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India calls for laws to ensure open access to space for all nations

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United Nations: As a space-faring nation, India has called for strengthening international laws to protect open access for all countries to space.

“India supports strengthening the international legal regime to protect and preserve access to space for all and to prevent without exception the weaponisation of outer space,” DB Venkatesh Varma, India’s permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, told a General Assembly Committee on disarmament issues.

“As a major space-faring nation, India has vital developmental and security interest in space,” he said.

Stressing India’s interest in ensuring that international treaties do not monopolize the power of a few nations, he said, “discussions on a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities should be inclusive, covering all space-faring nations to ensure a product of universal acceptance adopted by consensus and through a process anchored in the UN.”

In a broad-ranging speech laying out India’s position on disarmament issues, Varma reiterated the crux of India’s nuclear policy, “as a responsible nuclear power, India’s nuclear doctrine continues to stress a policy of credible minimum deterrence with a posture of no-first-use and a non-use against non-nuclear states. We remain committed to maintaining a unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing.”

He said that increasing the restraints on use of nuclear weapons is “not only an essential first step, it is also necessary in the current complex international environment”.

Varma said that complete elimination of nuclear weapons can be achieved through “a step by step process” that is global and non-discriminatory. “All states possessing nuclear weapons can make a contribution by engaging in a meaningful dialogue to build trust and confidence by reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrine,” he said.

US Assistant Secretary for Arms Control Frank Rose said that a “full-spectrum” pragmatic approach was necessary to reach the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world, to which Washington was committed.

He criticized proposals for outright ban on nuclear weapons, which could not succeed because they failed to recognize the need to develop the necessary verification capabilities and build the security conditions. Instead, he said, it risked creating a very unstable security environment where miscalculations could escalate crises and even lead to the possible use of a nuclear weapon.

Rose said that nuclear deterrence and disarmament were complementary because both aimed at preventing the use of nuclear weapons. Deterrence sought to constrain threats as countries worked to reduce nuclear weapons and shore-up efforts to prevent further proliferation, he added.

Varma raised the threat of terrorists getting access to weapons of mass destruction and said the international community should continue to exercise utmost vigilance.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) were examples of “global non-discriminatory treaties for the complete elimination” of the weapons of mass destruction of those types, he said.

“India has completed its obligations on stockpile destruction under the CWC,” he said, adding timely destruction by other state parties of the remaining stockpiles is critical for upholding the convention’s credibility and integrity.

Varma noted India’s contribution to the efforts by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

On the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which India has not signed, Varma said New Delhi was continuing to review it “from the perspective of our defense, security and foreign policy interests”.

India’s main concern over the ATT centers on what New Delhi considers its weakness in dealing with terrorists and non-state actors, and unilateral powers it could confer on arms exporters.

Speaking at last week’s committee session, Wang Qun, the director-general of China’s Arms Control Department, brought up cyber-security, the next frontier in international confrontations, and suggested adoption of an international code of conduct on cyberspace that calls for peaceful resolution of disputes in this area and it was used for only peace and security activities.

Stretching it a step further, he said the code should also ensure that nations should not interfere in the internal affairs of others.

If there were no international rules governing cyberspace or outer space, the world “incurred risks of the law of the jungle”, Wang said.

(Arul Louis,IANS)

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Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent.

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Australia, Coal
The Liddell coal-fired power station is seen in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, Australia. VOA

Australia is rejecting the latest U.N. report on climate change, insisting coal remains critical to energy security and lowering household power bills.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its report released Monday that global greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by the middle of the century to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The authors warned that if warming was allowed to reach two degrees, the world would be on course toward uncontrollable temperatures.

Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

They made special mention of coal, insisting that its use for power generation would have to fall to between zero and two percent of current usage.

The report has received a lukewarm response by Australia’s center-right government. It has said it has no intention of scaling back fossil fuel production because without coal, household power bills would soar.

Canberra also insists it is on target to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, which attempts to unite every nation under a single accord to tackle climate change for the first time ever.

Australia earns billions of dollars exporting coal to China and other parts of Asia, while it generates more than 60 percent of domestic electricity.

Queensland, Australia
FILE – A dead tree stands near a water tank in a drought-stricken paddock located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

Australia’s Environment Minister Melissa Price believes the IPCC report exaggerates the threat posed by fossil fuel.

“Coal does form a very important part of the Australian energy mixer and we make no apology for the fact that our focus at the moment is on getting electricity prices down,” Price said. “Every year, there is new technology with respect to coal and what its contribution is to emissions. So, you know, to say that it has got to be phased out by 2050 is drawing a very long bow.”

Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas pollution. A recent government report showed a failure to reduce levels of greenhouse gas pollution. The survey said that between January and March this year, Australia had its most elevated levels of carbon pollution since 2011.

Coal, Australia
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

Conservationists argue Australia is doing too little to protect itself from the predicted ravages of a shifting climate.

Also Read: Use Every Resources To Help in Climate Change: Scientists

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Scientists warn that droughts, floods, heat waves, brush fires and storms will become more intense as temperatures rise, with potentially disastrous consequences for human health and the environment, including the Great Barrier Reef. (VOA)