British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday to do more to reduce his country’s reliance on coal and to bring forward its target date for peak CO2 emissions to try to better tackle climate change.
China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is crucial to the success of COP26, but many scientists and climate experts fear that its current climate plans are too weak and Johnson is keen to persuade Beijing to go further.
On Thursday, Beijing submitted updated ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs) to fight climate change, formally boosting headline emission-cutting pledges but offering nothing new ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate talks hosted by Johnson.
The submission documents, published on the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), showed that China aims to see its carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and to become carbon neutral before 2060.
Referring to a conversation earlier on Friday, Johnson told reporters that he raised “a couple of points. First of all about the moment for peaking … they have said before 2030 and so I pushed a bit on that, that 2025 would be better than 2030, and I wouldn’t say he committed on that.”
“On the other point where I was evangelical again was the potential to move away from coal,” he said, adding he had described how quickly Britain had moved away from coal.
Johnson is keen to make COP26 a success, but with the UN Environment Programme saying the world is on course to warm around 2.7C with hugely destructive consequences, some critics doubt whether the British leader can win over China and other big emitters and “keep 1.5 alive”.
The landmark 2015 Paris agreement committed signatories to keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, and preferably to 1.5 degrees.
Using soccer as a metaphor, Johnson said: “If this was half time I would say we’re about 5-1 down … and we’ve got a long way to go.”
“But we can do it. We have the ability to equalise, to save the position and to come back.”
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Kate Holton and Toby Chopra)
Canada's first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant confirmed in Ottawa – CBC.ca
There are two confirmed cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Ottawa, the Ontario government announced Sunday.
“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” the statement said.
These are the first cases of the omicron variant confirmed in Canada, coming just days after the country implemented new travel restrictions on foreign nationals who had visited several countries in southern Africa over the preceding two weeks.
Those travel restrictions went into effect on Friday. The omicron variant was first identified by South African researchers and has provoked global concern.
Little is known about the new variant, dubbed omicron by the World Health Organization and labelled as a variant of concern. It is being linked to a rapid rise of cases in a South African province.
It is not known at this time whether the variant is more transmissible, or more dangerous to the health of those who are infected by it, than other coronavirus variants.
“The best defence against the omicron variant is stopping it at our border. In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant,” said the statement from Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
The provincial government urged residents to get vaccinated, including with booster doses, and to continue following public health guidance.
“Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant.”
More confirmed cases likely: health minister
In a statement released Sunday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that the country’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant.
“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” Duclos said.
“I know that this new variant may seem concerning,” he added, but said existing vaccines and public health measures were helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In a separate statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said border measures could change as the situation develops.
“The Government of Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation and adjust border measures as required,” it said
‘Better to be safe than sorry’
Reacting to the news, epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos emphasized the lack of information the world has so far about the omicron variant, noting that some other variants failed to take hold and out-compete the dominant strain.
“While it’s important not to under-react, it’s important not to overreact. We don’t have a lot of information about whether this variant is actually more dangerous than the variants that we’ve dealt with,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network.
Still, he said it was “better to be safe than sorry” and take precautions. But he said that until there was more information, it was not necessary to radically change behaviour, so long as you are vaccinated and otherwise acting in accordance with public health guidance.
“The stuff that worked before should work now.”
WHO urges countries to keep borders open
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on Sunday summarizing what it knows about the variant. It said it is studying whether the variant is more transmissible than those currently spreading, such as delta, as well as whether omicron increases the risk of reinfection, as suggested by “preliminary evidence.”
The idea of travel bans in response to new variants has long been criticized by some as an ineffective measure at stopping the spread of the virus. South Africa has said the travel measures are “unjustified.”
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said instituting travel bans targeted at southern Africa “attacks global solidarity.”
“COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” Moeti said.
In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that aired prior to the government announcement on Sunday, WHO special adviser Dr. Peter Singer said it “wouldn’t be a surprise” if the variant was in Canada.
He said the United Nations agency believes travel restrictions should be “risk-based and time-limited,” part of a comprehensive package, rather than the only measure taken to mitigate the risk of a new variant.
“They’re definitely not a silver bullet,” he said. Singer argued the international community should not create situations that disincentive countries from being transparent about new variants.
Singer said the most important things Canadians can do to protect themselves are the same as they have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: get vaccinated and follow public health measures.
“This is a call for individuals to raise their guard. There are things individuals can do which help with any variant or any version of this virus, including omicron.”
He urged Canada and other countries to redouble their efforts to provide resources to the global vaccination campaign, saying that’s the best way to stop the spread of omicron and potential future variants.
Canada finds first cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant in Ontario. Here’s what we know – Globalnews.ca
Canada has detected its first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
A statement from Ontario’s Ministry of Health confirmed that cases of the variant, recently declared as the novel coronavirus’ fifth variant of concern by the WHO, have been identified in Ontario.
“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” read the statement Sunday.
COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges
“In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant.”
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is set to hold a press conference on the variant’s discovery Monday morning, according to the statement.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos also confirmed Canada’s first two cases in a statement Sunday evening, and said that he was working with the province’s public health officials to contact trace the cases.
“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” read Duclos’ statement.
Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern
“I know that this new variant may seem concerning, but I want to remind Canadians that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual protective measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in our communities.”
South African scientists first identified the heavily mutated variant earlier this week after an exponential surge in cases, prompting a host of nations — including Canada — to impose new travel restrictions on a wide swathe of southern African countries.
Public health experts and officials were alarmed by the variant’s high number of mutations — with preliminary data showing at first an increased potential for transmissibility, a reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased reinfection.
Other experts were quick to point out South Africa’s low rates of vaccination, which currently sit at under 30 per cent of the total population, as well as a lack of evidence suggesting the variant is deadlier than the current dominant strains of the virus.
COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant
Canadian public health officials previously said that getting vaccinated was still the best way of preventing the most severe outcomes from contracting COVID-19, and that there was no definitive evidence yet of its ability to completely circumvent the protection offered by the inoculations.
Canada’s Chief Public Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also confirmed the detection of the new variant, and said that Canada has a “robust monitoring” system in place to detect genetic changes in the virus or new variants of concern, such as the Omicron.
“Last Friday, Canada announced additional travel measures for all travellers coming into Canada from the South African region. It is not unexpected that additional cases of this variant will be discovered in Canada,” read Tam’s statement.
A handful of vaccine makers have recently announced that they were also developing or examining ways to enhance or create new versions of their shots to combat Omicron.
The most recent was that of Moderna, whose chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton told BBC that a new vaccine could be produced by “early 2022” if it was necessary.
“The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, Moderna platform, is we can move very fast,” he said, noting that the company started work on an Omicron vaccine on Thursday.
Canada’s vaccination rates also stand among the highest in the world, with nearly 80 per cent of the country’s eligible population already vaccinated against COVID-19.
COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says
Public health experts told Global News earlier on Friday shortly before Canada’s announcement of new travel restrictions that they would not be surprised if the variant was “already here” and spreading within Canada’s borders.
On Sunday, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia became the latest countries alongside Canada to discover the new variant among their cases.
The variant has already been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, the U.K., Germany and Italy.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada's inflation not caused by stimulus: Poloz – CTV News
Former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz says government spending and stimulus are not to blame for increased inflation.
“I think that’s not right,” he said during an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday. “In fact, what the stimulus did was to keep the economy from going into a deep hole in which we would have experienced persistent deflation.”
Inflation has reached 4.7 per cent, according to the latest numbers released by Statistics Canada in October. The Bank of Canada expects it to peak at the end of this year and start to decline in the latter half of 2022.
“We have to accept the fact that policy [stimulus] response was in the right time, well intended and it did avert all the worst calls that people were making at that time,” he said.
In response to affordability concerns, the federal government has repeatedly referenced their national childcare program, as a means to combat higher costs of living. Nine provincial and territorial governments have signed childcare deals with the federal government, while Ontario and New Brunswick have yet to sign on.
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Karina Gould said in a separate interview that the inflation problem is not a uniquely Canadian issue and can be attributed to global supply chain problems.
Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre says the federal government’s fiscal spending is to blame for inflation.
The average inflation rate for member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is currently at 4.3 per cent but Poilievre says the problem is only a global issue as a result of other central banks around the world taking a similar approach to Canada on fiscal stimulus.
“I think those are the countries that did the best job of countering the downside risk that everybody was facing,” said Poloz. “Read a book or two about the Great Depression in the 1930s and realize what was averted when we went through this.”
Poloz says that while governments can try to address affordability concerns in the short-term, any government policy normally takes a year or two to have any effect on inflation.
But he expects housing inflation to persist and says those rising costs can be something the federal government can address immediately.
“What they can do there is get all the levels of government together and figure out a list of things that they should be doing in order to promote supply of housing, we’re clearly short of supply and housing,” he said.
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