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Canada says government fund helping to cut methane emissions

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By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – A Canadian government fund established to help the energy sector reduce methane emissions will cut the country’s overall carbon dioxide emissions by about half a percentage point in its first year, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said on Friday.

The oil and gas sector is Canada‘s largest industrial emitter of methane, a potent climate-warming greenhouse gas that accounts for 13%, or 91 megatons, of the country‘s overall emissions.

In a news release, O’Regan said the C$750 million ($598.61 million) Emissions Reduction Fund would help the industry cut 3.1 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions in the 12 months since it was launched last October. That is the equivalent of taking 674,000 cars off the road.

Canada hopes the fund will spur the oil and gas sector to adopt greener technologies while also supporting energy jobs. The government has signed funding agreements totalling C$71.5 million with 15 companies so far, including privately-owned Tundra Oil & Gas Ltd in Manitoba.

“We have hundreds of thousands of workers who know how to build energy infrastructure,” O’Regan said. “These are the same people who will lower emissions, the same people who will build renewables, the same people who will meet our targets.”

Canada is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer and one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters on a per capita basis.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is aiming to cut carbon emissions from 730 megatons per year to 503 megatons by 2030, and has imposed measures including a carbon tax that will steadily ramp up to C$170 a ton.

Canada introduced national methane regulations in 2018, aimed at cutting emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40% to 45% and said in December it will establish new targets for 2030 and 2035. Data released last year, however, showed methane emissions from Canada‘s oil sector were higher than previously thought.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration also is planning to introduce stricter curbs on methane from the oil and gas industry.

($1 = 1.2529 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Roche’s implant for chronic eye disorder wins FDA approval

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Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG said on Friday the U.S. health regulator approved its eye implant for patients with a chronic disorder causing blurred vision, giving them an alternative to receiving monthly eye injections with existing treatments.

Roche’s Susvimo is a surgically implantable device intended to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD), a disorder which occurs when abnormal blood vessels leak fluid or blood into an area near the retina called the macula.

The device is designed to continuously deliver a customized version of the company’s drug ranibizumab, branded as Lucentis, which is an anti-VEGF therapy.

Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) therapies, the current standard of care for wet AMD, work against a protein said to play a key role in the disease and require patients to receive eye injections as often as monthly to preserve vision.

Susvimo, which is intended for those who have previously responded to at least two anti-VEGF injections, needs to be taken only twice a year.

More than 98% of patients treated with the device were able to go six months before needing a refill in the company’s late-stage study last year.

“This device will be a first-of-its-kind alternative to the current standard of care injections for patients with wet AMD,” Levi Garraway, Roche’s chief medical officer, said in an interview with Reuters before the approval.

The device has an exchange mechanism that simultaneously refills a new batch of medicine while the residual drug is removed, Garraway added.

UBS analyst Michael Leuchten estimates that the U.S. market size for AMD is roughly $3.5 billion.

Susvimo is also being reviewed for the treatment of wet AMD by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the company said.

Lucentis was first approved for wet AMD in the United States in 2006. Other anti-VEGF therapies include Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ Eylea and Novartis’ Beovu.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Bhanvi Satija; Editing by Aditya Soni and Maju Samuel)

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U.S. FCC commissioner wants new restrictions review for Chinese dronemaker DJI

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A Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday said he wants the U.S. telecommunications regulator to begin the process of imposing new restrictions on Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the agency should takes steps toward adding DJI, the world’s largest dronemaker, to the so-called “Covered List” that would prohibit U.S. Universal Service Fund money from being used to purchase its equipment.

DJI, which accounts for more than 50% of U.S. drone sales, said its “drones are safe and secure for critical and sensitive operations… Our customers know that DJI drones remain the most capable and most affordable products for a wide variety of uses, including sensitive industrial and government work.”

In March, the FCC designated five Chinese companies as posing a threat to national security under a 2019 law aimed at protecting U.S. communications networks.

The FCC named Huawei Technologies Co, ZTE Corp, Hytera Communications Corp <002583.SZ), Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.

Carr noted that the FCC has a separate ongoing effort to decide whether to continue approving equipment from entities on the Covered List for use in the United States.

DJI  drones and the surveillance technology on board these systems are collecting vast amounts of sensitive data-everything from high-resolution images of critical infrastructure to facial recognition technology and remote sensors that can measure an individual’s body temperature and heart rate,” Carr said in a statement. “We do not need an airborne version of Huawei.”

He said the FCC in consultation with national security agencies “should also consider whether there are additional entities that warrant closer scrutiny.”

In December, DJI was added by the U.S. Commerce Department to the U.S. government’s economic blacklist.

In January 2020, the U.S. Interior Department said it was grounding its fleet of about 800 Chinese-made drones, and earlier halted additional Interior Department purchases of such drones.

In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned U.S. firms of the risks to company data from Chinese-made drones.

(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Bill Berkrot, William Maclean)

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Thousands protest in El Salvador against Bukele government

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Thousands of people in El Salvador took to the streets on Sunday to air a range of complaints against President Nayib Bukele, from adopting bitcoin as legal tender to firing Supreme Court judges, viewed by critics as a power grab.

At least 4,000 people, according to estimates by local media, marched through capital San Salvador with banners and signs rejecting bitcoin, which officially became legal tender in the Central American country in September, the removal of Supreme Court judges and the potential for Bukele to seek a second consecutive term.

People in the streets chanted slogans including “What does El Salvador want? Get rid of the dictator!” Near the capital’s main square, protesters set fire to a doll bearing the likeness of the 40-year-old president.

Bukele proclaimed himself “dictator” of the Central American country on his Twitter account last month, in an apparent joke amid concerns about his increasing concentration of power.

In May, a Congress dominated for the first time by Bukele’s New Ideas party voted to fire the judges on the constitutional panel of the Supreme Court, among the most senior jurists in the country, as well as the then-attorney general. Replacements seen as friendly to Bukele were swiftly voted in to replace them, which generated harsh criticism from the United States as well as top international rights groups.

Bukele’s administration then came under fire from the United States after the Supreme Court judges ruled that the president could seek a second consecutive term, which Washington saw as unconstitutional.

“We are totally losing rights because today they do not respect the laws. Here, what’s done is the will of Nayib,” said Rosa Granados, a labor union member who participated in the protests.

“If he raises his hand, all the deputies approve it and there is no law and no legal process that is respected,” she added.

Bukele, a seasoned and often provocative user of social media, dismissed the protests as a “failure” on his Twitter account.

“The march is a failure and they know it….. Nobody believes them here anymore,” he wrote.

 

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria, writing by Cassandra Garrison, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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