EU Probes Germany’s Coal Phase-Out Aid

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The EU on Tuesday said it was taking a closer look into billions of euros in aid promised by Germany to firms hit by the closure of coal-fired power plants, over concerns it may give them an unfair advantage.

“Our role is to safeguard competition by making sure that the compensation granted to the operators … is kept to the minimum necessary,” EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“The information currently at our disposal does not allow us to confirm this with certainty, and we will now investigate this further,” she added.

Germany has embarked on a plan to phase out coal as a source of electricity by 2038 and has promised 4.35 billion euros in aid to operators RWE and LEAG for lost profits.

The EU executive noted that “at this stage” the “preliminary view is that the German measure is likely to constitute state aid”.

Despite a green reputation abroad, Germany remains heavily reliant on dirty coal, partly because of a decision to abandon nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

In the third quarter of 2020, just over half of the electricity produced in Europe’s top economy came from non-renewables, with coal alone accounting for 26 percent.

Climate activists have urged the government to speed up Germany’s coal exit, saying the current timetable is not ambitious enough.

AFP

Germany Gives Extra €1.5bn For Global Vaccine Rollout

A medical worker shows a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on February 12, 2021 at the Tapparelli Retirement Home in Saluzzo, near Cuneo, Northwestern Italy, during a vaccination campaign for people over 80. PHOTO: Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

Germany is donating an additional 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to boost the rollout of vaccines in the world’s poorest countries, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said Friday, increasing an earlier contribution of 600 million euros.

“Today we want to make clear: we stand with the poorest countries. Germany is providing a further 1.5 billion euros for Covax, WHO, and others,” Scholz said in a statement.

“Vaccines are the only way out of the pandemic.”

The move was announced following a virtual G7 meeting at which leaders pledged to move as one in ensuring coronavirus vaccines reach everyone in the world.

Rich countries have come under fire in recent months for hoarding Covid-19 jabs at the expense of poorer countries, despite warnings from health experts that vaccines can only end the pandemic if they are shared out across the globe.

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European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen announced earlier on Friday that the bloc was doubling its contribution to the Covax global Covid-19 vaccination programme to one billion euros.

US President Joe Biden was expected to pledge $4 billion in aid to Covax during the virtual meeting with other leaders from the Group of Seven major industrial nations.

Covax is a global project to procure and distribute coronavirus vaccines for at least the most vulnerable 20 percent in every country, allowing poorer states to catch up with the vaccination rush by dozens of wealthy countries.

German Development Minister Gerd Mueller said just 0.5 percent of Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in the world’s poorest countries.

“Only a global vaccination campaign can lead the way out of the pandemic. It must not fail because of financing,” he said.

AFP

Klopp Unable To Attend Mother’s Funeral In Germany Due To COVID-19 Restrictions

Klopp Apologises For Wild Celebrations After 'Weird' Liverpool Winner
File photo: Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp is seen before kick off of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on December 2, 2018. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has revealed his mother died last month and he is unable to travel from Britain to attend the funeral in Germany because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

According to reports, Elisabeth Klopp died on January 19 at the age of 81. She was from Glatten in the Black Forest region,

“She meant everything to me. She was a real mum in the best sense of the word,” Klopp told local newspaper the Schwarzwaelder Bote.

“As a devout Christian, I know she is in a better place now,” he added.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

Germany has introduced strict travel restrictions from countries such as Britain which have been hit by a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus.

“The fact that I can’t be at the funeral is due to these terrible times,” said 53-year-old Klopp. “As soon as circumstances allow, we will hold a wonderful memorial service befitting her.”

On Wednesday, Liverpool’s official Twitter account offered condolences by posting the message “You’ll Never Walk Alone, Jurgen” accompanied by a photograph of Klopp and a heart.

AFP

Telemedicine Takes Off In Germany During Pandemic

Senior consultant Andreas Bootsveld (C R) and colleagues speak with intensive care physician at the University hospital in Aachen Judith Ibba (on display C L) during an online conference about a COVID-19 case while using telemedicine on January 26, 2021. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

 

When doctor Andreas Bootsveld has to make life-or-death decisions about Covid-19 patients, he is not alone — as well as consulting his colleagues, he can draw on the advice of a team of specialists.

These experts are not with him in the intensive care unit, but at a bigger hospital 20 kilometres (12 miles) away, linked up via videoconference as part of a project to connect medics in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The project dubbed the Virtual Hospital has been running since March and aims to help smaller hospitals take in and care for Covid-19 patients, preventing major hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

So-called telemedicine has become increasingly popular during the pandemic and could also be used in the future to help improve access to specialist care in areas outside of big cities.

“Patients suffering from respiratory failure are normally cases for large, multi-disciplinary and very well-equipped hospitals,” said Gernot Marx, director of the intensive care unit at Aachen University Hospital, one of the centres of expertise for the project.

“Local and regional hospitals would not normally do that,” he told AFP.

Thanks to the virtual consultations, “we can do things that would have absolutely required a transfer before,” said Bootsveld.

The doctor oversees 14 intensive care beds in the small hospital in the town of Stolberg — a fifth of the number overseen by Marx.

Telemedicine has made it possible to “safeguard intensive care capacity” during the pandemic, said project manager Sandra Dohmen.

“So far, 90 percent of our patients have been able to stay in hospitals close to where they live,” she said.

– Virtual advice network –

North Rhine-Westphalia had already been connecting 17 local hospitals with the region’s two big university hospitals through a virtual advice network since 2012.

But “the coronavirus in March was an opportunity to extend the offer” to all hospitals in the region, Dohmen said.

“There was a great fear that the situation in Germany would be comparable to that in Italy,” Marx said.

Participants in the scheme have so far carried out more than 1,800 videoconferences, helping to treat 300 patients.

A similar EU-backed scheme called ICU4Covid is planned to help doctors monitor some 30,000 patients a year across several countries.

READ ALSO: Thousands Rally In Yangon Against Myanmar Coup

In Stolberg, virtual consultations are carried out with the help of a trolley, equipped with a computer and a camera, that can be wheeled from bed to bed.

But in the interests of speed in the pandemic, doctors can now also request a meeting at the click of a button with just a laptop and a webcam.

Among those joining the virtual meetings has been a pharmacist specialising in intensive care — one of only about 50 such specialists in Germany.

– ‘Added value’

“Faced with Covid-19 and the many unknowns, the Virtual Hospital makes it possible to create a network for sharing expertise to help patients on site,” said Dohmen, who sees it as “great added value”.

This virtual link has also helped reassure relatives who may have been worried about their loved ones not being treated in a university hospital.

And it can be reassuring for the staff, too, “when they confirm that we have thought of everything” — although “it has to remain a consultation, it must not become remote treatment”, Bootsfeld said.

“It clearly doesn’t mean that we were doing a bad job before,” but “we have access to specialist knowledge that we would not normally have in a local hospital,” said the doctor.

But some things have not changed in a country famously lagging behind in the digital revolution: participants of a meeting still have to take notes by hand, and lists of medicines are sent by fax.

The next step for the project will be to devise ways of transferring health data such as vital signs automatically during the calls.

German Health Minister Hints At Easing Of COVID-19 Restrictions

German Health Minister Jens Spahn gestures as he addresses a press conference on the situation of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Germany, in Berlin on January 29, 2021.
HANNIBAL HANSCHKE / POOL / AFP

 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday suggested coronavirus restrictions could be lifted before spring, as case numbers in the country continued to edge downwards.

“We can’t stay in this hard lockdown all winter. We would not tolerate that well as a society,” Spahn said in an interview with the Funke media group.

Germany went into a partial lockdown in November, closing bars, restaurants and cultural and sporting facilities.

Schools and non-essential shops were added to the list in mid-December, with rules on mask-wearing and working from home tightened in January amid concerns over new virus variants.

The number of new infections and patients in intensive care has been falling steadily since the start of the year, a trend Spahn called “encouraging”.

But the Robert Koch Institute health body reported 14,211 new cases and 786 deaths on Thursday and an incidence rate of 81 — still well above the target of 50 that German politicians have set as a yardstick for reopening.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states will meet on Wednesday to decide whether to extend restrictions after they expire on February 14.

Some experts believe it is too soon to relax the measures, especially in the light of new, more contagious variants.

Ute Teichert, the head of the Federal Association of German Public Health Officers, called last week for a so-called zero-Covid strategy to stamp out infections.

“We cannot start relaxing (restrictions) again at an incidence rate of 100, 70 or 50,” she said.

But Spahn said the goal for Germany remained “to prevent the health system from being overburdened — and not to avoid every infection”.

“To get it down to zero infections and keep it that way comes at a disproportionate cost in other areas of life,” he said.

Just over two million older people and medical workers have so far received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with calls growing for new freedoms for those who have had the jabs.

But the German Ethics Council, which advises the government on scientific and moral issues, on Thursday came out in opposition to lifting restrictions for those who have been inoculated.

Council head Alena Buyx advised against “individual relaxation of the rules”, pointing to a lack of evidence on whether those who have received jabs are still able to spread the virus.

-AFP

COVID-19 Restrictions: German Car Sales Plunge In January

File photo of cars parked for movie watching.

 

New car sales in Germany nosedived in January as virus restrictions and the end of a VAT sales tax reduction stifled demand, official data showed Wednesday.

A total of 169,754 new cars were registered last month in Europe’s largest car market — down 31 percent on January 2020, the KBA transport authority said.

The plunge was caused by “car dealerships being closed due to the pandemic and the VAT rate,” according to the German Automobile Association (VDA).

The German government had reduced VAT for six months from July to stimulate spending during the virus outbreak, with the new year seeing a return to the higher rate of 19 percent.

READ ALSO: Tesla To Recall 135,000 Vehicles Over Computer Issue

The cut led to a spike in car sales in December, with new registrations jumping 10 percent year-on-year.

But overall in 2020, Germany’s key car market plunged to its lowest levels since reunification, with output and sales down dramatically due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 2.9 million cars were registered in the country last year, down 19 percent, with production of 3.5 million vehicles reaching the lowest in 45 years, according to the VDA.

But there was good news for electric cars in January, with new registrations rising by 129 percent to 36,903.

Electric vehicle sales represented 21.7 percent of the total market, according to the VDA.

Sales of purely electric cars increased by 118 percent, while new registrations of plug-in hybrids rose by 138 percent.

Including hybrids, e-vehicles accounted for 13.5 percent of new registrations in 2020.

AFP

‘Never Again’: Ozil Rules Out Germany Comeback

German midfielder Mesut Ozil gives a press conference after he signed his new three-and-a-half-year contract with Turkish football club Fenerbahce at the Divan Faruk ilgaz facilities on January 27, 2021 in Istanbul. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

 

Former Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil flatly ruled out a comeback for Germany on Wednesday as he signed a three-and-a-half contract with his favourite Turkish side Fenerbahce.

“I wish the German national team success, but I will never play for them again,” the 32-year-old attacking midfielder told reporters in fluent Turkish at his official unveiling in Istanbul.

Ozil was one of the stars of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning side and won three FA Cups for Arsenal.

But he was heavily criticised in Germany when he posed for a photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of the 2018 World Cup.

Erdogan was also the best man at the player’s wedding in Turkey.

Ozil, who has Turkish roots, complained of being subjected to “racist” attacks and quit the national team in anger following Germany’s first-round exit from the tournament.

 

Ozil won the World Cup with Germany in 2014. Photo: [email protected]_Official

 

He barely appeared for Arsenal — where he was the highest-paid player on a reported £350,000 ($480,000) a week — after slamming China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang in 2019.

Arsenal initially distanced itself from Ozil’s remarks.

Ozil will wear the number 67 jersey for Fenerbahce — the first two digits of the postal code of his family’s native Zonguldak province in Turkey.

Fenerbahce president Ali Koc said Ozil should be ready in time for the club’s big Istanbul derby against eternal rivals Galatasaray on February 6.

Ozil will officially earn three million euros a season — a fraction of the salary he drew at Arsenal and before that Real Madrid.

 

Fenerbahce’s new transfer, German midfielder Mesut Ozil, takes part in his first training session with the team on January 24, 2021, in Istanbul.  (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

 

Fenerbahce and Turkey’s other big clubs have been crippled by debt after taking on big contracts that became unsustainable because of the country’s economic problems.

The club launch a donation campaign among its supporters this week to help pay Ozil’s wages.

 

Arsenal’s former German midfielder Mesut Ozil attends a signing cerenomy of his new contract with Turkish football club Fenerbahce at the Divan Faruk ilgaz facilities on January 27, 2021, in Istanbul. – Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil has joined Fenerbahce on a three-and-a-half year deal after last playing for the Gunners in March, both clubs announced on January 24, 2021 . (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

COVID-19: Greece Bans Large Gatherings For ‘Health’ Reasons

People, wearing protective face masks, queue outside a shop on January 18, 2021 on a commercial street in Ahtens, as all retail stores and shopping malls in the country reopen amidst the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP)

 

Greek police on Tuesday announced a ban on large gatherings for a week for public health reasons, ahead of expected protests on a number of issues.

“All public gatherings of over 100 people (are restricted) until February 1,” the police said in a statement.

Student groups have been demonstrating for weeks against plans to introduce a special police force to guard universities.

Another protest on the issue is to be held on Thursday.

A protest has also been called Friday in support of the jailed top assassin of far-left extremist group November 17, Dimitris Koufontinas, who went on hunger strike earlier this month to demand a prison transfer.

Anarchist groups are also scheduled to protest at the Athens city hall Monday against an urban redevelopment plan.

READ ALSO: Germany Joins EU Call For Controls On Vaccine Exports

The police said large protests posed a “danger of further boosting the spread of the coronavirus.”

In a follow-up statement, the police denied the ban was linked to the planned protests.

Greece remains under a national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with movement restricted between regions and people required to give a valid reason for leaving their homes.

The ban was eased on January 18 to allow retail outlets to operate, and secondary schools are to reopen on Monday.

More than 5,600 deaths in Greece have been attributed to coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Over 280 people are in intensive care.

Merkel Invites Biden To Germany Once ‘Pandemic Allows’

A file photo combination of Biden and Merkel.

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday invited US President Joe Biden to visit Germany “as soon as the pandemic situation allows,” her spokesman said, in their first phone call since the Democrat took office.

In what appeared to be a markedly warm call compared to her conversations with Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, Merkel and the new US leader also underlined the importance of working together in the fight against Covid-19.

“The chancellor and the American president agree that stronger international efforts were needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert in a statement.

On that note, she welcomed Biden’s decision to reverse Trump’s decision last July to pull the United States out of the World Health Organization — even as the pandemic was raging.

A few months later in November, Trump also yanked the United States out of the Paris climate accord, claiming it “was designed to kill the American economy” rather than save the environment.

Also lauding Biden’s decision to return to the Paris agreement, Merkel pledged “Germany’s readiness to assume responsibility as it works with European and transatlantic partners in dealing with international tasks”.

File photo: Outgone US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

 

Merkel said Thursday during a press conference that there was far more common ground with Washington now that Biden has replaced Trump.

READ ALSO: California Ends Wide Lockdown As COVID-19 Hospital Strain Eases

She had minced no words in criticising Trump, saying after the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters that the president shared blame for the unrest.

In 2016, she had greeted Trump’s election victory with an extraordinary warning: that she would work with him on the condition that he respect democratic values.

AFP

COVID-19: Germany Hits Two Million Infections As WHO Tackles New Strains

File photo: Passengers line up at a Covid-19 test centre at Frankfurt International Airport in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on December 19, 2020, amid the ongoing novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Armando BABANI / AFP)

 

Germany on Friday passed two million coronavirus cases as a World Health Organization emergency committee readied to issue advice on stemming the spread of new, more contagious strains of the disease.

The surge in Europe’s biggest economy came as countries on the continent again tightened restrictions, with Portugal entering a fresh lockdown and Britain requiring negative tests for entry.

Despite the rollout of vaccines — India’s mammoth programme will begin on Saturday — many nations are doubling down on efforts to stall a pandemic that has now claimed almost two million lives.

Fresh curbs on populations were announced from Brazil to Lebanon, and Mexico has been hit with its deadliest week of the pandemic yet.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday pushed for a “significant” tightening of curbs to slow the infection rate as the European Union’s most populous country added more than 22,000 new cases.

The chancellor said she wanted to bring forward crisis talks with regional leaders to the coming week, participants at a meeting of her centre-right CDU party told AFP.

They quoted her as saying the virus could only be stopped with “significant additional measures” and people urgently needed to reduce social contact.

At the Meissen crematorium in the state of Saxony, coffins were stacked up to three high or even stored in hallways awaiting cremation. The eastern region has been one of Germany’s worst-hit areas in recent weeks.

Manager Joerg Schaldach, 57, said anyone still denying the severity of the pandemic should come and take a look at the bodies piling up.

“This is heavy work, so why don’t the Covid-19 deniers come and do it,” he said.

“We have a disastrous situation here.”

– ‘Worrying’ –
Germany has fared better than many of its European neighbours in the pandemic, with France, Italy, Spain and Britain all recording more infections despite smaller populations.

Britain on Thursday said it would ban all arrivals from South American countries from Friday over fears of importing a new coronavirus strain.

“I’ve taken the urgent decision… following evidence of a new variant in Brazil,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Twitter.

The new strain, known as E484K, has raised alarm among researchers over its possible impact on immunity.

London will also begin Friday requiring all arrivals to show evidence of a clean coronavirus test taken in the last 72 hours to gain entry to the country.

Brazil’s northern Amazonas state announced a 7 pm to 6 am curfew as the health system is pushed to breaking point in the state capital Manaus.

Global health experts were expected on Friday to issue recommendations to stem the spread of this variant and other new strains, which the WHO called “worrying”.

 

In this file photo taken on March 11, 2020 shows World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press briefing on COVID-19 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The WHO’s emergency committee normally gathers every three months but its meeting was brought forward by two weeks.

“When you first met almost a year ago, just 557 cases of the disease we now call Covid-19 had been reported to the WHO,” director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his opening remarks to the emergency meeting Thursday.

– Stimulus plan –
Scientists say large-scale vaccination is the only way out of the crisis but 95 percent of the doses so far administered have been limited to just 10 countries, the WHO’s European branch said.

READ ALSO: We Must Start Talking About Local Vaccine Production – Osinbajo

Progress on administering vaccines has often been slow, such as in the United States, where around 10 million people have received a first shot, even as 4,000 people die from the virus every day.

American policymakers were on Thursday focused on addressing the economic damage from the pandemic, with President-elect Joe Biden unveiling a proposal for a $1.9 trillion relief package aimed at revitalising the world’s largest economy.

Biden aims to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, help struggling state and local governments, safely reopen schools, boost the vaccination campaign and raise the size of stimulus cheques Congress approved last month.

“In this moment of crisis… we cannot afford inaction,” Biden said.

AFP

German COVID-19 Deaths Top 40,000 As Merkel Warns Of ‘Hardest Weeks’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on as she arrives to answer MPs’ questions regarding the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic on December 16, 2020, at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

 

The total number of Germany’s coronavirus deaths crossed 40,000 on Sunday, as Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the coming weeks would be “the hardest” yet.

Germany recorded 465 deaths over the past 24 hours, the Robert Koch Institute for disease control said, raising the toll since the start of the pandemic to 40,343.

More than 1.9 million people have been infected so far, with almost 17,000 new cases added since Saturday.

In her weekly video message on Saturday, Merkel said the full impact of socialising over the Christmas and New Year’s period was yet to show up in the statistics.

She warned Germans that “these next winter weeks will be the hardest phase of the pandemic” so far, with many doctors and medical staff working at their limits.

Germany fared better than many other European countries during the first Covid-19 wave in the spring but it has been hit hard by the second wave.

The nation of 83 million people, the bloc’s most populous, has imposed another round of restrictions to limit social contacts and help hospitals cope with a surge in patients.

More than 5,000 Covid-19 patients are currently in intensive care nationwide, with over 80 percent of intensive care beds occupied.

Germany has closed schools and non-essential shops, culture and leisure facilities until at least January 31 in hope of slowing the outbreak.

Like other EU nations, it started vaccinating citizens against Covid-19 in late December using the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

More than half a million people have received the jab so far.

A second vaccine, developed by US firm Moderna, will join the rollout in the coming days.

– ‘Absolutely necessary’ –

Merkel acknowledged the vaccine campaign had got off to a slow start, “but the tempo will pick up”, she said.

“What’s important is that we can say: we will have enough of the vaccine available for everyone in Germany,” she added.

“Month after month we will inoculate more people and eventually we will be able to offer the vaccine to anyone who wants it.”

Merkel said the vaccines allowed for “justified hope” that the world could conquer the pandemic.

But she urged Germans to stay patient and said she was “firmly convinced” the current tough curbs on public life are “absolutely necessary”.

A survey by the Kantar research group for Bild am Sonntag newspaper found that 56 percent of Germans agreed with the latest measures to stem the virus spread.

Another 25 percent of respondents said the restrictions did not go far enough.

Just 16 percent said the rules were too strict.

UK Helps Raise $1 Billion In Global Vaccine Donations

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP


Britain said on Sunday it has helped raise $1 billion (818 million euros) from global donors towards the drive to help “vulnerable countries” access coronavirus vaccines, by match-funding contributions.

The UK said, in addition, it has committed £548 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), after matching with £1 every $4 pledged by other donors.

Canada, Japan and Germany are among the countries to make contributions that it matched, helping the AMC raise more than $1.7 billion in total so far.

The fund will allow for the distribution of one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to 92 developing countries this year, according to Britain’s Foreign Office.

“We’ll only be safe from this virus, when we’re all safe — which is why we’re focused on a global solution to a global problem,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

The announcement came as Britain marks the 75th anniversary of the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in London, hosting UN Secretary-General António Guterres for a so-called virtual visit starting Sunday.

Guterres will on Monday meet Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as Alok Sharma, who was this week designated full-time president of the UN’s next major climate summit, COP26, in November.

Sharma had previously done the role part-time alongside his UK government job of secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, which he left Friday.

Ahead of the virtual visit, Guterres said he was honoured to “renew our cause of overcoming global challenges together, and celebrate a country that was instrumental in creating the United Nations”.

Also on Monday, Guterres and global leaders will try to reignite international environmental diplomacy with a biodiversity summit to launch a critical year for efforts to stem the devastating effects of global warming and species loss.

The One Planet Summit, a largely virtual event hosted by France in partnership with the United Nations and the World Bank, will include French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Union chief Ursula Von der Leyen.