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COP28 president denies UAE using UN climate talks to seek oil deals

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COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber walks through the venue for the COP28 UN Climate Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (pic Aljazeera)

The Emirati president of the United Nations Climate conference in Dubai has denied reports that he has used his role at the negotiations to pursue fossil fuel deals.

A day before the talks are due to begin, Sultan al-Jaber, who also is the CEO of the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (Adnoc), rejected allegations made in a joint investigation by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) and the BBC.

“These allegations are false, not true, incorrect and not accurate,” Jaber told reporters on Wednesday ahead of the talks, which will draw world leaders and tens of thousands of delegates to Dubai over the next two weeks.

“It’s an attempt to undermine the work of the COP28 presidency. Let me ask you a question: Do you think the UAE or myself will need the COP or the COP presidency to go and establish business deals or commercial relationships?”

Leaked documents show that al-Jaber planned to discuss fossil fuel deals in bilateral meetings at the climate summit, the CCR said.

According to the non-profit investigative journalism group, the documents include more than 150 pages of briefings prepared by COP28 staff from July to October and obtained by the CCR and the BBC from an anonymous whistle-blower. The documents indicate Jaber planned to discuss commercial interests with almost 30 countries, according to CCR.

The briefing notes, detailed in reports published on Monday, signalled Adnoc’s willingness to work with countries including China, Germany and Egypt to develop oil and gas projects.

Former United States Vice President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for campaigning for climate action, said the allegations “have confirmed some of the worst fears” around al-Jaber while former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said the COP28 host had been caught “red-handed”.

“The global community’s gaze is fixed upon these leaders, expecting them to embody the very essence of integrity, untainted by bias and national or personal gain,” said Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network International.  “Any deviation from this path represents a betrayal of the trust placed in them by the world and a failure in their duty to future generations,” she wrote on X.

Al-Jaber, a 50-year-old longtime climate envoy, is a trusted confidant of the leader of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He’s been behind tens of billions of dollars spent or pledged towards renewable energy in the UAE.

He has weathered other controversies over alleged conflict of interest since being appointed COP28 president this year, including calls from US and European lawmakers for his replacement.

Supporters, including US climate envoy John Kerry, said al-Jaber is uniquely positioned to broker compromise at the COP28 talks, where world leaders will be confronted by their lack of progress in curbing global warming in a record-breaking hot year.

Reining in the use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions are expected to top the agenda of the 13-day summit, which runs from Thursday until December 12. International funding to help countries adapt to climate change will also be hotly debated as developing countries have been demanding more contributions from industrialised nations.

An ambitious loss and damages fund agreed last year to support poorer nations to help manage the negative effects of climate change is also going to be one of the main issues covered in the negotiations. World leaders agreed to the fund at COP27 last year, but they have failed to reach consensus on the most important questions of all – which states will pay into it and how much

The CCR said that alongside the briefings, it has also seen emails and meeting records “which raise serious questions about the COP28 team’s independence from Adnoc”.

“Please, for once, respect who we are, respect what we have achieved over the years and respect the fact that we have been clear, open and clean and honest and transparent on how we want to conduct this COP process,” al-Jaber said.

(Aljazeera)



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Intruder spills 60,000 litres of wine worth €2.5m at Spanish winery

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The intruder was reportedly familiar with the winery grounds (BBC)

A Spanish winery has suffered losses of more than €2.5 million (£2.1 million) after an unidentified intruder emptied 60,000 litres of wine.

A representative of the Cepa 21 winery told the BBC the wine spilled came from two of the winery’s most expensive varieties, Horcajo and Malabrigo.

He said the incident took place at about 03:30 local time (02:30 GMT) on Sunday and that the intruder was likely familiar with the winery grounds.

Police are investigating the case. In CCTV, a hooded person can be seen moving between tanks and rapidly opening them, causing their contents to spill on to the floor.

The Cepa 21 representative told the BBC that it was “very hard to open the tanks”, which include a security mechanism, without prior knowledge. Therefore, he said, it could be assumed that the intruder “is used to opening these tanks and is familiar with this kind of machinery”. He added: “This person was moving very smoothly across the winery grounds, even though it was dark and there was no light. “This must be a person who knows the grounds well.”

But he said it was too early to speculate on their identity and said there were no grounds to suspect current or former employees at this stage.The intruder opened five tanks, although only three were filled with wine.

Cepa 21 is located in Castrillo de Duero, a small village in north-western Spain. Horcajo wine retails for around £80 a bottle in the UK, while Malabrigo sells for £35.

(BBC)

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Nebraska zoo extracts 70 coins from white alligator’s stomach

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Thibodaux. a 36-year-old white alligator, had 70 coins removed from his stomach (BBC)

An alligator at a US zoo had to undergo surgery after veterinarians discovered 70 coins in the animal’s stomach.

The coins were found in a rare, 36-year-old leucistic alligator, which has translucent white skin and blue eyes.

Veterinarians identified “metal foreign objects in the stomach of an iconic resident” – Thibodaux.  The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska said patrons threw coins into the enclosure, which were eaten by the animal between cleanings.

He has recovered from the procedure and is back in his habitat.

The zoo urged visitors to avoid throwing “coins into any bodies of water at the zoo”, after the sizeable amount of change was pulled from the animal’s stomach.

All 10 alligators – including Thibodaux – participated in a routine examination which involved blood collection, radiographs and more. When zoo workers discovered the coins, they acted fast and performed surgery on Thursday, removing the coins from Thibodaux “before they caused any problems”.

“With the help of his training, Thibodaux was anesthetized and intubated to allow us to safely manage him during the procedure,” associate veterinarian Christina Ploog, who led the procedure, said in a statement.  “A plastic pipe was placed to protect his mouth and safely pass the tools used to access the coins, such as a camera that helped us guide the retrieval of these objects.”

The zoo said in a statement that X-ray imaging confirmed that the objects were successfully removed, adding that “Thibodaux recovered well from the procedure”. Taylor Yaw, director of animal health at the zoo, said the procedure is not “common”.

Ms Ploog told a local news outlet that people do not realise how coins can harm animals. She said not only could animals ingest the coins, but they could also contain dangerous chemicals.

The zoo answered one concerned person online who asked if the coins get swept up by the zoo. “We do routine cleanings in the habitats of this area and throughout the zoo,” the zoo wrote on Facebook. “In between cleanings is when our alligators still manage to get them before they are removed.”

(BBC)

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South Korean doctors strike in protest of plans to add more physicians

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Doctors staged rallies in Seoul last week protesting against the government's plan to bump up numbers (BBC)

South Korea’s government has ordered more than 1,000 junior doctors to return to work after many staged walk-outs in protest of plans to increase the number of doctors in the system.

More than 6,000 interns and residents had resigned on Monday, said officials.

South Korea has one of the lowest doctor-per-patient ratios among OECD countries so the government wants to add more medical school placements. But doctors oppose the prospect of greater competition, observers say.

South Korea has a highly privatised healthcare system where most procedures are tied to insurance payments, and more than 90% of hospitals are private.

Its doctors are among the best-paid in the world, with 2022 OECD data showing the average specialist at a public hospital receives nearly $200,000 (£159,000) a year; a salary far exceeding the national average pay.

But there are currently only 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people – the second lowest rate in the OECD group of nations after Mexico. “More doctors mean more competition and reduced income for them, that is why they are against the proposal to increase physician supply,” said Prof Soonman Kwon, a public health expert at Seoul National University.

Patients and health officials expressed concerns on Tuesday as reports emerged of doctors declining to come into hospitals across the country.

Junior doctors form a core contingent of staff in emergency wards, and local media reported that up to 37% of doctors could be affected at the biggest hospitals in Seoul.

The health ministry said 1,630 doctors had not shown up to work on Monday, amid a wider group of 6,415 who had submitted resignation letters. Organisers had pledged an all-out strike from Tuesday.

“We are deeply disappointed in the situation where trainee doctors are refusing to work,” Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo had told reporters earlier this week. He also warned that the government may resort to legal means to get doctors back to work.

Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo speaks during a press briefing
Minister Park has condemned the strike action by doctors (BBC)

 

Under the country’s Medical Services Act, authorities have the power to revoke a doctor’s practicing licence over an extended labour action which threatens the health care system. The country has attempted prosecutions before in relation to other doctor protests- which were later dropped.

“We earnestly ask the doctors to withdraw their decision to resign en masse,” Mr Park said.

The government has consistently condemned the doctors’ opposition. Prime Minister Han Duck-soo has said: “This is something that takes the lives and health of the people hostage”.

The extent of the strike’s impact so far is yet unclear, although officials had warned there could be delays to surgeries and gaps in care. Some hospitals have announced switching to contingency plans. The government has also fully expanded telehealth services.

The protests are similar to events in 2020, when up to 80% of junior doctors joined strikes against the government’s recruitment plans.

South Korean policy makers have tried for years to increase the number of trained doctors, as the country is dealing with a rapidly-ageing population which will put extra burden on the medical system. There’s a projected shortfall of 15,000 doctors by 2035.

The country also has critical gaps in care in remote areas, and in specialities such as paediatrics and obstetrics – which are seen as less lucrative fields compared to dermatology.

To combat this, President Yoon Suk-yeol has proposed adding 2,000 spots per year to medical schools – which currently take a cohort of just over 3,000 students every year – a rate that has not changed since 2006. It’s a policy very popular with the public – with local polls showing 70-80% of voters support it.

However the plan has been strongly opposed by the medical profession, with groups like the Korean Medical Association arguing an increase would be a strain on the money available under the national health insurance scheme.

The union has also argued that more doctors wouldn’t necessarily address the shortages in specific fields. It announced the strike action on Sunday after an emergency meeting with hospital representatives. While junior doctors are the first to strike there are fears that more across the profession will join too.

Doctors successfully staved off the government’s previous attempt to introduce more graduates in 2020. The government conceded at the time, partly due to the pressure of the Covid pandemic, commentators say.

“It is not easy to predict who will win this time,” said Prof Kwon. He noted that President Yoon “seems very determined” because the policy has provided a ratings-bump for an unpopular leader otherwise tarnished by some political scandals. “But a private sector dominated health system is quite vulnerable to physician strikes, i.e. it can be really shut down if doctors join full-scale strikes.”

(BBC)

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