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A Record-setting Number of People Have Been Forced to Flee Their Homes

Carlos Lawson

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(CNN)War, violence, persecution and human rights abuses have pushed the world past a “dramatic milestone,” according to a new report from the UN’s refugee agency.

More than 100 million people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the UNHCR’s Global Trends Report, which describes that figure as a record high.
“Either the international community comes together to take action to address this human tragedy, resolve conflicts and find lasting solutions, or this terrible trend will continue,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.
The UN agency first announced the record-setting figure in May. At the time, Grandi described it as “sobering and alarming.” Thursday’s report explores the trends behind it in greater detail.
“With millions of Ukrainians displaced at the time of writing, as well as further displacement elsewhere this year, notably in Burkina Faso and Myanmar, total forced displacement now exceeds 100 million people,” the report says.
“This means 1 in every 78 people on earth has been forced to flee — a dramatic milestone that few would have expected a decade ago.”
UNHCR says the latest forced displacement figure includes 60.1 million internally displaced people, 32.1 million refugees, 4.5 million asylum seekers and 4.4 million Venezuelans displaced abroad. That adds up to a number that’s larger than the population of most countries.
David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, described the 100 million figure as an “appalling mark” that shows “global failure.” It “will be the prelude to higher and higher numbers without urgent action,” he warned, calling for increasing refugee resettlement commitments and boosting humanitarian aid to crisis zones.

Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee

The UN report released Thursday largely focuses on 2021, noting that year was “perhaps most notable for the sheer number of existing conflicts that escalated and new conflicts that flared up.” But its authors note that developments in early 2022 were impossible to ignore.
More than 7 million Ukrainians were displaced within the country due to war, and more than 6 million refugees have fled Ukraine, the report says.
“It is one of the largest forced displacement crises since World War II, and certainly the fastest,” the report says.

Turkey hosted the largest refugee population in 2021

In 2021, the report says, Turkey hosted the world’s largest refugee population, nearly 3.8 million people.
And the report says more than two thirds of the number of refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad came from just five countries: Syria (6.8 million), Venezuela (4.6 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.4 million) and Myanmar (1.2 million).
The number of displaced people worldwide has increased every year over the past decade and stands at the highest level since recordkeeping began, the report says.
The report’s release comes just days before World Refugee Day on Monday, when organizations work to raise awareness about the plight of refugees.

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Source: edition.cnn.com

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COVID-19 Deaths Rise, Reversing a 5-Week Decline, WHO Says

Carlos Lawson

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GENEVA — After five weeks of declining coronavirus deaths, the number of fatalities reported globally increased by 4% last week, according to the World Health Organization.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic issued on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said there were 8,700 COVID-19 deaths last week, with a 21% jump in the Americas and a 17% increase in the Western Pacific.

WHO said coronavirus cases continued to fall, with about 3.2 million new cases reported last week, extending a decline in COVID-19 infections since the peak in January. Still, there were significant spikes of infection in some regions, with the Middle East and Southeast Asia reporting increases of 58% and 33% respectively.

Read More: Hit Hard By COVID-19, Black Americans Share Their Grief

“Because many countries have reduced surveillance and testing, we know this number is under-reported,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this week. He said there was “no acceptable level of deaths from COVID-19,” given that the global community now has the vaccines, medicines and diagnostics to stop the virus.

While many rich countries in Europe and North America have mostly dropped their virus restrictions, China’s extreme COVID-19 policies have meant more mass testing, quarantines and sequestering of anyone who was in contact with a case.

China’s capital put school back online this week in one of its major districts amid a new COVID-19 outbreak linked to a nightclub. Residents in Beijing are still undergoing regular testing — mostly every other day — and must wear masks and swipe a mobile phone app to enter public places and facilitate case tracing.

China has maintained its “zero-COVID” policy despite considerable economic costs and an assertion from the head of the World Health Organization that the policy isn’t sustainable.

Read More: The Rising Costs of China’s Zero-COVID Policy

This week, U.S. officials moved a step closer to authorizing coronavirus vaccines for the youngest children, after the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisers gave a thumbs-up to vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for children under 5.

The outside experts voted unanimously that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risks for children under 5 — that’s roughly 18 million youngsters. They are the last age group in the U.S. without access to COVID-19 vaccines, and many parents have been anxious to protect their little children.

If all the regulatory steps are cleared, shots should be available next week.

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Homes Made From Straw or Fungi Can Now Get You a Cheaper Mortgage in the Netherlands

Carlos Lawson

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Lots of things can affect the interest rate you pay on your mortgage: your deposit amount, the state of the economy, your credit score. Now, there’s a new factor for Dutch homebuyers: what your home is made of.

This month Triodos, a Netherlands-headquartered bank, launched what it calls a “bio-based mortgage.” Customers who buy or build homes made from natural materials like wood, flax, straw, and even fungi will pay lower interest rates than those who use other materials. The aim, Triodos says, is to stimulate the use of those plant-based substances in construction because they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional steel, concrete, and cement.

This isn’t the first time a bank has tied interest rates to the environmental performance of buildings. In recent years, as the fight against climate change has gathered pace and banks have sought to bolster green credentials, the market for energy efficiency mortgages has expanded rapidly. These so-called “green mortgages” charge lower interest rates for homes that need less energy to run because they are well insulated or use technology to control energy use. The logic is two-fold: First, homeowners who pay less for energy will have more money to pay their mortgages, and are therefore a safer bet for banks. Second, offering cheaper mortgages for more energy efficient homes makes them more desirable and encourages developers to build them, which generates housing stock that produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the 1990s, state and local governments in the U.S. have also facilitated a series of energy efficient mortgage programs, in which homebuyers can borrow extra money to cover the cost of energy efficiency retrofits. In the Netherlands, Triodos offered the country’s first energy efficiency mortgage in 2012, and in 2020 the bank stopped offering full mortgages on all buildings with low energy efficiency ratings.

But climate advocates say focusing only on reducing energy use in homes ignores a big part of the carbon footprint of buildings. Before you even get the keys to your home, huge quantities of planet-warming pollution have already been pumped into the atmosphere to produce and assemble the building materials. Those emissions from the construction industry are known as “embodied” or “embedded” carbon. They make up a staggering 11% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Green Building Council.

In the Netherlands, tackling embodied carbon is a particularly hot topic. Because the country has already gotten good at building well-insulated buildings powered by renewable energy, the carbon emitted during construction accounts for a larger share of a building’s lifetime footprint than in the rest of Europe–as much as 90%, according to Triodos.

The plant-based construction methods encouraged by Triodos’ new mortgage are one option for reducing emissions from construction: where steel factories emit large amounts of carbon dioxide to produce the metal, for example, plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, and materials made from them can store it for hundreds of years, if treated properly. Wood is the most popular bio-based option, but engineers have also developed new materials such as bricks made from algae and foams made from fungi.

A 2020 study in IOPScience by researchers in Finland found that, in a scenario where the percentage of new buildings in Europe made from wood increased from 10% in 2020 to 80% by 2040, and if wood was used in more building elements than it currently is, 0.42 gigatonnes of carbon could be removed from the atmosphere over that 20 year period–about a fifth of the E.U.’s emissions for 2020. At the same time, thousands of metric tons of carbon dioxide that would be generated by producing steel and concrete would be avoided.

In the U.S., some have raised concerns about using already-popular traditional wooden methods for homes in wildfire-prone areas. But wood advocates say that newer forms of the material, such as cross-laminated timber, perform well in fires, and that creating a larger market for timber for building would actually improve forest management and reduce fire risk.

The push to expand the use of plant-based materials is gaining traction in the U.S. In June, the Department of Energy announced $39 million in grants for companies producing bio-based carbon-absorbing building materials. “There’s huge, untapped potential in reimagining building materials and construction techniques as carbon sinks,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

In the Netherlands, meanwhile, Triodos estimates that only around 1 or 2% of buildings are made from bio-based materials. But government initiatives already aim to increase that number; officials in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area struck a deal to make sure one in five new-build homes are made from wood by 2025.

To verify the bio credentials of buildings it lends on, Triodos will use environmental performance scores given to all new buildings under Dutch law, allowing the bank to give them a rating between G and A++++, before factoring in a separate measurement on the carbon storage of a building’s materials calculated by their partner Alba Concepts, a real estate consultant. Buildings rated A++++ qualify for a rate 0.15% lower than buildings rated B. And buildings rated A++++ that also use plant-based materials qualify for a further 0.15% rate discount, giving them a rate 0.3% lower than conventional buildings rated B.

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Source: time.com

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Here’s All the World Leaders Who Have Visited Ukraine

Carlos Lawson

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Four European leaders became the latest heads of state to visit Ukraine Thursday as it continues to fend off Russian forces that have recently made significant advances in the country’s southern and eastern regions.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis arrived in Kyiv amid the country’s bid for E.U. candidate status and a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for more arms. “We all four support providing Ukraine E.U. candidacy status,” Macron said after a joint meeting with Zelensky.

Zelensky has previously criticized France, Germany, and Italy for being restrained in their support for Ukraine. He has also previously accused Macron for trying “in vain” to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Read more: TIME’s Interview with Volodymyr Zelensky

The visit comes as the European Commission weighs as early as Friday whether to recommend granting Ukraine official E.U. candidate status; doing so would require unanimous approval from all 27 E.U. nations. The European Commission is expected to back Ukraine’s bid for E.U. candidate status but experts say it will take years for Ukraine to meet membership criteria.

Below, a list of world leaders who have visited Ukraine since the war began:

French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron

Macron promised Thursday that France would be sending six more truck-mounted artillery guns, the Associated Press reported.

Macron had recently spoken in support of Ukraine’s attempts to secure E.U. candidate status. “I want us to send a clear and positive signal, but we have to build unanimity among E.U. members,” he said Wednesday. But he also added, “If we applied normal rules, we would not grant [E.U. candidate status]. It’s the context of war that makes us consider this move.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Scholz has been outspoken in his support for Ukraine’s E.U. candidate status bid. “We came to #Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family. Germany wants a positive decision in favor of Ukraine as a #EU candidate country,” he tweeted Thursday.

Germany has been skeptical about E.U. membership for Ukraine. “Ukraine is an integral part of Europe, I wish that we will find a strong and convincing answer to your desire to join–even if there can be no shortcut on the way to full E.U. membership,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in May.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi

“The biggest message we want to send in this trip is that Italy wants Ukraine in the E.U.,” Draghi said Thursday, according to Bloomberg News. “Italy, France, and Germany are here to give unconditional support to Ukraine.”

Read more: The Ukraine War Is Becoming Putin’s Vietnam

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv in April amid promises of more military aid. “The U.K. will send more defensive weapons to Ukraine and will work with G7 partners to target every pillar of the Russian economy to ensure Putin fails,” he tweeted shortly after the visit.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Ukraine on May 8 and discussed getting additional humanitarian, financial, and military assistance from the international community. “As Russia continues its ongoing illegal and unjustifiable war against Ukraine, Canada will continue to be there to support Ukraine and its people,” Trudeau said in a statement.

Other world leaders who visited Ukraine

The prime ministers of Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia were the first Western leaders to visit Ukraine on Mar. 15. Presidents from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland visited Kyiv on Apr. 13 to meet with Zelensky to rally for military support from the international community and condemn Russia. “This is not war, this is terrorism,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said at a news conference, Reuters reported.

Notable absences

U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to not visit Ukraine since the war broke out has drawn scrutiny. (First Lady Jill Biden made a surprise visit last month.) The White House has previously cited security concerns as the main deterrent. The U.S. announced Wednesday that it would be sending an additional $1 billion in military aid.

Read more: Ukraine Won’t Get Key Weapons From Biden’s Latest $1 Billion Aid Package For Months

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Source Here: time.com

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