February 26, 2020
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    Climate Change focus at Davos world debate

    January 25, 2020
     

    The World Economic Forum (WEF) currently meeting in Davos, Switzerland has raised world interest in the Climate Change debate and new trends in economic development, moving away from the fossil fuel-driven economic growth and the approach of the next industrial revolution in a Digital Age.

    While global political, economic, business and social leaders meet in Davos and draw international attention to current political, economic and environmental affairs, the attention of the world is also hugely drawn to the spread of the latest coronavirus in China, which has already infected persons abroad, with many deaths in Wuhan, China.

    The WEF is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. It engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. This is the most important world debate on Climate Change and the Environment since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016.

    The focus of the current 50th annual meeting of the WEF is on global, regional and national initiatives that generate positive impact for all stakeholders. Four global issues that feature prominently are: Addressing climate and environmental challenges that harm the world ecology and economy; transforming industries to achieve a more sustainable and inclusive business models in changing consumption patterns; governing technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution to best benefit society; and, adopting demographic, social and technological trends reshaping education, employment and entrepreneurship.

    President Donald Trump addressing world leaders spoke on his ‘America First’ agenda calling on other nations to adopt a similar nation-focused approach to economics and political relations around the world. “America’s newfound prosperity is undeniable, unprecedented and unmatched anywhere in the world…. America achieved this stunning turnaround not by making minor changes to a handful of policies, but by adopting a whole new approach centred entirely on the well-being of the American worker.”

    “Only when governments put their own citizens first will people be fully invested in their national futures,” he added.

    Donald Trump also told the world’s business leaders to stop listening to “prophets of doom” seen as an attack to teenage activist Greta Thunberg over her climate crisis warnings. He hailed America’s growth record and compared campaigners against global warming with those who feared a population explosion in the 1960s and mass starvation in the 1970s. He mentioned the US move to plant 1 trillion trees to meet climate change issues.

    Greta Thunberg who also addressed WEF at its opening said: “Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough, and it cannot replace real mitigation and re-wilding nature. We don’t need to lower emissions. Emissions need to stop.” She had three demands for governments and business leaders.

    These were: The halt of all investment in fossil fuel investment and extraction by companies, banks, institutions and governments, an immediate end to all fossil fuel subsidies, and an immediate exit from fossil fuel investments.

    “We don’t want it done in 2050, 2030, or even 2021, we want it done now,” Thunberg said. “You might think we’re naive, but if you won’t do it, you must explain to your children why you’ve given up on the Paris agreement goals, and knowingly created a climate crisis,” she said.

    The current WEF sessions draw more international attention to the challenges of Climate Change amidst the spread of wildfires in Australia, the increasing droughts in many parts of the world and the similar increase in the destruction by floods in many world regions. The subject of Climate Change and Environmental Disaster is fast becoming a dominant aspect of global development and relations, drawing the subject into world politics.

    Coronavirus from China

    There is international concern about the spread of the new coronavirus from China, with Chinese authorities confirming more than 500 cases and 17 deaths. The worries arise after the record of the deaths in many countries due to China originated the SARS virus in 2002 and 2003.

    Wuhan, a Chinese city of eleven million people, has temporarily shut down its public transport as it tries to halt the outbreak of the new strain of coronavirus. Those living in the city have been advised not to leave, in a week when millions of Chinese are travelling for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

    From Thursday, all flights and passenger train services out of Wuhan have been stopped. Bus, subway and ferry services all are shut down, and a special command centre in Wuhan set up to contain the virus, to “resolutely contain the momentum of the epidemic spreading”.

    In the last week, the number of confirmed infections has more than tripled and cases have been found in 13 provinces of China, as well as the municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Tianjin. The virus has also been confirmed outside of China, in the US, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Health analysts see the definite potential for cases to emerge due to the volume of international air travel, making this a matter of major international worry.

    There are fears that the coronavirus may spread more widely during the week-long Lunar New Year holidays, which started on January 24, when millions of Chinese travel home to celebrate. A key concern is the range of severity of symptoms – some people appear to suffer only mild illness while others are becoming severely ill. This makes it more difficult to establish the true numbers infected and the extent of transmission between people. The World Health Organization (WHO) and national and international health authorities are keen to take action to stop the spread of the virus, with fears it could be more potent than seen so far.

    The spread of the coronavirus outside China increases the likelihood the WHO will declare the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern. The key concerns are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people and what proportion become severely ill and end up in the hospital.

    It is noted that healthcare workers could be at risk if they unexpectedly came across someone with respiratory symptoms who had travelled to an affected region. Generally, the coronavirus appears to be hitting older people hardest, with few cases in children. There is a call for people to observe basic hygiene measures such as washing hands. More countries are now setting up measures to check visitors arriving from China by air, sea and across rivers and by land.

    The concern about the new coronavirus from China follows situation caused by the outbreak of SARS in southern China with affecting more than 8,000 between November 2002 and July 2003, resulting in 774 deaths in 37 countries - with the majority of cases in China and Hong Kong, according to the WHO.

    Trump Impeachment

    The impeachment hearing on President Donald Trump is now underway in the US Senate. He is the third US president to be impeached by the Lower House - the House of Representatives - of the Congress, with none yet removed from office by the Upper House - Senate.

    The impeachment hearings in the Senate relates to allegations of President Trump violating the US Constitution in dealings with the Ukrainian government, in a move to have his main Democrat rival in the run-up to the coming presidential election, Joe Biden, probed for alleged corruption; a move by him to delay the sending of US funds for military aid to Ukraine over this alleged probe of a political rival; and also his moves to prevent White House and other key US government staff members from giving evidence at this inquiry.

    Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Chairman, who led the impeachment process in the House, in making his initial statement at the Senate Jury hearing said: “We are here today—in this hallowed chamber, undertaking this solemn action for only the third time in history—because Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, solicited foreign interference in our democratic elections, abusing the power of his office by seeking help from abroad to improve his re-election prospects at home. And when he was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.

    “To implement his corrupt scheme, President Trump pressured the President of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations that would benefit President Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. When the Ukrainian President did not immediately assent, President Trump withheld two official acts to induce the Ukrainian leader to comply—a head of state meeting and military funding. Both were of great consequence to Ukraine and our national interest and security, but one looms largest: President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his re-election, in other words, to cheat.”

    The Senate is strongly divided with a Republican majority that is committed to releasing Donald Trump from the impeachment charges. They have raised strong objections to the moves by the Democrats to get new witnesses to the hearings. The Senate has a 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 2 Independents, giving the pro-Trump Republicans a huge majority. In this situation, there is no likelihood of the Senate finding Donald Trump guilty of the charges made. However, opinion polls show there is increasing public opinion that he should be found guilty of the charges, which could be a disadvantage to him in the coming presidential poll for a second term in November this year.

    Australia fires

    Political opposition is rising to Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia as the fires there continue despite heavy rains in many of the fire-affected areas, especially New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. Damaging winds gusting up to 90kmh for more or less everywhere along the NSW coast to the Victorian border.

    As this column is being written three US citizens have died in NSW when a C-130 water-bombing aircraft crashed.

    Canberra airport has been closed for long periods of the day, and parts of the many areas were choked with toxic black smoke, due to the bushfires burning there.

    The former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has said he “can’t explain” Scott Morrison’s behaviour during Australia’s unprecedented bushfire crisis and that his successor had “downplayed” the catastrophe and had not behaved the way a prime minister should.

    Turnbull made the extraordinary criticism of Morrison during an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, in which he also blamed News Corp and rightwing think tanks in Australia for promoting climate change denialism.

    Libya

    World leaders seeking an enduring ceasefire in Libya have agreed at a summit to impose sanctions on those breaking an arms embargo and are considering whether to send a multinational force to the country.

    The conference in Berlin of 11 countries was aimed at bringing an end to the fighting between the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and the Libyan National Army in the country’s east led by Gen Khalifa Haftar. While both sides to the conflict have agreed to nominate five members to a UN ceasefire monitoring committee, they are still far apart and not yet willing to negotiate directly.

    The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France joined other global leaders at the talks hosted by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and held under the auspices of the UN, intending to get foreign powers wielding influence in the region to stop interfering in the war -- be it through weapons, troops or financing.

    India - Internet

    India's Supreme Court has given the government a week to review its suspension of internet services in Indian-administered Kashmir, with no access to the internet there for more than 150 days, the longest such shutdown.

    The government suspended internet, mobile phone and landline services in Kashmir before removing the Jammu and Kashmir states partial autonomy in August last year.

    Responding to several petitions challenging the restrictions, “Complete curb of internet must be considered by the state only as an extraordinary measure,” said Justice NV Ramana. He added that access to the internet was part of the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the constitution.

     

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