The Latest: UK says 100 nations back ending deforestation

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Masses of people queue as they arrive for the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. The U.N. climate summit in Glasgow gathers leaders from around the world, in Scotland’s biggest city, to lay out their vision for addressing the common challenge of global warming. (AP Photo/Frank Jordans)

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

The latest on U.N. climate summit COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland:

GLASGOW, Scotland — Britain says it has gained the backing of more than 100 countries to end deforestation, which scientists say is a major driver of climate change.

The U.K. government said Monday at this year’s U.N. climate conference that it has received commitments from leaders representing more than 85% of the world’s forests to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030.

More than $19 billion in public and private funds have been pledged toward the plan, which is backed by countries including Brazil, China, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, Russia and the United States.

Forests are considered important ecosystems and an important way of absorbing carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas — from the atmosphere. But the value of wood as a commodity and the growing demand for agricultural and pastoral land are leading to widespread and often illegal felling of forests particularly in developing countries.

Campaign group Human Right Watch cautions that similar agreements in the past have failed to be effective.

Luciana Tellez Chavez, an environmental researcher at the group, says strengthening Indigenous people’s rights would help prevent deforestation and should be part of the agreement.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — The Bezos Earth Fund pledged $2 billion Tuesday to fight climate change through landscape restoration and the transformation of agricultural systems.

“Our commitment today supports a three-fold imperative — we must conserve what we have, restore what we’ve lost, and grow what we need in harmony with nature,” the fund’s founder, Jeff Bezos, said in a statement.

The $2 billion pledge at COP26 is part of $10 billion that the Amazon founder committed earlier this year to spend by 2030 in an effort to battle climate change.

The Bezos Earth Fund plans to spend $1 billion mainly in the United States and Africa, planting trees to better secure eroding landscapes and restoring areas that capture high levels of carbon dioxide. The remaining $1 billion will be earmarked for transforming agricultural systems to try to increase crop yields, reduce food waste and encourage more plant-based diets.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — A coalition of governments and private funders announced plans at COP26 Monday to invest $1.7 billion to aid Indigenous communities and protect biodiverse tropical forests in the next four years.

Governments from the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and 17 other private funders said the money will support “activities to secure, strengthen and protect Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ land and resource rights,” and provide other kinds of aid, including for group activities.

“We call on other donors to significantly increase their support to this important agenda,” the donors said in a statement. It did not specify which communities would get the funding.

A spokesperson for The Ford Foundation, one of the funders, told The Associated Press the governments are providing approximately $1 billion, while the rest will come from the philanthropies. In addition to the Ford Foundation, funders include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Earth Fund and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Queen Elizabeth II has welcomed world leaders to the U.N. climate summit in a pre-recorded video message, saying “the time for words has now moved to the time for action.”

The 95-year-old monarch had been expected to attend the Glasgow summit, but she had to cancel the trip after doctors said she should rest and not travel. The queen recently underwent medical checks and spent the night at a London hospital — her first hospital stay in years.

In the video message, played Monday during a welcoming reception for presidents and prime ministers, the queen said she hoped that the conference will be “one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship.”

“History has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope,” she said in the video, which was recorded on Friday at Windsor Castle.

In a tribute to her late husband, Prince Philip, the queen said she was happy to welcome the delegates because the environment was a subject close to Philip’s heart. In a rare public display of emotion, she said she “could not be more proud” that Philip’s environmental work lives on through the work of their eldest son, Prince Charles, and his son Prince William.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Environmental activists expressed anger Monday at what they consider the slow pace of action to curb climate change.

Youth campaigners from several countries marched on the opposite bank of the River Clyde from where the U.N. climate summit was being held, holding banners with slogans such as “We are watching you.”

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg accused world leaders and government officials inside the conference of “pretending to take our future seriously.”

“Change is not going to come from inside,” she said, adding: “No more blah blah blah. No, whatever the (expletive) they’re doing inside there.”

Earlier Monday, Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti made an impassioned appeal to world leaders to “open your hearts” to those already feeling the effects of global warming, saying that drought in her home country means many are going without food.

“As I sit comfortably here in this conference center in Glasgow, over 2 million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate-related starvation,” she said.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted that curbing climate change must not come at a high cost to people and businesses, saying technology will provide solutions to the climate crisis.

Australia has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and at the COP26 climate conference on Monday, Morrison said by 2030 Australia’s emissions will be 35% below 2005 levels. That is more than Australia’s commitment, made in Paris six years ago, but still weaker than many other wealthy nations. The United States has committed to reductions of between 50% and 52% below 2005 levels.

Morrison said “technology will have the answers to a decarbonized economy, particularly over time — and achieve it in a way that does not deny our citizens, especially in developing economies, their livelihoods or the opportunity for a better quality of life.”

The Australian leader said “raising the cost of energy just impacts on those who can afford it least” and said “driving down the cost of technology” would be key to Australia hitting its net-zero target.

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GLASGOW — India’s prime minister says his country will aim to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2070 — two decades after the United States and at least 10 year later than China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the target Monday at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow.

Modi said the goal of reaching “net zero” by 2070 was one of five measures India planned to undertake to meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord.

Experts from think tanks and universities said the move is significant, considering how new the concept is to India and the nation’s development status. Ulka Kelkar, who directs India’s climate policy analysis for the World Resource Institute, said it would be similar to the U.S. and Europe adopting net-zero goals 20 years ago.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — The British government sees some cause for optimism at the COP26 talks, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the world is running out of time to defuse the “doomsday device” of climate change.

Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said “we are seeing some positive signs so far” that leaders recognize the urgency of the situation.

World leaders were given stark warnings as their summit opened Monday by Johnson, the head of the United Nations and delegates from countries threatened by sea rise or drought because of global warming.

Behind the scenes Johnson has been pressing major polluters, including India, Indonesia and Russia, to improve their carbon-cutting plans.

Blain said “we expect to see countries to come forward with some more commitments” during COP26. “We continue to encourage that those are ambitious, measurable targets that can be delivered particularly in the next decade.”

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GLASGOW — President Joe Biden offered a public apology to a U.N. climate conference over his predecessor Donald Trump’s move to pull the U.S. from the Paris accord.

Biden was speaking in Glasgow, Scotland on Monday where world leaders were gathering to discuss implementing the agreement to contain global warming by mid-century.

He said: “I shouldn’t apologize, but I do apologize for the fact the United States, the last administration, pulled out of the Paris Accords and put us sort of behind the eight ball a little bit.”

Biden has frequently criticized the past administration’s approach to climate, but had not previously delivered a public apology to the world.

Biden reentered the agreement in one of his first official acts in office on Jan. 20.

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GLASGOW — French President Emmanuel Macron challenged the world’s biggest emitters to immediately step up commitments to curb carbon emissions, saying doing so within the coming days is the only way to make global efforts to slow climate change “credible.”

Macron defended the legacy of the 2015 Paris accord, but acknowledged that countries are far from fulfilling their promises to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees since the industrial era. “We know that we are not there yet,” he told the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow on Monday.

“The key for the next 15 days here is that the biggest emitters … raise their ambitions,” Macron said, without calling out specific countries. “It’s the only way to make our strategy credible … and to make 1.5 degrees a credible figure.”

Noting that “indigenous people are the first victims of this climate disturbance” and that nations in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean are particularly hard hit, he called on rich countries to speed up “deep transformation” of the way they trade and invest.

France sees itself as a guarantor of the Paris accord after hosting the historic talks but France has not fully met its own promises so far under the accord. Some activists protested Monday in Glasgow, calling on Macron to do more.

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil on Monday stepped up its commitment against greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to halve them by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels, while critics alleged the government is tinkering with data.

“We present today a new, more ambitious climate goal,” Environment Minister Joaquim Leite said at the U.N. Glasgow climate conference.

Brazil previously targeted 43% fewer emissions by 2030 versus 25 years earlier.

The announcement in Glasgow represents another effort by the Brazilian government to project itself as a responsible environmental steward in the wake of surging deforestation and fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and Pantanal wetlands in recent years. But critics cautioned that its shift should be viewed with skepticism.

Experts have accused Brazil of previously adjusting its emissions targets in a way that would allow it to release more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. The government significantly increased the estimate for its baseline, making its target easier to accomplish.

Rodrigo Agostinho, a member of the Brazilian delegation to Glasgow, told The Associated Press that “no one trusts Brazil anymore” — and that won’t change even with a more ambitious emissions target.

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GLASGOW — President Joe Biden urged world leaders to the meet the challenge of global warming, saying there is “no more time to hang back” or “argue amongst ourselves” about the peril facing the planet.

“Glasgow must be the kickoff of a decade of ambition,” Biden told world leaders in remarks at Monday’s COP26 summit.

Biden said within the “growing catastrophe” of a warming climate there was an “incredible opportunity” to stave off problems caused by extreme weather, diminishing resources and other disastrous impacts caused by climate change. He said the crisis also offered an opportunity to “make a generational investment” to grow economies around the globe.

The president also said he wants to do more to help countries around the world to address the challenges caused by climate change.

The Biden administration on Monday released its strategy for transforming the U.S. into an entirely clean energy nation by 2050. The long-term plan, filed in compliance with the Paris accord, lays out a United States increasingly running on wind, solar and other clean energy.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel urged other countries to put a price on carbon emissions, which are the main cause of global warming.

Merkel — who chaired the first Conference of the Parties, or COP1, in 1995 — said the world needs a “comprehensive transformation” of way people live and work if it wants to curb climate change.

Speaking Monday at the ceremonial opening of this year’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Merkel said she wanted to make a “clear plea for the pricing of carbon emissions” to help promote the most efficient ways of reaching ‘net zero,’ a goal many countries are striving for by 2050.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says his government plans to increase its climate finance by 50% by 2025 as a contribution to the common pledge made by rich economies to pay developing nations to help them fight and adapt to climate change.

Developed countries have fallen short of a commitment to reach a contribution of $100 billion every year to developing nations from 2020 to 2025.

Speaking to leaders at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Sánchez said Monday that Spain plans to increase its contribution and reach 1.35 billion euros ($1.56 billion) in 2025 and every year after that.

“Meeting the $100 billion target is going to be one of the litmus tests of COP26,” Sánchez said. “When it comes to regaining trust between the countries of the North and the South, Spain will do its part.”

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GLASGOW, Scotland — The prime minister of Barbados has told world leaders that failing to act urgently on climate change will be a “death sentence” for people in island nations like hers.

Mia Amor Mottley told leaders at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow that nations facing the biggest threat from global warming fear the gathering will not achieve its goals.

She said that “both ambition and, regrettably, some of the needed faces at Glasgow are not present.” The leaders of China, Russia and Turkey are among those who have not come to the summit.

Mottley told leaders they must “try harder,” saying vulnerable countries needed trillions of dollars, not the billions so far committed, to adapt to climate change and green their economies.

She said “simply put: When will leaders lead?”

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti made an impassioned appeal to world leaders to “open your hearts” to those already feeling the effects of global warming.

Speaking Monday at the ceremonial opening of the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Wathuti said drought in her home country means many are going without food.

“As I sit comfortably here in this conference center in Glasgow, over 2 million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate-related starvation,” she said. “In this past year, both of our rainy seasons have failed, and scientists say that it may be another 12 months before the waters return again.”

Wathuti urged leaders to take the necessary action to tackle climate change.

“The decisions you make here will help determine whether children will have food and water,” she said.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — British naturalist David Attenborough gave leaders at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow a brief lesson is the fragility of the planet and humanity’s dependence on the natural world.

The 95-year-old documentary-maker, who was announced at Monday’s ceremonial opening as the “people’s advocate,” spoke ahead of presidents and prime ministers from more than 100 countries.

Attenborough said for much of humanity’s existence, the climate on Earth had swung wildly before stabilizing 10,000 years ago, allowing human civilizations to flourish.

“The stability we all depend on is breaking,” he said.

Attenborough said the action necessary to curb greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would prevent dangerous global warming is possible, if countries move quickly and decisively.

“We are, after all, the greatest problem solvers to have ever existed on Earth,” he said. “If working apart, we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet. Surely working together, we are powerful enough to save it.”

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Activists in costumes have posed as world leaders playing in a traditional Scottish bagpipe band on Monday as world leaders came together at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow.

The Oxfam campaigners wore kilts and said that world leaders need to come up with more action and not only “hot air” to tackle the climate crisis.

“These leaders, instead of reducing emissions and putting the world on a safer path, they are just blowing hot air, and we have had enough of hot air and empty promises, what we are asking for is for concrete action,” Oxfam Climate Policy Lead Nafkote Dabi said.

“We need climate finance, poor countries need climate finance, vulnerable communities need climate finance, and they need to be serious about this, to support vulnerable countries, to adapt to the worst impact of the climate crisis.”

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GLASGOW, Scotland — The head of the United Nations warned leaders at the global climate summit in Glasgow that “we digging our own graves” by burning fossil fuels and destroying the environment.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the ceremonial opening of the two-week talks Monday that believing recent announcements by governments could turn the tide on climate change were “an illusion,” not least because there are serious questions many countries’ pledges.

“As we open this much anticipated climate conference, we are still heading for climate disaster,” he said.

Guterres urged major economic powers, including emerging nations like China, to “go the extra mile” because they contribute the lion’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions.

He also criticized a confusion over emissions reductions targets, and announced the creation of a new group of experts to propose “clear standards” for measuring commitments from businesses and other non-state actors.

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MOSCOW — The Kremlin says that Moscow remains fully committed to global efforts on controlling climate change even though Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t attend the U.N. climate conference this week.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the format of the conference in Glasgow wouldn’t allow the Russian president to address the gathering via video link. But he added that Putin will record a video address to be delivered to a forest and land use conference which is part of the U.N. climate conference.

Peskov told reporters Monday that Russia fully shares global climate efforts and will stick to its goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The U.S. and the EU have prodded Moscow to set a more ambitious goal and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Peskov charged that Russia is already ahead of some Western European countries regarding the share of low-carbon power generation sources. The Kremlin spokesman also emphasized the need to pay special attention to the needs of developing countries while mapping global climate efforts and consider their low emissions in the past.

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GLASGOW, Scotland — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has opened a global climate summit saying the world is strapped to a “doomsday device.”

Johnson likened the Earth’s position to that of fictional secret agent James Bond strapped to a doomsday device that will destroy the planet and trying to work out how to defuse it.

He told leaders “we are in roughly the same position” and that only now the “ticking doomsday device” is real and not a movie.

He was kicking off the world leaders summit portion of a U.N. climate conference aimed at getting an agreement to curb carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) below pre-industrial levels.

Britain’s leader struck a gloomy note on the eve of the conference after Group of 20 leaders made only modest climate commitments at their summit in Rome.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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