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UN chief urges global plan to reverse unfair vaccine access

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UN chief urges global plan to reverse unfair vaccine access

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sharply criticized the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, saying 10 countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccinations and demanding a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible.

The U.N. chief told a high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council that 130 countries have not received a single dose of vaccine and declared that “at this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.”

Guterres called for an urgent Global Vaccination Plan to bring together those with the power to ensure equitable vaccine distribution — scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort.

And he called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency task force to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the task force should have the capacity “to mobilize the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors.”

Guterres said Friday’s meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations — the United States, Germany, Japan, Britain, France, Canada and Italy — “can create the momentum to mobilize the necessary financial resources.”

Thirteen ministers addressed the virtual council meeting organized by Britain on improving access to COVID-19 vaccinations, including in conflict areas.

The coronavirus has infected more than 109 million people and killed at least 2.4 million of them. As manufacturers struggle to ramp up production of vaccines, many countries complain of being left out and even rich nations are facing shortages and domestic complaints.

The World Health Organization’s COVAX program, an ambitious project to buy and deliver coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poorest people, has already missed its own goal of beginning coronavirus vaccinations in poor countries at the same time that shots were rolled out in rich countries. WHO says COVAX needs $5 billion in 2021.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the council the Biden administration “will work with our partners across the globe to expand manufacturing and distribution capacity and to increase access, including to marginalized populations.”

President Joe Biden has rejoined the WHO and Blinken announced that by the end of February the United States will pay over $200 million in previously assessed and current obligations to the U.N. agency, which Washington will seek to reform.

America’s top diplomat said the U.S. also plans to provide “significant financial support” to COVAX through the GAVI vaccine alliance, and will work to strengthen other multilateral initiatives involved in the global COVID-19 response. He gave no details.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized the growing “immunity divide” and called on the world to “come together to reject `vaccine nationalism,’ promote fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, and, in particular, make them accessible and affordable for developing countries, including those in conflict.”

At WHO’s request, he said, China will contribute 10 million doses of vaccines to COVAX “preliminarily.”

China has donated vaccines to 53 developing countries including Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan and Palestine, which is a U.N. observer state. It has also exported vaccines to 22 countries, he said, adding that Beijing has launched research and development cooperation on COVID-19 with more than 10 countries.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar also called for a halt to “vaccine nationalism” and encouragement for internationalism. “Hoarding superfluous doses will defeat our efforts towards attaining collective health security,” he warned.

Jaishankar said India has been at the forefront of the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, initially providing medicine, ventilators and personal protective equipment and now directly sending made-in-India vaccines to 25 nations across the world, with 49 additional countries from Europe and Latin America to Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands slated to receive vaccines “in the coming days.”

Two vaccines, including one developed in India, have been granted emergency authorization, the minister said, and as many as 30 vaccine candidates are in various stages of development.

Jaishankar announced “a gift of 200,000 doses” of vaccine for about 90,000 U.N. peacekeepers serving in a dozen hotspots around the world.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, whose country is currently president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, called for speeding up COVAX and stopping the ”undue hoarding” and “monopolization of vaccines.”

He urged that priority be given to countries with limited resources, saying “it’s been pointed out that these countries won’t have generalized access until the middle of 2023 if current trends persist.”

“What we are seeing is a huge gap,” Ebrard said. “In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a huge division affecting so many in such a short space of time. That is why it’s important to reverse this.”

He urged the international community not to establish mechanisms that could prevent the speedy delivery of vaccines but instead to strengthen supply chains “that will promote and guarantee universal access.”

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, whose country holds the Security Council presidency this month and presided at the virtual meeting, urged the U.N.’s most powerful body to adopt a resolution calling for local cease-fires in conflict zones to allow the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Cease-fires have been used to vaccinate the most vulnerable communities in the past,” he said. “There’s no reason why we can’t… We have seen it in the past to deliver polio vaccines to children in Afghanistan, just to take one example.”

Britain says more than 160 million people are at risk of being excluded from coronavirus vaccinations because they live in countries engulfed in conflict and instability, including Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Barbara Woodward said: “Humanitarian organizations and U.N. agencies need the full backing of the council to be able to carry out the job we are asking them to do.”

Britain has drafted a Security Council resolution that the U.K. hopes will be adopted in the coming weeks, she said.

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Ducks escape certain death to visit NYC bagel store

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Ducks escape certain death to visit NYC bagel store

This fowl plot to get bread was nearly eggsecuted perfectly.

On Monday, a gang of ducklings and their mama hatched a plan to eat the bill at a Brooklyn bagel store, and were almost successful in their mission thanks to a group of supportive locals. 

“A real-life ‘Make Way For Ducklings’ scene just unfolded in Brooklyn with this mama duck and her babies trying to cross 5th Ave,” Doug Gordon captioned a video he posted to Twitter of the enterprising bird family’s journey from under an NYPD school safety van and directly into oncoming traffic. “Multiple people helped stop traffic to get them safely across the street. But it gets better . . .”

After spotting the endangered crew of bird brains lolling around in the street, locals immediately went into action. 

“A couple of us jumped out to stop traffic so they didn’t get run over, and then they got to the other side. It was adorable, a real Brooklyn-steps-up sort of moment, New Yorkers taking charge,” Gordon told Gothamist. 

Once safely on the sidewalk, the chicks and their mother beelined for Bagel World Park Slope. 

“They were in there a couple minutes, but I didn’t see what happened inside,” Gordon told the publication. “I don’t know whether they decided to come out because they didn’t see anything on the menu they liked, or if they were chased out.”

In Gordon’s video, the fledgling family exits the eatery, lured out by employees tossing breadcrumbs beyond the premises as onlookers label them “so cute.” 

Gordon and another man then trailed the ducks to ensure they made their way across Fourth Street without injury. 

Later, Gordon learned that the ducks had the good fortune of being escorted four more blocks to Prospect Park by other sympathetic humans. 

“Someone said [they had] led them up to Prospect Park, so they got there safely,” Gordon said. “They waddled into the woods, so it’s a happy ending.”

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Endangered corpse flower blooms in Warsaw, drawing crowds

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The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, or the corpse flower, at the rare moment of bloom for just a few hours, and emitting rotten meat odor, at the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens, in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday, June 13, 2021.

WARSAW, Poland — The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, a giant foul-smelling blossom also known as the corpse flower, went into a rare, short bloom at a botanical garden in Warsaw, drawing crowds who waited for hours to see it.

The extraordinary flower, which emits a dead-body odor to attract pollinating insects that feed on flesh, bloomed Sunday. It was already withering early Monday. Those wishing to avoid the smell and crowds could watch it on live video from the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens.

 The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, or the corpse flower, at the rare moment of bloom for just a few hours, and emitting rotten meat odor, at the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens, in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday, June 13, 2021.
The endangered Sumatran Titan arum, or the corpse flower, at the rare moment of bloom for just a few hours and emitting a rotten meat odor, at the Warsaw University Botanical Gardens, on June 13, 2021.
AP

Hundreds, if not thousands, lined up long into the night Sunday and Monday morning at the conservatory just to be able to pass by the flower and take a picture.

Know also as the Amorphophallus titanum, the flowering plant has the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, which can be up to 10 feet high. Its compound flower is composed of a hollow, tall spadix with small flowers and a spathe, with one big, furrowed petal that is green on the outside and deep burgundy red on the inside. It’s blooming is rare and unpredictable.

The plant only grows in the wild in the rainforests of Sumatra, but it is endangered there due to deforestation. Cultivation at botanical gardens, where they are a great visitor attraction, has helped its preservation. It’s first known blooming outside Sumatra was in 1889 at London’s Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

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Europe carbon prices expected to soar amid tougher climate goals

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Steam rises from the cooling towers of the coal power plant of RWE, one of Europe's biggest electricity and gas companies in Niederaussem, Germany, March 3, 2016.

LONDON – Carbon prices in the European Union’s emissions trading system are expected to rise significantly in the next decade due to tougher climate goals, market participants said in an industry survey published on Monday.

The EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) is the largest carbon market in the world, covering around 45% of the bloc’s output of greenhouse gases and charging emitters for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.

The survey by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) found members expect carbon prices in the EU ETS to average $57 a tonne between 2021 and 2025 and $71.06 a tonne between 2026 and 2030.

This is mainly due to a tougher EU goal of cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Last year’s survey predicted an average price of 31.71 euros a tonne for the third phase of the ETS which runs from 2021 to 2030. Benchmark prices in the ETS currently trade around $64.24 a tonne.

Britain’s domestic emissions trading scheme started trading in May this year. The majority of survey respondents expect it will link with the EU scheme by 2023.

Participants anticipate that the average global carbon price needed by 2030 to put the world on track to meet goals to curb global temperature rise is $76.61 a tonne, up from last year’s expectation of $67.84 a tonne.

IETA’s members include banks, exchanges and energy and industrial firms. The association received responses from 158 member representatives for the survey.

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