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Trudeau Says Canada and Netherlands Must Join Forces Again to Fight Extremism, Climate Threat

Yesenia Harris



Speaking in the Hague’s Binnenhof with dozens of Dutch parliamentarians in attendance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Friday for a new era of partnership between Canada and the Netherlands as they both grapple with a “more unpredictable world.”

Citing Canada’s liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi rule during the Second World War, Trudeau said the two allies are uniquely qualified to work together to tackle some common challenges: rising online extremism, inequality and the existential threat of climate change.

“If our two countries are bound together, and I know that we are, it is not only by our shared history. It is by our common future,” Trudeau said in his 20-minute address, delivered in the 13th century Ridderzaal, a former castle that is used for official visits and the annual state opening of parliament.

“As friends, allies and partners across the Atlantic, Canada and the Netherlands share a commitment to the brighter tomorrow we want to see, and the progressive values that will get us there.”

Trudeau specifically cited conspiracy theorists, intolerance and “marginalized angry people online” as urgent issues for the Western world that demand a robust response from like-minded countries.

“We are not on the front lines of a world war as our grandparents were. That does not mean, though, that we can sit back and just assume the work they started is done. My friends, our work is just beginning,” he said.

“My friends, we have faith that what we do today will have an impact tomorrow because if we sow the seeds of a brighter future, that better day will arrive. That’s what Canadian soldiers believed when they landed on the beaches of Europe 80 years ago. It’s what they believed as they fought their way to the Netherlands.”

PM honours war dead at ceremony

Trudeau had planned to be in Europe for the 75th anniversary of the Dutch liberation but COVID-19 derailed those plans. More than 7,500 Canadian men and women died while freeing the Netherlands from Nazi rule in late 1944 and early 1945, before Germany’s surrender.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a bilateral press conference with Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte at parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

To mark Canada’s considerable military sacrifices, Trudeau travelled with Princess Margriet — a member of the Dutch royal family who was born in Ottawa while in exile during the Second World War — to lay a wreath at the Bergen op Zoom Canadian war cemetery in the country’s south.

Princess Juliana — who later reigned as Queen of the Netherlands from 1948 to 1980 — went with her family to Canada during the Nazi occupation of their country, staying at the Stornoway residence in Ottawa.

Juliana gave birth to Margriet at the Ottawa Civic Hospital in 1943 and Canada temporarily ceded its claim to that territory to ensure the young princess was born a Dutch national. The diplomatic gesture ensured Margriet would not be kept out of the line of succession to the throne.

Trudeau and Margriet, accompanied by a bagpiper who played the Last Post, took part in a small ceremony Friday at a cenotaph in Bergen op Zoom, a site that contains 1,118 war dead. The two then visited three different grave sites where a guide recounted stories about each of the soldiers’ wartime experiences.

Trudeau, centre, and Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, left, visit the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen op Zoom, southwestern Netherlands, on Friday. (Peter Dejong/The Associated Press)

In his speech to MPs, Trudeau invoked the war, saying Canada and the Netherlands must summon the sort of strength they showed during that military conflict to address rising global temperatures.

“As climate change threatens our world, aren’t we once again called to step up and defend a bright tomorrow for our children?” Trudeau said. “Climate change is the test of our generation.”

Rutte backs Canada’s climate security centre

Trudeau then met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to discuss bilateral issues, the upcoming G20 meeting in Rome and the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow — events where the push to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions will feature prominently.

“The Netherlands and Canada have so many points in common,” said Trudeau during a joint news conference.

“It just makes sense for us to be standing side by side as we push and nudge the rest of the world to do more.”

Trudeau, centre, and Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, left, visit the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen op Zoom, southwestern Netherlands, on Friday. (Peter Dejong/The Associated Press)

Trudeau and Rutte — who leads the centrist People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy — are ideologically aligned and have been at the forefront of convincing climate laggards to do more to help turn back rising global temperatures

Rutte publicly backed Canada as the home of a new NATO centre of excellence to study the security threats posed by climate change.

“In the Netherlands’ view, Canada would be the perfect home for this platform, given a strong profile and commitment to this important issue,” he said Friday.

Trudeau announced his plans to seek ally support for the climate security centre during the NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels in June. Canada said the centre would help NATO members better understand, adapt to and mitigate against the security implications of climate change.

The hope is to have the design and negotiation process take place this year and into next and then to start to establish the centre itself in 2023.

Trudeau pressed on Canada’s emissions targets

While at the Binnenhof, Trudeau took questions from some of the Dutch MPs gathered for his speech. He was challenged by Jesse Klaver, the leader of the Green-Left Party, to explain why Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets are less than what the European Union has pitched. Klaver asked why Canada’s expressions of concern about the climate crisis aren’t matched by ambition on emissions targets.

Trudeau said the fight against climate change can’t be defined by targets alone; they must also be matched by a realistic plan to shift the economy to cleaner energy sources. Canada, as a major oil and gas producer, cannot be easily compared to a country like the Netherlands that engages less in fossil fuel extraction, Trudeau said.

“So much of the energy is around setting the targets rather than digging into actually having a concrete plan or roadmap to get there,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau is greeted by Dominique Kuhling, director of protocol for the Netherlands, middle, and Lisa Helfand, Ambassador of Canada to the Netherlands, right, as he arrives in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Thursday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

At an international climate summit in April, Trudeau promised Canada will reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — which would cut total emissions much more than the target first pitched by the former Conservative government and agreed to by former environment minister Catherine McKenna at the Paris climate talks in 2015.

“One of the commitments I made at Paris six years ago, even as Canada was stepping up in its climate leadership, was that we would not move forward in announcing targets until we had a real and concrete plan to meet them and that’s what we’ve been working on over the last number of years,” Trudeau said to Klaver.

Trudeau said Friday Canada is “demonstrably on track to meet 36 per cent below the 2005 targets” and will push to go even further at it hastens the transition away from fossil fuels.

When he finished answering Klaver’s question, Trudeau quipped, “Nice hair” — an apparent reference to the MP’s similar hairstyle.

Green-Left party Leader Jesse Klaver gestures during an interview in The Hague, Netherlands, in March 2017. Klaver, who bears a striking resemblance to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pressed the Canadian leader Friday on the country’s climate commitments. (Peter Dejong/The Associated Press)

The prime minister was also pressed by Raymond de Roon, a member of the Party of Freedom, a right-wing populist party, to explain Canada’s position on China, a country the MP identified as a threat to the Western world.

Trudeau assured the MP that Canada is similarly concerned about China’s influence.

“Canada continues to have very real concerns around China and human rights, whether it’s the situation with the Uyghurs, the situation with Hong Kong or the South China Sea,” Trudeau said, adding he was grateful the Dutch exerted diplomatic pressure on China to free Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.

“China poses challenges to democracies around the world,” Trudeau said.

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Russia Launches Fresh Offensive, Wants Sanctions Relief to Free up Ukraine Food Supply Routes

Yesenia Harris




Updates from Day 91 of the invasion

Severodonetsk remains under attack in the east, Ukraine officials say.

Zelenksy addresses Davos gathering, repeats willingness to negotiate with Russia.

Russia wants sanctions relief in exchange for access to food supply corridors.

Russia to eliminate upper age limit for military service.

U.S. won’t extend waiver that has allowed Russia to keep up with debt payments.

Russian forces launched offensives on towns in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, with constant mortar bombardment destroying several houses and killing civilians, Ukrainian officials said, as Russia focuses its attack on the industrial Donbas region.

Russia has been focused on attempting to seize the separatist-claimed Donbas’s two provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, and trap Ukrainian forces in a pocket on the main eastern front, according to Ukrainian officials.

In the easternmost part of the Ukrainian-held Donbas pocket, the city of Severodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets River and its twin Lysychansk, on the west bank, have become a pivotal battlefield. Russian forces were advancing from three directions to encircle them.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said Russian forces launched an offensive on Severodonetsk early on Wednesday and the town was under constant fire from mortars.

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said six civilians were killed and at least eight wounded, most near bomb shelters, in Severodonetsk.

Smoke rises above a weapon manned by pro-Russian troops toward the direction of Severodonetsk on Tuesday in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

“At the moment, with the support of artillery, the Russian occupiers are attacking Severodonetsk,” Gaidai said.

Ukraine’s military said it had repelled nine Russian attacks on Tuesday in the Donbas, where Moscow’s troops had killed at least 14 civilians, using aircraft, rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars and missiles.

WATCH | Russian troops would have to know some orders are unlawful: expert:

Expect dozens more war crimes trials to come due to Russia-Ukraine war, expert says

23 hours ago

Targeting unarmed civilians during war is ‘always criminal’ said Michael Newton, a law professor and former U.S. State Department official. There are dozens more war crimes trials to come out of the war between Ukraine and Russia, he said.

Reuters could not immediately verify information about the fighting.

The Donbas fighting follows Russia’s biggest victory in months: the surrender last week of Ukraine’s garrison in the port of Mariupol after a siege in which Kyiv believes tens of thousands of civilians were killed.

Three months into the invasion, Russia still has only limited gains to show for its worst military loss in decades, while much of Ukraine has suffered devastation in the biggest attack on a European state since 1945.

Zelensky said Wednesday that Russia must pull back to its prewar positions as a first step before diplomatic talks, a negotiating line that Moscow is unlikely to agree to anytime soon.

Speaking by video link to attendees at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Zelensky expressed a willingness to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin directly, but stressed that Moscow needs to make clear it, too, is ready to “shift from the bloody war to diplomacy.”

“[Diplomacy is] possible if Russia shows at least something. When I say at least something, I mean pulling back troops to where they were before Feb. 24,” Zelensky said, referring to the day Russia’s invasion began. “I believe it would be a correct step for Russia to make.”

Grain, food exports remain blocked

The war has also caused growing food shortages and soaring prices due to sanctions and disruption of supply chains. Both Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of grain and other commodities.

Russia said it was ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine, in return for the lifting of some sanctions, the Interfax news agency cited Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have been blocked since Russia sent thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, and more than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in silos in the country.

WATCH | Recriminations, but few solutions so far to free up food supply routes:

Ukraine war deepens global food crisis

17 hours ago

The impact of the Ukraine war extends far beyond the country’s borders as Russian forces have destroyed crops and blockaded ports along the Black Sea, affecting the food supply in Africa and the Middle East.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, and the lack of significant grain exports from Ukraine ports is contributing to a growing global food crisis.

Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.

Western powers have been discussing the idea of setting up “safe corridors” for grain exports from Ukraine’s ports, adding that any such corridor would need Russian consent.

“We have repeatedly stated on this point that a solution to the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions,” Rudenko was quoted as saying.

“And it also requires the demining by the Ukrainian side of all ports where ships are anchored. Russia is ready to provide the necessary humanitarian passage, which it does every day,” he said.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of planting drifting mines in the Black Sea.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday that Russia was using food supplies as a weapon with global repercussions.

“We are always ready for dialogue with all those who seek … peaceful resolution of all problems. I leave Ursula von der Leyen’s statement to her conscience,” Rudenko said.

He said that Russia would discuss the possibility exchanging prisoners with Ukraine once those who surrendered had been convicted. Russian and separatist officials have said some of those who surrendered should be tried for war crimes.

British military authorities say Ukraine’s overland export routes are “highly unlikely” to offset the problems caused by Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea port of Odesa.

The U.K. Ministry of Defence, in an update posted Wednesday morning, says there has been no “significant” merchant shipping in or out of Odesa since the start of the Russian invasion.

WATCH | Canada sends more military aid to Ukraine:

Canada is sending almost $100M in military aid to Ukraine

21 hours ago

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced that the federal government is set to send Canada’s biggest single donation of military equipment to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion.

The ministry says that the blockade, combined with the lack of overland routes, means that significant supplies of grain remain in storage and can’t be exported.

“While the threat of Russia’s naval blockade continues to deter access by commercial shipping to Ukrainian ports, the resulting supply shortfalls will further increase the price of many staple products,” the ministry said.

Russia could be squeezed by U.S. move on debt

The U.S. announced early Wednesday it would not extend a waiver set to expire on Wednesday that enabled Russia to bondholders.

The Treasury Department said on its website late on Tuesday it would not extend the waiver, set to expire Wednesday, which allowed Russia to make interest and maturity payments on its sovereign debt.

A boy plays in front of houses ruined by shelling in Borodyanka, Ukraine, Tuesday, near Kyiv. While the Russian military has largely abandoned that region at present, the damage from the earliest days of the invasion is apparent. (Natacha Pisarenko/The Associated Press)

That waiver has allowed Russia to keep up government debt payments, but its expiry now appears to make default inevitable — the country’s first major one on international sovereign bonds in more than a century.

Almost $2 billion US worth of payments on Russian international bonds fall due before year-end.

Unlike in most default situations, Moscow is not short of money. Russia’s debt repayment dues pale in comparison to its oil and gas revenues, which stood at $28 billion in April alone thanks to high energy prices.

The Russian Finance Ministry said it will pay in rubles and offer “the opportunity for subsequent conversion into the original currency,” but that could be viewed by foreign investors as a default.

Russia to amend military service age rules

Russia’s parliament approved a law on Wednesday removing the upper age limit for contractual service in the military, amid heavy casualties in Ukraine. The bill now needs only the signature of Putin to become law.

Currently, only Russians aged 18-40 and foreigners aged 18-30 can enlist as professional soldiers in the Russian military.

Russia’s defence ministry said on March 25 that 1,351 service personnel had been killed and 3,825 wounded since Moscow sent its armed forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24. It has not updated its casualty figures since.

Both Ukrainian and Western intelligence officials have said Russia’s losses in Ukraine were significantly higher at the time, and have risen sharply since March.

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Earth’s Oceans Were the Hottest, Most Acidic on Record in 2021, UN Report Finds

Yesenia Harris




The world’s oceans grew to their warmest and most acidic levels on record last year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday, as United Nations officials warned that war in Ukraine threatened global climate commitments.

Oceans saw the most striking extremes as the WMO detailed a range of turmoil wrought by climate change in its annual State of the Global Climate report. It said melting ice sheets had helped push sea levels to new heights in 2021.

“Our climate is changing before our eyes. The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a statement.

The report follows the latest UN climate assessment, which warned that humanity must drastically cut its greenhouse gas emissions or face increasingly catastrophic changes to the world’s climate.

The world’s oceans are the most acidic in at least 26,000 years, the UN agency said. (J. Sumerling/Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority via Associated Press)

Taalas told reporters there was scant airtime for climate challenges as other crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, grabbed headlines.

Selwin Hart, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special adviser on climate action, criticized countries reneging on climate commitments due to the conflict, which has pushed up energy prices and prompted European nations to seek to replace Russia as an energy supplier.

“We are … seeing many choices being made by many major economies which, quite frankly, have the potential to lock in a high-carbon, high-polluting future and will place our climate goals at risk,” Hart told reporters.

On Tuesday, global equity index giant MSCI warned that the world faces a dangerous increase in greenhouse gases if Russian gas is replaced with coal.

The WMO report said levels of climate-warming carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere in 2021 surpassed previous records.

Globally, the average temperature last year was 1.11 C above the preindustrial average — as the world edges closer to the 1.5 C threshold beyond which the effects of warming are expected to become drastic.

“It is just a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record,” Taalas said.

Oceans bear much of the brunt of the warming and emissions. The bodies of water absorb around 90 per cent of the Earth’s accumulated heat and 23 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions from human activity.

The ocean has warmed markedly faster in the last 20 years, hitting a new high in 2021, and is expected to become even warmer, the report said. That change would likely take centuries or millennia to reverse, it noted.

The ocean is also now its most acidic in at least 26,000 years as it absorbs and reacts with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Sea level has risen 4.5 centimetres in the last decade, with the annual increase from 2013 to 2021 more than double what it was from 1993 to 2002.

The WMO also listed individual extreme heat waves, wildfires, floods and other climate-linked disasters around the world, noting reports of more than $100 billion in damages.

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NASA’s Mars InSight Mission Coming to an End As Dust Covers Solar Panels

Yesenia Harris



A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise.

The Insight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off.

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist.

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago.

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface — rovers Curiosity and Perseverance — are still going strong thanks to nuclear power.

The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival.

Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max.

The InSight team anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or a dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close.

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters.

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow five metres underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a half-metre because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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