UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments to rise to the global-warming challenge, and Pacific islanders pleaded for haste in drafting a new pact to slow climate change before their homes are swallowed by the rising ocean.
The appeals on Tuesday came as a two-week UN climate conference moved into its final days, with delegates seeking to resolve a host of arguments barring agreements to help poor countries cope with climate change and protect the world’s last native forests.
With divisions running deep, the 193-nation conclave set aside the seemingly intractable question of how much countries should reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from industry, transportation and agriculture, and focused instead on creating tools for future work.
The meeting comes one year after the disappointing climate summit in Copenhagen, and the frustration was apparent.
“I am deeply concerned that our efforts so far have been insufficient,” Ban said, opening the high-level meeting of presidents, prime ministers and environment ministers. “We are still not rising to the challenge.”
Ban said he was encouraged that governments had nearly met their pledges to raise US$30 billion in emergency climate funds for poor countries up to 2012, but said that didn’t go far enough.
“We need to make progress on the actual delivery of funds, along with a transparent and robust accountability system,” he told reporters.
Nations also had to devise ways to fulfill last year’s promise made in the Danish capital to raise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to fight climate change, he said.
The world’s most vulnerable nations warned the 15,000 conference participants that their situation was dire and immediate.
“The gravity of the crisis has escaped us. It has become lost in a fog of scientific, economic, and technical jargon,” said Marcus Stephen, president of the island of Nauru, which has fewer than 10,000 inhabitants.
Stephen chided delegates for allowing dogmatic positions to delay the years-long negotiations.
“Our governments are not deadlocked because of ideological divisions,” he said of his fellow Pacific nations.
“The oceans that once sustained us now threaten to swallow us,” Palauan President Johnson Toribiong said. “The world must hear our cry for collective action to save us ... and our planet Earth.”
See Archeologists on page 6 and Moved on page 14
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,