A leading UK climate official says Australia is alone among major countries in that neither its national government nor opposition have a significant climate plan, and frustrating local business leaders.Nigel Topping, the UN’s “high-level champion” whose role involves global outreach to drive global ambition ahead of the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in November, said he had not seen another country in which no major political party had a plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The Morrison government would face “a certain amount of pressure” to lift its ambition on climate at the G7 meeting in England next month, where Australia is one of four invited guest nations. All G7 members have targets to cut emissions by at least 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions no later than 2050.Topping said on Thursday night that in discussions with Australians there had been a strong sense that state governments and the private sector were committed to the race to net zero campaign, but that business leaders had bemoaned there was “neither a plan nor a counter plan” at a federal level.“I have heard a couple of times people saying that no one’s got a plan,” he said. “I have picked up from several business voices that there is some frustration over the lack of that.”Speaking at an early webinar hosted by the Australia Institute, Topping said the international community was pleased the Morrison government had recently begun talking about a target of net zero emissions by 2050 “somewhat tentatively”, but it was not a “signal which matches the ambition and expectations of other wealthy developed countries”.The Morrison government has not joined more than 100 countries in setting a formal mid-century net zero emissions goal, and has resisted pressure from the US, Britain and the European Union to increase its 2030 target.Scott Morrison told a recent climate summit hosted by the US president, Joe Biden, that the country wanted to reach net zero “as soon as we possibly can”. The prime minister said his government supported a “technology, not taxes’’ approach. While other developed countries have committed tens of billions to drive action, the federal budget this week included little spending on addressing the climate crisis.The government’s 2030 emissions target – a minimum 26% cut compared with 2005 – has not been increased since it was set six years ago, and analysts have found it “insufficient” given what is required. Scientists have recommended at least a 50% cut.Labor has backed a 2050 net zero emissions goal, but dropped its 2030 target after losing the 2019 election. It said it would release a roadmap to get to net zero before the next election. In his budget reply on Thursday night opposition leader Anthony Albanese said positive action on the climate crisis would “create jobs, lower energy prices and lower emissions”, and promised a $100m energy apprenticeship plan.Topping said Australia would be accepted “with open arms and civilly, as a friend” at the G7 in Cornwall, but would face “a certain amount of pressure given that everybody else has made very clear that they are getting to net zero by 2050”. Australia is one of four guest nations at the G7 along with India, South Korea and South Africa.He said the US had a target of at least a 50% cut by 2030, the EU 55% and Britain 68% (the latter two compared with 1990 levels). Germany has promised to reach net zero by 2045.“We know that’s what the leading developed countries need to do to implement the Paris agreement, so I’m sure there will be a lot of polite pressure on the side to join that group,” Topping said.He said there would also be pressure “to move away from the rhetoric that you can have a plan without a target which, of course, any business person knows is just silly”.“If you have a plan without a target actually you’re just loosey-goosey,” he said. “A plan starts with a clear target. If you’re going to try to run a marathon you know the mile times that you’ve got to keep clocking up. If you can’t put those up in practice, and if you can’t get the first three miles out in time, then you’re behind in the race and you may never catch up.“This is not about doing the right thing, or the green thing, or the ethical thing or the responsible thing. It is about all those things, but fundamentally this is an issue of corporate and national competitiveness.”Pressure on Australia to do more on climate has been growing. Last month the Biden administration said Australia needed to cut emissions faster, and the UK, France and the UN last year refused Morrison a speaking slot at a global climate ambition summit after he did not offer any new policies.Topping said Australia was well placed to succeed in the race to a zero emissions economy given its abundant clean natural resources. The transition elsewhere was going “exponentially fast”, with targets that appeared aggressive two years ago now looking conservative.He cited the recently announced Glasgow financial alliance for net zero, under which 160 banks and firms with more than US$70tn in assets pledged to cut their emissions and ensure their investment portfolios aligned with climate science. Moody’s Investors Service said the evident acceleration to reduce emissions to net zero would increase credit risks and the cost of doing business for major emitters.“The countries that are on the front foot are able to manage and ensure it’s a transition that leads to jobs growth as well as economic growth,” Topping said. “I’m just sort of sensing a bit of confusion and frustration among people I’ve spoken to in Australia that you don’t have that clarity.”
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For the second day in a row, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai heard criticism from Republican US lawmakers that the intellectual property rights waiver will give critical biopharmaceutical technology to China, Russia and other strategic rivals while failing to increase vaccine supplies.United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Thursday that World Trade Organization negotiations over intellectual property waivers for COVID-19 vaccines are a chance for the deeply divided trade body to make itself relevant to the world’s needs.
Tai, speaking to the House Ways and Means Committee, said she was committed to entering negotiations that take into account concerns from all sides, including drug companies.
“The WTO has not got a record of moving quickly, or getting to yes, across 164 members who must all agree, very often,” Tai said. “This is the opportunity for the WTO to show its relevance for mankind.”
For a second day in a row, Tai heard criticism from Republican lawmakers that the intellectual property rights waiver will give critical biopharmaceutical technology to China, Russia and other strategic rivals while failing to increase vaccine supplies.
Republican Representative Devin Nunes told Tai that he is concerned China is one of the few countries that could quickly manufacture messenger RNA vaccines, a technology partly developed with US tax dollars.
“It really seems like they [China] want to steal this very new technology, especially as it relates to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines,” he said.
Tai said the administration was working to exercise leadership on the issue to try to reach a solution that saves lives and puts the world back on a faster growth track, which will benefit the US.
India and South Africa, the proponents of the original, much broader proposal, are expressing “that they feel extremely vulnerable in not having access to vaccines and not being able to make them either,” Tai said.
On Wednesday, Tai told a Senate hearing that companies making vaccines could be “a hero” by helping the world gain increased access to COVID-19 vaccines.
She declined to discuss details of her consultations with drug companies before announcing the decision to join WTO waiver negotiations last week, but said that some are driven by more than their obligations to shareholders.
“Some of them do see themselves as important actors in the public health ecosystem in the world,” she said.
Tai said that the intellectual property waiver was just one of a number of actions that would be required to increase manufacturing and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world.
NGOs tell BBC Newsnight they’re unable to send oxygen concentrators to people who need them.
Three rockets have been fired at Israeli territory from southern Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has said. The incident comes amid renewed violence between the IDF and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
The projectiles caused no damage as they fell into the Mediterranean Sea off the Israeli coast, the forces said in a tweet late Thursday.BREAKING: A short while ago, three rockets were fired from Lebanon into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of northern Israel.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 13, 2021The rockets were fired from a region south of the Lebanese coastal city of Tyre, Reuters reported, citing a Lebanese security source. No sirens were heard in northern Israel before the attack.It’s unclear if the attack was just an isolated incident or a sign of some bigger developments in the region. Back in 2006, Israel fought a war against the Hezbollah militant group, which has a sizeable presence in southern Lebanon. Small Palestinian groups located in Lebanon have also occasionally fired rockets at Israel in the past.Citing Lebanese military sources, Israeli media reported that a fringe Palestinian group was behind Thursday’s attack.The incident came as tensions between Tel Aviv and Gaza are running high. Hamas militants in Gaza started firing rockets into the Israeli territory earlier this week after major public unrest at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in West Jerusalem – the third-holiest site for Muslims across the world.
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IDF ‘approves’ plan for possible ground invasion into Gaza as Netanyahu reportedly rejects Hamas truce offer
That escalation was sparked by an Israeli court’s decision to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in an Arab neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Old City. The move drew massive protests in Jerusalem which deteriorated into clashes between demonstrators and police.Hamas has reportedly launched more than 1,500 rockets into the cities of southern and central Israel since May 10, killing six civilians, including a six-year-old boy and an IDF soldier. Israel has bombed over 650 targets in Gaza, destroying several high-rise buildings in the densely-populated Palestinian enclave.The IDF has said it has killed dozens of militants, including some top Hamas commanders, in its retaliatory strikes on Gaza this week.Health officials in Gaza said that, as of Thursday, over 100 Palestinians, including 27 children, had fallen victim to the Israeli strikes, while almost 600 people were injured.Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!
The nearly completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline is backed by Angela Merkel, but her time as leader ends later this year.
Israel appears to have launched its most intense attack on Gaza so far.
Hazem Balousha, a journalist in Gaza city, said residents heard intense bombardments and attacks to the north of the strip since just after midnight.
“It lasted half an hour,” he said. “Very loud; buildings were shaking. My building was really shaking.”
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Gaza City – When Mohammad Saad heard that an Israeli air strike had killed his cousin Reema Saad, he says the news hit the family “like a lightning bolt”.
Reema, 31, her husband Mohammed Telbani, 29, and their two children were in their apartment in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood in the early hours of Wednesday when an air strike hit the residential building, destroying their apartment.
Reema, who was four months pregnant, and five-year-old Zeid died immediately, and Mohammed later died in the intensive care unit, but the body of their daughter, three-year-old Maryam, has yet to be recovered from the site of the attack. Saad said the family did not receive any warning before the air raid.
“I’m communicating with the fire department and civil defence crews in Gaza to help us find Maryam and have her rest and be buried near her mother, who would have wanted that,” Saad said.
The day before the air attack had been a joyous one, with Reem visiting her family to congratulate her brother on his engagement. “The next day, she went home and was targeted,” Saad said.
The family is hiding the news of the killings from Mohammed Telbani’s mother, out of fear she may suffer from a heart attack.
A man looks at the remains of a destroyed building after being hit by Israeli air strikes in Gaza City [Adel Hana/AP]
Death toll rises
Since Israel launched air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip late on Monday, Gaza’s health ministry says at least 103 people, including 27 children, have been killed, and 580 others have been wounded.
At least seven Israelis including a child have been killed in rocket attacks launched by armed groups in Gaza, which is ruled by the Palestinian group, Hamas.
The latest escalation in violence followed weeks of tensions in occupied East Jerusalem over a now-postponed court hearing relating to the forced expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Frictions in the city also spread to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which Israeli forces raided on three consecutive days during the final week of Ramadan, firing tear gas and stun grenades at worshippers inside the mosque.
Hamas on Monday issued an ultimatum demanding Israel withdraw its forces from the compound, the third holiest site in Islam which is also revered by Jews.
Shortly after the deadline expired, Hamas launched several rockets towards Jerusalem, with Israel launching air strikes soon afterwards.
Israel’s military says about 1,600 rockets have been fired from Gaza towards various locations in Israel since Monday.
Its spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters on Thursday that attacks on Gaza will continue as Israel prepares for “multiple scenarios”.
“We have ground units that are prepared and are in various stages of preparing ground operations,” he said. The Israeli defence minister, Benny Gantz, approved the mobilisation of 9,000 more reservist troops.
Thursday was the first day of Eid al-Fitr, a religious holiday for Muslims marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But instead of joyous celebrations and gatherings for families and friends, funerals were held as Hamas sent more rockets into Israel and Israeli fighter jets continued to hit the besieged enclave, including in Rafah, near the border with Egypt.
Smoke billows from an explosion following an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip [Said Khatib/AFP]In Gaza City, the mourners carried the dead from Al-Omari Mosque on Thursday morning to the graveyard in the far east of the city. Throughout the procession, the sound of bombarding air strikes and rockets firing were heard almost constantly.
Due to the air raids, condolences for those killed were shared only by phone.
Responders continued to pull out bodies beneath rubble Thursday evening. The entire Al Tanani family including four children were recovered from the rubble of their house in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza.
Four people including two children were found in the Al Rantisi family house in Rafah, local media reported.
‘I hope they didn’t feel anything’
Some Palestinians have been sharing the news of their killed family members on social media, noting their status as civilians.
Take a look at israel’s targets: a civilian’s house.They were murdered here.#GazaUnderAttack pic.twitter.com/Y7rclNWsNu
— Bayan 𓂆 (@BayanPalestine) May 12, 2021
Bayan AbuSultan, 25, said her cousin Hadeel Arafa, 27, and her 50-year-old aunt, Miami, a mother of four, were killed while preparing for Eid in their house in the Amal neighbourhood of Khan Younis, when an Israeli air strike hit their home at about 3pm on Wednesday.
There was no prior warning of an imminent strike as Miami’s brother was on a call with her a few minutes before the bombing. AbuSultan said that she and Hadeel had been planning to go shopping together after Ramadan as she was supposed to get married a few days after Eid al-Fitr.
The last that she had heard from her cousin was when she shared her Facebook status, praying for those killed.
“Little did she know that soon after we’ll be wishing her exactly the same,” AbuSultan said. “I shiver every time I think of how terrified they were. I hope they didn’t feel anything.”
The Israeli air strikes have hit police headquarters and government buildings, three high-rise buildings, an ice cream factory in the east of Gaza and the Al-Salah school in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, Israeli air raids destroyed the al-Shorouq tower, which housed media organisations. Its ruins covered the streets of Remal, the busiest shopping street in Gaza City.
The Israeli military has said it only targets multi-storey buildings which are “military targets”. Other buildings it has struck are “strategically significant” sites belonging to Hamas, it said.
Rights group denounces ‘collective punishment’
In a statement published on Tuesday, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (EMHRM) said that Israel’s “widespread bombardment, including civilian objects without respecting the principle of proportionality … is utterly appalling”.
Israeli forces have “expanded their response to include targeting dozens of civilian objects, women and children and bombing densely populated gatherings, which according to the Rome Statute, is a war crime,” it said, adding that its targeting of civilian objects exceeds military necessities.
Even if there was a military necessity to target certain sites in #Gaza, it is the responsibility of #Israel as the occupying power to comply with the other provisions stipulated by international humanitarian law to avoid harming civilians.
Press release: https://t.co/oOv7zvCqty pic.twitter.com/tUGxf5N3jw
— Euro-Med Monitor in oPt (@EuroMedoPt) May 12, 2021
In one of the air strikes, Israeli forces killed Amira Abdel Fattah Subuh, 58, and her son Abd al-Rahman Yusef Subuh, 19, a disabled young man who suffers from cerebral palsy, the group said.
While the Israeli army announced later that it targeted the home of a battalion commander, field investigations confirm that no one was in the targeted flat during the bombing, according to EMHRM.
“This incident is an example of Israel’s bombing policy that does not consider the principle of proportionality. Israel targets civilian objects deliberately to inflict damage upon victims and leave them with material losses as a form of revenge and collective punishment, prohibited by the rules of international humanitarian law.”
Big news from the CDC: If you’re fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask – indoors or outdoors, in most settings.We’ve gotten this far. Whether you choose to get vaccinated or wear a mask, please protect yourself until we get to the finish line. pic.twitter.com/XI4yPmhWaD— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 13, 2021