Monday, December 7, 2009

Europe turns on US and China over weak emission targets

The European Union has rejected the new carbon emission targets tabled by the United States and China and said they were much too weak to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The dispute between the three main players at the Copenhagen climate change summit overshadowed the first day of negotiations and dashed hopes that a deal on emissions was imminent.

The EU called on President Obama to announce a more ambitious target next week, when he arrives in Copenhagen for the last day of the conference on December 18.

But the US insisted that the provisional offer made 10 days ago by Mr Obama was “remarkable” and in line with what scientists had recommended.

Mr Obama has proposed to cut its emissions by 4 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020, although he has said this is subject to getting the approval of Congress. The EU has made a legally binding commitment to cut its emissions by 20 per cent over the same period. It has also said it would increase the cut to 30 per cent if other countries committed to “comparable action”.

Washington tonight attempted to demonstrate that it was serious about fighting climate change by formally announcing that green house gases were a danger to American health and paving the way for new regulations to control them. This would technically allow Mr Obama to override Congress and impose carbon cuts but, in practice, he is more likely to use the prospect of regulations as a bargaining chip to persuade enough senators to pass a Bill enforcing the 4 per cent target.

Andreas Carlgren, Sweden’s environment minister and the EU’s main negotiator under the rotating presidency, said the targets proposed by the US and China were too low to qualify as comparable action and therefore the EU would not strengthen its 20 per cent target.

“If you analyse the bids they are not going to deliver the emissions reductions that would be keeping the Earth’s temperature [increase] below 2C. The US and China cover half the world’s emissions so it will be absolutely decisive what they deliver.

“It would be astonishing if President Obama arrived here next week and just delivered what was in last week’s press release. I would rather expect the US President will deliver something further.”

Mr Carlgren also dismissed China’s offer to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 per cent by 2020. He said the target would result in a huge increase in emissions because of China’s predicted 8 per cent annual economic growth.

Mr Carlgren dismissed the recommendation from Lord Stern of Brentford that the EU should take the lead at the summit by making an unconditional commitment to cut its emissions by 30 per cent by 2020.

“The EU wants to go to 30 per cent but other parties must also deliver and it mostly depends on the US and China.

“We must keep the pressure until the end . We have said 30 per cent as a lever to put pressure on other parties.

“If we were to weaken that pressure by already delivering we would lose that endgame and we would risk having an agreement of too low an ambition level."

Jonathan Pershing, the US chief negotiator at Copenhagen, tried to downplay America’s contribution to climate change.

He said: “The US is responsible for one fifth of emissions which means four fifths come from the rest of the world.” He suggested that the US was making up for its weak short term target by offering an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050. Most other countries argue that promising reductions in 40 years time is a political fudge and no substitute for firm action in the next decade.

But Mr Pershing hinted that Mr Obama might be willing to offer more short-term action, possibly in the form of a substantial contribution to a global fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

“The president has put a remarkable number on the table. What we need to now do is see how these negotiations proceed and we look forward to his coming and engaging in the discussion.”

Karzai poised to name new Government line-up
President Karzai is expected to name a new Cabinet today after weeks of pressure from Western capitals linking future support to reform of the Afghan Government.

Mr Karzai has been pondering the new line-up of his Government since he was declared the winner of the widely discredited presidential elections in August. In his inauguration speech last month he promised to end the country’s “culture of impunity”.

Afghan government sources and Western diplomats have both told The Times that the new Cabinet is expected to retain those ministers regarded as competent and non-corrupt by the West. However, Afghan government sources said that changes to the final line-up were still being formulated last night ahead of this morning’s expected announcement.

“There is a lot uncertainty, a lot of deal making,” said one senior Afghan official, who declined to be identified. “There will certainly be a lot of technocrats in the final list, there will also be some middlemen for warlords. It will not be a perfect cabinet but it will be acceptable to Brussels.”

One senior Western diplomat told The Times that the final list was expected to be “fairly responsible” and to retain the handful of ministers who had won Western backing for competence and relative incorruptibility in the last administration.

Among those expected to appear in the final list are the respected current Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, former Interior Minister Ali Jalali and Agriculture Minister Asif Rahimi.

Another name widely tipped is Gul Agha Sherzai, the energetic governor of Nangahar province who is known as “The Bulldozer”. His warlord past has not prevented him winning popularity with US officials.

Traditionally all Afghan Cabinets are a balancing act of the country’s competing ethnicities and interest groups.

Mr Karzai caused deep gloom in the international community before the elections when he named two prominent warlords, Karim Khalili and Marshal Mohammad Fahim, as his running mates. Both are accused of war crimes by human rights groups. He was also widely reported to have made a number of deals with different ethnic warlords, in exchange for promised votes.

The most notorious figures, such as General Rashid Dostum and Mohammad Mohaqeq, do not appear to be in the running for a Cabinet post. However, Mr Karzai is known to have met the Northern Alliance warlord Doctor Burhanuddin Rabbani in the past week and there are persistent claims that he has demanded a Cabinet position for his son.

The Afghan parliament yesterday demanded that it be allowed to exercise its Constitutional right under to refuse any member of the cabinet. In the past some ministers were able to take up their posts even though they were barred by parliamentary vote.

In the first sign of a discernible crackdown on corruption the Mayor of Kabul, Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi, was sentenced to four years of imprisonment on charges relating to the misappropriation of £9,800 of public money. The sum is small change compared to the millions suspected to have been embezzled by government officials.

'Corrupt' Mayor of Kabul sentenced

A court has sentenced the Afghan capital's Mayor, Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi,to four years in jail for corruption and ordered him to return £9,800 of public money which it said he had "wasted" in awarding a contract without following proper procedures.It is the first serious corruption conviction since Hamid Karzai's re-election. Mr Sahebi, who has denied the charges, was not in court and his whereabouts are unknown.

NFC: Punjab still opposes war subvention to NWFP

PESHAWAR: Punjab is not willing to concede to the NWFP demand of even 2.5 per cent subvention from the federal divisible pool as compensation for its suffering from acts of terrorism and militancy in the 7th award of the National Finance Commission (NFC).

The sources told The News that the NWFP has given up its earlier claim of 10 per cent from the divisible pool for the “war on terror” being fought on its soil and has brought down its demand to only 2.5 per cent as “war on terror” subvention. They claimed that at the Karachi meeting of the NFC all other federating units, including finance minister of the Punjab, agreed to the NWFP demand, but technical member of the Punjab, former secretary finance Mirza Abdul Ghafoor, opposed it and told the meeting that he would consult his “elders” on the issue.

The sources privy to the NFC meetings also said that the federal government had shown willingness to pay one per cent of the total divisible pool to the NWFP as “war on terror” subvention, but the Frontier has yet to accept it.

When contacted, the acting central president of Awami National Party (ANP) and provincial member on the NFC, Haji Mohammad Adeel conceded difficulties in getting “war on terror” subvention and said that the province’s team had girded up to pursue the matter vigorously at the Lahore meeting being held on the December 9-10.

He said the NWFP was in a state of war and it had suffered hundreds of billions rupees losses in the ongoing militancy and subsequent operations, besides the loss of hundreds of precious lives, but it was now being promised only one per cent of the total divisible pool as war subvention. It is just a few billions rupees, which are not even sufficient for the compensations to the heirs of the victims of the militancy, he added.

He hoped that the Lahore meeting would prove to be a fresh start for the NWFP and other provinces, including Punjab, would feel the pain the NWFP had been going through. Haji Adeel said that presently Punjab was getting 80 per cent of the divisible pool on account of population and “we hope the Punjab would agree to 70-75 per cent weightage for the population in order to contain other provinces’ demands such as backwardness, area, etc.” He said the rest 25-30 per cent of the provincial share would be divided on the basis of poverty, backwardness and Human Development Index (HDI), areas and revenue collection.

About the pre-NFC demands of the province, he said they have already brought the “go-slow” on the matter into the notice of President Zardari and asked him to act on the demands of the NWFP the federal government has acknowledged earlier. He said that in their last week meeting with the president they urged Zardari to issue presidential order for the payment of Rs100 billion of the net hydel power profit arrears.

“We also asked the federal government to form a technical committee for determining the modus operandi for the payment of the remaining Rs180 billion of the net hydel power profit,” Muhammad Adeel said.

The ANP leader said the president assured them that the committee would meet soon after the Lahore meeting of the NFC to take up the matter. He said they also reminded the president of the federal government’s pledge to withdraw all cases and urged him to direct the Wapda to take back all the cases it instituted against the net hydel power profit payment in the courts.

Torkham border closed

PESHAWAR: Pakistan on Monday closed Torkham border crossing in Khyber Agency for the people entering from Afghanistan without valid documents.

The border was closed on orders of the government amidst growing insurgency-related incidents in the country, especially in Peshawar city. It was believed that mostly Afghan nationals, living illegally or entering Pakistan without passports and visas, were allegedly involved in the rising incidents of terrorism, which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent people so far.

A huge number of people mostly Afghans with no valid immigration documents were seen waiting on the Afghanistan side of the border to enter Pakistan. This busy border crossing had also been closed for several times in the past but was reopened after talks between the Afghan and Pakistan governments.

The move would increase the problems of two million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Unlike the Pakistanis, majority of the Afghans frequently cross into Pakistan without valid documents to meet their near and dear ones.

Afghan Womens’ plight getting worse

Womens’ plight getting worse
KABUL (Agencies): A leading rights group Monday accused the Afghan government of failing to protect women from endemic violence such as rape and murder and from discrimination, warning that their plight risks getting worse. The US-based Human Rights Watch urged world powers to stay focused on women’s rights in Afghanistan as President Barack Obama deploys an extra 30,000 US troops as part of a revamped strategy to fight the resurgent Taliban. “Eight years after the fall of the Taliban, women and girls suffer high levels of violence and discrimination, and have poor access to justice and education,” HRW said in a 96-page report. “The Afghan government has also failed to bring killers of prominent women in public life to justice, creating an environment of impunity for those who target women,” it said. Banned from public life under the iron-fisted Taliban regime from 1996 until the 2001 US-led invasion, women still struggle for their rights in the impoverished, deeply conservative and war-torn country. HRW said gains made since 2001 in areas such as education, work and freedom of movement are under serious threat as the Taliban insurgency gains ground and fundamentalist factions in government strengthen. “The situation for Afghan women and girls is dire and could deteriorate,” said Rachel Reid, Afghanistan researcher at HRW. The rights group highlighted a catalogue of abuse of women — death threats and intimidation, murders of several high-profile figures, gang rape and young girls being forced into marriage. But it said the attitude of the courts or police was often hostile towards women, with the government failing to prosecute the perpetrators of attacks. In addition, it said, “studies suggest that more than half the women and girls in detention are being held for ‘moral crimes’, such as adultery or running away from home”.

11 die as blast rocks Peshawar

PESHAWAR: After a comparative calm 20 days the provincial metropolis once again became the target of barbaric act of terrorists when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the main gate of Sessions Courts killing at least 11 people and injuring 45 others here on Monday. Two policemen are among the dead. The bomber disembarked from an auto rickshaw in front of the main gate of Sessions Courts. But as he walked towards the court building the on-duty policeman told him to remove his shawl. After his refusal the cop opened fire at him. Upon this the bomber pulled the trigger of his explosive-filled jacket killing the innocents. Two policemen who embraced martyrdom in the incident were identified as Roohullah (ASI) and Nasir (constable). The auto rickshaw (C-7848), which was used by the suicide bomber as a transport, was completely destroyed while three vehicles PRD-3959, PRM 6987 and PRW 87 were also destroyed after catching fire soon after the blast. The Sessions Courts are located at a short distance from a MPAs' Hostel, the provincial Home Department, Peshawar Museum and Governor's House. The police found parts of suicide vest, nut bolts, and bearings from the site of blast. The police also found the head of the suicide bomber while parts of his flesh were scattered. According to Bomb Disposal Squad officials about six to seven kilograms of explosive along with ball bearings were used in the blast. The injured were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital while fire brigade was also called to extinguish the fire. Peshawar has been on receiving end from the militants for almost three months as the rebels try to avenge military operation going on against them in different parts of the NWFP province and in tribal areas. No one has accepted the responsibility of the blast till the filing of the report. This was the second time a court complex in Peshawar was targeted by a suicide bomber. On Nov 19, a suicide attacker had struck the Judicial Complex, killing 19 people and injuring 50 others. An eye witness Ali Akbar who was at the filling station on the opposite side of the courts said he saw a bearded man wearing a shawl who reached the courts in an auto rickshaw and approached the gate of the Sessions Courts. An employee of the filling station said the blast was so huge that he lost his hearing power for almost 20 minutes due to the bang of the explosion.

46 people killed in separate Pakistan bombings

A bombing at a market in Lahore kills at least 36 and injure more than 100; many of the victims are women and children. In Peshawar, a suicide bomber kills 10 people outside a courthouse.
Two near-simultaneous bomb blasts tore through a crowded market in the eastern city of Lahore today, killing at least 36 people and injuring more than 100.
Police said many of the dead were women and children.
Earlier in the day, a suicide bomber killed 10 people outside a courthouse in the northwest city of Peshawar.
Pakistan has been hit with a wave of terrorist strikes as its army tries to clamp down on Islamist militants in the nation's tribal areas along the Afghan border. While many of those attacks have been directed at Pakistani armed forces, police and intelligence agencies, insurgents at times have targeted crowded markets in the country's largest cities.
The attack in Lahore occurred at 8:45 p.m. at the Moon Market, a popular bazaar that was packed with shoppers. Police say one of the bombs was detonated by remote control; they were investigating whether the second was a suicide bomb.
The blasts took place about 30 seconds apart. The first occurred at the back of the market and sent throngs of shoppers running toward the front, police said. As the crowd reached storefronts and stalls at the front end, a second blast occurred there.
The explosions gutted rows of shops, many of which sold clothes and shoes and were frequented by women with children in tow. Television images from the scene showed flames shooting skyward as fighters struggled for hours to put out the blaze.
Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city and cultural capital, has been the site of several large-scale acts of terrorism in the last couple of years, including a trio of highly coordinated, commando-style October attacks on police buildings that resulted in 14 deaths. In May, a team of militants shot their way through the main gate of a complex that housed a police building and intelligence agency office in Lahore and detonated a van filled with explosives, killing 27 people and injuring 250.In today's attack in Peshawar, the suicide bomber tried to rush into the courthouse but was met by security guards outside, where he detonated his explosives. At least 45 people were wounded in the attack.Peshawar, a city of nearly 3 million people situated on the edge of Pakistan's largely ungoverned tribal areas, has borne the brunt of the violence inflicted by militants in recent weeks. The death toll from the wave of attacks in and around Peshawar since early October has reached at least 257.

At least 33 dead as twin bombs hit Lahore

We have recovered 33 dead bodies and have shifted 95 injured to different hospitals,' doctor Rizwan Naseer, director general of the city rescue service, told AFP.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but cultural hub Lahore has frequently been targeted by Taliban militants waging a two-and-a-half year insurgency that has killed more than 2,600 people in Pakistan.

The two fierce explosions struck about 30 metres (yards) apart and set shops and buildings ablaze at the popular Moon Market.

'There were two blasts with an interval of about 30 seconds. One was in front of a bank and one was in front of a police station,' said city police official Shafiq Ahmad.

Pakistan TV stations showed footage of buildings in flames as rescue workers rushed to the chaotic scene and firemen struggled to put out the blaze.

Vehicles and shops were badly damaged in the Moon Market area in the centre of the city of nearly eight million people.

Earlier Monday, 10 people were killed when a suicide bomber struck outside a court in the northwestern city Peshawar, which has borne the brunt of Taliban attacks avenging military offensives against them across the region.

Lahore has also been in the crosshairs of the insurgents, with five militant strikes this year killing more than 70 people in a city known for its universities, buzzing theatre scene and art galleries.

It is the capital of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, with many of the nation's senior military figures hailing from the area.

Blast near MPA hostel Peshawar, ten dead

PESHAWAR : At least ten persons were dead and several others injured in blast near the MPA Hostel Peshawar on Monday, Aaj News reported.

According to details it was a suicide attack that ripped through the congested road leading to Peshawar cantonment which also housed important offices including Sessions Court, Peshawar Museum and Home department, etc.

The police and ambulances rushed to the site of the blast to carry out rescue operation. Emergency has been declared in the Lady Reading Hospital. The police cordoned off the area.