Western Australia in grip of ‘devastating’ flood emergency: Australia PM
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Saturday his government was ready to provide whatever support was needed to residents of Western Australia state as record-breaking floods isolated far-flung communities there.
The crisis in the Kimberley — an area almost three times the size of the United Kingdom — was sparked this week by severe weather system Ellie, a former tropical cyclone that brought heavy rain to the vast region.
Among the worst-hit locations was Fitzroy Crossing, a town of around 1,300 people where supplies were being airlifted in due to the flooding, which authorities have said is the state’s worst on record.
Albanese said his Labour government was “working constructively” with the Western Australia government on the crisis in the sparsely populated region that also includes the resort town of Broome.
“These floods are having a devastating impact, many of these communities … are communities that do it tough, and the resources simply aren’t there on the ground,” Albanese told reporters in the city of Geelong, in Victoria state.
“My government stands ready to provide whatever support is requested.”
Western Australia emergency authorities said Australian Defence Force aircraft were being used to assist flood-hit communities, and Chinook helicopters were en-route to help relocate impacted residents, Reuters reported.
The nation’s weather forecaster said severe weather was no longer occurring in the state but that “the situation will continue to be monitored and further warnings will be issued if necessary”.
The emergency in the country’s far northwest comes after frequent flooding in Australia’s east over the last two years due to a multi-year La Nina weather event, typically associated with increased rainfall. Some regions have endured four major flood crises since last year.
After rough start, UN plastic treaty talks end with mandate for first draft
After a rocky start to a week of negotiations, around 170 countries agreed to develop a first draft by November of what could become the first global treaty to curb plastic pollution by the end of next year.
Country delegations, NGOs and industry representatives gathered in Paris this week for the second round of UN talks toward a legally binding pact to halt the explosion of plastic waste, which is projected to almost triple by 2060, with around half ending up in landfill and less than a fifth recycled, according to a 2022 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report.
Though the first half of the five-day negotiations was spent arguing over procedural issues, delegations split into two groups to discuss the range of control measures that can be taken to stop plastic pollution as well as whether countries should develop national plans or set global targets to tackle the problem, Reuters reported.
By the session’s close on Friday, countries agreed to prepare a “zero draft” text of what would become a legally binding plastics treaty and to work between negotiation sessions on key questions such as the scope and principles of the future treaty.
The “zero draft” text would reflect options from the wide-ranging positions of different countries by the start of the next round of talks to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in November.
“My appeal to you at the beginning of this session was that you make Paris count. You have done so by providing us collectively with a mandate for a zero draft and intersessional work,” said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution at the closing plenary.
The start of negotiations was bogged down by more than two days focused on the rules of procedure for the talks.
Saudi Arabia, Russia and China led objections to the treaty decisions being adopted by a majority vote rather than a consensus. A consensus would give one or a few countries the ability to block adoption.
Marian Ledesma, a campaigner with Greenpeace Philippines, told Reuters that if the INC process enables adoption by consensus instead of majority voting, it “will block a lot of important provisions.”
“Voting allows for as many states as possible to be able to support the treaty and allow us to move forward,” she said.
The issue has not yet been fully resolved and will come up at the next round of talks.
Death toll climbs as rain continues across parts of Afghanistan
The Ministry of Natural Disaster Management said on Tuesday that at least 24 people have died and 13 others have been injured in recent rains in 13 provinces of the country in the past 10 days.
Shafiullah Rahimi, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Natural Disasters, says that in the past 24 hours, three people died and one person was injured in heavy rain in Paktia, Paktika, Maidan Wardak and Khost provinces respectively.
In addition, 31 houses were either damaged or completely destroyed in the rain.
On Monday the Meteorological Department issued a warning of heavy rain and possible flash floods in 20 provinces over two days – including Tuesday.
“At least 24 people have died, 13 people have been injured and 120 houses have been completely destroyed in 13 provinces of the country in nearly ten days, and more than 3,000 acres of agricultural land and gardens have been destroyed,” said Rahimi.
He also said the Ministry of Natural Disaster Management in cooperation with United Nations organizations and NGOs has been able to distribute food and non-food items and cash aid to nearly 15,000 families in the past ten days. He also said the process is still underway.
Pacific islands, in spotlight, to push climate change in South Korea summit
Pacific island leaders will meet South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul on Monday, their third summit in a week with a large economy as the region seeks stronger action on climate change as it becomes a focus of geopolitical power attention.
The Pacific islands span 40 million square kilometers of ocean between the United States and Asia, and Western allies have moved to boost their engagement amid concerns over China’s security ambitions for the strategic waters and economic leverage among the small island states, Reuters reported.
Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles will attend the first Korea-Pacific Islands Summit, his office said on Saturday, adding it would show cooperation between the 18 members of the Pacific Island Forum and South Korea for a secure region.
“Australia welcomes Korea’s interest in deepening ties with the Pacific, and looks forward to building on our foundation of shared values to promote our mutual interest in a prosperous and resilient Pacific,” he said in a statement.
South Korea is Australia’s third-largest export market, with trade dominated by exports of gas and coal. Marles will also hold a bilateral meeting with Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup.
Australia and New Zealand are the largest members of the forum, a bloc of mostly small island countries at risk from rising sea levels caused by climate change and reliant on aid from development partners.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged more trade and development assistance in a summit with a dozen Pacific island leaders in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Monday. The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed a defense agreement with PNG after a Pacific summit there on the same day.
The back-to-back meetings with major economies were a “massive boost for recognition of our priorities”, said Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna in a statement.
The island states, which are seeking greater funding for climate change mitigation, have taken a collective approach to dealing with major powers.
The Pacific islands has the world’s largest tuna fishery, where South Korea’s long distance fleet has been fishing since 1958, catching 255,226 tonnes in 2021 under license schemes controlled by the forum members.
France, which has Pacific overseas territories, will also join the Seoul meeting.
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