study found that 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2016 – a total bigger than the population of the United Kingdom and about 300,000 more than last year.

It noted that the pace at which people are becoming displaced remains very high. On average, 20 people were driven from their homes every minute last year, or one every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence. [Continue reading…]

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The return of famine as a weapon of war

Alex de Waal writes: In its primary use, the verb ‘to starve’ is transitive: it’s something people do to one another, like torture or murder. Mass starvation as a consequence of the weather has very nearly disappeared: today’s famines are all caused by political decisions, yet journalists still use the phrase ‘man-made famine’ as if such events were unusual.

Over the last half-century, famines have become rarer and less lethal. Last year I came close to thinking that they might have come to an end. But this year, it’s possible that four or five famines will occur simultaneously. ‘We stand at a critical point in history,’ the head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the former Tory MP Stephen O’Brien, told the Security Council in March, in one of his last statements before stepping down: ‘Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.’ It’s a ‘critical’ point, I’d argue, not because it is the worst crisis in our lifetime, but because a long decline – lasting seven decades – in mass death from starvation has come to an end; in fact it has been reversed.

O’Brien had no illusions about the causes of the four famines, actual or imminent, that he singled out in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In each case, the main culprits are wars that result in the destruction of farms, livestock herds and markets, and ‘explicit’ decisions by the military to block humanitarian aid. In Nigeria, villages in the path of the war between Boko Haram and the army have been stripped of assets, income and food. As the army slowly reduces the areas under Boko Haram control, they are finding small towns where thousands starved to death last year. The counter-insurgency grinds on, and the specialists who compile the data fed into the blandly named ‘integrated food security phase classification’ (IPC) system, worry that in this year’s ‘hungry season’, approximately June to October, communities in the war zones will again move up the IPC scale: from level four (‘humanitarian emergency’) to five (‘famine’). Last year in Nigeria, the UN and relief agencies could say that they didn’t appreciate the full extent of the crisis. This year we have been given due warning.

In South Sudan, the government and the rebel armies have fought much less against each other than against the civilian population. In the summer of 2016, evidence from aid agencies showed nutrition and death rates in the region that met the UN criteria for determining that a food crisis has reached famine levels. Fearing that declaring famine would antagonise the South Sudanese government, already paranoid and cracking down on international aid agencies (aid workers were being robbed, raped and murdered), the UN prevaricated. By February, even veterans of South Sudan’s horrendous famines of the 1980s were saying that this was as bad as anything in their experience, perhaps worse. The UN duly declared a famine.

Yemen, however, is the biggest impending disaster. Don’t be fooled by pictures showing hungry people in arid landscapes: the weather had nothing to do with the famine. More than seven million people in Yemen are hungry; far more are likely to die of starvation and disease than in battles and air raids. The military intervention led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has strangled the country’s economy. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump’s triumph of stupidity

Der Spiegel reports: Until the very end, they tried behind closed doors to get him to change his mind. For the umpteenth time, they presented all the arguments — the humanitarian ones, the geopolitical ones and, of course, the economic ones. They listed the advantages for the economy and for American companies. They explained how limited the hardships would be.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the last one to speak, according to the secret minutes taken last Friday afternoon in the luxurious conference hotel in the Sicilian town of Taormina — meeting notes that DER SPIEGEL has been given access to. Leaders of the world’s seven most powerful economies were gathered around the table and the issues under discussion were the global economy and sustainable development.

The newly elected French president, Emmanuel Macron, went first. It makes sense that the Frenchman would defend the international treaty that bears the name of France’s capital: The Paris Agreement. “Climate change is real and it affects the poorest countries,” Macron said.

Then, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reminded the U.S. president how successful the fight against the ozone hole had been and how it had been possible to convince industry leaders to reduce emissions of the harmful gas.

Finally, it was Merkel’s turn. Renewable energies, said the chancellor, present significant economic opportunities. “If the world’s largest economic power were to pull out, the field would be left to the Chinese,” she warned. Xi Jinping is clever, she added, and would take advantage of the vacuum it created. Even the Saudis were preparing for the post-oil era, she continued, and saving energy is also a worthwhile goal for the economy for many other reasons, not just because of climate change.

But Donald Trump remained unconvinced. No matter how trenchant the argument presented by the increasingly frustrated group of world leaders, none of them had an effect. “For me,” the U.S. president said, “it’s easier to stay in than step out.” But environmental constraints were costing the American economy jobs, he said. And that was the only thing that mattered. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

At that point, it was clear to the rest of those seated around the table that they had lost him. Resigned, Macron admitted defeat. “Now China leads,” he said.

Still, it is likely that none of the G-7 heads of state and government expected the primitive brutality Trump would stoop to when announcing his withdrawal from the international community. Surrounded by sycophants in the Rose Garden at the White House, he didn’t just proclaim his withdrawal from the climate agreement, he sowed the seeds of international conflict. His speech was a break from centuries of Enlightenment and rationality. The president presented his political statement as a nationalist manifesto of the most imbecilic variety. It couldn’t have been any worse. [Continue reading…]

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Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment

The New York Times reports: Representatives of American cities, states and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement.

The unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations.

“We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview.

It was unclear how, exactly, that submission to the United Nations would take place. Christiana Figueres, a former top United Nations climate official, said there was currently no formal mechanism for entities that were not countries to be full parties to the Paris accord.

Ms. Figueres, who described the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw as a “vacuous political melodrama,” said the American government was required to continue reporting its emissions to the United Nations because a formal withdrawal would not take place for several years.

But Ms. Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change until last year, said the Bloomberg group’s submission could be included in future reports the United Nations compiled on the progress made by the signatories of the Paris deal.

Still, producing what Mr. Bloomberg described as a “parallel” pledge would indicate that leadership in the fight against climate change in the United States had shifted from the federal government to lower levels of government, academia and industry. [Continue reading…]

Michael Bloomberg writes: In the U.S., emission levels are determined far more by cities, states, and businesses than they are by our federal government.

Over the past decade, the U.S. has led the world in emission reductions – and our federal government had very little to do with it. It happened because of leadership from cities, public opposition to coal plants, and market forces that have made cleaner sources of energy – including solar and wind – cheaper than coal. It makes no sense to pay extra to poison our environment – or to kill jobs. And the clean energy industry is now creating far more jobs than we are losing in the fossil fuel industry.

The fact of the matter is: Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment, and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it. That’s the message mayors, governors, and business leaders all across the U.S. have been sending.

So today, we want the world to know: The U.S. will meet our Paris commitment, and, through a partnership among American cities, states, and businesses, we will seek to remain part of the Paris Agreement process. The American government may have pulled out of the Agreement, but the American people remain committed to it – and we will meet our targets. [Continue reading…]

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