Climate change: PM aims for world-leading UK emissions cuts

The UK prime minister is set to declare one of the most ambitious targets in the world for tackling climate change.

BBC News understands Boris Johnson’s goal will be to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 68% or 69% by the end of the decade, based on 1990 levels.

This will mean an even faster pace of decarbonisation for industries, transport and homes.

It might, for instance, mean a faster switch away from gas boilers for home heating.

Or it could, under another scenario, lead to the phase-out of gas-guzzling SUVs.

The targets are known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). They’re at the heart of the Paris Agreement, the international pact signed in 2016 that’s intended to cut emissions with the aim of keeping global temperature rise well under 2C.

NDCs represent the commitments by each country – under the Paris pact – to reduce their own national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Mr Johnson hopes that the UK’s new targets will set an example to other nations, which will join a virtual climate pledges summit on 12 December.

This virtual event will occur in place of annual UN climate talks, which were set to have taken place in Glasgow this year, but was postponed because of Covid-19.

The UK has assumed the presidency at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) meeting – in partnership with Italy. The full meeting will take place at the end of next year.

The 68% cut was deemed by the EU to be Britain’s fair share towards combating climate change.

By adding another percentage point, the PM would attract favourable headlines from some environmentalists – although others think the number should be higher still, given the apparent impact of climate change on the world already.

Green groups have called for a 75% cut, and research by consultancy Cambridge Econometrics, commissioned by the Prince of Wales corporate leaders group, said a target of a 70% by 2030 was necessary.

Tim Crosland, from the pressure group Extinction Rebellion, said 100% emissions cuts in the UK should be made by 2025 if the world was to avoid over-shooting the 1.5C temperature threshold agreed by the UN.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said it wouldn’t comment until it had seen the official figures.

The true value of the PM’s target won’t be clear until details about background assumptions are revealed officially in coming days.

The 2030 date is important because CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are cumulative.

That means that if the UK doesn’t radically reduce emissions by that date, it won’t be able to achieve its long-term aim of net zero emissions by mid-century.

Net zero refers to cutting greenhouse gas emissions as far as possible and balancing any further releases by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

Only a handful of countries have submitted revised NDCs so far.

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Burnley stabbing: Marks & Spencer worker and shopper hurt

A staff member and a shopper have been injured in a stabbing at a Marks & Spencer store.

The two women were hurt in the attack in the St James Street store in Burnley at 09:30 GMT, Lancashire Police said.

A force spokesman said both were taken to hospital but their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Supt Stasia Osiowy praised the “brave actions” of passers-by, who detained a 57-year-old man, who was then arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

She said the attack was “not being treated as a terrorism incident, but due to some comments made at the scene, counter-terrorism detectives will be leading on the investigation”.

Detectives were “keeping an open mind as to motivation”, she said, but were “considering the mental health background” of the arrested man.

Supt Osiowy thanked “members of the public who acted very quickly, and without regard to their own safety, in order to detain the attacker”.

“Without their brave actions, this incident, while serious, could have been so much worse,” she said.

The force spokesman said the two women, a staff member in her 40s and a customer in her 60s, had “thankfully” not been seriously injured.

A knife was recovered at the scene.

Carl Stredder, who was shopping with his wife at the time, had stopped at the cash machine opposite Marks & Spencer when he heard shouting coming from the store.

He told the BBC he saw a man “holding down” another man before the emergency services arrived at the scene.

“Within a couple of minutes, the police had arrived. There were six or seven police cars, sirens all over the place,” he said.

“Then within another five or so minutes, an ambulance came. It was apparent by then that some sort of major incident had occurred.”

He added: “It was a bit of a frightener when we came home and realised in the cold light of day what could have happened.”

A Marks & Spencer spokesman said the company was “incredibly grateful” to the emergency services and pleased both victims were “now in good care”.

“Our focus is on ensuring that our colleagues in Burnley receive all the support they need,” he added.

Man killed wife and daughter after losing influence over them

A man killed his wife and daughter in a jealous rage after “losing his controlling influence” over their lives, a court has heard.

Marcin Zdun, 40, is charged with the murder of Aneta Zdun, 40, and Nikoleta Zdun, 18, at their home in Wiltshire.

The women were found at a house in Wessex Road, Salisbury, on 1 June and pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Zdun, who is standing trial at Winchester Crown Court, denies the murder charges.

Opening the prosecution, Nicholas Haggan QC said around a month before the women were killed, the defendant had tried to strangle his wife.

Mr Haggan said Mrs Zdun had told a colleague at Wessex Care, where she worked as a community support worker, that “she couldn’t breathe” and said “I was so blue”.

She told her friend the defendant had pushed their daughter against the kitchen cupboards when she had tried to intervene, the court heard.

Mr Haggan said: “Nikoleta wanted to call the police, but Aneta convinced her not to, saying she was fine.”

He said after the incident, Mr Zdun was asked to leave the family house and his wife sought a divorce.

The court heard that five days later, in an exchange on Facebook, Mrs Zdun’s daughter told her “she was worried that the defendant might kill her and (Nikoleta)”.

“She told her mother the defendant was, to use her word, a psycho,” Mr Haggan said.

“And she said Nikoleta was terrified of him.”

Mr Zdun told people his wife was having an affair with a man he worked with at Tesco, but this was a “manifestation of the defendant’s jealous suspicions”, the jury heard.

“Those jealous suspicions, coupled with the breakdown of the marriage, the defendant’s eviction from the family home, and the fact that his wife wanted a divorce, we suggest therefore the loss of his controlling influence over Aneta and Nikoleta so angered this defendant that at some point – he decided to kill them,” he said.

The trial continues.

Amazons Panorama box lets firms check if staff follow coronavirus rules

Amazon plans to sell companies a way to detect when staff are not wearing face masks or socially distancing.

Beyond the pandemic, the system could also be used to track compliance of other workplace rules or to monitor the public – for example, to check the number of customers queuing in a store.

It involves retrofitting a box to existing security cameras that can then draw on off-the-shelf AI apps.

But privacy campaigners have raised concerns.

Remote working has already led to an increase in the use of software that checks up on employees, but Amazon’s new solution is focused on tracking people and products in factories, shops and other traditional workplaces.

The AWS Panorama appliance plugs into internet protocol (IP) cameras – a standard type of digital video camera used by a huge range of companies on their sites.

It can automate inspection tasks, such as detecting manufacturing defects or tracking the movement of barcodes and labels.

But the tool can also be applied to people.

For example, in a retail shop, it could count the number of customers, track their movements and check the length of queues, Amazon has suggested.

In a factory or other workplace, the same tech can be used to monitor employees “and get notified immediately about any potential issues or unsafe situations so you can take pre-emptive action”, the company said.

In the promotional material for the product, Fender guitars says it uses the product to “track how long it takes for an associate to complete each task in the assembly of a guitar”.

The Financial Times reports that AWS Panorama can detect vehicles bring driven in places they are not supposed to be. Some major companies are already trialling the system, including Siemens and Deloitte, the FT added.

It is still, however, in preview, and not yet widely available.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the umbrella group for UK unions, this week published its report into the use of AI-powered tools used by employers.

“The announcement of this new monitoring tool is another example of how this revolution at work is picking up pace,” said policy officer Mary Towers.

But she warned that it must not gloss over workers’ needs.

“In our report, we warn about the potentially negative effects that intrusive technology of this type can have on workers’ well-being, right to privacy, data protection rights and the right not be discriminated against.”

Polling suggested that workers were already concerned about CCTV cameras being used to monitor performance when they were supposed to have been installed for security, she said.

Silkie Carlo, director of privacy group Big Brother Watch, said automated monitoring of workplaces “rarely results in benefits for employees”.

“It’s a great shame that social distancing has been leapt on by Amazon as yet another excuse for data collection and surveillance,” she said.

Amazon has already faced scrutiny over how its warehouse employees are monitored. In September, a report from a US research group said Amazon used extensive worker surveillance to limit union organising activity. And the company has clashed with some of its employees who have accused it treating them “like robots”.

This week, Microsoft apologised for allowing individuals’ activity to be monitored by their employers through a “productivity score” designed to give high-level oversights.

After an outcry, Microsoft removed individual user names from the product.

Piers Corbyn guilty of lockdown protest restrictions breach

Piers Corbyn has been found guilty of breaching coronavirus restrictions at an anti-lockdown gathering.

The 73-year-old brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was arrested when he refused to leave the event in Hyde Park, London, on 16 May.

He was given an absolute discharge after Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard he had spent 12 hours in police custody after his arrest.

Addressing supporters outside, Corbyn said it had been “a tremendous result”.

District Judge Sam Goozee dismissed a second count of the same charge – linked to a protest on 30 May – after hearing police had issued a fixed penalty notice earlier that day.

Prosecutor David Povall had described Corbyn as a “poster boy for disparate groups” attending both events near Speakers Corner.

He told the court there was no reasonable excuse for “breaching clear and emphatic regulations that were in force at the time”.

Corbyn’s defence had argued his arrest on 16 May was a “disproportionate and unnecessary” contravention of his right to peaceful protest.

Returning his decision, judge Mr Goozee said Corbyn’s actions would have been lawful if lockdown regulations had not been in force at the time.

But their enforcement had been necessary for public health, he said, concluding that police “took a measured response”.

“You, however, didn’t engage with police – police action in arresting you was necessary and proportionate,” he said.

Addressing around two dozen supporters outside the court after the verdict, Corbyn raised his fist in the air and said: “We’ve had a tremendous result.”

Rapid Covid test: Daughter and mum, 95, hug for first time since March

A daughter has hugged her elderly mother at a care home for the first time in nine months.

Christine Colburn had a rapid lateral flow Covid test, which produces results in 30 minutes, at the home in Bampton, Devon, so she could embrace her 95-year-old mother, Audrey Cornell.

The home is one of several across the South West taking part in a pilot scheme for rapid testing.

Ms Colburn said it felt “amazing” to hug her mother again.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “Just like the old days, just brilliant.

“It’ll be even nicer when we can touch skin [without PPE] but this is pretty good.”

Since the pandemic started, Ms Colburn has only be able to call her mother on Skype or talk to her through a screen – travelling the one hour and 45 minute journey from her home in Dorchester.

Ms Cornell said it was “grand” to be able to hug her daughter again.

The manager of Castle Grove care home, Lucy Bull, said the pilot scheme has gone well but they “do worry about getting enough tests and the added costs, especially for smaller homes”.

“I think it will be expensive because we’ll have to up-skill our staff,” she said. “It’s also quite hard to recruit care staff at the moment.”

The lateral flow testing that Ms Colburn had involves a swab of the nose and throat to collect a sample, which is then inserted into a tube of liquid for a short time.

Drops of liquid are added to the test strip and after about half an hour a result will be shown.

Mass testing with lateral flow tests began in Liverpool on 6 November.

Brexit: Holyhead border facility could create 120 jobs

HM Revenue & Customs plans to create about 120 jobs to staff a new border facility in Holyhead ahead of Brexit, the UK government has said.

The majority of roles will range from security, traffic marshalling and office staff, said Jesse Norman, financial secretary to the Treasury.

Specialist roles will be provided by the UK and Welsh governments.

A location for an inland border facility to support the port has not yet been announced.

The UK government will enforce border checks for inbound traffic from July 2021, but from January, outbound traffic will be subject to EU border checks.

In answer to written questions submitted by Plaid Cymru, Mr Norman said HMRC is putting in place temporary arrangements to support Common Transit Convention movements through Holyhead for January.

He added there needs to be an inland border facility for customs, animal and food checks to serve Holyhead by July and details will be announced “in due course”.

Among the sites under consideration are the Roadking truck stop in Holyhead and the Parc Bryn Cegin industrial estate in Bangor, Gwynedd.

HMRC said on Tuesday it was in discussions with the Welsh Government and Roadking to purchase the site “for use in line with the staged introduction of full border controls in 2021”.

On Tuesday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the Holyhead Roadking site was “apparently” the UK government’s preferred site, but added that had not been formally announced.

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