American billionaire and Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg says that the next U.S. president should halt fossil fuel subsidies altogether.
Bloomberg, who launched his campaign less than three weeks ago, is attending a United Nations global climate conference in Madrid that is kicking into high gear.
Ministers from nearly 200 countries are arriving on Tuesday to tackle some of the tough issues that negotiations couldn’t resolve over the past week, including finalizing the rules for international carbon markets that economists say could help drive down emissions and help poor countries to cope with the effects of rising temperatures.
Opening an event on sustainable finances organized by the summit host, Spain, Bloomberg said that “the next president of the United States should end all subsidies for fossil fuel companies and fossil fuel extraction, and that includes tax breaks and other special treatment.”
“He or she should reinvest that funding into clean energy, which will also create a lot of new jobs,” he added.
The 77-year-old businessman and former New York mayor is expected to share the results of his private push to organize thousands of U.S. cities and businesses to abide by the terms of a global climate treaty that the Trump administration is working to abandon.
“Americans are willing to continue to work even with a climate change denier in the White House,” Bloomberg told a room packed of journalists and officials.
“The White House matters, but sometimes not too much,” he added.
The Democrat has vowed to rejoin the Paris climate agreement if he’s elected as president. He recently stepped down as the U.N.’s special envoy for climate action.
Unlike at many past climate summits, few heads of government are joining the talks in Madrid. The U.S. has sent a career diplomat, Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, as head of its delegation.
John Kerry, the former Secretary of State under the last Democrat administration, is also attending events on the sidelines of the Madrid conference, and said the absence of any representative from the White House at the talks “speaks for itself.”
“It’s an absence of leadership,” Kerry told The Associated Press. “It’s a tragedy.”
Most other countries are sending environment ministers or other senior officials instead of prime ministers or presidents, worrying some observers.
“It shows that there has not yet been an internalization of the emergency situation that we are in, that so few heads of state are coming to Madrid and ready to roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to actually respond to the science,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International.
She also accused some governments, such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia, of trying to weaken the agreements, and called on the European Union to work with vulnerable nations to counter those efforts.
Environmental campaigners are hoping the EU will present an ambitious plan this week for cutting emissions in the medium- and long-term that would send a message of hope to weary negotiators in Madrid.
The new head of the bloc’s executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has backed a call for the EU to stop all net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.
Scientists say emissions worldwide need to start falling sharply from next year onward if there is to be any hope of achieving the Paris climate accord’s goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).
Negotiators in Madrid had worked until 3 a.m. to prepare the ground for ministers, said said Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation.
“Let’s hope to see that we can … really sort of give shape and meaning to the call ‘Time for action,'” said Kaag, referring to the motto of the U.N. talks. “It’s now or never.”
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Finland’s parliament chose Sanna Marin as the country’s new prime minister Tuesday, making the 34-year-old the world’s youngest sitting head of government.
Marin is heading a five-party, center-left coalition. The four other parties in the coalition are headed by women _ three of whom are in their early 30s.
The Nordic country’s Parliament, the 200-seat Eduskunta approved Marin in a 99-70 vote. The government has a comfortable majority of 117 seats.
President Sauli Niinisto will formally hand Marin her mandate later Tuesday, after which she will officially become prime minister.
The appointment of Marin and her new government on Tuesday allows Marin to represent Finland at the European Union summit in Brussels later this week . Finland currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency until the end of the year.
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Thick reindeer fur boots and a fur hat covering most of his face shielded Niila Inga from freezing winds as he raced his snowmobile up to a mountain top overlooking his reindeer in the Swedish arctic.
His community herds about 8,000 reindeer year-round, moving them between traditional grazing grounds in the high mountains bordering Norway in the summer and the forests farther east in the winter, just as his forebears in the Sami indigenous community have for generations.
But Inga is troubled: His reindeer are hungry, and he can do little about it. Climate change is altering weather patterns here and affecting the herd’s food supply.
“If we don’t find better areas for them where they can graze and find food, then the reindeers will starve to death,” he said.
Already pressured by the mining and forestry industry, and other development that encroach on grazing land, Sami herding communities fear climate change could mean the end of their traditional lifestyle.
Slipping his hand from a massive reindeer skin mitten, Inga illustrated the problem, plunging his hand into the crusted snow and pulling out a hard piece of ice close to the soil.
Unusually early snowfall in autumn was followed by rain that froze, trapping food under a thick layer of ice. Unable to eat, the hungry animals have scattered from their traditional migration routes in search of new grazing grounds.
Half the herd carried on east as planned, while the rest retreated to the mountains where predators abound, and the risk of avalanches is great.
Elder Sami herders recall that they once had bad winters every decade or so, but Inga said that “extreme and strange weather are getting more and more normal, it happens several times a year.”
The arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. Measurements by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute show the country has warmed 1.64 degrees Celsius (2.95-degree Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial times. In Sweden’s alpine region, this increase is even greater, with average winter temperatures between 1991 and 2017 up more than 3 degrees Celsius (5.4-degree Fahrenheit) compared with the 1961-1990 average.
Snowfall is common in these areas, but as temperatures increase, occasional rainfall occurs, and `rain-on-snow’ events are having devastating effects. The food is still there, but the reindeer can’t reach it. The animals grow weaker and females sometimes abort their calves while the survivors struggle to make it through the winter.
“We have winter here for eight months a year and when it starts in October with bad grazing conditions it won’t get any better,” Inga said.
That is devastating to Sami herders, a once-nomadic people scattered across a region that spans the far north of Sweden, Norway, Finland and the northwestern corner of Russia. Until the 1960s, this indigenous minority were discouraged from reindeer herding and their language and culture were suppressed. Today, of the 70,000 Sami, only about 10% herd reindeer, making a limited income from meat, hides and antlers crafted into knife handles.
“Everyone wants to take the reindeers’ area where they find food. But with climate change, we need more flexibility to move around,” said Sanna Vannar, a young herder from a community living in the mountains surrounding Jokkmokk, an important Sami town just north of the Arctic Circle. “Here you can’t find food, but maybe you can find food there, but there they want to clear-cut the forest and that’s the problem.”
The 24-year-old is the president of the Swedish Sami Youth organization and, together with eight other families elsewhere in the world, they launched a legal action in 2018 to force the European Union to set more ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this year, the European General Court rejected their case on procedural grounds, but the plaintiffs have appealed.
“We’ve said we don’t want money because we can’t buy better weather with money,” Vannar said. “We’ve said we need that the EU take action and they need to do it now.”
The EU’s new executive Commission is expected to present a `European Green Deal’ on Wednesday, to coincide with a U.N. climate conference in Madrid.
Herders have also started working with Stockholm University, hoping to advance research that will broaden understanding about changing weather patterns.
As part of this rare collaboration between Sami and science, weather stations deep in the forests of the Laevas community are recording air and ground temperature, rainfall, wind speed and snowfall density. Sami ancestral knowledge of the land and the climate complements analysis of data gathered, offering a more detailed understanding of weather events.
“With this data we can connect my traditional knowledge and I see what the effects of it are,” says Inga who has been working on the project since 2013 and has co-authored published scientific papers with Ninis Rosqvist, a professor of Natural Geography at Stockholm University.
Rosqvist directs a field station operating since the 1940s in the Swedish alpine region measuring glaciers and changes in snow and ice. But through the collaboration with Inga, she realized that less “exciting” areas in the forests may be most crucial to understanding the impacts of changing climate.
“As a scientist I can measure that something is happening, but I don’t know the impact of it on, in this case, the whole ecosystem. And that’s why you need their knowledge,” she said.
Rosqvist hopes this research can help Sami communities argue their case with decision-makers legislating land use rights.
Back in the forest, Inga is releasing onto the winter pastures a group of reindeer that had been separated from the herd when the animals scattered earlier in autumn.
Several other herders have spent more than a week high in the mountains searching for the other half of the herd and trying to bring the animals down, to no avail.
“As long as they are forced to stay there, they’ll get into worse and worse condition,” he warned.
During his recent visit to Washington, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said one goal looms above all others as he leads the country’s transitional government: bringing peace to the war-ravaged nation.
“Our number one top priority is to stop the war and build the foundation of sustainable peace,” he said. “Essentially to stop the sufferings of our people in the IDP camps and the refugee camps. We think the opportune time of stopping this war is now.”
Hamdok did not specify which war he meant; Sudan’s government has been fighting rebels in the Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions for years. The capital, Khartoum, saw deadly conflicts between protesters and the military earlier this year.
He did say he was heartened by the resiliency on display when he visited the Zam Zam camp for internally displaced people in Darfur, where a war that began in 2003 has never entirely stopped.
“It was a very moving moment but the climax of it was… a woman who took the floor and delivered the first speech. She articulated so well their interest, their expectations about the transitional government, how they see the peace process. After that, she was followed by six speakers… They all said our sister articulated our issues and were very satisfied with what she said.
“All the sufferings and the miseries they went through, it taught them, educated them and made them strong enough to be able to say from now onwards we know what is good for ourselves and nobody can dictate on us anything. This is very liberating,” Hamdok said.
Unlike the administration of his predecessor, Omar al-Bashir, Hamdok’s government has pledged to allow unfettered access for aid organizations to reach those in need.
Hamdok spoke at the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy think tank in Washington. He visited the American capital in an effort to repair Sudan’s relationship with the U.S., which was strained to nonexistent during the entire 30-year reign of former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who the military ousted in April after months of mass protests.
One of Hamdok’s goal’s is for the U.S. to remove Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan was put on the list in 1993, at a time when al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden was living in Khartoum.
Although Sudan is still on the list, the two countries agreed to resume diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors.
U.S. officials have said the process of removing Sudan from the terrorism list will be a long one. Hamdok stressed that his country is prepared to meet the requirements which may include paying restitution to victims of terrorist attacks.
“We Sudanese as a people have never supported terrorism before. It was a former regime that supported this,” he said. “We are also as a nation, victims of terrorism that was inflicted on us by the regime. But we accepted this as a corporate responsibility. And we are negotiating.”
Hamdok, an economist and diplomat who has worked for the U.N., was named the country’s transitional prime minister in August. In deference to the leading role women played in the revolution, Hamdok made history by naming four women to his cabinet.
Walaa Esam AbdelRahman, Minister of Youth and Sport, was an activist who participated in sit-ins and street protests. She and other activists faced live fire and tear gas and were forced to go into hiding in between protests in fear of reprisals from security forces.
“It was very dangerous. But the more that they were aggressive, the more that we went to the street. That’s why we went so far,” she told VOA.
Now AbdelRahman and others are seeking to institute a series of changes, including legal and political reforms, paving the way for a democratic, free and fair election in 2022.
“The road is not easy but we went so far and we were very determined to reach to the final destination of this transitional period because I always say that these [upcoming] three years is part of the revolution. It’s another level,” she told VOA. “We will finish the level of protesting and marching. Now we need to build the new Sudan.”
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House Democrats have reached a tentative agreement with labor leaders and the White House over a rewrite of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal that has been a top priority for President Donald Trump. That’s according to a Democratic aide not authorized to discuss the talks and granted anonymity.
Details still need to be finalized and the U.S. Trade Representative will need to submit the implementing legislation to Congress. No vote has been scheduled.
The new, long-sought trade agreement with Mexico and Canada would give both Trump and his top adversary, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a major accomplishment despite the turmoil of his likely impeachment.
An announcement could come as early as Monday. Pelosi, D-Calif., still has to officially sign off on the accord, aides said. The aides requested anonymity because the agreement is not official.
The new trade pact would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which eliminated most tariffs and other trade barriers involving the United States, Mexico and Canada. Critics, including Trump, labor unions and many Democratic lawmakers, branded NAFTA a job killer for America because it encouraged factories to move south of the border, capitalize on low-wage Mexican workers and ship products back to the U.S. duty free.
Weeks of back-and-forth, closely monitored by Democratic labor allies such as the AFL-CIO, have brought the two sides together. Pelosi is a longtime free trade advocate and supported the original NAFTA in 1994. Trump has accused Pelosi of being incapable of passing the agreement because she is too wrapped up in impeachment.
Democrats from swing districts have agitated for finishing the accord, in part to demonstrate some accomplishments for their majority.
By ratifying the agreement, Congress could lift uncertainty over the future of U.S. commerce with its No. 2 (Canada) and No. 3 (Mexico) trading partners last year and perhaps give the U.S. economy a modest boost. U.S. farmers are especially eager to make sure their exports to Canada and Mexico continue uninterrupted.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last year negotiated the replacement agreement with Canada and Mexico. But the new USMCA accord required congressional approval and input from top Democrats like Pelosi and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts, who have been engaged in lengthy, detailed negotiations over enforcement provisions and other technical details.
The pact contains provisions designed to nudge manufacturing back to the United States. For example, it requires that 40% to 45% of cars eventually be made in countries that pay autoworkers at least $16 an hour — that is, in the United States and Canada and not in Mexico.
The trade pact picked up some momentum after Mexico in April passed a labor-law overhaul required by USMCA. The reforms are meant to make it easier for Mexican workers to form independent unions and bargain for better pay and working conditions, narrowing the gap with the United States.
Mexico ratified USMCA in June and has budgeted more money later this year to provide the resources needed for enforcing the agreement.
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Pierce Bush, the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, announced his candidacy Monday for a congressional seat in Texas, becoming the latest member of his famous Republican family to enter politics.
But his first run for office won’t be easy. Bush joins one of the nation’s most crowded congressional races of 2020 in his bid to replace Republican Rep. Pete Olson, who is retiring from his suburban Houston district that Democrats nearly flipped last year and are aggressively targeting again.
Pierce Bush’s announcement video, rolled out on the deadline in Texas for candidates to get on the 2020 ballot, includes an image of him speaking next to a picture of his late grandfather, who died last year.
Today, I’m proud to announce my candidacy for Texas’s 22nd district. I look forward to working with you, earning your support, your faith and your vote. Visit https://t.co/yRG4DMctCm for more information. pic.twitter.com/fzRJ2xp54w
— Pierce Bush (@PierceBush) December 9, 2019
“We face a very challenging time in our nation,” Bush says, adding that the country is “on the brink of losing a generation to an idea that socialism and free stuff are the answers to their future. But we all know that socialism has failed everywhere and everyone.”
His candidacy opens a new test for the Bush name in the Trump era. Other Republican candidates in the field have expressed unwavering support for President Donald Trump, who has clashed with the Bush family that for decades defined the GOP establishment. George H.W Bush voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and President George W. Bush didn’t vote for either one of them.
The only Bush currently in public office, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, broke with his family in 2016 and supported Trump. During a visit to Texas earlier this year, Trump introduced George P. Bush, who is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as “the only Bush that likes me.”
Pierce Bush, whose father is Neil Bush, has spent the past three years as chief executive of the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters in Texas. He made no mention of Trump in his announcement video and launched his campaign website with only a short biography and no positions on issues or policies.
Olson is one of six of House Republicans in Texas retiring next year, and he might have faced a tougher re-election battled than any of them. Once a seat of GOP power — former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay held the office before Olson — the district is rapidly shifting amid demographic changes and Democrats peeling off suburban women voters.
Olson narrowly won his seat by fewer than 5 points in 2018. The district covers Fort Bend County, one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the nation. Last week, the county’s white Republican state representative, Rick Miller, abruptly dropped his re-election bid after telling the Houston Chronicle that his primary challengers were motivated to run against him because of race, accusing one of determining “that my district might need an Asian to win.”
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