Up to Speed, Issue 6: Climate Emergencies and a Parliament on Fire

By Levin Stamm

Collage by Emma Kappeyne van de Coppello

In the midst of non-stop reports, statistics and exclamations about the Coronavirus pandemic, other events and news from around the world may have escaped your attention. But fear not – The Herring’s biweekly current affairs summary helps you stay up to speed. In today’s edition: Among others, the declaration of a climate emergency in New Zealand and the setting on fire of Guatemala’s parliament.

New Zealand Parliament declares a climate emergency

The island country in the southwestern Pacific ocean consolidates its reputation as a pioneer when it comes to tackling climate change. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern personally moved a motion in the House on December 2nd which was passed on the same day by the parliament. The Prime Minister spoke of a “declaration based on science” and an “acknowledgement of the next generation”. By now 28 countries around the world have declared a climate emergency. The true novelty, however, lies within the fact that New Zealand is the first nation to combine the declaration with a binding set of actions. The Government aspires the entire public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025, the most ambitious deadline yet. All agencies and ministries are from now on obliged to exclusively acquire electric vehicles.

(Source: NZ Herald)

Guatemala: Protesters continue to demand president’s resignation

Protesters have returned to the streets of Guatemala to express their discontent over the in the meantime annulled 2021 budget, which had been secretly passed by the Congress mid-November in the midst of the country’s recovery from Hurricane Eta. Massive protests culminated on November 21st with protesters setting parts of the parliament building on fire. The budget intended the cutting of funding for healthcare, education and human rights programmes, while, among others, increasing stipends for representatives’ meals. Despite the annulation of the budget, Guatemalans continue to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei and his cabinet. Protests also continued in the western department of Sololá where Indigenous communities created roadblocks on the Inter-American highway to express their disapproval of the national government.

(Sources: Prensa Libre, Peoples Dispatch) 

Bangladesh has started Rohingya relocation to remote island

Over 1600 Rohingya refugees have been sent to Bhasan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal. Rights groups criticise the Bangladeshi government for relocating many of them against their will. The government has been building facilities on the island for several years to reduce pressure in coastal city Cox’s Bazar with its nearly one million Rohingya refugees. The island itself is known for its unhygienic living conditions and limited access to food, healthcare facilities and educational institutions. Furthermore, international organisations have repeatedly been denied access to the island.

(Sources: BBC, CNN)

Carbon-cutting pledges put UN climate goals within reach

Not only New Zealand is presenting good news in the fight against climate change. A recent study of the Climate Action Tracker group has analysed recent climate-pledges by major carbon-polluting countries. The promising result: Global warming could be halted at 2.1 degree celsius if countries actually commit to their plans. That is still well above the 1.5 degree limit that is required to halt the devastating effects, climate change could bring. However, it is also a significant reduction of the 3.5 degree celsius rise that scientists had forecasted prior to the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement. The reason for the optimistic prognosis: China, Japan and South Korea have all pledged to be carbon neutral by either 2050 or 2060. Most recently, US President-elect Joe Biden has presented a climate plan that intends net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

(Source: The Straits Times)

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