News, December 8th

A Greener Future Begins with a Shift to Coal Alternatives

As the world economy emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, the consumption of coal is expected to recover from its sharp decline during the pandemic.

Demand for coal remains strong and helps to fuel economic development in emerging markets. Yet many countries, seeking a more sustainable future, have been taking steps to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal. Obstacles to their efforts have proven difficult to overcome, not least because people who work in the coal industry depend on it for their livelihoods—but the right policy levers can help.

Green investment and technological progress can help to check the rebound in coal use and accelerate a transition to cleaner energy sources as economic activity normalizes. And well-designed policies can help ease the transition for coal miners and others whose livelihoods depend on coal.Coal is a major contributor to local pollution and climate change, accounting for 44 percent of global CO2 emissions. When burned to generate heat or electricity, coal is 2.2 times as carbon intense as natural gas—that is, burning coal emits more than twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas to generate the same amount of energy. Coal-fired thermal power plants release sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, and mercury into the air and rivers, streams, and lakes. These emissions not only degrade the environment but there is long-established evidence they are hazardous to human health—British government medical reports estimated that 4,000 people died as a direct result of the Great Smog of London in 1952 that was caused by coal combustion and diesel exhaust.

There is a strong relationship between the level of development and coal consumption, with middle-income countries typically being most dependent on coal. During the second industrial revolution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, advanced economies rapidly increased their dependence on coal. As incomes continued to rise, however, coal was slowly replaced with more efficient, convenient, and less polluting fuels such as oil, nuclear energy, natural gas, and, more recently, renewable energy.

This decline in coal use was interrupted in the 1970s and then partially reversed by three factors: (1) energy security concerns, (2) growing electrification, and (3) fast economic growth in emerging markets. Increased power needs contributed to a rebound in demand for coal for electricity generation in many advanced economies, which at the same time were turning back to coal to reduce dependence on imported oil. By the turn of this century, coal use was again declining in advanced economies, but this was more than offset by surging demand in emerging markets.

Today, emerging markets account for 76.8 percent of global coal consumption, with China contributing about half. Power generation accounts for 72.8 percent of coal usage, and industrial uses, such as coking coal for steel production, represent another 21.6 percent.

Phaseouts from coal often take decades. It took the United Kingdom 46 years to reduce coal consumption by 90 percent from its peak in the 1970s. Across a range of countries, coal use declined just 2.3 percent annually during the period 1971–2017. At that rate, it would take 43 years to fully phase out coal, starting from the peak consumption year.

Several factors make it difficult to steer away from coal.

First, the industrial use of coal, concentrated in emerging markets, is hard to replace with other energy sources. Hydrogen-based technologies offer a pathway to green the production of steel, but incentives are currently weak because of insufficient carbon pricing.

Second, coal power plants are long-lived assets with a minimum design lifespan of 30 to 40 years. Once built, coal plants are here to stay unless there are dramatic changes in the costs of renewables or policy makers intervene.

Third, moving away from coal typically means losses for the domestic mining industry and its workers. In major coal-consumer countries such as China and India, strong domestic mining interests may complicate and delay the phase-out of coal. In the United States, the rapid transition from coal to natural gas led to a decline in coal mine employment, a record number of bankruptcies among coal mining firms, and a sharp decline in coal mining stocks. A similar transition in some coal-producing countries could imperil financial stability, as banks take losses on investments in obsolete mines and power plants—so-called “stranded assets.’’ And the human element often sees a long, proud tradition of miners and others working in the industry, which makes abandoning this way of life difficult.Certain market conditions and policy levers can help overcome obstacles to a coal phaseout. Stricter environmental policies, carbon taxes, and affordable energy substitutes are crucial. For example, a carbon pricing scheme helped the United Kingdom reduce its dependence on coal by 12.4 percentage points from 2013 to 2018. In Spain, government subsidies favoring renewable electricity generation helped reduce coal dependence between 2005 and 2010—even though that reduction was in part driven by temporary factors. In the United States, a more modest decline was driven by market forces as the shale gas revolution pushed down natural gas prices.Tough questions will need to be asked and answered when considering the policy alternatives supporting a shift away from coal. Coal miners and others who depend on the coal industry for their livelihoods need, and deserve, realistic solutions to the potential disruption they face. Other supportive policies will be needed to ease job transitions, and possibly encourage the development of alternative industries to avoid hollowing out communities and upending families. In the case of emerging markets and low-income countries, the international community can provide financial and technical assistance (e.g., the know-how needed to build grids that work with intermittent power sources, such as wind and solar) and limit financing of new coal plants, at least where alternatives exist. Cleaner alternatives like natural gas can also help bridge the energy transition towards a greener future. Carbon capture and storage technology may be a viable solution to ease the transition away from coal, but it is currently less cost-competitive than other low-carbon energy sources such as solar and wind.

Christopher Nolan slams simultaneous release of films in theatres & OTT

Hollywood filmmaker Christopher Nolan has heavily criticised Warner Bros. for its decision to release its entire 2021 theatrical slate simultaneously on streaming service, calling it a messy move.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is slated to release in theaters and on HBO Max, and the studio recently announced that they will do the same for their entire theatrical slate through 2021.

“Oh, I mean, disbelief. Especially the way in which they did. There’s such controversy around it, because they didn’t tell anyone. In 2021, they’ve got some of the top filmmakers in the world, they’ve got some of the biggest stars in the world who worked for years in some cases on these projects very close to their hearts that are meant to be big-screen experiences, Nolan told etonline.com.

“They’re meant to be out there for the widest possible audiences… And now they’re being used as a loss-leader for the streaming service — for the fledgling streaming service — without any consultation. So, there’s a lot of controversy. It’s very, very, very, very messy. A real bait and switch. Yeah, it’s sort of not how you treat filmmakers and stars and people who, these guys have given a lot for these projects. They deserved to be consulted and spoken to about what was going to happen to their work,” he added.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Nolan said: “Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.”

“Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction,” said the filmmaker, whose relationship with the studio dates back to “Insomnia” in 2002.

Representatives from the studio or the streaming services are yet to comment on Nolan’s remarks.

German states tighten virus rules as pandemic battle falters

BERLIN (AP) — Two German states moved closer to a “hard lockdown” Tuesday as officials warned that continued high coronavirus infections could overwhelm hospitals and that too many people were ignoring existing pandemic restrictions.

The governor of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, announced that schools and most stores will close from Monday until Jan. 10, as the eastern state recorded the Germany’s worst infection rates.

Figures published by Germany’s disease control center showed the number of newly confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants reaching almost 320 in a week in Saxony — more than twice the national average of about 147.

In the neighboring state of Bavaria to the south, governor Markus Soeder urged regional lawmakers to back his government’s decision to declare a state of emergency and introduce tough new measures including a nighttime curfew, more home schooling and stricter border controls.

“The numbers are simply not going down,” Soeder told parliament in Munich and warned: ”The second wave is worse than the first.”

Germany managed to avoid the high number of infections and grim death tolls seen in some other large European nations in spring, and continues to have a lower overall fatality rate than countries such as Britain, France and Spain. But while restrictions imposed in November have slowed the exponential rise in cases, the numbers keep creeping up.

The Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control center, reported 14,054 newly confirmed cases in the past 24 hours Tuesday, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to almost 1.2 million. The number of COVID-19-related deaths in the country rose by 423 to 19,342.

“Every four minutes a person in Germany dies of corona,” Soeder told lawmakers, calling the outbreak “the biggest disaster that our generation has ever experienced.”

The conservative governor, who has been mooted as a possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel after next year’s national election, took aim at those who have flouted or found loopholes in the existing rules.

Soeder said authorities in Bavaria would crack down on what he called “Gluehwein hopping” — the practice of going from one outdoor stall serving mulled wine to another to get around the closure of bars. He also slammed the far-right Alternative for Germany party and its members, who have railed against the restrictions and in some cases made unfounded claims that the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Saxony’s economy minister, Martin Dulig, likewise appealed to people to follow the rules in the state, long a stronghold of the far right.

“It can’t be right that the regions that reject masks and measures most strongly have the highest infection numbers,” he said. “There’s clearly a link.”

“It’s really a question of reason or unreason. And Saxony needs to become the land of reason again,” Dulig added.

Merkel, meanwhile, has said that the first coronavirus vaccine may not be available in Germany until early next year.

Authorities in the country said last month that they wanted mass vaccination centers ready by the middle of December. But the European Medicines Agency has since set a meeting for Dec. 29 to discuss approval for the vaccine made by German company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer.

In an Monday interview with Metropol FM, a Berlin radio station aimed at Germany’s Turkish community, Merkel said the vaccine “will probably be available and approved in Europe from the beginning of 2021, according to everything we now know.”

Britain’s regulator became the first worldwide last week to allow emergency use of the vaccine, and immunization began Tuesday.

Germany: invest more in infrastructure, digital economy and energy transition for a strong and greener recovery from COVID-19 crisis

Germany should increase public infrastructure investment and accelerate its digital transformation and energy transition to strengthen and sustain its recovery from the economic crisis sparked by COVID-19, according to a new OECD report.The latest OECD Economic Survey of Germany credits the government’s swift and effective crisis response and a strong healthcare system for enabling a less severe social and economic impact from the pandemic than in many neighbouring countries. The 1.4 percentage point rise in the unemployment rate in the first half of the year was small by international standards, thanks to the extensive use of the government-subsidised short-time work scheme. Yet the crisis has still pushed the economy into a deep recession after a decade of expansion, with economic output projected to shrink by 5.5% in 2020 and recover only gradually with GDP growth at 2.8% in 2021 and 3.3% in 2022. It is important that measures to support the health system and the hardest hit sections of society and the economy are not scaled back too fast.

“Germany has suffered a severe economic shock from COVID-19, despite the government’s swift and substantial response. Germany should use the recovery as an opportunity to invest in its digital transformation, accelerate its transition to a low-carbon economy, and increase labour market inclusion,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

While the government’s June stimulus package took encouraging steps towards advancing the digital and energy transitions, more infrastructure investment is needed to spur a sustainable and inclusive recovery and ensure that Germany can reap the productivity benefits of digital technologies and the environmental benefits of greener energy and transport, the Survey says.

Despite being a world leader in technology and engineering, Germany lags other advanced economies on the digital transformation at a time when the pandemic has heightened the need for good quality and reliable digital connectivity. Average mobile data usage and connection speeds are low, and uneven availability of high-speed Internet has created an urban-rural digital divide. Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lag behind in the use of digital technologies, such as cloud computing, that are key for innovation and productivity. Only a small percentage of young people have programming skills, with the share even lower among girls and women.

Improving competition among Internet providers and simplifying administrative processes for network deployment would help to improve digital connectivity. SMEs should be given better access to financial support, including Research and Development tax incentives, to help them adopt advanced technologies. More should also be done to promote digital skills across the population and to make computational thinking part of the school curriculum from an early age.

Germany has made significant progress on climate policy, particularly in the past year, with the introduction of an emissions pricing system in the transport and heating sectors, increased promotion of electric vehicles and charging stations, and higher targets for renewable electricity generation. However, per capita greenhouse gas emissions in Germany are still high by European standards. If Germany is to meet its Paris Agreement target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 relative to 1990 levels, greater efforts will be needed. The Survey recommends reducing coal-fired power generation earlier than planned, expanding energy-efficient building renovation, linking the pricing of fuels, vehicles and road use more clearly to environmental damage, and creating alternative, climate-friendly transport options.

Although public investment has increased since 2014, two decades of weak investment have left a backlog, particularly in the areas of low-emission transport solutions, digital transformation, health, social housing, early childhood education and power grids. In view of the negative net investment in many financially weak municipalities, the Survey recommends the federal government further support investment by municipalities.

The Survey also recommends expanding local planning capacity and improving co-operation across government agencies to speed up the implementation and effectiveness of infrastructure projects. It would be sensible, for example, to use independent infrastructure planning advice that facilitates alignment between different levels of government and sectors and gives construction firms more security in their planning.

Koalas return to Aussie wild after being rescued from bushfires

SYDNEY, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) — After months of treatments and recoveries, koalas severely injured in Australia’s devastating bushfires last summer have finally returned home.

Fourteen koalas have been released into bushland at sites in Victoria’s East Gippsland region, close to where they were originally found over the past month, with the final group of eight released over the past weekend, Zoo Victoria said in a statement on Monday.

The koalas which were rescued after the blazes in January this year, underwent multiple surgeries for severe burns and many months of follow-up treatment.

Following extensive treatment, they had also been “rewilding” by building up their strength, fitness and climbing abilities at a large enclosure at Phillip Island Nature Parks and Healesville Sanctuary.

Zoos Victoria senior veterinarian Leanne Wicker said it was special to see the koalas that have been through so much finally return to the wild.

“I will never forget the injuries and trauma that first confronted us in the wildlife triage units in January,” Wicker said.

“Sadly, there were many animals that we couldn’t save, but we gave our all to treat the badly burnt paws, noses and ears while monitoring for internal injuries.”

A report commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia revealed nearly 3 billion animals were impacted by last summer’s bushfire crisis, including more than 60,000 koalas.

Wicker said each koala has been fitted with a tracking device on the collar so that specialised animal health and science teams could monitor their progress over the coming months.

Researchers hope this could also provide valuable information on the health, welfare and long-term survival of recovered fire-affected koalas returning to the wild.

Mount Everest has grown taller

China and Nepal jointly announced a new official height for Mount Everest on Tuesday, ending a discrepancy between the two nations.

The new height of the world’s highest peak is 8,848.86 meters (29,031.7 feet), which is slightly more than Nepal’s previous measurement and about four meters (13 feet) higher than China’s.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Nepalese counterpart, Pradeep Gyawali, simultaneously pressed buttons during a virtual conference and the new height flashed on the screen.

The height of Everest, which is on the border between China and Nepal, was agreed on after surveyors from Nepal scaled the peak in 2019 and a Chinese team did the same in 2020.

There had been debate over the actual height of the peak and concern that it might have shrunk after a major earthquake in 2015. The quake killed 9,000 people, damaged about 1 million structures in Nepal and triggered an avalanche on Everest that killed 19 people at the base camp.

There was no doubt that Everest would remain the highest peak because the second highest, Mount K2, is only 8,611 meters (28,244 feet) tall.

Everest’s height was first determined by a British team around 1856 as 8,842 meters (29,002) feet.

But the most accepted height has been 8,848 meters (29,028 feet), which was determined by the Survey of India in 1954.

In 1999, a National Geographic Society team using GPS technology came up with a height of 8,850 (29,035 feet). A Chinese team in 2005 said it was 8,844.43 meters (29,009 feet) because it did not include the snow cap.

A Nepal government team of climbers and surveyors scaled Everest in May 2019 and installed GPS and satellite equipment to measure the peak and snow depth on the summit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal later that year and the leaders of the two countries decided that they should agree on a height.

A survey team from China then conducted measurements in the spring of 2020 while all other expeditions were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nepal’s climbing community welcomed the end of confusion over the mountain’s height.

“This is a milestone in mountaineering history which will finally end the debate over the height and now the world will have one number,” said Santa Bir Lama, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

China’s official Xinhua New Agency quoted Xi as saying the two sides are committed to jointly protecting the environment around Everest and cooperating in scientific research.

For China, the announcement appeared to be as much about politics as geography. China has drawn Nepal ever closer into its orbit with investments in its economy and the building of highways, dams, airports and other infrastructure in the impoverished nation.

That appears to serve China’s interests in reducing the influence of rival India, with which it shares a disputed border, and Nepal’s role as a destination for refugee Tibetans.

The Xinhua report said nothing about the technical aspects but heavily emphasized the joint announcement’s geopolitical weight.

China and Nepal will establish an “even closer community of a shared future to enrich the countries and their peoples,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.

New WHO campaign to help COVID-era quitters kick the habit

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, announced the start of a year-long global campaign to help people quit tobacco, with millions citing the threat of COVID-19 as a new incentive to give up the habit.

Tobacco kills up to half of its users, claiming more than 8 million lives each year. Over 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke, according to WHO.

Smoking is also a known risk factor for many respiratory illnesses, and smokers are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes – making them particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

“If users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Commit to Quit” campaign will advocate for stronger national policies, increasing access to cessation services, raising awareness of tobacco industry tactics, and empowering tobacco users to make successful attempts through “quit and win” initiatives, WHO said.

For instance, Florence, an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven 24/7 digital health worker, will tirelessly provide accurate information, help people make a quitting plan, and recommending help-lines and support apps.

In one of its first campaign initiatives, the UN health agency rolled out the “WHO Quit Challenge” on the messaging service WhatsApp, and a list of “more than 100 reasons to quit tobacco”.

The campaign will focus on twenty-two high-burden countries, where the majority of the world’s tobacco users live.

According to WHO, around 780 million people globally say they want to kick tobacco to the curb, but many lack the tools needed to do so. Their efforts are further complicated by the social and economic stresses that have come as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Millions of people worldwide want to quit tobacco – we must seize this opportunity and invest in services to help them be successful, while we urge everyone to divest from the tobacco industry and their interests”, said Ruediger Krech, WHO Director of Health Promotion.

The agency also called on governments to ensure their populations have access to advice, toll-free quit lines, mobile and digital cessation services, nicotine replacement therapies, and other tools that are proven to help people stop using tobacco.

Pfizer vaccine raises ‘no specific safety concerns’: US regulator

WASHINGTON: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a briefing document Tuesday saying the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective, raising expectations the regulator is poised to grant emergency approval.

An independent committee advising the FDA will meet Thursday on the matter, after Britain became the first country to approve the vaccine last week.

Data from 38,000 US trial participants revealed “suggest a favorable safety profile, with no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an EUA (emergency use authorization),” the FDA document said.

It added that the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing Covid-19 was 95 percent, worked uniformly across age groups, genders, and racial groups, as well as people with underlying conditions who are at high risk.

The FDA said more research was needed to confirm evidence that the vaccine prevents even the worst cases of Covid-19, that it offers protection after the first of two doses and that it works for people previously been infected.

The companies have previously released some of their data in press statements but the FDA has access to a much more detail.

In a larger group of 43,000 volunteers which included additional adults and adolescents who signed up later, the most common side effects were injection site reactions (84 percent), fatigue (63 percent), headache (55 percent), muscle pain (38 percent), chills (31 percent), joint pain (23.6 percent), fever (14 percent).

Reactions graded as “severe” were more common after the second dose and less frequent in participants aged 55 and older.

There were some adverse events classed as “serious” — the highest grade — but there was no meaningful imbalance in the frequency these occurred in the vaccine and placebo arms.

There were four cases of Bell’s palsy — a non-serious form of facial paralysis that generally resolves — in the vaccine group and none in the placebo group, but the document said this was in line with the frequency seen in the general population.

The advisory group will also consider what additional studies the manufacturers will need to undertake after issuance of an EUA.

Notably, the FDA is not in favor of immediately offering the vaccine to people in the placebo group, which is currently a heated area of discussion among the scientific community. — AFP

ROK to buy coronavirus vaccines for 44 million people

Republic of Korea has signed deals with four companies as part of a programme that will provide coronavirus vaccines for 44 million people, the government said on Tuesday (December 8).

The government has arranged to buy 20 million doses each from AstraZeneca Inc., Pfizer, and Moderna, and another 4 million doses from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, which together are enough to cover up to 34 million people.

Additional doses for 10 million people will be procured through the World Health Organization’s global vaccine project, known as COVAX.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 594 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Monday, bringing the country’s total to 38,755, with 552 deaths.

UK, EU make progress on N Ireland, but trade deal in doubt

LONDON — Britain and the European Union warned Tuesday that the chance of a post-Brexit trade deal by a year-end deadline is slipping away, with just over three weeks until an economic rupture that will cause upheaval for businesses on both sides of the English Channel.

With negotiators deadlocked on key issues, officials downplayed the chances of a breakthrough when Prime Minister Boris Johnson heads to Brussels for face-to-face talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the next few days.

There was progress on another thorny issue as the two sides announced they had reached agreement on how trade will work with Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. that shares a land border with the EU. Britain said as a result it would scrap plans to breach its legally binding divorce agreement with the bloc — a proposal that had infuriated the EU and helped sour the talks.

But on the bigger issue of a trade deal, Johnson said “the situation at the moment is very tricky.”

“But hope springs eternal. I will do my best to sort it out if we can,” he said.

German European Affairs Minister Michael Roth said “political will in London” was needed to secure a deal.

“Our future relationship is based on trust and confidence. It’s precisely this confidence that is at stake in our negotiations right now,” said Roth, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

Johnson and von der Leyen, head of the EU’s executive arm, spoke by phone Monday for the second time in 48 hours but failed to break the trade talks impasse. They said afterwards that “significant differences” remained on three key issues — fishing rights, fair-competition rules and the governance of future disputes.

The two leaders said they planned to discuss the remaining differences face to face “in Brussels in the coming days.”

No date was given for the meeting. The leaders of the EU’s 27 nations are holding a two-day summit in Brussels starting Thursday and are not keen for it to be overshadowed by Brexit.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier met his U.K. colleague David Frost in Brussels on Tuesday to take stock and “prepare the next steps,” Barnier said. Officials hope the meeting between Johnson and von der Leyen may break the logjam so negotiators can resume technical talks, though neither Britain nor the bloc appears willing to compromise on key demands.

The U.K. left the EU politically on Jan. 31 after 47 years of membership, but remains within the bloc’s tariff-free single market and customs union through Dec. 31. Reaching a trade deal by then would ensure there are no tariffs and quotas on trade in goods, although there would still be new costs and red tape for businesses.

Failure to secure a trade deal would mean tariffs and other barriers that would hurt both sides, although most economists think the British economy would take a greater hit because the U.K. does almost half of its trade with the bloc.

EU officials suggested negotiations could continue past Jan. 1, even as the two sides tumbled into a no-deal trading relationship. But the U.K. appeared to rule that out.

“We have been clear that the future relationship needs to be concluded by the end of the year and negotiations won’t continue into next year,” said Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies.

While both sides want a deal, they have fundamentally different views of what it entails. The EU fears Britain will slash social and environmental standards and pump state money into U.K. industries, becoming a low-regulation economic rival on the bloc’s doorstep — hence the demand for strict “level playing field” guarantees in exchange for access to its markets.

The U.K. government sees Brexit as about sovereignty and “taking back control” of the country’s laws, borders and waters. It claims the EU is making demands it has not placed on other countries and is trying to bind Britain to the bloc’s rules indefinitely.

Trust and goodwill were further strained by British legislation that breaches the legally binding Brexit withdrawal agreement Johnson struck with the EU last year.

Britain claimed it needed the Internal Market Bill as an “insurance policy” to protect the flow of goods within the U.K. in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The EU saw it as an act of bad faith that could imperil Northern Ireland’s peace settlement.

On Tuesday, British Cabinet Minister Michael Gove and European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said they had reached an agreement on how trade to and from Northern Ireland would work, whether or not there is an overarching U.K.-EU trade deal.

And both sides held out hope for a broad agreement.

“I do not want to acknowledge a failure. I think we still have a few days to negotiate,” French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told RMC radio.

Johnson said “there may come a moment when we have to acknowledge that it is time to draw stumps” — a cricket term that also means to announce that something is over — but that for the moment he remained hopeful.

Barnier, who has led the EU negotiating team through four and a half years of Brexit drama, urged calm.

“More than ever, the Brexit is a school of patience — even a university of patience,” he said.

WTO seeks applications for new phase of Chairs Programme

The WTO is seeking applications from academic institutions around the world for a new phase of the WTO Chairs Programme, which aims to support trade-related academic activities. Universities and research institutions in developing countries, least-developed countries, recently acceded WTO members and acceding governments are invited to submit their applications by 15 January 2021. Up to 21 new chairs will be selected.

The WTO Chairs Programme was launched in 2010. Under this capacity building programme, partner institutions have received financial and technical support from the WTO for trade-related research, curriculum development and outreach activities. In the first two phases of programme, the WTO has provided financial support to 19 institutions in developing countries in the form of yearly grants of up to CHF 50,000 per chair for a maximum of four years. For the third phase, the financial allocations to selected chairs will depend on the number of participating chairs and on the funds available.

The application form for academic institutions is available here. Applications from least-developed countries and regions currently lacking representation in the programme are particularly encouraged.

The Chairs Programme provides dedicated support to beneficiary institutions in priority areas related to trade policy, international trade, international relations and international economic law.

Chair-holders will be chosen through a competitive selection process organized by the WTO Secretariat and the programme’s Advisory Board. The criteria to be used include:

potential for developing capacities at the host institution

relevance of research topics in relation to trade policy and WTO-related issues

quality of research proposals

expected results with respect to the offering of new and updated courses

potential for interaction with policy-making institutions (such as government departments)

expected results with respect to networking with other academic institutions

strategy for future human and financial sustainability

potential for maintaining a team of critical mass in the host institution to collaborate in chair-holder activities.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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