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U.S., other countries deepen climate goals at Earth Day summit

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By Jeff Mason and Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and other countries hiked their targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions at a global climate summit hosted by President Joe Biden, an event meant to resurrect U.S. leadership in the fight against global warming.

Biden unveiled the goal to cut emissions by 50%-52% from 2005 levels at the start of a two-day climate summit kicked off on Earth Day and attended virtually by leaders of 40 countries including big emitters China, India and Russia.

The United States, the world’s second-leading emitter after China, seeks to reclaim global leadership in the fight against global warming after former President Donald Trump withdrew the country from international efforts to cut emissions.

“This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” Biden, a Democrat, said at the White House.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the new U.S. goal “game changing” as two other countries made new pledges.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who visited Biden at the White House this month, raised Japan’s target for cutting emissions to 46% by 2030, up from 26%. Environmentalists wanted a pledge of at least 50% while Japan’s powerful business lobby has pushed for national policies that favor coal.

Canada‘s Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, raised his country’s goal to a cut of 40%-45% by 2030 below 2005 levels, up from 30%.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro announced his most ambitious environmental goal yet, saying the country would reach emissions neutrality by 2050, 10 years earlier than the previous goal.

Greenpeace UK’s head of climate, Kate Blagojevic, said the summit had more targets than an archery competition.

“Targets, on their own, won’t lead to emissions cuts,” she said. “That takes real policy and money. And that’s where the whole world is still way off course.”

PUTIN SAYS PROBLEMS GO WAY BACK

Most of the countries did not offer new emissions goals. Chinese President Xi Jinping said China expects its carbon emissions to peak before 2030 and the country will achieve net zero emissions by 2060.

Xi said China will gradually reduce its coal use from 2025 to 2030. China, a leader in producing technology for renewable energy like solar panels, burns large amounts of coal for electricity generation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed giving preferential treatment for foreign investment in clean energy projects, but also made an apparent reference to the United States being historically the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter. “It is no secret that the conditions that facilitated global warming and associated problems go way back,” Putin said.

The U.S. climate goal marks a milestone in Biden’s broader plan to decarbonize the U.S. economy entirely by 2050 – an agenda he says can create millions of good-paying jobs but which many Republicans say will damage the economy.

The U.S. emissions cuts are expected to come from power plants, automobiles, and other sectors across the economy. Sector-specific goals will be laid out later this year.

The new U.S. target nearly doubles former President Barack Obama’s pledge of an emissions cut of 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

CEMENTING CREDIBILITY

How Washington intends to reach its climate goals will be crucial to cementing U.S. credibility on global warming, amid international concerns that America’s commitment to a clean energy economy can shift drastically from one administration to the next.

Biden’s recently introduced $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan contains numerous measures that could deliver some of the emissions cuts needed this decade, including a clean energy standard to achieve net zero emissions in the power sector by 2035 and moves to electrify the vehicle fleet.

But the measures need to be passed by Congress before becoming reality.

The American Petroleum Institute, the top U.S. oil and gas lobbying group, cautiously welcomed Biden’s pledge but said it must come with policies including a price on carbon, which is a tough sell among some lawmakers.

‘THE U.S. IS BACK’

The summit is the first in a string of meetings of world leaders – including the G7 and G20 – ahead of annual UN climate talks in November in Scotland. That serves as the deadline for nearly 200 countries to update their climate pledges under the Paris agreement, an international accord set in 2015.

Leaders of small island nations vulnerable to rising seas, like Antigua and Barbuda and the Marshall Islands, also spoke at the summit.

World leaders aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold scientists say can prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

A Biden administration official said with the new U.S. target, enhanced commitments from Japan and Canada, and prior targets from the European Union and Britain, countries accounting for more than half the world’s economy were now committed to reductions to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed delight that the United States was back in the climate fight.

“The importance of this day in my judgment is the world came together,” Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry told reporters at the White House.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Valerie Volcivici; additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Elaine Lies and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo, David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Jake Spring and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia, David Stanway in Shanghai, writing by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Lisa Shumaker)

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What the rise of the PPC says about Canada in 2021 – CTV News

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TORONTO —
While the People’s Party of Canada did not manage to gain any seats this federal election, its accruing of the popular vote has experts saying the rise of the far-right populist party cannot be ignored.

Maxime Bernier, who failed to win his own riding of Beauce, Que., said Monday that he will remain as party leader despite the defeat, telling CTV News’ Genevieve Beauchemin at his Saskatoon rally that he views the election outcome as “a huge victory.”

The PPC won over 820,000 votes and more than five per cent of the popular vote this time around, a marked increase from the 1.6 per cent of the vote it got in 2019.

POPULISM FINDS A HOME

The party that ran on an anti-immigration, anti-lockdown platform that has been endorsed by white nationalists, Neo-Nazis and other far-right groups has become a home for anti-vaxxers, anti-government protesters and gun rights activists, showing that populism on the left or right may be more about a movement than a traditional political party, said University of Guelph professor of political science Tamara Small.

“I think the only leader who is ecstatic about last night’s results is Bernier,” said Small in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca after the election. “I don’t think they’re going anywhere… it seems that he’s taken that populism and attached it to far-right politics.”

The idea of Canadian exceptionalism from far-right and populist movements needs to be dispelled, Small said.

“The idea used to be that Canada was immune to sort of far-right populism…this idea that Canadians were sort of going to be free from the populism that we saw in Europe, like Nigel Farage is to the U.K.,” Small said. “But I think lots of people are wondering, if he’s [Bernier] just going to say ‘I’m not here to form government…I’m more here to challenge the system’” as a way of gaining support.

Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, said it makes sense to call the PPC a populist party, and that the party takes “an extremist position on things like immigration and diversity.”

“They’re extreme in terms of their anti-Trudeau or anti-state positioning. They’re extreme in terms of their anti-lockdown and anti-tax standpoints as well. So, yeah, I think they absolutely might be considered extremists,” Perry said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca.

“As is calling them a populist group or populist party, because that’s really what he’s done so effectively is absorbed some of those broad concerns around COVID-19 and freedom and even the more mainstream concerns about economic anxieties, loss of jobs, loss of businesses… and managed to roll them all up.”

Some who support the PPC bristle at the implication that the party is a hotbed of far-right rhetoric or white nationalist supporters, with many online saying they simply support a party that is dedicated to their freedoms.

In an email to CTVNews.ca, PPC candidate for the riding Parkdale-High Park Ont., Wilfried Danzinger, denied that the party is aligned with extremist values, writing that “love was the guiding principle of his campaign,” and that his supporters come from all “different sexual preferences, all ages and religions.”

When CTVNews.ca emailed the PPC for comment on this story, party spokesperson Martin Masse sent back a one-line response: “I don’t respond to requests from leftist activists masquerading as journalists. Get lost.”

COVID-19 WAS A ‘GIFT’ TO THE PPC

The rise of the PPC in the polls can be attributed partially to the “gift” of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

Balgord said that “the COVID-19 pandemic was a gift to the far-right” in general as it allowed them to infiltrate conspiracy theory spaces and begin attracting new followers.

“The rise of the party kind of fit into this because these people didn’t really have a political party. If they voted for any party, they would vote Conservative,” he said. “But they weren’t particularly happy about voting Conservative either because they’re the most fringe. So when the PCC started as a party in 2019, Bernier, right from day one was using their language, their talking points, and the words of the far-right in several spaces. We saw them actually say ‘Bernier is dog whistling to us.’”

But Small questioned whether the end of the COVID-19 pandemic would stop the drip of followers to the PPC and spell a marked decline in the party.

“My sense is that a lot of this anger and concern is tied up in a particular type of anger about lockdowns and vaccine mandates and overreach of the state,” Small said. “I’m not too sure whether or not once the pandemic is done, to what extent the party still exists.”

It is a sentiment echoed by extremism researcher and assistant professor at Queen’s University, Amarnath Amarasingam.

“In early 2020, with COVID-19, the kind of conspiratorial thinking and angst around the pandemic went through the roof, and a lot of these movements coalesced around similar ideas,” Amarasingam said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca, noting that traditionally conspiracy movements generally operate separately from each other.

Amarasingam said the COVID-19 pandemic “gave them all a common cause and they all were playing in the same playground.”

Amarasingam said the question now surrounding the PPC is whether its rise is solely due to the “catch-all” the party provided surrounding anger around lockdowns, quarantine and the pandemic, “or whether it’s a sign of something bubbling beneath the surface that a lot of everyday Canadians actually held secretly anti-immigrant views, anti-refugee groups, all the things that are part of the PPC platform.”

“If that’s the case, I mean, it’s going to be a longer concern of ours,” he continued. “So that’s kind of the big question is whether this is just a blip because of the pandemic or whether it kind of speaks to something else going on that we should be concerned about.”

HATE WAS ON THE BALLOT

Bernier has always denied ties or affiliations to any of the far-right, white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rhetoric he is accused of platforming with his stance on things like reduced immigration and scrapping the Multiculturalism Act.

However, Balgord said known Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups endorse the party, and that the party is populated with a litany of candidates, insiders and supporters who have been documented by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as members of far-right groups.

“There’s so many examples,” he said. “This isn’t a few isolated incidents, this is a pattern. This is what the PPC is.”

Balgord referenced more than 10 incidents of PPC candidates or people associated with the party who have engaged in far-right rhetoric or have been exposed by work done by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as being part of white nationalist groups.

“One of his very first riding executives was a guy [who] ran a USA Neo-Nazi organization and actually did time in the United States for organizing racially motivated assaults,” he said.

Balgord noted that the man charged with throwing gravel at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while he was campaigning as the Liberal leader was a riding director for the PPC, and that his organization had previously exposed him for “posting white power music on social media accounts with lyrics about killing immigrants.”

Another example listed by Balgord was the PPC candidate for the Ontario riding of Vaughn-Woodbridge who was exposed by Press Progress this month for allegedly having touted and created a video game where users can re-enact the 1999 Columbine shooting massacre and partake in their own shooting of caricatures of minorities and LGBTQ2S+ people.

Bernier himself has been featured on what Balgord describes as an “anti-Semitic blog collective,” which endorses a book full of terrorist Nazi ideologies. 

The PPC platform itself is also chock-full of “dog whistles” to the far-right, Balgord, Amarasingam and Perry said, referencing the sections on refugees, immigration and “Canadian identity.”

“I think the Canadian identity is tied to the anti-immigration, anti-refugee stuff,” Amarasingam said. “But I know when someone says Canadian identity, especially with all the other things that are at play in the platform, what that likely means for the PPC, is basically kind of ‘The Great Replacement,’ but around Canadian values.”

The Great Replacement theory is a conspiracy prevalent in white nationalist and far-right groups that posits that a shadowy cabal is behind demographic changes in a country or area, and that “white identity” or “Western values” are in decline because of it.

Balgord said it is known to have spurred terrorist attacks like the Christchurch mosque shooting of 2019.

“When we talk about the PPC, it’s necessary to talk about their ties to white supremacy and white nationalism and how dangerous the thing is, they’re not just another political party, right?” Balgord said. “They’re the white nationalist and the hate movement in Canada. It’s their way of trying to get a foothold into mainstream Canadian politics.”

Perry noted the language Bernier has used in his campaigns, in tweets and even in his speech on election night, in particular his word choices of “government overreach, tyrannies and authoritarian government.”

“Look at some of the language. It’s drawn from groups like three percenters…in particular in the militia movement,” Perry said. “So, yeah, there’s a very direct line. It’s not a dotted line. It’s a direct line.”

But when asked about the PPC and Bernier’s denial of allegations of extremist views, Balgord was unimpressed.

“The PPC is the party of plausible deniability,” he said. “But when you really scratch the surface, you find that it’s a party for white nationalists.”

WHERE DOES CANADA GO FROM HERE?

For the single-issue voters who chose to vote for Bernier’s party because of their views on lockdowns or COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the end of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions may tempt them away from the party, but Amarasingam says they cannot deny that their vote is still an endorsement of what the PPC represents.

“I think if you’re a single-issue voter on the vaccine, and you can find common cause with the PPC that doesn’t necessarily make you far-right, that just means that you’re unfortunately willing to sell a whole host of Canadian communities down the river to hold up this one value,” he said.

Amarasingam said that education on extremism may be what people need to make informed choices moving forward.

“I think everyone basically has to become an extremism watcher now that it’s no longer just some of us who live in these bizarre online communities paying attention to things, because as things become mainstream, people need to understand extremism and how these dynamics work and how these movements work,” he said.

As for the PPC’s presence in mainstream politics, Perry and Small said it’s a fine line to walk between exposing and identifying extremist views and providing too much of a platform for them to gain more followers.

“I think people feel very differently. I think there’s a lot of people who would say you should just ignore these people and never give them any platform,” Small said. “But I’m of the belief that not being aware in some ways is like throwing a match into a forest and then just not worrying about it.”

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Alaska, which led most U.S. states in coronavirus vaccinations months ago, took the drastic step on Wednesday of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system, declaring that a crushing surge in COVID-19 patients has forced rationing of strained medical resources.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and health officials announced the move as the tally of newly confirmed cases statewide reached another single-day record of 1,224 patients amid a wave of infections driven by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant among the unvaccinated.

The delta variant is “crippling our health-care system. It’s impacting everything from heart attacks to strokes to our children if they get in a bike accident,” Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said at a news conference with Dunleavy.

Alaska’s health and social services commissioner, Adam Crum, announced that he signed an emergency addendum extending to the whole state standards of crisis care announced last week at the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The new document limits liability faced by providers for crisis-level medical care in all Alaska hospitals.

Moreover, it acknowledges the realities of rationed care statewide, with scarce medical supplies and staff prioritized in a way that denies normal levels of care to some patients for the sake of others, depending on how sick they are and their chances for recovery.

To cope with the COVID-19 influx, Alaska has signed an $87 million US contract to enlist hundreds of health-care workers from out of state, officials said.

About one-fifth of Alaska hospital patients are infected with COVID-19, according to state data. But that figure understates the burden placed on the system as a whole as it “squeezes out” capacity to treat victims of car accidents, strokes, heart attacks and other ailments, Dunleavy said.

Paradoxically, back in April, Alaska had ranked among the top states getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of residents, helped in large part by efforts of the state’s pandemic-conscious Indigenous population.

Alaska has since slipped below the national average, with just 58 per cent of residents aged 12 and older fully vaccinated, according to the state database. The vaccination slump coincided with significant political resistance to public health requirements.

-From Reuters, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Record number of COVID-19 cases further strain Saskatchewan’s hospitals: 

Growing calls for lockdown as COVID-19 strains Sask. hospitals

13 hours ago

There are growing calls for tighter restrictions in Saskatchewan, including a lockdown, as the record number of COVID-19 cases further strain the province’s hospitals. 2:20

Saskatchewan’s only children’s hospital is opening its pediatric intensive care unit to younger adults with COVID-19.

Those under the age of 40 are getting admitted to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said Wednesday that so far two adults are in the pediatrics ICU, and space is being made for more.

Dr. Susan Shaw, the health authority’s chief medical officer, said critical care capacity is under strain.

The province has recently been reporting record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations — mostly unvaccinated patients.

-From The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:40 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a private school in Quito, Ecuador, earlier this month. (Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 230.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.

In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization has warned that countries in the region could continue to face localized COVID-19 outbreaks well into 2022, even while deaths have fallen from their peak in January.

In the Middle East, Syria is facing a new surge in infections in both government-held areas and territory outside state control that could overwhelm the war-ravaged country’s fragile health system.

In Africa, Uganda’s president has eased restrictions, allowing the resumption of education for universities and other post-secondary institutions, citing a decline in infections.

Police patrol along St. Kilda Beach in Melbourne on Thursday. The city has seen recent protests from construction workers and others against COVID-19 regulations. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Asia-Pacific region, police in the Australian city of Melbourne prepared for a fourth day of anti-lockdown protests on Thursday while a vaccination hub closed after protesters abused staff, the operator said, while COVID-19 cases across the state of Victoria hit a daily record. Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in the city of five million since officials this week ordered a two-week closure of building sites and made vaccines mandatory for construction workers to limit the spread of the virus.

Japan plans to give other countries 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, doubling the target from the previous pledge of 30 million doses.

Thailand pushed back plans to reopen Bangkok and some other major cities to foreign arrivals until November.

In Europe, Italy plans to give other countries 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year, three times its original pledge, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 6:35 a.m. ET


Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments. 

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New Zealand’s Ardern says lockdowns can end with high vaccine uptake

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday the country should aim for a 90%-plus rate of inoculation, and could drop strict coronavirus lockdown measures once enough people were vaccinated.

New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 last year and remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in August led to a nationwide lockdown.

With its biggest city Auckland still in lockdown and new cases being reported every day, Ardern said vaccinations will replace lockdowns as the main tool against the virus, allowing authorities to isolate only those who are infected.

“If that rate (of vaccinations) is high enough then we will be able to move away from lockdowns as a tool,” she said.

The highest possible vaccine rates will give the most freedoms, Ardern said, adding that the country should be aiming for a 90% plus rate of vaccination.

After a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, some 40% of adult New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and about 75% have had at least one dose.

Authorities reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 1,123.

The Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield warned earlier this week that New Zealand may not get to zero COVID cases again.

 

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)

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