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6 months after the climate summit, where to find progress on climate change in a more dangerous and divided world

Six months after countries set new commitments on global warming, war, famine and an energy crunch are affecting the world’s response to climate cha…

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Germany, heavily reliant on natural gas from Russia, has seen a fast expansion in solar power since Russia attacked Ukraine. AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Six months ago, negotiators at the United Nations’ Glasgow climate summit celebrated a series of new commitments to lower global greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to the impacts of climate change. Analysts concluded that the new promises, including phasing out coal, would bend the global warming trajectory, though still fall short of the Paris climate agreement.

Today, the world looks ever more complex. Russia is waging a war on European soil, with global implications for energy and food supplies. Some leaders who a few months ago were vowing to phase out fossil fuels are now encouraging fossil fuel companies to ramp up production.

In the U.S., the Biden administration has struggled to get its promised actions through Congress. Last-ditch efforts have been underway to salvage some kind of climate and energy bill from the abandoned Build Back Better plan. Without it, U.S. commitments to reduce emissions by over 50% by 2030 look fanciful, and the rest of the world knows it – adding another blow to U.S. credibility overseas.

Meanwhile, severe famines have hit Yemen and the Horn of Africa. Extreme heat has been threatening lives across India and Pakistan. Australia faced historic flooding, and the Southwestern U.S. can’t keep up with the wildfires.

As a former senior U.N. official, I’ve been involved in international climate negotiations for several years. At the halfway point of this year’s climate negotiations, with the next U.N. climate conference in November 2022, here are three areas to watch for progress and cooperation in a world full of danger and division.

Crisis response with long-term benefits

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added to a triple whammy of food price, fuel price and inflationary spikes in a global economy still struggling to emerge from the pandemic.

But Russia’s aggression has also forced Europe and others to move away from dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal. The G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. – pledged on May 8, 2022, to phase out or ban Russian oil and accelerate their shifts to clean energy.

In the short term, Europe’s pivot means much more energy efficiency – the International Energy Agency estimates that the European Union can save 15%-20% of energy demand with efficiency measures. It also means importing oil and gas from elsewhere.

In the medium term, the answer lies in ramping up renewable energy.

Men and women talking in a conference room with table placemarker reading
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, representing the U.S. at the U.N. climate talks in November 2021, speaks with negotiators from Europe. AP Photo/Alastair Grant

There are issues to solve. As Europe buys up gas from other places, it risks reducing gas supplies relied on by other countries, and forcing some of those countries to return to coal, a more carbon-intense fuel that destroys air quality. Some countries will need help expanding renewable energy and stabilizing energy prices to avoid a backlash to pro-climate policies.

As the West races to renewables, it will also need to secure a supply chain for critical minerals and metals necessary for batteries and renewable energy technology, including replacing an overdependence on China with multiple supply sources.

Ensuring integrity in corporate commitments

Finance leaders and other private sector coalitions made headline-grabbing commitments at the Glasgow climate conference in November 2021. They promised to accelerate their transitions to net-zero emissions by 2050, and some firms and financiers were specific about ending financing for coal plants that don’t capture and store their carbon, cutting methane emissions and supporting ending deforestation.

Their promises faced cries of “greenwash” from many climate advocacy groups. Some efforts are now underway to hold companies, as well as countries, to their commitments.

A U.N. group chaired by former Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is now working on a framework to hold companies, cities, states and banks to account when they claim to have “net-zero” emissions. This is designed to ensure that companies that pledged last year to meet net-zero now say how, and on what scientific basis.

For many companies, especially those with large emissions footprints, part of their commitment to get to net-zero includes buying carbon offsets – often investments in nature – to balance the ledger. This summer, two efforts to put guardrails around voluntary carbon markets are expected to issue their first sets of guidance for issuers of carbon credits and for firms that want to use voluntary carbon markets to fulfill their net-zero claims. The goal is to ensure carbon markets reduce emissions and provide a steady stream of revenue for parts of the world that need finance for their green growth.

Climate change influencing elections

Climate change is now an increasingly important factor in elections.

French President Emmanuel Macron, trying to woo supporters of a candidate to his left and energize young voters, made more dramatic climate pledges, vowing to be “the first major nation to abandon gas, oil and coal.”

With Chile’s swing to the left, the country’s redrafted constitution will incorporate climate stewardship.

Morrison and his wife holds hands and smile on the left while a protester in a 'stop Adani' t-shirt is held back by security on the right.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) has faced protests over his support for the Adani Carmichael mine, one of the largest coal mines in the world. AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

In Australia, Scott Morrison’s government – which supported opening one of the world’s largest coal mines at the same time the Australian private sector is focusing on renewable energy – faces an election on May 21, 2022, with heatwaves and extreme flooding fresh in voters’ minds. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro faces opponents in October who are talking about protecting the climate.

Elections are fought and won on pocketbook issues, and energy prices are high and inflation is taking hold. But voters around the world are also experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand and are increasingly concerned.

The next climate conference

Countries will be facing a different set of economic and security challenges when the next round of U.N. talks begins in November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, compared to the challenges they faced in Glasgow. They will be expected to show progress on their commitments while struggling for bandwidth, dealing with the climate emergency as an integral part of security, economic recovery and global health.

There is no time to push climate action out into the future. Every decimal point of warming avoided is an opportunity for better health, more prosperity and better security.

Rachel Kyte does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Government

FDA to soon authorize Pfizer’s COVID booster shot for younger kids – NYT

U.S. health regulators are expected to authorize a booster shot of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 as soon as May 17, the…

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FDA to soon authorize Pfizer’s COVID booster shot for younger kids – NYT

(Reuters) – U.S. health regulators are expected to authorize a booster shot of Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 as soon as Tuesday, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The companies submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the authorization last month.

They have cited data from a mid- to late-stage study showing a third dose of their shot increased protection against the original coronavirus version and the Omicron variant among children in the age group. read more

It is unclear how much demand there is for the third dose in the age group. Just 28.8% of children aged 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen at The Michener Institute, in Toronto, Canada January 4, 2021 in this file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo

A meeting of outside vaccine experts on an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been scheduled for Thursday, the report said.

The FDA declined to comment, while Pfizer and BioNTech did not respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/fda-authorize-pfizers-covid-booster-shot-younger-kids-soon-nyt-2022-05-16

 

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Spread & Containment

Coronavirus may be linked to cases of severe hepatitis in children

A chain of events possibly triggered by unrecognized infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could be causing the mysterious cases of severe hepatitis…

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Coronavirus may be linked to cases of severe hepatitis in children

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(Reuters) – The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

SARS-CoV-2 could be at root of mysterious hepatitis in kids

A chain of events possibly triggered by unrecognized infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could be causing the mysterious cases of severe hepatitis reported in hundreds of young children around the world, researchers suggest.

Children with COVID-19 are at significantly increased risk for liver dysfunction afterward, according to a report posted on Saturday on medRxiv ahead of peer review. But most of the children with acute hepatitis – which is generally rare in that age group – do not report a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Instead, the majority have been found to be infected with an adenovirus called 41F, which is not known to attack the liver. It is possible that the affected children, many of whom are too young to be vaccinated, may have had mild or asymptomatic COVID infections that went unnoticed, a separate team of researchers suggest in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology. If that were true, they theorize, then lingering particles of the coronavirus in the gastrointestinal tract in these children could be priming the immune system to over-react to adenovirus-41F with high amounts of inflammatory proteins that ultimately damage the liver.

A firefighter from the Marins-Pompiers of Marseille (Marseille Naval Fire Battalion) administers a nasal swab to a child at a testing site for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Marseille, France, September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

“We suggest that children with acute hepatitis be investigated for SARS-CoV-2 persistence in stool” and for other signals that the liver damage is happening because the spike protein of the coronavirus is a “superantigen” that over-sensitizes the immune system, they said.

Face-down position unhelpful for awake patients

For hospitalized COVID-19 patients who are breathing on their own but with supplemental oxygen, lying face down might not help prevent them from eventually needing mechanical ventilation, according to a new study.

In the study, 400 patients were randomly assigned to usual care or to standard care plus intermittently lying on their stomach, a position known to improve the course of illness in sedated patients on mechanical ventilators. Over the next 30 days, 34.1% in the prone-positioning group and 40.5% in the usual-care group needed to be intubated and put on a ventilator, a difference that was not statistically significant. There might have been a reduction in the risk for intubation with prone positioning among some of the patients, researchers said on Monday in JAMA, but they could not confirm it statistically from their data. The average duration of prone positioning per day was roughly five hours, less than the target of eight to 10 hours per day.

“Long hours of awake prone positioning are challenging and highly influenced by patient comfort and preference,” the researchers said. “The most common reason for interruption of prone positioning was patient request, which might have been related to overall subjective improvement or related to discomfort from prone positioning.”

Click for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.

Reporting by Nancy Lapid and Megan Brooks; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/coronavirus-may-be-linked-cases-severe-hepatitis-children-2022-05-16

 

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Government

FDA declines to authorize common antidepressant as COVID treatment

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided not to authorize the antidepressant fluvoxamine to treat COVID-19, saying the data has not shown the drug…

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FDA declines to authorize common antidepressant as COVID treatment

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(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has decided not to authorize the antidepressant fluvoxamine to treat COVID-19, saying that the data has not shown the drug to be an effective therapeutic for fighting the virus.

“Based on the review of available scientific evidence, the FDA has determined that the data are insufficient to conclude that fluvoxamine may be effective in the treatment of nonhospitalized patients with COVID-19 to prevent progression to severe disease and/or hospitalization,” the agency said in a document published on Monday.

University of Minnesota professor Dr. David Boulware submitted the emergency use authorization request to the FDA that would have allowed doctors to prescribe fluvoxamine maleate to treat COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients.

The generic drug belongs to an old, widely-used class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Boulware said that his request is less urgent with the availability of drugs like Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) Paxlovid, but he still believes the data supports the drug’s use in some COVID patients.

“There are effective therapeutics that are available. But not everyone has access to them. Not everyone can tolerate them. Some people have contraindications,” Boulware said in an interview. “And if you go elsewhere in the world, low- and middle-income countries, they have access to no therapeutics.”

Boulware’s submission relied on data from three trials, especially a study of 1,497 non-hospitalized COVID patients in Brazil.

While the Brazilian study met its primary endpoint, showing a roughly 30% drop in hospitalizations in the group that received fluvoxamine, the FDA said there were uncertainties about the assessment, which measured reduction in emergency department visits lasting more than 6 hours.

Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Boulware said FDA had used a different measure to count hospitalizations in other drug trials, including only acute care that lasted at least 24 hours.

“The standard that they were holding for fluvoxamine was a different standard than the other big pharma trials, with Paxlovid and (Merck’s) molnupiravir and the monoclonals,” he said of other authorized COVID therapeutics.

“I was really quite disappointed that they did that,” he said.

Reporting by Leroy Leo in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New Jersey; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/fda-declines-authorize-common-antidepressant-covid-treatment-2022-05-16

 

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