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Clash at UN with Russia, Syria over Syria Hospital Attacks

The United Nations said on Friday at least 18 health centers have been attacked in the past three weeks in northwestern Syria

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The destroyed building of Nabd Al-Hayat hospital that was hit by an air strike is seen in Hass, Idlib province, Syria, May 6, 2019 in this still image taken from a video on May 9, 2019. VOA

The United Nations said on Friday at least 18 health centers have been attacked in the past three weeks in northwestern Syria, prompting a confrontation between western powers and Russia and Syria at the Security Council over who is to blame.

While the area is nominally protected by a Russian-Turkish deal agreed in September to avert a new battle, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces — backed by Russians — have launched an offensive on the last major insurgent stronghold. Some three million civilians are at risk, the United Nations said.

“Since we know that Russia and Syria are the only countries that fly planes in the area, is the answer … the Russian and Syrian air forces?” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said to the 15-member council on where the blame lay.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen said Russia and Syria were responsible for the attacks on the health centers. He said it was “most alarming” that several of the centers attacked were on a list created by Russia and the United Nations in an attempt to protect them.

clash, un, russia, syria, hospital
United Kingdom Ambassador Karen Pierce address a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen, Oct. 23, 2018 at UN headquarters. VOA

Pierce said it would be “absolutely grotesque” if health facilities that provided their locations were “finding themselves being the authors of their own destruction because of deliberated targeting by the regime.”

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the Syrian and Russian forces were not targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure and questioned the sources used by the United Nations to verify attacks on health centers.

clash, un, russia, syria, hospital
U. N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA) Mark Lowcock attends a news conference for the launch of the “Global Humanitarian Overview 2019” at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 4, 2018. VOA

“We categorically reject accusations of violations of international humanitarian law,” Nebenzia told the council. “Our goal is the terrorists.”

An array of insurgents have a foothold in northwestern Syria – Idlib province and a belt of territory around it. The most powerful is the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham, the latest incarnation of the former Nusra Front which was part of al Qaeda until 2016.

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U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council he did not know who was responsible, but “at least some of these attacks are clearly organized by people with access to sophisticated weapons including a modern air force and so called smart or precision weapons.”

Lowcock said 49 health centers had partially or totally suspended activities, some for fear of being attacked, while 17 schools have been damaged or destroyed and many more closed. He said that in the past three weeks up to 160 people have been killed and at least 180,000 people displaced.

U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo warned the Security Council: “If the escalation continues and the offensive pushes forward, we risk catastrophic humanitarian fallout and threats to international peace and security.” (VOA)

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Warns Countries Advocating Fossil Fuels

Antonio Guterres called on the nations that aren't taking action against climate change

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Antonio Guterres
UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres warns countries advocating usage of fossil fuels. Wikimedia Commons

BY VISHAL GULATI

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday in a stern warning called on the nations advocating for fossil fuels and creating roadblocks in carbon neutral transition asking them to end those activities soon.

“I also call on anyone who is still lobbying their governments for a slow transition or even no transition – to end those activities now. The world is watching,” he emphasised in his address in the final week of the United Nations climate talks, COP25, which is being hosted in Madrid.

Shifting taxes from income to carbon, ending subsidies for fossil fuels, and ending investments in and construction of coal plants by 2020 are all efforts that will benefit from bold and genuine business buy-in and support, he said.

In 2020, many governments will present enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We expect to see carbon neutrality strategies for 2050, and the decarbonisation of key sectors, such as energy, industry, construction and transport, added the UN Secretary General.

“In support of these efforts, I am calling on you, leaders from the private sector, to challenge your governments to use this opportunity to make clear their economic development policies that will enable your companies to invest decisively in a net-zero future,” Guterres said.

“We are still seeing too many bureaucratic and regulatory obstacles, including perverse fossil fuel subsidies and many other expressions of government action slowing down the private sector commitment to climate action.

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres calls on leaders from private sectors to challenge their governements. Wikimedia Commons

“Only through positive ambition can private and public partners successfully drive ambitious climate action, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors,” the UN chief said.

To limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, there is a need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“While we see some incremental steps towards sustainable business models, it is nowhere near the scope or scale required. What we need is not an incremental approach, but a transformational one. We need businesses to unite behind the science by taking rapid and ambitious action across their operations and value chains,” Guterres said.

I am encouraged that more than 170 major companies have already committed to set scientific, verifiable emission reduction targets aligned with a 1.5-degree future through the aBusiness Ambition for 1.5 degrees’ campaign, he added.

By stepping up and setting science-based targets, these companies are pioneering new ways of doing business and driving systemic change throughout the global economy,” he said.

They are also sending a clear signal to consumers, investors and governments that they intend to lead as the global economy undergoes a just transition to a net-zero future by 2050.

At the same time, the financial community is increasingly demonstrating commitment to the opportunities of a green economy.

UN secretary Antonio Guterres
“Only through positive ambition can private and public partners successfully drive ambitious climate action,” says Antonio Guterres. Wikimedia Commons

Investors managing close to $4 trillion dollars in assets have committed to converting their investment portfolios to net-zero emissions by 2050 through the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, and the markets are shifting more and more each day, Guterres said.

But business and financial actors can’t do this alone, he stressed.

“As we saw at the Climate Action Summit in September, the determination demonstrated by business and financial leaders offers a potential path of hope. As businesses back away from fossil fuels it helps send market signals to massively scale up innovative solutions. While we thank those leaders, we urgently need more to join and shift the pace to higher gears,” Guterres said.

The magnitude of the climate crisis is jeopardizing our future and life on the planet as we know it. Climate change is already disrupting people, business operations, economies and ecosystems around the world.

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More than ever we need governments, regions, cities, businesses and civil society to work together towards a common goal of a more just, sustainable and prosperous world,” he said, adding he has come back to COP25 to appeal for a successful conclusion of the conference and increased climate action and ambition, he noted. (IANS)