Washington: Citing talks with India, China and Brazil to reduce the use and emissions of greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the White House announced a suite of new private-sector commitments and executive actions related to climate change.
Announcing the new commitments ahead of the Nov 1-5 Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Dubai, the White House said Thursday, “President Obama believes that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
“His Administration is committed to taking responsible steps to ensure that we leave our children a planet that is not polluted or damaged,” it said.
The White House Thursday also recognized the robust progress that has been made against the private-sector commitments and executive actions that were announced in Sep 2014 to address HFCs.
The US has been working to negotiate an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs globally, it said.
“Our bilateral announcements with China, India, Brazil, and others recognize the need to advance progress on managing HFCs through the Montreal Protocol,” the White House said.
“With strong international action on HFCs, up to 0.5°C of warming could be avoided by the end of the century, substantially furthering our goal to limit global temperature rise,” it said.
The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy made commitments in Sep 2014 to take actions to support a Montreal Protocol amendment to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs and also to take actions and support policies with a goal to reduce the global HFC greenhouse gas contribution by 80 percent by 2050.
In the past year, the Alliance has taken numerous actions in support of these commitments, the White House said. For example, it participated in the India-US HFC Task Force and other bilateral diplomatic efforts, including that with China.
Meanwhile, in an address at the Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies, in Bloomington, Indiana, Secretary of State John Kerry cited the US-China announcement last November regarding their respective greenhouse gas emissions targets.
“It was a dramatic moment of transformation, where China and the United States joined together, and it took away the excuse from less-developed countries,” Kerry said.
“And the symbolic breakthrough of this coordination was bigger than many of us maybe even anticipated,” he added.
“Since then, every major economy in the world and 150 nations have come forward with their own set of targets or, in the case of India, unveiled a plan to make massive new investments in alternative energy,” Kerry said.
“In just two months, representatives from around the world will gather in Paris to approve what I hope will be by far the most ambitious agreement on global climate ever reached.” he said. “And hopefully, it will send a signal to the marketplace.”
When a U.S. district judge last month ruled a federal ban on female genital mutilation unconstitutional, he undercut the federal government and alarmed anti-FGM activists, who hope to eradicate the practice.
The World Health Organization calls FGM, also known as female circumcision, a human rights violation of women and girls, with no health benefits.
Some 200 million women and girls around the world, mainly in Africa, have experienced FGM, the WHO says.
In his opinion, Judge Bernard Friedman called FGM “despicable,” but also “a local criminal activity” that must be addressed at the state level. In enacting a federal law, he said, Congress overstepped.
Now, local lawmakers, advocates and newspapers are calling for state bans that equal or surpass the scope of the federal law that was struck down.
The case Friedman ruled on centers around Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency room physician accused of performing FGM on at least 100 girls in Michigan for more than a decade.
Prosecutors have focused their case on nine girls, aged 7 to 12, from three states. The girls allegedly were subjected to FGM with the aid of Nagarwala and seven others, including the girls’ mothers.
Defense attorneys say the procedure amounted to only a “nick” on the girls performed as part of a religious ritual — not FGM. But they also argued in July that the federal law banning FGM is unconstitutional.
State Senator Rick Jones, who represents Michigan’s 24th district, told VOA by phone that he was shocked to learn about Nagarwala’s case and strongly disagrees with Friedman’s ruling.
Last year, Jones became the spokesperson for a package of bills outlawing FGM statewide. The legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Now, Michigan has some of the toughest FGM laws in the country.
Health-care providers convicted of performing FGM face up to 15 years in prison, along with the permanent loss of their medical licenses. Parents who take their daughters to doctors to be cut can lose custody.
The 1996 federal law, meanwhile, stipulated up to five years in prison and fines for medical providers who perform FGM.
“We wanted to send a strong message around the world: Never again bring your girls to Michigan for this horrible procedure,” Jones said.
Across the U.S., 27 states have passed laws banning FGM, many of which have been written in recent years and include penalties that go beyond the federal law, which also criminalizes so-called “vacation cutting,” the practice of taking girls out of the United States to have FGM performed overseas.
News organizations are among those pushing for an expansion of state laws. Last month, the Seattle Times editorial board called for a ban in Washington, one of 23 states yet to outlaw FGM.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times editorial board said all 50 states should ban the “barbaric” practice, in light of Friedman’s ruling.
The health-care providers and families involved in the Michigan case belong to Dawoodi Bohra, a Shi’ite Muslim sect based in India with about 2 million followers worldwide.
According to a study published earlier this year, FGM, called khafd in Dawoodi Bohra communities, is widespread in the sect and involves cutting the clitoral hood or part of the clitoris, without an anesthetic, when girls turn seven.
The study, commissioned by WeSpeakOut, an advocacy group focused on eradicating khafd, also found that three-quarters of Dawoodi Bohra women have experienced FGM.
The severity and nature of FGM can vary.
Health-care providers have identified four types of FGM. Khafd involves Type 1 FGM. Other types involve removing all of the external genitalia and narrowing the vaginal opening.
Jones rejects the idea that there’s a religious basis for the procedure, however it’s performed.
“Across the world, this has been practiced by Christians, pagans, Muslims, even a small Jewish sect in Ethiopia,” he said.
“This is not about a religion,” he added. “This is about men attempting to control women’s behavior by this horrible procedure.”
The WHO identifies both short-term and permanent harms associated with the practice. Immediate concerns include severe pain, infections and, in some cases, death. Long term, women and girls subjected to FGM face a range of physiological and psychological complications that can affect menstruation, childbirth and sexual health.
The United States has been unequivocal in condemning the practice, saying “the U.S. government considers FGM/C to be a serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse” on a fact sheet posted to the Citizenship & Immigration Services website.
Education and legislation
Friedman’s November decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for prosecutors.
Nagarwala spent seven months in 2017 in jail before 16 friends posted a $4.5 million unsecured bond, against the pleas of prosecutors, who argued Nagarwala could silence potential witnesses or even flee the country if released.
And in January, the judge dismissed charges that Nagarwala and a second doctor, Fakhruddin Attar, transported minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, an offense that carries a lifetime sentence.
Nagarwala still faces conspiracy and obstruction charges that could result in decades in prison.
The trial is now set to begin next April, the Detroit Free Press reported last month. However, the prosecution could appeal last month’s decision, drawing the case out further.