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Climate Action for People and Planet: The Time is Now – UN Secretary-General

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In this pivotal year for humanity, now is the time for bold climate action. The science is irrefutable and globally agreed: to stop the climate crisis from becoming a permanent catastrophe, we must limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a message to mark Earth Day on April 22 and the US convened Leaders’ Summit on Climate.

“To do this, we must get to net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by mid-century. Countries making up about two-thirds of the global economy have committed to do so. This is encouraging, but we urgently need every country, city, business and financial institution to join this coalition and adopt concrete plans for transitioning to net zero”, he said.

Even more urgent is for governments to match this long-term ambition with concrete actions now, as trillions of dollars are mobilized to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. Revitalizing economies is our chance to re-engineer our future, the UN Secretary-General further said.

The world has a strong framework for action: the Paris Agreement, in which all countries committed to set their own national climate action plans and strengthen them every five years. Over five years later, and with damning proof that if we don’t act we will destroy our planet, it is time for decisive and effective action as the United Nations convenes all countries in Glasgow in November for COP26, he continued.

The new national plans must cut global greenhouse gas pollution by at least 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. Many have been presented already, and set out clearer policies to adapt to the impacts of climate change and boost access to renewable energy, he noted.

But so far, those plans achieve less than a one per cent cut in emissions. This is a true red alert for people and planet.

In the months ahead, beginning with the upcoming Leaders Summit hosted by the United States, governments must dramatically step up their ambitions – particularly the biggest-emitting countries that have caused the vast bulk of the crisis, he added.

The UN Secretary-General’s message further said: “Phasing out coal from the electricity sector is the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5-degree goal. Immediate action to remove the dirtiest, most polluting fossil fuel from power sectors offers our world a fighting chance.

“Global coal use in electricity generation must fall by 80 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030. This means that developed economies must commit to phase out coal by 2030; other countries must do this by 2040. There is simply no reason for any new coal plants to be built anywhere. One third of the global coal fleet is already more costly to operate than building new renewables and storage. COP26 must signal an end to coal.

“As the world moves towards clean air and renewable energy, it is essential that we ensure a just transition. Workers in impacted industries and the informal sector must be supported as they move jobs or re-skill. We must also unleash the vast power of women and girls to drive transformation, including as equal participants in governance and decision-making.

“The countries that contributed least to climate change are suffering many of the worst impacts. Many small island nations will simply cease to exist if we don’t step up the response. The developed countries must deliver on their commitments to provide and mobilize $100 billion annually by:

doubling current levels of climate finance;

devoting half of all climate finance to adaptation;

stopping the international funding of coal; and

shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

“The G7 Summit in June offers the opportunity for the world’s wealthiest countries to step up and provide the necessary financial commitments that will ensure the success of COP26.

“While governments must lead, decision-makers everywhere have a vital role to play.

I ask all multilateral and national developments banks, by COP26, to have clear policies in place to fund the COVID recovery and the transition to resilient economies in developing countries, taking into account crippling debt levels and huge pressures on national budgets.

“Many local governments and private business have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, and have engaged in significant reviews of their business models. I urge all to set ambitious targets and policies.

“I encourage young people everywhere to continue to raise their voices for action to address climate change, protect biodiversity, stop humanity’s war on nature and accelerate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Time is running out, and there is much hard work ahead, but this no time to raise the white flag. The United Nations will keep flying our blue flag of solidarity and hope. This Earth Day and over the crucial months ahead, I urge all nations and all people to rise together to this moment”.



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Covishield recipients in dilemma over second jab

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) yesterday (11) said that the ‘health administration’ hadn’t been able to reach a consensus on the second jab for those who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine first dose.

The government, both in and out of Parliament has acknowledged a shortfall of over 600,000 Covishield doses.

Top GMOA spokesperson Dr Naveen de Zoysa told The Island contrary to various statements made over the past several days in that regard, health authorities hadn’t been able to take a decision, in case ongoing efforts at government level to procure a sufficient stock, failed. Responding to another query, the outspoken GMOA official said that they were in a quandary.

When The Island pointed out that the success of the vaccination programme, depended on the availability of the second dose within 12 to 16 weeks after the first, Dr. Zoysa said that some expressed the view it would be better to have the same in spite of a slight delay. Then others talked of a ‘vaccine mix’ or vaccine cocktail’ to meet the requirement, Dr. Zoysa said. However, at the moment, the issue at hand hadn’t been addressed, the GMOA spokesperson said.

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemic & Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday afternoon assured that the government was trying hard to obtain the required number of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses for the second jab.

The government launched the second round on April 28. The first round launched on January 29 was brought to an end on April 6.

GMOF (Government Medical Officers’ Forum) President Dr. Rukshan Bellana emphasized that the government owed an explanation to the public how it intended to solve  the issue at hand. Responding to The Island queries, Dr. Bellana said that the very purpose of the vaccination programme would be jeopardized if over 600,000 people couldn’t receive the second jab.

Dr. Bellana urged the government to reveal its response to the crisis without further delay. “We know, Sri Lanka received approximately 1,264,000 covishield doses from India in three separate consignments. Of them, half a million were a donation. Having used 927,000 for the first dose, the country had about 330,000 at the time the government launched the second round. We are now faced with over 600,000 shortfall. That is the undeniable truth,” Dr. Bellana said.

Appreciating the introduction of Chinese and Russian vaccines and efforts to procure US vaccine, too, Dr. Bellana said that those who had received covishield were really anxious whether the second dose could be received within the stipulated time.

The GMOF Chief said that the deepening health emergency in India shouldn’t be an excuse for those who turned a blind eye to the developing situation here. If the government made timely intervention, the situation wouldn’t have deteriorated so rapidly, Dr. Bellana said adding that the country was now paying a huge price for the government not taking tangible measures ahead of Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera didn’t answer his hand phone.

Dr. Bellana alleged that influential persons had jumped the queue to secure the second covishield jab. The GMOF urged the government to look into that matter and ensure transparency in the process.

The Island also sought an explanation from Chief of Vaccination Plan Lalith Weeratunga, who is also President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s principal advisor regarding how the government intended to ensure the second jab. Weeratunga said that the government was in touch with three countries in that regard. “We are quite confident the required stock could be secured to meet the shortfall,” Weeratunga said, adding that in addition to 600,000 Sinopharm vaccines received from China free of charge, the country could get as much as 3 mn doses from Beijing. Referring to consensus with Russia to procure 13 mn doses, Weeratunga emphasized that Chinese and Russian vaccines were going to be Sri Lanka’s mainstay against the backdrop of the situation in India.

Weeratunga said that in spite of on and off setbacks, the government pursued a proper vaccination strategy. He said that the government was quite confident that by August-Sept a substantial percentage of people could be vaccinated.

 

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Johnston: Country will become a metropolis with efficient interconnected expressways

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Chairman of the RDA Chaminda Athaluwage handing over the contracts to the construction companies to develop the Pasyala to Kadugannawa section of the Colombo – Kandy road (A001), as per the instructions of Minister Johnston Fernando.

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando says that with a highly networked system of expressways covering important cities of the country making transport and travelling efficient Sri Lanka could be like one big metropolis in the  foreseeable future.

 Speaking to the media after a meeting with his Ministry officials to review the tender awarding process to private companies for the widening of the Kadugannawa to Pasyala section of the Colombo-Kandy road on Monday, Minister Fernando said plans had been completed to develop the particular stretch of 55.7 km in four phases with funds from the Asian Development Bank.

 The first phase of the project from Pasyala to Ambepussa covering 14.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,603 million. The estimated cost for the second section from Ambepussa to Kegalle covering 12.9 km is Rs 1,507 million. The third phase from Kegalle to Mawanella covering 13.9 km is planned to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,345 million while the cost of developing 14 kilometers in the fourth phase from Mawanella to Kadugannawa is estimated at Rs 1,630 million.

 Minister Fernando said that he had instructed the Secretary to the Ministry R.W.R. Pemasiri, and the Chairman of the Road Development Authority Chaminda Athaluwage to get the construction companies to complete the entire project within 18 months. A stretch covering 44.3 km from Colombo to Pasyala on the A001 Road has been widened and carpeted as of now.

 Minister Fernando said that infrastructure including the road development was continuing at an unprecedented speed as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour programme to provide people with better roads and boost the country’s economic development. “There is no economic development without infrastructure development and in that regard a highly developed road network is a must,” the Minister said.

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Illegal withdrawal of Rs 43 mn, using forged cheques:

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Another suspect arrested, CID looking for three more persons

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Another person wanted in connection with an ongoing inquiry into the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 43 mn from the account of a leading steel manufacturer at the Sampath Bank has been arrested.

With the latest arrest, altogether five persons have been taken into custody. Police spokesman DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that among the arrested was a bank employee, who masterminded the ‘operation.’

Asked whether the money had been recovered, DIG Rohana said that investigators recovered a part of it. “We are looking for three more persons who withdrew money, using forged cheques,” DIG Rohana said.

The Police Spokesman said the three remaining persons too had been identified. According to the DIG, five persons had withdrawn money from six branches of the same bank at the behest of  the bank employee, and the person who printed counterfeit cheques, to withdraw money amounting to Rs 43 mn belonging to steel manufacturer Melwa. The police identified the counterfeit cheque printer as a resident of Hanwella.

DIG Rohana said that those who had been sent to the different branches of the same bank wore clothes identifying them as Melwa employees.

Though the large sum was withdrawn fraudulently on April 12, the day before the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the company remained unaware of the heist until the re-opening of  its main office after the April holidays, he said.

 The Police Spokesman said that a wider investigation was required to ascertain printing of counterfeit cheques and the role played by the bank employee. DIG Rohana said that against the backdrop of the counterfeit cheque case, both state and private sector banks would have to take tangible measures to prevent similar frauds.

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