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Court In Netherlands Orders Royal Dutch Shell To Cut Carbon Emissions


THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch court has ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its carbon emissions by net 45% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels in a landmark case brought by climate activist groups.

The ruling Wednesday by The Hague District Court could set a precedent for similar cases against polluting multinationals around the world.

The court ruled that the Anglo-Dutch energy giant has a duty of care to reduce emissions and that its current reduction plans are not concrete enough.

Shell can appeal the ruling.

Milieudefensie director Donald Pols, right, celebrates the outcome of the verdict in the court case of Milieudefensie, the Du



Milieudefensie director Donald Pols, right, celebrates the outcome of the verdict in the court case of Milieudefensie, the Dutch arm of the Friends of the Earth environmental organization, against Shell in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, May 26, 2021. In a landmark legal battle of climate change activists in the Netherlands energy giant Shell was ordered to rein in its carbon emissions. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The court said in an English language summary of its ruling that Shell is not currently in breach of its obligation to reduce emissions as the environmental groups argued because the parent company is tightening its emissions policy.

However, it added that the policy “is not concrete, has many caveats and is based on monitoring social developments rather than the company’s own responsibility for achieving a CO2 reduction.”

“Therefore, the court has ordered RDS to reduce the emissions of the Shell group, its suppliers and its customers by net 45%, as compared to 2019 levels, by the end of 2030, through the corporate policy of the Shell group.”

A group of seven environmental and human rights organizations and some 1,700 Dutch citizens filed the case in 2018, calling on the court to order Shell to cut emissions in line with the global goals set out in the Paris climate agreement. That equates to Shell cutting emissions 45% by 2030.

The case in the Netherlands is the latest in a string of legal challenges filed around the world by climate activists seeking action to rein in emissions, but it is believed to be the first targeting a multinational company.





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Brazil’s Indigenous Leaders Sue President Jair Bolsonaro For Crimes Against Humanity


Two of Brazil’s most influential and well-known Indigenous leaders filed an international legal challenge this week against the country’s leader, alleging that far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies toward Indigenous tribes and the Amazon rainforest constitute crimes against humanity.

Chief Raoni Metuktire, the leader of the Kayapo people, and Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui, leader of the Paiter Surui tribe, filed the claim at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday.

The suit points to rising levels of deforestation in the Amazon, increased killings of Brazilian Indigenous leaders, and the Bolsonaro government’s efforts to strip protections from the rainforest and tribal lands, policies the Indigenous leaders say aim to “exploit the natural resources of the Amazon and undermine the rights of indigenous peoples in order to promote industry.”

Rates of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon were already increasing when Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, but they have skyrocketed on his watch, and record outbreaks of fires in the region over the last two years have drawn global attention to Bolsonaro’s efforts to roll back environmental protections and overhaul Brazil’s environmental regulatory agencies. More than 2.7 million acres of the Amazon were cleared in 2020, according to Brazilian government data, the highest total in 12 years. 

Ecocide at this level of intensity has to be considered as a crime against humanity.
William Bourdon, attorney for Chiefs Raoni and Almir

A longtime human rights and environmental activist, Chief Raoni has emerged as a leader of Indigenous resistance to Bolsonaro, who tribal leaders have warned threatens their people with genocide. Raoni, who at 89 years old tested positive for COVID-19 in August (months after Indigenous leaders argued that the Bolsonaro government’s lagging response to the pandemic left them especially vulnerable), said last year that Bolsonaro was the worst president of the 24 Brazilian leaders who have served during his lifetime. 

The lawsuit does not guarantee an investigation into Bolsonaro but requests that the court’s prosecutors launch a probe into its claims. It will likely take weeks before the court makes a decision on whether an investigation is warranted. 

If the ICC follows through, the complaint against Bolsonaro could have an impact far beyond Brazil: The lawyers behind the case say it could push widespread environmental destruction ― or ecocide ― onto the list of crimes the ICC recognizes as prosecutable under international law. 

William Bourdon, the French lawyer who filed the lawsuit on Chief Raoni’s behalf, pointed to a long-held belief among some international legal experts that environmental destruction should be considered a crime against humanity, an argument that has intensified as the global fight against climate change becomes even more urgent. (The ICC’s founding charter initially included ecocide as a crime, but it was later removed.) 

“Ecocide at this level of intensity has to be considered as a crime against humanity,” Bourdon told HuffPost.  

Even if the ICC doesn’t accept that argument, the complaint asserts that Bolsonaro’s actions toward Brazil’s Indigenous tribes and the laws meant to protect them qualify as crimes against humanity.  

Chief Raoni Metuktire, center front, takes part in a climate march in Brussels on May 17, 2019. The activist has become a sym



Chief Raoni Metuktire, center front, takes part in a climate march in Brussels on May 17, 2019. The activist has become a symbol of the fight for Indigenous rights and preservation of the Amazon rainforest. 

During his presidential campaign, Bolsonaro advocated for stripping protections for Indigenous lands, guaranteed in the country’s constitution, to open the Amazon and tribal reserves up to agribusiness, mining and other industrial interests. As president, he has followed through on that promise, removing oversight of Indigenous lands from FUNAI, Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency, and placing it under the Ministry of Agriculture. 

Indigenous leaders have argued that these relaxed protections have led to dramatic spikes in raids on tribal lands and increases in attacks on Indigenous peoples. The killing of Indigenous leaders rose to the highest level in more than a decade in 2019, the lawsuit filed this week asserts. The same year, invasions of Indigenous lands increased 135%, according to Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council. Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency, meanwhile, issued its least amount of fines in two decades in 2019, even as deforestation surged.

The suit also asserts that the fires and Bolsonaro’s refusal to demarcate new Indigenous territories has forced people to leave their tribal lands and accuses the Brazilian president of persecuting environmental activists and NGOs, scientists and Indigenous peoples. 

Bolsonaro has faced constant opposition from Indigenous leaders throughout his presidency. In 2019, tribal activists traveled to New York to protest Bolsonaro’s policies at the United Nations General Assembly, which took place amid the outbreak of fires that engulfed the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous leaders have also fought to block Bolsonaro’s policies and some of his appointees to key agencies that oversee tribal affairs.

Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hammer the country, tribes attempted to stop the appointment of a former Christian missionary to head the agency that deals with isolated and uncontacted Amazon tribes ― an extension of an ongoing fight to keep missionaries from contacting isolated peoples who have little or no known contact with the outside world. 

Bolsonaro has continued his efforts to undermine environmental and Indigenous protections throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and in late April, Brazilian Environmental Minister Ricardo Salles suggested that the right-wing government should use the pandemic as cover to “to simplify regulation on a large scale” and “run the cattle herd” through the Amazon.

The number of wildfires surged again in 2020, but the Bolsonaro government’s 2021 budget proposal cuts funding for environmental protection and fire prevention by 27%, the São Paulo-based Observatório do Clima, a coalition of Brazilian civil society groups, said in a report released Friday. The government’s budget seeks to set funding for Brazil’s environmental ministry at its lowest overall level in more than two decades, the report said.

“The report shows that, in the last two years, the environmental and climate agenda in Brazil has suffered unimaginable setbacks on a frightening scale,” said Marcio Astrini, Observatório do Clima’s executive director, in a release that accompanied the report. “Bolsonaro adopted the destruction of the environment as a policy … he is directly responsible for the increase in fires, deforestation and national emissions.”

“The situation is dramatic,” Astrini said, “because the federal government, which is the one entity that could work out solutions for this scenario, is now the main generator of problems.”





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French Doctor Warns His Country Has ‘Lost Control’ Of Virus



Angela Merkels party

PARIS (AP) — A French doctor warned Monday that his country has “lost control of the epidemic,” a day after health authorities reported more than 52,000 new coronavirus cases as nations across Europe enact more sweeping restrictions to try to slow surging infection rates.

Spain — the first European country to surpass 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases — declared a state of emergency Sunday that included a nationwide overnight curfew, a cap of six people on social gatherings and possible travel bans in and out of the hardest-hit regions.

The effect was clear on Barcelona’s famed Las Ramblas promenade, which was deserted Sunday night when it normally would have been teeming with people.

In two major Italian cities, people took to the streets amid a pushback from small sections of society to new restrictions. On Friday, demonstrators in Naples protested a locally imposed 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and clashed with police. On Saturday night, far-right and neo-fascist groups led a similar protest in Rome against a curfew. Another protest is planned for Tuesday in Milan.

Dr. Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the scientific council that advises the French government on the virus, said the country is in a “very difficult, even critical situation.”

“There probably are more than 50,000 new cases every day. Our estimate at the Scientific Council is closer to 100,000 – twice as many,” Delfraissy told RTL radio. “Between those who aren’t tested and asymptomatic patients, we’re close to that number of cases. This means the virus is spreading extremely fast.”

Dr. Eric Caumes, head of infections and tropical diseases department at Paris’ Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, said the country needs to lock down again.

“We lost control of the epidemic but that doesn’t date from yesterday,” he said on broadcaster Franceinfo. “We lost control of the epidemic several weeks ago already.”

Europe’s confirmed death toll has surpassed 250,000 according to a count by Johns Hopkins University, which puts the global toll at more than 1.1 million.

Italy, the first country in the West to get slammed by COVID-19, took new measures over the weekend to try to rein in the new outbreak, ordering restaurants and bars closed by 6 p.m., and shutting down gyms, pools and movie theaters.

The measures, which took effect Monday, also require high schools to transition to at least 75% distance learning while letting younger students remain in classrooms. Indoor and outdoor gatherings, including those for religious reasons, are barred, and the government is strongly recommending people avoid having house guests and traveling in the country except for work, health or other necessities.

Milan trattoria owner Giuseppe Di Terlizzi fears the worst as he is forced to close in the evenings after already losing lunchtime customers because so many people work from home.

“We have high costs and almost zero revenue,” he said Sunday. “So it will be a disaster, if they don’t help us it will be the death of the restaurant business in Milan.”

Italy has been registering around 20,000 new confirmed infections per day and health authorities have warned that some hospital COVID-19 wards risk hitting the saturation point in the next week or two.

British authorities are likely to tighten restrictions on more areas of the country this week, amid mixed signs about whether measures introduced in the last few weeks have stemmed a steep rise in infections.

Government scientific advisers say there are some signs the increase has begun to level off since a three-tier system of restrictions came into force, but that it is too soon to be certain.

A large chunk of northern England, including the major cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, has been placed in the top tier of “very high” risk, with pubs closed and people from different households barred from mixing.

Lawmakers in the Czech Republic, which has been one of the hardest-hit nations in the pandemic’s resurgence in Europe, are set to approve this week a government plan to draft up to 300 military health personnel from NATO and EU countries to help treat the influx of patients.

They will help their Czech colleagues at Prague’s military hospital and at a field hospital for 500 patients that the armed forces completed over the weekend at Prague’s exhibition ground. The first group of 28 National Guard doctors from the United States is expected to arrive later this week.

Croatia, where the tourism minister tested positive over the weekend, is looking for help closer to home, urging retired doctors and medical students to join the fight against the virus. Authorities also are preparing the main indoor arena in the capital, Zagreb, as a potential makeshift COVID-19 hospital as hospitals fill with new coronavirus patients.

In Germany, the rising coronavirus numbers prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party on Monday to delay for the second time a decision on who will become its new leader — one that had already been pushed by the pandemic from the spring to December.

Whoever wins the Christian Democratic Union’s leadership will be in a position to become the center-right candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor in a German election expected next fall, although that isn’t guaranteed.

Corder reported from The Hague, Netherlands. Associated Press reporters across Europe contributed.

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Dutch King And Queen Abandon Vacation After Being Slammed For Travel Amid Pandemic



Greece

THE HAGUE (AP) — The Dutch royal couple were back in the Netherlands Saturday after their vacation trip to Greece had to be abandoned because of an uproar back home, where people are urged to stay at home as much as possible.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said in a statement that they saw the reactions of people, “which are intense, and they touch us.” As a result they said they would cancel the rest of their vacation.

“Let there be no doubt: To beat the COVID-19 virus it is necessary to follow the rules. The discussion caused by our vacation does not contribute to that.”

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the Netherlands has more than doubled over the past two weeks, to 42 cases per 100,000 people on Friday.

Dutch bars and restaurants were closed as of Wednesday as part of a partial lockdown that will last at least four weeks to counter the sustained surge in coronavirus cases across the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the nation needed to move a step closer to a full lockdown because otherwise hospitals would become so overburdened that people with other urgent needs would be unable to get treatment.

“We have to be tougher on ourselves,” Rutte said in an address to the nation. A royal vacation during the partial lockdown countered such advice.

“The vacation shows the wide gap between the king and society,” headlined the public broadcaster NOS.

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Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Accuses Putin Of Being Behind Poisoning



BERLIN

BERLIN (AP) — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is recovering in Germany after being poisoned in Russia by a nerve agent, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind the attack in comments released Thursday.

Navalny’s supporters have frequently maintained that such an attack could have only been ordered at the top levels, although the Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed the accusations.

Navalny, politician and corruption investigator who is Putin’s fiercest critic, was flown to Germany two days after falling ill on Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia. He spent 32 days in the hospital, 24 of them in intensive care, before doctors deemed his condition had improved sufficiently for him to be discharged.

He has posted frequent comments online as his recovery has progressed, but in his first interview since the attack, he told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that in his mind, “Putin was behind the attack,” in a German translation of his comments.

“I don’t have any other versions of how the crime was committed,” he said in a brief excerpt of the interview conducted in Berlin on Wednesday and to be released in full online later Thursday.

The Kremlin on Thursday said that “such accusations against the Russian president are absolutely groundless and unacceptable.”

“Some of these statements in the mentioned publication we consider offensive,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Peskov charged that “specialists” from the CIA were working with Navalny “these days” and giving him instructions.

“There is information that these instructors are working with him these days,” Peskov said. “Instructions the patient is receiving are obvious. We have seen such lines of behavior more than once.”

Earlier Thursday, Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house, called Navalny “shameless” and “dishonorable” and accused the politician of working with “security services of Western countries.”

“Putin saved his life,” Volodin said in a statement released by the Duma. “Everyone, from pilots and doctors to the president, were genuinely saving him. Only a dishonorable person can make statements like this.”

Navalny spent two days in a coma in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk, where Russian doctors said they found no trace of any poisoning, before being transported to Berlin for treatment. German chemical weapons experts determined that he was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok — findings corroborated by labs in France and Sweden.

The nerve agent used in the attack was the same class of poison that Britain said was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, in 2018.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the poisoning an attempted murder and she and other world leaders have demanded that Russia fully investigate the case.

Russia has bristled at the demands for an investigation, saying that Germany needs to share medical data in the case or compare notes with Russian doctors. Germany has noted that Russian doctors have their own samples from Navalny since he was in their care for 48 hours.

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has collected independent samples from Navalny for testing, but results haven’t yet been announced.

German doctors have said the 44-year-old Navalny could make a full recovery, though haven’t ruled out the possibility of long-term damage from the nerve agent.

Spiegel said Navalny was joking and alert in the interview, although his hands shook so much it was difficult for him to drink from a bottle of water. He also reiterated what his team has previously said — that he planned on returning to Russia when he was able to do so.

“My job now is to remain the guy who isn’t scared,” he was quoted as saying. “And I’m not scared.”





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Putin Critic Alexei Navalny Released From Hospital More Than 1 Month After Poisoning



Angela Charlton

BERLIN (AP) — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been released from a Berlin hospital after more than a month’s treatment for poisoning, with doctors now believing that a “complete recovery” from the Soviet-era nerve agent is possible for him, the hospital said Wednesday.

Navalny spent 32 days at Berlin’s Charite hospital, 24 of them in intensive care, before doctors deemed his “condition had improved sufficiently for him to be discharged from acute inpatient care.”

As he was released Tuesday, the 44-year-old displayed his characteristic sarcastic sense of humor. In an Instagram post, he took swipe at Russian President Vladimir Putin, scoffing at reported comments by the Russian leader suggesting that Navalny might have intentionally poisoned himself.

Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is Putin’s most visible opponent, was flown to Germany two days after falling ill on Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia. He spent those two days in a coma in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk, where Russian doctors said they found no trace of any poisoning.

German chemical weapons experts have determined that he was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok — findings corroborated by labs in France and Sweden.

The hospital said based on Navalny’s progress, physicians believe that a “complete recovery is possible,” but added it ”remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning.”

In recent days, Navalny has been posting regular photos of his convalescence from the hospital on Instagram, first showing him sitting up in his bed surrounded by his family, then up and about in the building.

In his post Tuesday night, he laughed off a report in the French newspaper Le Monde saying that Putin suggested to French President Emmanuel Macron in a call that he “could have taken the poison himself.”

“Good theory, I believe it deserves the most careful attention,” Navalny wrote in Russian. “Cooked Novichok in the kitchen. Took a sip from a flask on the plane. Fell into a coma.”

He wryly wrote that the “ultimate aim of my cunning plan” must have been to die in Siberia, where the cause of death would be “lived long enough.”

“But Putin outmaneuvered me. You can’t fool him,” Navalny wrote. “As a result, I lay in coma for 18 days like a fool, but didn’t get my way. The provocation failed!”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday said the report about Putin’s conversation with Macron was “inaccurate in its reported wording,” but refused to elaborate as to which part was inaccurate. Macron’s office refused to comment on the report.

The nerve agent used in the attack was the same class of Soviet-era poison that Britain said was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, in 2018. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the poisoning attempted murder and she and other world leaders have demanded that Russia fully investigate the case.

Navalny was kept in an induced coma for more than two weeks as he was treated with an antidote. Members of his team accused the Kremlin of involvement in the poisoning, charges that Russian officials have vehemently denied.

Russia has bristled at the demands for an investigation, saying that Germany needs to share medical data in the case or compare notes with Russian doctors.

Germany has noted that Navalny was in Russian treatment for 48 hours and that Russia has its own samples from Navalny. Peskov said Wednesday that Moscow needs data from Germany “to compare” tests results.

Germany has also enlisted the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for technical assistance in the case. The agency has collected independent samples from Navalny for testing but results have not yet been announced.

The Charite statement was released in consultation with Navalny and his wife, and the hospital would not comment further on any outpatient care for him.

Navalny’s team has said he eventually plans to return to Russia, but had no immediate statement after his release from the hospital.

Peskov said Wednesday that Navalny, “as any other Russian citizen,” is free to come back to Russia “at any moment.” He reiterated that what happened to the him remains “a big question” for the Kremlin, as Russian investigators “don’t have any facts pointing to” poisonous substances in Navalny’s body.

Peskov once again called for Germany, France and Sweden to share their data with Moscow.

“We’re still expecting it and are convinced that it can help us make significant progress in this case,” he said.

Litvinova reported from Moscow. Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.





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