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German Greens make election pledge to meet climate goals

German Greens make election pledge to meet climate goals

With less than two months before Germany holds an election, the environmentalist Green party has announced a 10-point plan that puts the Paris climate accord’s goal at the heart of its election programBy FRANK JORDANS Associated PressAugust 3, 2021, 7:59 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBERLIN — With less than two months before Germany holds an election, the environmentalist Green party announced a 10-point plan Tuesday that puts the Paris climate accord’s goal at the heart of its election program.Among the measures proposed is the creation of a dedicated Climate Ministry that would have the power to veto government decisions which don’t comply with the 2015 Paris Agreement’s target of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).“We need to set a course that would make 1.5 degrees possible,” said Annalena Baerbock, the party’s candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor in the Sept. 26 vote.Scientists say the goal will be hard to achieve without a wholesale change to the entire world economy, and even the less-ambitious target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees (3.6F) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times will be a challenge.Co-leader Robert Habeck acknowledged that the Green party’s plan would be expensive.“Somebody is going to have to pay for it,” he said, adding that the Greens want the additional money needed to be raised through greater government borrowing that he said would spur economic growth.Other measures the party is proposing include a sharp expansion of renewable energy — with a requirement that all new public buildings have solar roofs — and a faster phase-out of fossil fuels, which would see Germany end the burning of coal and the sale of combustion engine vehicles by 2030.Among the most contentious issues for car-loving Germans is the introduction of a 130 kilometers per hour (80mph) speed limit on all highways, which experts estimate would save almost 2 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.Environmental organizations said the party’s proposals were a step in the right direction. But Greenpeace said more drastic measures will be needed to really achieve the Paris goals.The Greens are trailing the center-right Union bloc in opinion polls, but last month’s deadly floods have pushed climate change back up the political agenda. The party stands a strong chance of being part of the next governing coalition, even if it doesn’t win the election.Merkel is not running for a fifth term. Her party has chosen Armin Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, as its candidate to become the next chancellor.The country’s current finance minister, Olaf Scholz, has the strongest personal approval ratings of the three main candidates in recent surveys. But his center-left Social Democrats are third-placed in the polls.———Follow AP’s climate coverage at http://www.apnews.com/Climate

Vaccine maker BioNTech to use mRNA tech to target malaria

Vaccine maker BioNTech to use mRNA tech to target malaria

Pharmaceutical company BioNTech says it wants to use the mRNA technology behind its coronavirus vaccine to target malariaBy FRANK JORDANS Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 5:23 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBERLIN — Pharmaceutical company BioNTech said Monday that it wants to use the mRNA technology behind its coronavirus vaccine to target malaria.The Germany-based company, which developed the first widely approved coronavirus shot together with U.S. partner Pfizer, aims to begin clinical trials for a “safe and highly effective malaria vaccine” by the end of next year.“We are already working on HIV and and tuberculosis, and malaria is the third big indication (disease) with a high unmet medical need,” BioNTech’s chief executive, Ugur Sahin, told The Associated Press. “It has an incredible high number of people being infected every year, a high number of patients dying, a particularly severe disease and high mortality in small children.”According to the World Health Organization, there were about 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019. The global body estimates that 409,000 people died from malaria that year, with children under the age of 5 accounting for 67% of deaths.Africa has by far the highest burden of the mosquito-borne disease worldwide, WHO says.Sahin acknowledged that the effort is at a very early stage and there’s no guarantee of success. But he said the company believes it’s “the perfect time to address this challenge” because of the insights it has gained from developing an mRNA vaccine against the coronavirus and a growing understanding of how malaria works.Experts say developing a vaccine to prime the immune system against malaria will be tricky, however.“The genome of Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria, is more complex than viruses,” said Prakash Srinivasan, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.A malaria vaccine made by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline already being trialed in three African countries has shown that inducing strong, long-lasting antibody levels is challenging, he said.Existing and future variants of the parasite could also pose a challenge to developing an effective vaccine, said Srinivasan, whose lab is also working to develop a shot against malaria.But Barton Haynes, director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, said the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic showed mRNA technology could be used to quickly adapt vaccines to work against new variants.“The mRNA platform is going to be applicable to many different pathogens,” he said.Sahin said early-stage development and testing of vaccines normally costs about $30-80 million.The project, which is a collaboration with the World Health Organization, the European Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “has no budget limits at the moment,” he added.BioNTech said it is also seeking to establish an mRNA vaccine production facility in Africa, which is among the regions that have struggled to get sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses.The company said it is working with partners to “evaluate how to establish sustainable mRNA manufacturing capabilities on the African continent to supply African countries with vaccines.” Once built, such a facility would be able to make various mRNA-based vaccines.BioNTech and Pfizer have said they will deliver 1 billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to middle- and low-income countries this year, and another billion doses in 2022.Last week, the two companies announced that a South African firm, the Biovac Institute, will become the first on the continent to start producing their coronavirus vaccine.BioNTech has previously said it is working on a vaccine candidate for tuberculosis, with clinical trials aimed for 2022, and therapies for several forms of cancer.

Vaccine maker BioNTech to use mRNA tech to target malaria

Vaccine maker BioNTech to use mRNA tech to target malaria

Pharmaceutical company BioNTech says it wants to use the mRNA technology behind its coronavirus vaccine to target malariaBy FRANK JORDANS Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 5:23 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBERLIN — Pharmaceutical company BioNTech said Monday that it wants to use the mRNA technology behind its coronavirus vaccine to target malaria.The Germany-based company, which developed the first widely approved coronavirus shot together with U.S. partner Pfizer, aims to begin clinical trials for a “safe and highly effective malaria vaccine” by the end of next year.“We are already working on HIV and and tuberculosis, and malaria is the third big indication (disease) with a high unmet medical need,” BioNTech’s chief executive, Ugur Sahin, told The Associated Press. “It has an incredible high number of people being infected every year, a high number of patients dying, a particularly severe disease and high mortality in small children.”According to the World Health Organization, there were about 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019. The global body estimates that 409,000 people died from malaria that year, with children under the age of 5 accounting for 67% of deaths.Africa has by far the highest burden of the mosquito-borne disease worldwide, WHO says.Sahin acknowledged that the effort is at a very early stage and there’s no guarantee of success. But he said the company believes it’s “the perfect time to address this challenge” because of the insights it has gained from developing an mRNA vaccine against the coronavirus and a growing understanding of how malaria works.Experts say developing a vaccine to prime the immune system against malaria will be tricky, however.“The genome of Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria, is more complex than viruses,” said Prakash Srinivasan, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.A malaria vaccine made by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline already being trialed in three African countries has shown that inducing strong, long-lasting antibody levels is challenging, he said.Existing and future variants of the parasite could also pose a challenge to developing an effective vaccine, said Srinivasan, whose lab is also working to develop a shot against malaria.But Barton Haynes, director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, said the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic showed mRNA technology could be used to quickly adapt vaccines to work against new variants.“The mRNA platform is going to be applicable to many different pathogens,” he said.Sahin said early-stage development and testing of vaccines normally costs about $30-80 million.The project, which is a collaboration with the World Health Organization, the European Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “has no budget limits at the moment,” he added.BioNTech said it is also seeking to establish an mRNA vaccine production facility in Africa, which is among the regions that have struggled to get sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses.The company said it is working with partners to “evaluate how to establish sustainable mRNA manufacturing capabilities on the African continent to supply African countries with vaccines.” Once built, such a facility would be able to make various mRNA-based vaccines.BioNTech and Pfizer have said they will deliver 1 billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to middle- and low-income countries this year, and another billion doses in 2022.Last week, the two companies announced that a South African firm, the Biovac Institute, will become the first on the continent to start producing their coronavirus vaccine.BioNTech has previously said it is working on a vaccine candidate for tuberculosis, with clinical trials aimed for 2022, and therapies for several forms of cancer.

Europe floods: Death toll over 100 as rescues continue

Europe floods: Death toll over 100 as rescues continue

BERLIN — At least 100 people have died in devastating floods across parts of western Germany and Belgium, officials said Friday, as rescue operations and the search for hundreds still unaccounted for continued.Authorities in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate said 50 people had died there, including at least nine residents of an assisted living facility for people with disabilities. In neighboring North Rhine-Westphalia state officials put the death toll at 43, but warned that the figure could rise further.Rescuers were rushing Friday to help people trapped in their homes in the town of Erftstadt, southwest of Cologne. Regional authorities said several people had died after their houses collapsed due to subsidence, and aerial pictures showed what appeared to be a massive sinkhole.“We managed to get 50 people out of their houses last night,” said Frank Rock, the head of the county administration. “We know of 15 people who still need to be rescued.”Speaking to German broadcaster n-tv, Rock said that authorities had no precise number yet for how many had died.“One has to assume that under the circumstances some people didn’t manage to escape,” he said.Authorities said late Thursday that about 1,300 people in Germany were still listed missing, but cautioned that the high figure could be due to duplication of data and difficulties reaching people because of disrupted roads and phone connections.In a provisional tally, the Belgian death toll rose to 12, with 5 people still missing, local authorities and media report early Friday.The flash floods this week followed days of heavy rainfall which turned streams and streets into raging torrents that swept away cars and caused houses to collapse across the region.Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden expressed their sorrow over the loss of life during a news conference at the White House late Thursday.The long-time German leader, who was on a farewell trip to Washington, said she feared that “the full extent of this tragedy will only be seen in the coming days.”The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Armin Laschet, has called an emergency Cabinet meeting Friday. The 60-year-old’s handling of the flood disaster is widely seen as a test for his ambitions to succeed Merkel as chancellor in Germany’s national election on Sept. 26.Officials have warned such disasters could become more common due to climate change.“Some parts of Western Europe … received up to two months of rainfall in the space of two days. What made it worse is that the soils were already saturated by previous rainfall,” said Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization.It was too soon to blame the floods and preceding heat wave on global warming rising global temperatures, she said, but added: “Climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme events. And many single events have been shown to be made worse by global warming.”Malu Dreyer, the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, said the disaster showed the need to speed up efforts to curb global warming.“Climate chance isn’t abstract anymore. We are experiencing it up close and painfully,” she told the Funke media group.She accused the Laschet and Merkel’s center-right Union bloc of hindering efforts to achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and a major emitter of planet-warming gases.Thousands of people remain homeless after their houses were destroyed or deemed at-risk by authorities, including several villages around the Steinbach reservoir that experts say could collapse under the weight of the floods.The German army has deployed 900 soldiers to help with the rescue and clear-up efforts.Across the border in Belgium, most of the drowned were found around Liege, where the rains hit hardest. Skies were largely overcast in eastern Belgium, with hopes rising that the worst of the calamity was over.Italy sent a team of civil protection officials and firefighters, as well as rescue dinghies, to Belgium to help in the search for missing people from the devastating floods.The firefighters tweeted a photo of one team working in Tillf, south of Liege, to help evacuate residents of a home who were trapped by the rising waters.In the southern Dutch province of Limburg, which also has been hit hard by flooding, troops piled sandbags to strengthen a 1.1 kilometer (0.7 miles) stretch of dike along the Maas river and police helped evacuate some low-lying neighborhoods.Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday night that the government was officially declaring flood-hit regions a disaster area, meaning businesses and residents are eligible for compensation for damage.Dutch King Willem-Alexander visited the region Thursday night and called the scenes “heart-breaking.”Meanwhile, sustained rainfall in Switzerland has caused several rivers and lakes to break their banks. Public broadcaster SRF reported that a flash flood swept away cars, flooded basements and destroyed small bridges in the northern villages of Schleitheim und Beggingen late Thursday.Erik Schulz, the mayor of the hard-hit German city of Hagen, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Cologne, said there had been a wave of solidarity from other regions and ordinary citizens to help those affected by the devastating floods.“We have many, many citizens saying ‘I can offer a place to stay, where can I go to help, where can I registered, where can I bring my shovel and bucket?’,” he told n-tv. “The city is standing together and you can feel that.”————Associated Press writers Raf Casert in Brussels, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Angela Charlton in Paris and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.

19 dead, dozens missing in Germany floods; 2 die in Belgium

19 dead, dozens missing in Germany floods; 2 die in Belgium

BERLIN — More than 20 people have died and dozens of people are missing in Germany and neighboring Belgium after heavy flooding turned streams and streets into raging torrents, sweeping away cars and causing buildings to collapse.Storms across parts of western Europe in recent days caused rivers and reservoirs to burst their banks, resulting in flash floods as rain-soaked soil failed to absorb any more water.Authorities in the western German region of Euskirchen said Thursday that eight deaths had been reported there in connection with the floods. Rescue operations were hampered by the fact that phone and internet connections were down in parts of the county, which is southwest of Cologne.Police in the western city of Koblenz said four people had died in Ahrweiler county. Up to 70 people were reported missing after several houses collapsed overnight in the village of Schuld in the Eifel, a volcanic region of rolling hills and small valleys southwest of Cologne.Dozens more were trapped on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue. Authorities used inflatable boats and helicopters, and the German army deployed 200 soldiers to assist in the rescue operation.“There are people dead, there are people missing, there are many who are still in danger,” the governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, told the regional parliament. “We have never seen such a disaster. It’s really devastating.”Across the border in Belgium, the Vesdre river broke its banks and sent masses of water churning through the streets of Pepinster, close to Liege, its destructive power bringing down some buildings.“Several homes have collapsed,” mayor Philippe Godin told RTBF network. It was unclear whether all inhabitants had been able to escape unhurt.In eastern Eupen, on the German border, one man was reported dead after he was swept away by a torrent, a local governor told RTBF network. Another man was reported missing in eastern Belgium, where some towns saw water levels rise to unprecedented levels and had their centers turned into gushing rivers.Major highways were inundated and in the south and east of the nation, the railway service said all traffic was stopped.EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to help those affected.“My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the devastating floods in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and those who have lost their homes,” she tweeted. “The EU is ready to help.”The full extent of the damage across the region was still unclear after many villages were cut off by floodwater and landslides that made roads impassable. Videos posted on social media showed cars floating down streets and houses partly collapsed in some places.Many of the dead were only discovered after floodwaters began to recede again. Police said four people died in separate incidents after their basements were flooded in Cologne, Kamen and Wuppertal, where authorities warned that a dam threatened to burst.Authorities in the Rhine-Sieg county south of Cologne ordered the evacuation of several villages below the Steinbachtal reservoir amid fears the dam there could also break.A fireman drowned Wednesday during rescue work in the western German town of Altena and another collapsed during rescue operations at a power plant in Werdohl-Elverlingsen. One man was missing in the eastern town of Joehstadt after disappearing while trying to secure his property from rising waters, authorities said.Rail connections were suspended in large parts of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. Governor Armin Laschet, who is running to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in this fall’s German election, was expected to visit the flood-hit city of Hagen later Thursday.German weather service DWD predicted the rainfall would ease Thursday, though there might still be localized storms.Authorities in the southern Dutch town of Valkenburg, close to the German and Belgian borders, evacuated a care home and a hospice overnight amid flooding that turned the tourist town’s main street into a river, Dutch media reported.The Dutch government sent some 70 troops to the southern province of Limburg late Wednesday to help with tasks including transporting evacuees and filling sandbags as rivers burst their banks.A section of one of the Netherlands’ busiest highways was closed due to rising floodwaters threatening to inundate the road and Dutch media showed a group of holidaymakers being rescued from a hotel window with the help of an earth mover.Unusually intense rains have also inundated a swath of northeast France this week, downing trees and forcing the closure of dozens of roads. A train route to Luxembourg was disrupted, and firefighters evacuated dozens of people from homes near the Luxembourg and German border and in the Marne region, according to local broadcaster France Bleu.The equivalent of two months of rain has fallen on some areas in the last one or two days, according to the French national weather service. With the ground already saturated, the service forecast more downpours Thursday and issued flood warnings for 10 regions.Meanwhile, high temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher were expected Thursday in parts of northern Europe.The night between Wednesday and Thursday was the hottest in history, the Finnish weather service company Foreca said Thursday with the mercury reaching 24.2 Celsius degrees (75.6 degrees Fahrenheit).Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, tweeted that the extreme weather of recent days should not be regarded as “the new normal.””We’re at the very beginning of a climate and ecological emergency, and extreme weather events will only become more and more frequent,” she said on Twitter.———Raf Casert in Brussels, Angela Charlton in Paris, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.

Merkel brings message of stability to US on farewell visit

Merkel brings message of stability to US on farewell visit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has left for Washington on what is likely to be her last official visitBy FRANK JORDANS Associated PressJuly 14, 2021, 7:39 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel left Wednesday for Washington on what is likely to be her last official visit , carrying a bag full of issues to discuss with President Joe Biden and an overarching message for Berlin’s close ally: you’ve got a friend.The veteran German leader is expected to discuss the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the rise of China and a Russian gas pipeline that Washington opposes during her meetings Thursday with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other senior U.S. officials.“In part this is a farewell visit, in part she is signaling continuity and stability in the German-U.S. relationship,” said Johannes Timm, a senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a think tank in Berlin.After 16 years dealing with Merkel, many officials in Washington and elsewhere are wondering what course Germany might take after the next election and the long-time chancellor — who has dealt with four U.S. presidents in her time — will seek to reassure them that there won’t be a huge shift, he said.Merkel’s party is leading in polls ahead of Germany’s Sept. 26 election, but the environmentalist Greens and the center-left Social Democrats are also vying to lead a future government. While the three parties differ in many policy areas, all are committed to a strong trans-Atlantic relationship.One sour note that preceded and outlasted the Trump era of diplomatic discord with Washington has been the thorny issue of a new pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia to Germany.The United States has long argued that the Nord Stream 2 project threatens European energy security and harms allies in Eastern Europe. But Biden recently waived looming sanctions against German entities involved in the project, signaling a possible compromise may be found.Merkel sought this week to dampen expectations for an imminent breakthrough, but she is likely to want to resolve the issue before leaving office. “It weighs on German-U.S. relations and German-EU relations,” said Timm.While German officials have been unusually coy about which topics will be discussed during the trip, Merkel’s spokesman confirmed Wednesday that China will come up.“That can be said with relative certainty,” Steffen Seibert told reporters. “This also played an important role at the G-7 summit, where the chancellor and the American president last met.”Germany has strong trade ties with China but has also been critical of Beijing’s human rights record. Merkel is keen to avoid a situation in which Germany, or the European Union, might be forced to choose sides between China and the United States.Merkel has insisted on the need to cooperate with China on global issues such as combating climate change and tackling the coronavirus pandemic, even while Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump was accusing Beijing of having started it.The humanitarian group Doctors without Borders urged Biden on Wednesday to lean on Merkel to drop her opposition to proposals for suspending vaccine patents. Merkel, a trained scientist, has argued that lifting the patents wouldn’t be effective and could harm future research and development efforts.Along with the substance, there will be plenty of ceremony during the one-day visit: Merkel will receive an honorary doctorate — her 18th — from Johns Hopkins University, and she and her husband, chemist Joachim Sauer, will dine with the first family at the White House.Merkel’s trip may not be her last, either. The 66-year-old said that growing up in East Germany she dreamed of being able to travel to America on her retirement, when the communist bloc tended to relax some of the restrictions on its citizens.So far, Merkel has announced no plans for her time after office.

Merkel doubts Biden meeting will solve gas pipeline dispute

Merkel doubts Biden meeting will solve gas pipeline dispute

German Chancellor Angela Merkel doubts the dispute between her country and the United States over a nearly completed gas pipeline from Russia will be fully resolved at a meeting with President Joe Biden this weekBy FRANK JORDANS Associated PressJuly 12, 2021, 7:00 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that she doubts the dispute between her country and the United States over a nearly completed gas pipeline from Russia will be fully resolved at a meeting with President Joe Biden this week.Washington has long argued that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany endangers Europe’s energy security and harms allies such as Ukraine, which currently profits from transit fees for Russian gas. The United States recently waived sanctions against German companies involved in the project, raising hopes in Berlin that an agreement acceptable to all sides can be found.Merkel said she will discuss the issue with Biden at a White House meeting Thursday, but added: “I don’t know whether the papers will be fully finalized, so to speak. I believe rather not.”“But these will be important talks for developing a common position,” she added.Germany is keen to increase its use of natural gas as it completes the shutdown of its nuclear power plants next year and phases out the use of heavily polluting coal by 2038.Merkel’s comments to reporters in Berlin came ahead of a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has warned that Nord Stream 2 poses a threat to his country’s energy security. Should Russia route all of its gas around Ukraine in future, the country might be cut off from the supplies it needs, putting it at further risk of being pressured by Moscow.Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and supports separatists in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas.Zelenskyy said he was looking for guarantees that Ukraine will remain a transit country for Russian gas beyond 2024. He also suggested that the gas issue should become part of four-way talks between his country, Russia, Germany and France on solving the conflict in eastern Ukraine and that the United States could join those negotiations.Merkel said she took Ukraine’s concerns seriously and that Germany and the European Union would use their weight in negotiations with Russia to ensure the agreements are extended.“We have promised this to Ukraine and we will stick to that. I keep my promises and I believe that is true also for any future German chancellor,” she said.Merkel isn’t running for a fifth term in Germany’s national election on Sept. 26.She also announced that Germany will give Ukraine 1.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, with more shots possibly to come.

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