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August, 2019

Climate talks end in failure

International talks which aim to break the deadlock on climate change have largely failed.

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Two weeks of UN-sponsored climate talks in Bangkok will wrap up tonight, without the breakthrough negotiators were seeking.

The talks aimed to make progress ahead of the crucial UN summit in Copenhagen in December, at which a new climate pact is due to be signed.

Will McGoldrick, who works for the Australian-based Climate Institute and has been at the Bangkok talks, said only “baby steps” had been made.

The two big sticking points are the targets nations will adopt to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and how rich countries will fund poor ones to tackle climate change.

“Bangkok has made cautious progress on some of the elements, but nowhere near enough progress on those two core issues,” Mr McGoldrick told AAP from the Thai capital.

Some progress has been made on technological cooperation and forests.

Financing for poor nations needed

But it was now clear that little progress on reduction targets would be made until rich nations such as Australia made commitments about financing poor countries, Mr McGoldrick said.

“It does turn the spotlight onto countries like Australia who have yet to really make a credible contribution on finance.”

Tony Mohr, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, who has been at the talks, said Australia had been active on some issues, pushing for a deal on cutting emissions from international aviation and shipping.

Australia was also negotiating over its proposal to allow developing nations to make discrete pledges in relation to renewable energy or forests, instead of economy-wide emissions targets.

But Australia had to make a commitment on financing to boost negotiations, Mr Mohr said.

Fresh mandate

A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said negotiators would need fresh mandates and political leadership as Copenhagen approached.

“We are a long way from where we need to be and we don’t have much time,” she said.

There is one more session of UN talks before Copenhagen, at Barcelona, in November.

Attention will now turn to other forums – the Major Economies Forums and the G20 – for a breakthrough.

Observers say it will take intervention from world leaders to fire up the stalled negotiations.

Climate change dividing coal communities

Climate change is presenting a unique challenge to Australia’s coal sector.

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SBS’ reporter Keith Breene looks at how this issue is dividing communities across the country.

Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley is, by any definition, a coal town. There are very few people there who aren’t directly or indirectly associated with the industry.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that when it comes to the issue of climate change the community is sharply divided.

Jeff Drayton, a miner and a life long resident of Muswellbrook, is also the town’s deputy mayor. He doesn’t think getting rid of coal is an option.

“I’m not sure phasing coal out is the answer – not only does it underwrite our community in the Hunter Valley but it probably has – certainly recently – underwritten the whole country’s economy,” Mr Drayton said.

“I don’t think probably in my lifetime we’re going to see a life without coal. Absolutely I think there has be a life with cleaner coal – better technologies. But not a life without cleaner coal, no.”

Pete Kennedy is a miner too, like four generations of his family before him. He is one of a small, but growing, number of people willing to criticise the way the industry is dealing with climate change.

“They talk about it. They’ve employed the world best spin doctors as far as that’s concerned but I don’t believe what they’re saying,” Mr Kennedy said.

“They say yes we’re worried about climate change and all this but the way that the mining industry is expanding I don’t think they give two hoots about it.”

He is so disillusioned he has told his children not to follow him into the industry.

“I believe I’m one of a small bunch of people that are slowly coming around to realising that climate change is here and now and there is evidence that if we don’t do something about the burning of fossil fuels which is directly linked to this climate chaos we’re seeing the situation is going to get slowly worse and we’re heading for a worldwide disaster.”

Given the how much people depend on mining in Muswellbrook, Pete Kennedy’s is still the minority view.

“With three in four people earning a living out of the coal mines you’re probably not going to walk down the street of Muswellbrook or Singleton and some of those places and not get the answer that I’d probably give you which is that obviously people still do support he coal mines predominantly because that’s where we earn our living – that’s why I live where I do here”.

“It is how I support my family as do 70 or 80 percent of the local population”.

The industry is a powerful economic force on which many livelihoods depend. But concern over climate change does appear to be growing – even in communities that depend on coal.

Anger over treatment of swine flu patient

A man diagnosed with swine flu after he died had waited up to three hours for an intensive care hospital bed the day of his death because none were available in Victoria, his parents say.

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Victorian health authorities say the man, 35-year-old Anthony Splatt of the western district town of Colac, tested positive to the influenza A(H1N1) virus but will not say whether it caused his death.

Anthony Splatt went to Colac Hospital with flu-like symptoms on Friday and was transferred to Maroondah Hospital in Melbourne’s outer east, where he died on Saturday.

Test results released on Tuesday show he had tested positive for swine flu after swabs were taken following his death.

His parents, Brian and Judith Splatt, say their critically ill son waited at the Colac Hospital for three hours for an intensive care bed, which was eventually found at Maroondah Hospital.

“His poor GP was pacing the floor in Colac because he was getting sicker and sicker,” Ms Splatt, a nurse, told the Herald Sun newspaper.

Mr Splatt said: “There were no beds in Victoria. It seemed like forever (before a bed was found). We hope in a way his death makes more intensive care beds available.”

Victoria’s acting chief health officer Rosemary Lester said Anthony Splatt had a range of underlying medical conditions.

She would not confirm whether his death was a direct result of swine flu or one of the other medical conditions.

“I’m obviously not the clinician – that’s for the clinicians to decide what he’s died from,” Dr Lester said.

“My information is that it is respiratory failure but other than that I can’t make any comment.”

Dr Lester said the man received treatment consistent with the symptoms of his severe illness.

“He wouldn’t have been treated any differently if we’d known that he had swine flu from the outset.

“He arrived with an influenza-like illness and then, I believe, he rapidly deteriorated. “His respiratory function deteriorated and he went into shock quite quickly.”

The Splatts said Anthony seemed to be suffering from a common cold before he collapsed at home two days before he died.

By Friday, they were told he had only a 20 per cent chance of surviving as his respiratory system began to fail.

The death comes amid fears that indigenous Australians in remote communities may be particularly vulnerable to the disease.

A 26-year-old man from Kiwirrkurra in Western Australia last week became the first person with swine flu to die in Australia.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said people in remote indigenous communities may be hit harder by swine flu than those elsewhere. She said federal and state governments were taking steps to ensure they received adequate supplies of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug used to treat the illness.

US House passes historic climate change bill

By a 219-212 margin, lawmakers voted for the first time in US history to limit heat-trapping carbon emissions and shift the US economy to cleaner energy in a move backers said will create jobs and restore Washington’s shaky leadership on climate change ahead of global talks set for December.

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The pitched political battle over a central plank of Obama’s platform now shifts to the US Senate, where the prospects for action this year are uncertain and where outspoken foes of the House approach wield considerable clout. In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama urged senators to pass the clean energy bill, calling it “a historic piece of legislation that will open the door to a clean energy economy and a better future for America.” The president asked the senators not to be afraid of the future or be prisoners of the past. “Don’t believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth,” he argued. “It’s just not true.” The “American Clean Energy and Security Act” aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by 2050, create “green” jobs, and wean the US economy from oil imports. Day-long debate The bitter, day-long debate pitted supporters who argued the bill would put a shine back on the battered US economy and foes who described the measure’s more than 1,200 pages as a grim recipe for long unemployment lines. “Just remember these four words for what this legislation means — jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Let’s vote for jobs,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi exhorted her colleagues minutes before the vote. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner warned the measure would send energy costs skyrocketing and denounced it as “the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House.” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the House’s “courageous step” but warned “the bill is not perfect” while vowing to “pass bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall.” Environmentalists were elated. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, the biggest US environmental group, said that Congress had now taken the first step toward “unleashing a true clean energy revolution.” ‘Cap and trade’ system The bill, the fruit of months of tough negotiations, would create a “cap-and-trade” system limiting overall pollution from large industrial sources and then allocating and selling pollution permits. The Democratic-crafted bill would require utilities, by 2020, to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources – solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass – and show annual energy savings of five percent from efficiency measures. The European Union plan calls for getting 20 percent of all electricity from renewable resources by 2020. Obama, who spent part of the day courting wavering lawmakers, said as he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel hours before the vote that he hoped the United States was reasserting its role after letting Europe lead for years. “The United States, over the last several years, has not been where we need to be. We’re not going to get there all in one fell swoop, but I’m very proud of the progress that’s being made,” he told Merkel at the White House. Vow to working with rising economies Obama also vowed to work with rising economies that are also major polluters, like China and India, amid worries that the bill may hamstring the US economy and send jobs fleeing to countries that lack similar restrictions. “India and China will not shatter their own economies with this sort of scheme, and its nonsensical for America to impose a job killer like this on ourselves,” said the number two House Republican, Representative Eric Cantor. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that implementing the legislation would cost 80-111 dollars per US household per year, while the Congressional Budget Office says it would run about 175 dollars.

Third Aussie in London may have swine flu

An Australian journalist living in London has been told she ‘probably’ has swine flu but is awaiting tests to confirm.

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Kate Corbett says tests have shown she has Influenza A and but she is still waiting to find out if it is the H1N1 variant, after she travelled overseas with a friend who has been confirmed as having swine flu.

Ms Corbett said she had travelled in Mexico with a friend for a wedding. He had now been diagnosed as having the potentially deadly virus, she told ABC Radio.

However, her friend\’s girlfriend, who\’d also gone to Mexico with him, had tested negative.

Ms Corbett said she returned to England showing flu symptoms, but was not actually tested because she didn\’t have a fever or know her friend was sick.

Precautionary measures

However, she has now tested positive for influenza A and British medical authorities say she is in the probable category for a swine flu diagnoses.

“I only found out on Thursday about my friend and as a result of him being ill, I have been put onto the next precaution up.”

As a consequence Ms Corbett was tested for H1N1 on Friday.

“My doctor came over all suited up with a face mask and an apron and he tested me taking swabs from the back of my nose and back of my throat – quite uncomfortable.

“But one of those tests has come back and that\’s Influenza A, and that was positive and now I just have to wait to see if I test positive for the H1N1 and that takes a bit longer.

Waiting but not concerned

“I\’ll just have to wait. They can\’t give me any time frame.

“They have put me in the probable category which, I think, is just a step down from, I don\’t know what they call it – the definite category.”

However, she said she didn\’t feel ill and was not concerned.

“I\’m not really concerned for my own health because I feel completely healthy and I\’m over the worst of it.

“The only thing is, I\’m thinking of this whole domino effect and all of the people I have been in contact with, even if it\’s just sitting next to them on a bus.”

Two Aussies confirmed cases

Two Australians in the UK have been confirmed as having swine flu.

A 29-year-old Sydney builder, who moved to the UK from Australia less than a month ago and doesn\’t want to be named, has been told to stay home and avoid contact with others, ABC reports.

He had been in Mexico for a wedding and arrived back in the UK last Sunday.

Earlier, fellow Sydney man Mark Robertson, who is also living in London, was told he had the virus.

The 23-year-old marketing manager from Coogee has spent the past five days behind closed doors in a second-floor flat in Islington, in North London, with two friends who are not infected but have also been quarantined as a precaution, Fairfax reports.

He\’d spent four months trekking through the jungles of Central and South America and two weeks “chilling on the beach” at Puerto Escondido on Mexico\’s west coast.

He\’s been told by doctors it could be six more days before he\’s allowed contact with anyone other than his housemates.

Both men are taking the anti-viral medication Tamiflu and are said to be feeling better.

The results mean two of the three cases diagnosed in London are Australian.