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World leaders to launch bid for climate breakthrough in Paris

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World leaders to launch bid for climate breakthrough in Paris
Phuket Gazette / Reuters


PHUKET: World leaders will launch an ambitious attempt on Monday to hold back the earth’s rising temperatures, urging each other to find common cause in two weeks of bargaining meant to steer the global economy away from dependence on fossil fuels.

They arrive at United Nations climate change talks in Paris armed with promises and accompanied by high expectations. After decades of struggling negotiations marked by the failure of a previous summit in Copenhagen six years ago, some form of landmark agreement appears all but assured by mid-December.

Warnings from climate scientists, demands from activists and exhortations from religious leaders like Pope Francis, coupled with major advances in cleaner energy sources like solar power, have all added to pressure to cut the carbon emissions held responsible for warming the planet.

Most scientists say failure to agree on strong measures in Paris would doom the world to ever-hotter average temperatures, bringing with them deadlier storms, more frequent droughts and rising sea levels as polar ice caps melt.

Facing such alarming projections, the leaders of more than 150 countries responsible for about 90 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have come bearing pledges to reduce their national carbon output, though by different degrees.

Achieving an international agreement committing both rich and developing nations to the fight against global warming would mean “we can have confidence that we’re doing right by future generations,” U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier this month.

On the eve of the summit, hundreds of thousands of people from Australia to Paraguay joined the biggest day of climate change activism in history, telling world leaders there was “No Planet B” in the fight against global warming.

French police detained scores of protesters after violent clashes in the centre of Paris. The police fired tear gas to disperse about 200 protesters, some of them masked, who responded by hurling rocks and candles at them.

SMOOTHING THE BUMPS

The leaders will gather in a vast conference centre at the Le Bourget airfield near the spot where Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis aircraft in 1927 after making the first solo trans-Atlantic flight, a feat that helped bring nations closer.

Whether a similar spirit of unity can be incubated in Le Bourget this time is uncertain. In all, 195 countries are part of the unwieldy negotiating process, espousing a variety of leadership styles and ideologies that has made consensus elusive in the past. Key issues, notably how to divide the global bill to pay for a shift to renewable energy, are still contentious.

Signalling their determination to resolve the most intractable points, senior negotiators sat down on Sunday, a day earlier than originally planned, to begin thrashing out an agreement.

The last attempt to get a global deal collapsed in chaos and acrimony in Copenhagen in 2009. It ended with Obama forcing his way on the gathering’s last day into a closed meeting of China and other countries, emerging with a modest concession to limit rising emissions until 2020 that they attempted to impose on the rest of the world.

Anxious to avoid a re-run of the Copenhagen disaster, major powers have tried this time to smooth some of the bumps in the way of an agreement before they arrive.

For one thing, the presidents, prime ministers and princes will make their cameo appearances at the outset of the conference rather than swooping in at the end.

Arriving in a sombre city where security has been tightened after Islamist militant attacks that killed 130 people on Nov. 13, each leader will be allowed a brief opening speech, just a few minutes long. The goal is to build momentum for consensus and avoid the messiness of past talks when diplomats put off the hard political choices until their bosses arrived.

NEW APPROACH

But there are other significant changes in approach.

The old goal of seeking a legally binding international treaty, certain to be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, has been replaced by a system of national pledges to reduce emissions, some presented as best intentions, others legally enforced by domestic laws and regulations.

The biggest difference may be the partnership between the United States and China. The world’s two biggest carbon emitters, once on opposite sides on climate issues, agreed in 2014 to jointly kick-start a transition away from fossil fuels, each at their own speed and in their own way.

That partnership has been a balm for the main source of tension that characterised previous talks, in which the developing world argued that countries which grew rich by industrialising on fossil fuels should pay the cost of shifting all economies to a renewable energy future.

Now even China, once a leading voice of that club, has agreed to contribute to an internationally administered Green Climate Fund that hopes to dispense $100 billion a year after 2020 as a way to finance the developing world’s shift towards renewables.

If emerging with a signed deal now appears likely, so too is the prospect that it will not be enough to prevent the world’s average temperature from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. That is widely viewed as a threshold for dangerous and potentially catastrophic changes in the planet’s climate system.

Instead, the summit will produce a “long-term framework” for additional reductions down the road, Obama said in a Facebook posting before leaving Washington on Sunday, with “targets set by each nation, but transparent enough to be verified by other nations.”

How and when nations should review their goals – and then set higher, more ambitious ones – must still be hammered out.

One sign of optimism: Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi, a key player because of his country’s size and its heavy dependence on coal, planned to use his appearance on Monday to announce an international solar alliance of more than 100 sun-kissed countries, with the aim of raising India’s profile on solar power.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Travel bubble” scheme likely to be delayed

Jack Burton

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“Travel bubble” scheme likely to be delayed | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikipedia

Thailand’s “travel bubble” scheme, which would allow limited numbers of certain groups of tourists from nations or areas deemed Covid-19 free by the World Health Organisation, now appears likely to be delayed. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has announced the delay after several countries, that were considered for the scheme, have now seen resurgences of the virus. The CAAT’s director-general says even though talks about travel bubble arrangements are ongoing with countries including China, Japan, and South Korea, the scheme will be put on hold due to a spike in infections.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha himself expressed serious concerns about the scheme. The government had decided to launch travel bubbles with several countries that had a low coronavirus risk and initially, the arrangements were to be adopted with the first group of international leisure travellers in August at the earliest. The CAAT director-general says local tourism is crucial to rebuilding the country’s aviation industry and pointed out that demand for domestic travel is picking up after airlines resumed operations. Many business operators also launched promotional campaigns to boost travel. He expressed confidence that further stimulus measures to be rolled out by the government will increase spending power and that the aviation and transport sectors will begin to recover.

Echoing the words of the PM, Thailand’s transport minister says “public safety is the top priority” for the government as it considers reopening the country to international travellers. When asked about reports over airlines preparing to resume international flights in September, he called on all airlines to wait for a clear policy from the government and the CAAT.

An epidemiologist at Chulalongkorn University is also urging the government to “exercise extreme caution” when considering travel bubble arrangements because the Covid-19 pandemic is still ravaging many parts of the world. And the chief of the Communicable Disease Division yesterday urged the public to “keep their guard up” even though the country has reported no community transmissions of coronavirus for 43 consecutive days.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Locals not rushing to book Singapore ‘staycations’

The Thaiger

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Locals not rushing to book Singapore ‘staycations’ | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Todayonline

Tokyo residents can escape the city with a hike up Mount Fuji. New Yorkers can head to Long Island for a weekend. In Indonesia locals will be able to fly to the beaches of Bali. And in Thailand anyone living here now can visit the island of Phuket for a beach retreat.

Such is the Covid era ‘staycation’, the solution for domestic tourist economies around the world. Or is it?

Residents of Singapore have less of an option as, well, Singapore is tiny so any staycation won’t take you far away from home. With the island’s borders closed to foreigners, hotels and tourist attractions are hoping ‘staycationers’ will plug the gap in the battered $20 billion-a-year tourist industry. But despite industry enthusiasm, the Singapore locals haven’t been rushing to book staycations just yet.

Michael Issenberg, CEO Accor South East Asia, the largest hotel operator in Singapore says that unless there is a return to international business, the hotel industry is going to be decimated.

“Up to 90% of our bookings come from international travellers.”

While tourism internationally has been profoundly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, a gradual re-opening of some domestic travel is giving a shot in the arm to airlines and hotels. Both industries, and the downstream travel agents, tour companies, taxi and passenger bus drivers, and cleaners, etc, have been particularly hard hit as border closures and lockdowns have shuttered hotels and ground entire fleets of planes.

Locals not rushing to book Singapore 'staycations' | News by The Thaiger

Singapore’s tourism sector faces an even tougher challenge with hotels given a green light just last week to request approval to welcome domestic tourists. But locals have been saying they’d prefer to save their money and wait for travel to resume in nearby holiday spots in Thailand and Malaysia rather than spend it on a hotel just around the corner in Singapore.

Thailand and Malaysia are also promoting local versions of ‘staycations’. In Thailand the government is rolling out a three month stimulus package which gives users a 3,000 baht digital ‘wallet’ to use for expenses on rooms, flights and food.

Back in Singapore, the 5.7 million Singaporeans are now rebooting their economy after two months of lockdown, including a huge spike of new cases in April, the borders are still mostly closed. The city-state registered a historic low of just 750 foreign visitors in April, down from 1.6 million in the same month last year. May wasn’t much better – 880 visitors.

Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp says that in the short term, hotels, restaurants and attractions can shuffle their businesses to draw interest to staycationers by adding attractions and food discounts,.

“However, our inherent small domestic market size implies it may not be a longer-term sustainable solution.”

Tourism has been an increasingly vital industry for Singapore, helping to re-invent the economy from its traditional finance and shipping hub strengths. World class attractions including – Marina Bay Sands hotel, casino, Universal Studios and the Singapore Zoo have drawn tourists from around the world. The island has found its advantages as a cheap shopping stop-over and financial hub have been taken over by other south east Asian mega cities.

Last year, Singapore hosted a record 19.1 million visitors, while tourism receipts rose to S$27.7 billion (US$19.8 billion), fun 3% from the year before. Singapore’s tourism industry, employing about 65,000 people, contributes about 4% to the island’s GDP.

The border closure means Singapore needs to persuade locals to spend more money at home. Tourism Board CEO Keith Tan is confident the locals will be keen to travel locally and support the Singaporean economy.

“They may therefore be open to take time off in their own city and rediscover all that Singapore has to offer.”

“Singapore has set aside S$90 million for the tourism sector and a task force is developing domestic and international recovery plans to be shared soon. The board also aims to strengthen Singapore’s brand abroad by spending S$2 million to encourage content creators to produce compelling stories about the city-state.”

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Hot News

Facebook blocks Hong Kong’s user data requests after China’s new security law

The Thaiger

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Facebook blocks Hong Kong’s user data requests after China’s new security law | The Thaiger

Facebook is blocking requests from Hong Kong to receive user data after China’s passing of a new national security law that reportedly aims to crack down on government critics. WhatsApp and Twitter are also included in the blocking of data requests with Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone saying it is stopping the review of such requests until it evaluates the new law and consults with international human rights experts.

“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions.”

The new national security law was revealed at the end of June and has already had a muting effect on the city that has long been a haven for free speech and internet access from China’s mainland. Facebook reportedly works with law enforcement communities to promote safety, on and offline, but it reviews every request by law enforcement agencies to make sure they are legitimate.

Facebook and Twitter are accessible in Hong Kong, as part of the decrease in oversight under the “one country, two systems” commitments by Beijing. However, human rights advocates have criticised the new national security law, partly because China did not release a draft for the public to review before it took effect.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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