Afghan woman’s trek to escape Kabul with her daughter — and her plea to help family stuck behind

Obtained by ABC News

(NEW YORK) — “Everything bad that you think of was there,” Sarina told ABC News in a video call, wiping away tears. “I was feeling like, ‘I’m gonna die. Why?'”

She said she came to terms with dying during her first attempt to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 19, surrounded by shouting, gunshots and beatings in a sea of thousands of people desperate to flee — but she said she told herself if she could just get her two-year-old daughter out of the Taliban’s Afghanistan, it would be OK.

“It was not easy that night,” said Sarina, whose name ABC News has changed for the safety of her family still in Afghanistan. “One second I thought I lost my daughter forever. I thought, ‘This is not the life I wanted…I will remain under Taliban, and they will kill me. At least my daughter will be safe.”

After waiting outside the airport for more than 10 hours, where she said they were treated like “animals,” her family returned to their shelter in Kabul, saying her daughter had seen enough.

It’s a day Sarina said is seared in her memory as a “nightmare” and one she hopes her 2-year-old will forget — although bruises on her “tiny face,” as Sarina called it, pointing to her cheeks and explaining their shoulders pushed into their child in the crowd, would serve as a painful reminder of what they had endured.

“My eyes begin, like, filled with tears,” she said, when she’s asked about their journey. “I think it’s not possible to forget those moments that much soon.”

Her husband also came out with bruises, she said, after Taliban fighters whipped him with strands of rubber. Thousands queued outside the airport, and thousands, like Sarina, didn’t make it out of Afghanistan that day.

“The entire night, I cried. I thought ‘Why why? Why did this happen to my daughter?’ She is my everything. She’s a little angel,” she said, through tears. “She was crying. and she told me, ‘Mommy, Mommy, home? Home? Home?'”

Surrounded by chaos, Sarina said she thought to herself, too, “Where is home?”

Fighting for women of Afghanistan — and her life

Sarina spent nine years studying in India, but returned to Afghanistan after completing her Bachelor’s Degree to work in women’s activism.

“There were job opportunities in India for me, but I let them, I let them out. I wanted to be in my country, feel the pain of those poor people, those women, that I really need — I really need to help them,” she said.

She said she worked on USAID projects and in a legal clinic for nearly three years, helping women divorce their husbands after domestic violence, before taking her “dream job” at the relief and development organization, Cordaid.

“Millions of girls, they want education. They want to study in universities. They want jobs. Even if you go to the villages of Afghanistan, you can see that desire in their eyes — how much the Afghan woman wants education,” she said.

But her work — and her life — became at risk when the Taliban seized power, she said. She was called to be evacuated because she was a target.

After the failed first attempt, which she called “traumatic,” Sarina bunkered back down with her family and seven other women in Cordaid — a Dutch development organization she worked for since 2019 which campaigns for women’s rights and independence. When she said she was feeling the lowest, she received a text from a stranger in the U.S. asking how she could help.

“That moment I needed some good words,” she told ABC News, choking up. “Someone telling me that ‘You’re okay, we are with you.’ And that was the moment Cori told me that, ‘Don’t worry Sarina, now I’m with you, many other people are behind you. You’re not alone. We are trying to help you.'”

Cori Shepherd Stern, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker who has an adopted refugee daughter, reached out to Sarina after learning of her situation through a mutual friend. It gave her the motivation she needed for a second attempt two days later.

Shepherd Stern told ABC News it was one of the most “emotionally intense” moments of her life.

“The sheer terror she was feeling, the horrified shock from what she was witnessing was very, very clear and immediate to me,” she said. “I took steps to logistically help her but more than anything, I tried to call out to her from a safe place and stay with her until she and her daughter were safe, too.”

Using Google Maps and communicating with volunteers outside Kabul, Sarina said she and her team were able to find the Dutch army behind the Baron Hotel on Aug. 26, and yelled out, ‘”Holland, Holland!'” The Dutch government had agreed to take the women of Cordaid and their families to safety.

“Finally, that was,” she said, stopping to cry. “That was the moment of victory — but I’m not happy. My family, my mom, my dad, my sisters, I immediately called my dad and told him that I am not happy. I don’t have you in here. I’m not happy. He said ‘don’t worry about that.’ I thought, ‘No.’ Because I know that my dad has done a lot for us.”

Turning to help get her family out

Acknowledging how far she’d come in days alone — from Kabul to Pakistan and from Pakistan to Turkey and from Turkey to Amsterdam — where she’s been at a military base for Afghan refugees for the last 10 weeks — she’s extremely distressed because her family is behind.

“How can I be safe, and they are all miserable?” she said. “They are not safe,” she continued, adding that she’s particularly concerned for her father.

“He is, right now, in depression,” she said, then recalling the version of her father she is used to, bringing a smile to her face. “He is a legend. He is like a hero. He studied at all times of his life,” she said, listing all the places where he has taught and spoken.

Shepherd Stern, who helped Sarina with moral support, and a small team of volunteers are now helping her family with paperwork to get them out. The options they’re looking into include a P-2 visa for her father or individual humanitarian parole for each family member.

But an unprecedented 20,000 Afghan nationals like Sarina’s family have requested parole since August — more than 10 times the number of applications received from around the world in a typical year, USCIS confirmed to ABC News in a statement.

The agency said they are surging resources and training personnel in response — but activists say it isn’t coming soon enough.

“This family needs to get out now,” Shepherd Stern said.

Sarina talks with her dad on the phone every day, multiple times a day, and she said he tells her, “‘My dearest daughter. You should follow your education. You should keep it up.'”

“He was always telling me that you should stand on your feet. ‘I am educating you to be a strong woman,’ and I’m a strong woman, but I am feeling bad that he is not here,” she cried. “He does not deserve to be over there while these people rule over him.”

Because of his devotion to educating women, she said she expects more from the U.S. and international aid agencies to help get her family out.

“It’s a matter of saving the lives of five people,” she said.

Sarina said she refuses to think what she considers unthinkable — that they may not get out.

“Life ends for them — because there is nothing left over here. What should my dad do? What should my sisters do? You tell me — what’s left? It’s mean — it’s life-ending for them,” she said.

“I just don’t want to think about that,” she added, with optimism in her voice. “They will get out soon.”

Sarina’s future

The Netherlands managed to evacuate around 2,000 people like Sarina from Afghanistan.

She has a permit for residency for five years — but it’s unclear when she’ll get settled in a home. To prepare herself, she watches Dutch language lessons on YouTube every day and is now taking classes at a local university offered to refugees. She plans to pursue a Master’s in gender and sexuality studies and become a professor — like her father.

While her time at the camp in the Netherlands has presented new challenges, it has also brought new blessings: Sarina learned on Tuesday that she is approximately eight weeks pregnant.

It’s all the more reason she wants her family out.

“Please help my family. Get them out of Afghanistan, please. That’s a request. That’s a humble request,” she said, with special devotion to her father. “I am everything I am today because of him.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Travelers welcome long-awaited reopening of US borders

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(LONDON) — The U.S. is reopening borders to vaccinated travelers on Monday after 20 months of being closed to many countries, including the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, India, South Africa and most of Europe.

After a number of stops and starts, President Joe Biden announced the date for the resumption on Oct. 25.

“I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the White House said in a statement.

Many travelers communicated their excitement at the news, some prepping for their big trip back weeks in advance. A group of Twitter users is even planning on celebrating together in London’s Heathrow Airport Monday morning before their flight.

The travel ban was first put into place by former President Donald Trump in March 2020, briefly lifted when he left office, then reinstated by Biden.

Many couples communicated their frustration and despair online, rallying around the Twitter hashtag #LoveIsNotTourism.

Christin Bell and Josh Hague met in the summer of 2019, when Bell was traveling from her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, to England. They would travel back and forth across the Atlantic every six weeks to see each other, but found themselves separated by the travel ban.

“[Initially we thought] this is just temporary, because at first it was,” Bell told ABC News. “This is going to be 60 days and then we’ll be through it. Well, 60 days quickly turned into two years and we struggled.”

As the U.K. relaxed its travel restrictions, Bell was allowed to visit Hague six months later, but he was still forbidden from coming to the U.S., unless he spent two weeks quarantining in a country not included in the travel ban, such as Turkey or Mexico, something that was not possible for them financially.

“Americans could travel pretty much wherever they wanted. Yet, family members of Americans could not travel, and that was extremely frustrating,” said Bell.

In January, as the COVID vaccine was distributed on both sides of the Atlantic, the ban was kept in place, with the Biden administration stating concerns about the delta variant.

“With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” White House press secretary Jen Paski said in January.

Many speculated that Biden might lift the ban after the G-7 conference during the summer, but the White House reiterated their position in July 2021, despite mounting international pressure.

“The American travel ban on Europeans felt much more arbitrary and also allowed for much less exceptions. … It reinforced the feeling that the American passport is stronger than the European passports,” Celia Belin, a visiting fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings Institution, told ABC News.

On Oct. 20, in the midst of a spat with France over a submarine contract with Australia, the Biden administration announced it was lifting the ban on vaccinated travelers.

“[The announcement] came on the back of a very difficult summer transatlantically for Joe Biden,” Belin told ABC News.

Belin added that lifting the ban, which only applies to vaccinated travelers, still excludes many countries where the vaccine is not yet easily available or recognized by the U.S. The administration is also working through a backlog of visas, which were halted during the ban.

“The day that the ban lift was announced … we just looked at each other and cried with joy that it was finally ending,” said Bell.

Bell and Hague got engaged the day before the ban was lifted, and are now planning their wedding in the U.S.

“We can actually go forward and plan our life together instead of sitting in this excruciating limbo,” Bell said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Alleged kidnapper of 4-year-old girl sent to maximum security prison

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(PERTH, Australia) — Terence Darrell Kelly was charged Thursday afternoon with one count of forcibly taking a child under 16 for allegedly abducting 4-year-old Cleo Smith from a campsite on Oct. 16.

Kelly has been held by authorities in Perth, Australia, since Friday, according to the Western Australian Police Force. Prior to being charged, police reported he had twice been taken to the hospital for self-inflicted injuries, and that he needed to be held under maximum security.

“A person in that situation would not remain in Carnarvon anyway, so the normal process will take place. We’ll put extra security measures for obvious reasons,” Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said at a news conference in Perth.

Kelly was taken into custody on Wednesday morning after a tip led police to a suburban home in Carnarvon, Australia, where Cleo was found unharmed.

Cleo had been missing for 18 days after she was abducted from her tent while camping with her family in a remote part of western Australia. The search for her had gained national attention.

Cleo’s family released a statement Friday morning thanking everyone who helped recover their daughter.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in the rescue of our daughter Cleo Smith. In particular, we would like to thank Western Australia Police, all those involved in the initial search, the Carnarvon community, local businesses and of course our family and friends,” the statement said. “We are humbled by the love and support that we have received from not only our local community but the whole of Western Australia and across the country.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Famine-stricken Madagascar donations pour in from ‘World News Tonight’ viewers

ABC News

(NEW YORK) —  Donations have poured in from thousands of “World News Tonight” viewers in the wake of our report on Southern Madagascar, a country on the verge of the world’s first climate change-induced near-famine in modern history.

Unlike other countries, where extreme hunger and near-famine conditions are caused by war, conflict, or isolated weather events, southern Madagascar is facing these conditions because of a years-long drought caused by climate change.

The conditions there make the land here too arid to farm and leading to crop failure. The severe lack of rain has led to depleted food sources and dried-up rivers. Climate change has also led to sandstorms affecting these lands, covering formerly arable land and rendering it infertile.

“World News Tonight” anchor David Muir and his team traveled to Madagascar to report on the worsening situation, as aid organizations and the Malagasy government rush to fill in the gaps of food and water in this region.

Since our report aired Monday, the World Food Programme said they received support from more than 22,000 donors, raising $2.7 million, which will go towards helping the people of southern Madagascar.

Arduino Mangoni, the deputy country director of the World Food Programme in Madagascar, told ABC News he had “never seen people, especially children, in this situation that we’re seeing here.”

“As they cannot plant, it’s affecting their food security,” Patrick Vercammen, the World Food Programme’s emergency coordinator here, told Muir during a visit to Akanka Fokotany, an affected village. “Having sandstorms in this kind of landscape is not something usual and having the effects of sandstorms shows that nature is changing, the environment is changing, and the climate change is affecting this area more than the rest of Madagascar.”

The situation has led to widespread malnutrition affecting more than 1 million people, and pockets of what the United Nations classifies “catastrophic” food insecurity signaling deepening hunger.

Madagascar has produced 0.01 percent of the world’s annual carbon emissions in the last eight decades, but it is suffering some of the worst effects.

“It is not fair…these people have not contributed to climate change because they do not have electricity, they do not have cars etc., and they’re paying probably the highest price in terms of the consequences of climate change,” Mangoni said.

The children are the most affected, with at least half a million kids under the age of five expected to be acutely malnourished, according to the World Food Programme and UNICEF.

In fact, the agencies say about 110,000 children are already in severe condition, suffering irreversible damage to their growth.

As the country enters the lean season – that dangerous time during which people wait for the next successful harvest — the need to provide food to those at risk of starvation has become more urgent. Aid workers warning that, without action, they could run out of food resources by the end of the year.

The World Food Programme is working together with the Malagasy government to alleviate some of the most acute needs in this region; prevent and treat children experiencing malnutrition; and build infrastructure and knowledge to make the population of southern Madagascar more resilient in the face of drought. They’re supporting more than 700,000 people in dire need, and the need is expected to grow.

Click here for more information about the U.N. World Food Programme’s lifesaving support in Madagascar.

Click here to help families in Madagascar.

The World Food Program says:

  • $7 provides a month of school meals for a child in need
  • $15 provides a month’s worth of lifesaving nutrition to small-scale farmers
  • $25 provides 50 mothers with nutritious meals
  • $50 provides a child with a year of school meals
  • $75 feeds a family of 5 for one month, providing staples like rice, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, flour, beans, and lentils
  • $1,000 can feed a family of 5 for one year.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

2 dead after shootout between alleged drug gangs near Cancun resorts

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(PUERTO MORELOS, Mexico) — Two people are dead after a shooting involving alleged drug gangs in a Mexico resort zone Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

The shooting occurred on a beach in Puerto Morelos, south of Cancun, during a confrontation between alleged members of rival groups of drug dealers, according to a statement from the Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office. Two of the alleged gang members died, and there were no additional injuries, the office said. Armed suspects escaped in a stolen motorboat, authorities said.

The stretch of beach is near two resorts, and the shooting sent vacationers running to their hotel rooms.

An American vacationing in Cancun confirmed to ABC News that he heard shots fired while at the Hyatt Ziva Hotel in Puerto Morelos.

Shortly after 2 p.m. local time, Jim Wildermuth, of Atlanta, said he was at the pool outside his room with other guests when they heard “cracks.”

“We kind of looked at each other funny,” Wildermuth said.

They then ran up to their rooms and were told to stay there because there was an active shooter on the property, according to Wildermuth, who said he saw military personnel directing people in front of the hotel.

A Hyatt spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News that they are “aware of a developing situation at Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun.”

“We understand the hotel team immediately engaged local authorities who are on the scene investigating the situation,” the company said, adding that it is “taking steps in an effort to ensure the safety of guests and colleagues.”

Guests at the hotel were deemed safe after the shooting, authorities said.

A spokesperson for the Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun, which is located near the Hyatt Ziva Cancun, told ABC News it has no comment at this time.

The shooting comes nearly two weeks after two female tourists were killed during an apparent drug gang shootout in the Mexico resort destination of Tulum. Three tourists were wounded in the Oct. 23 shooting.

ABC News’ Josh Margolin and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

At Afghanistan’s northern border, worries about what comes next

ABC News

(RUZVAT, Tajikistan) — In many places along Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan, the countries are separated by just a few yards of water — the narrow Panj River.

There are no walls or fences, and, standing on the Tajikistan side, northern Afghanistan is so close that as ABC reporters looked across last week, Taliban fighters waved back at them.

The Taliban have taken control of the Afghan side of the border, something they were unable to achieve even when they ruled there 20 years ago. Now their white flags can be seen flying in the villages perched along the river as it winds between two towering walls of mountains.

The border, which runs through the Pamir Mountains, is a new fault line in a new reality. It’s a place that poses questions to Afghanistan’s neighbors, including regional powers like Russia and China, about what a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan will mean.

There are fears that instability could spread from Afghanistan to surrounding countries. Terrorist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaeda have footholds in northern Afghanistan, and Tajikistan is already a major drugs route. And as a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan threatens, so does a potential refugee exodus.

So where does that leave Tajikistan?

The nearly 850-mile-long border is now closed. As the Taliban advanced this summer, groups of Afghans, mostly government soldiers, began to flee across the border. Tajikistan’s government reacted by sending 20,000 troops to the area.

The sealed border has cut off the flow of refugees. The Taliban are also stopping people, according to Afghans who’ve tried to cross.

ABC News reporters visited a stretch of border in the Darvoz region last week. To enter, foreigners must have special permission and pass through three checkpoints. But beyond that, the only visible security force was an occasional three-man patrol of young conscripts.

Locals said things have been calm since the Taliban took over, with the sound of shooting on the other side stopping. Life has been relatively unchanged, they said, except Tajik security service agents now lived in some villages. The three nearby bridges spanning the river all have been closed.

Tajikistan is the only one of Afghanistan’s neighbors to adopt an openly hostile attitude toward the Taliban since their takeover. Nearly half of Afghanistan’s population are ethnically Tajiks, and in the 1990s, Tajikistan’s government supported the anti-Taliban resistance. This time, Tajikistan has again become a sanctuary for resistance leaders.

Ahmad Massoud, the son of the legendary mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud and leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, is in Tajikistan, his spokesman said this week, seeking to drum up international support.

But unlike the last time, the resistance has almost no holdouts in Afghanistan, and Tajikistan’s government has shown little appetite for assisting beyond offering shelter.

Before Kabul fell, Tajikistan said it could take in 100,000 Afghan refugees, but now it’s closed to new entries. Several thousand Afghans did manage to arrive, including 160 U.S.-trained Afghan Air Force Pilots, who are now trapped waiting evacuation.

Those who did reach Tajikistan are now struggling, unable to find work or feed themselves in one of the world’s poorest countries. Tamim Talash, a former official at Afghanistan’s election commission, is now stranded there with his wife and 4-month old daughter.

“We have a lot of problems,” Talash said. “I am jobless now.”

Talash, who said the Taliban twice tried to kill him, has applied for asylum in the U.S. but heard nothing so far.

“I don’t know how to find out any person or any organization to help us,” he added.

The upheaval in Afghanistan has also boosted Russia’s role in the region, where it already retains a strong grip on former Soviet colonies. Worried about potential terrorists in those countries, Russia has been moving to bolster them.

Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, already is home to Russia’s 201st Military Base, the largest it has anywhere in the world outside Russia.

Since the summer, Russia has sent to Tajikistan military equipment and money to construct new border posts and re-equip military forces. The countries have staged large joint military exercises. In October, Russia took journalists to watch the culminating display of scheduled exercises organized by the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance of former Soviet countries.

Russian troops took part alongside those from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and others at a firing range about 15 miles from Afghanistan. The display, involving around 2,000 troops, simulated a response to an imagined attempt by an Islamist group that had crossed into Tajikistan and declared it an Islamic state.

But Moscow also is building a working relationship with the Taliban. Last month, it hosted the Taliban in Moscow for talks with regional countries, chaired by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

Russia has asked for, and received, public guarantees from the Taliban that it will not destabilize Central Asian countries like Tajikistan or allow Afghanistan to be used as a launchpad for international terrorism again.

“Just as we want positive relations with others, we also seek positive relations,” Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s acting foreign minister, told reporters through a translator during the Moscow talks. “We remain committed to our commitments that the soil of Afghanistan will not be used to threaten the security of other nations.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Up close with Prince William’s Earthshot Prize winners

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(GLASGOW, Scotland) — Eshrat Waris called just attending the COP26 climate summit and meeting Prince William in Glasgow, Scotland, this week an “out of body experience.” Being handed 1 million pounds for her Earthshot Prize-winning invention took it to another level.

“The fact that we’re in the room means that — I hope to God — they unlock that money because there are solutions like the 15 Earthshot finalists have shown,” Waris told ABC News. “But that financing that has been promised since Paris, I hope to God in Glasgow gets delivered and unlocked for all of us because these solutions are going to be game-changers.”

The 34-year-old from Bangladesh was one of five winners of the prince’s inaugural Earthshot Prize, each of whom received 1 million pounds, or about $1.38 million, in financial support. All 15 finalists received some funding to scale their climate change solutions.

Waris won the award for a smartmeter that allows people to sell excess solar energy developed by SOLshare where she is the director of product and business development.

Sam Teicher, from winner Coral Vita, echoed Waris’ emotions, saying, “It’s the honor of my life that Prince William knows our company, knows our name.”

Acknowledging the global scale of COP26, Olugbenga Olubanjo, a winner from Nigeria, told ABC News, “I’m very sure it’s going to unlock opportunities for us. … It sets us on the global stage.”

The three winners who spoke to ABC News were optimistic and determined to bring climate change to an end.

“Failure is not an option when it comes to solving for climate change,” Teicher said.

He also pointed to the world’s response to the pandemic as an example of the power we harness to create change.

“You saw during the COVID lockdowns that governments can unlock incredible amounts of funding to restructure societies,” Teicher said. “So the argument that there’s not enough money to fund climate change action is now underscored by the fact that the cost of inaction is so much greater than paying the bill right now, while then also creating all these opportunities through new solutions.”

And while the group said it was humbled and honored to be working with Prince William, the winners said they were also amazed by Prince Charles.

“We had the opportunity to meet Prince Charles the other night, and I honestly was very surprised and pleasantly blown away by how much this man knows,” Waris said.

“He got so excited,” Waris added. “He was actually grabbing the CEOs and saying, ‘Hey, come over here. Like, these guys, like, you need to finance them right now.'”

The finalists and winners met for the first time in person and were featured at a leaders’ event on Tuesday where William gave a speech.

The youngest finalist, 15-year-old Vinisha Umashankar from Tamil Nadu, India, joined the prince on stage and addressed world leaders including President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I’m not just a girl from India, I’m a girl from Earth,” Umashankar said.

Umashankar reached the final rounds of the prize for her invention, which replaces India’s traditional charcoal-powered roaming ironing carts with ones powered by solar energy.

“We won’t wait for you to act,” Umashankar added in her speech, earning her a standing ovation. “We will lead even if you don’t. We will act even if you delay.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

COP26 updates: Summit focuses on accelerating transition to clean energy

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(GLASGOW, Scotland) — Leaders from nearly every country in the world have converged upon Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference that experts are touting as the most important environmental summit in history.

The conference, delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was designed as the check-in for the progress countries are making after entering the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, a value that would be disastrous to exceed, according to climate scientists. More ambitious efforts aim to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Not one country is going into COP26 on track to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to experts. They will need to work together to find collective solutions that will drastically cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to move from commitments into action,” Jim Harmon, chairman of the World Resources Institute, told ABC News. “The path to a better future is still possible, but time is running out.”

All eyes will be on the biggest emitters: China, the U.S. and India. While China is responsible for about 26% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than all other developed countries combined, the cumulative emissions from the U.S. over the past century are likely twice that of China’s, David Sandalow, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, told ABC News.

Here’s how the conference is developing. All times Eastern:

Nov 04, 8:10 am
US needs to ‘get in the game’ on clean energy transitions, energy secretary say

The U.S. needs to lead by example in the clean energy transition and leaders should jump at the chance to scale up new technology to stay competitive on the global stage, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told ABC News.

As the “richest country in the world” and one of the biggest polluters, it will be incumbent upon Americans to “do our part,” Granholm told ABC News’ Maggie Rulli on Thursday.

“If you’re a businessperson, you want to be able to get in the game,” Granholm said. “And in the United States, we don’t want our economic competitors getting those jobs, getting those businesses. We want to be able to create it in the United States for our people to work.”

Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, said governors from states that have relied heavily on one fossil fuel industry, such as coal or oil and gas, should prioritize creating clean energy jobs for workers, adding that there are opportunities in clean energy, such as geothermal power, that use the same set of skills.

“If you’re a governor, you don’t want people moving to a new state,” she said. “They want to be able to create those opportunities inside of your state, and every single state in the United States has something to offer as a competitive advantage in clean energy.”

Nov 04, 7:34 am
Dozens of countries promise to phase out coal

A coalition of 190 countries and organizations have agreed to commit to the end of coal power at COP26, a potentially major step toward limiting global temperature increases.

Major coal-using countries such as Poland and Vietnam have committed to phasing out the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel for the first time, the U.K. government announced Wednesday night.

The coalition has committed to ending all investment in new coal power generation both domestically and internationally, rapidly scale up deployment of clean power generation, phase out coal power for major economies in the 2030s and the rest of the world by the 2040s and make a transition away from coal power in a way that benefits workers and communities.

China, Japan and Korea, the three largest public financiers of goal, have already committed to ending overseas finance for goal generation by the end of 2021.

Nov 03, 8:04 pm
Global carbon emissions set to rise after 2020’s COVID-induced reduction

Carbon emissions are on track to return to pre-COVID levels after dropping by 5.4% in 2020, according to the 16th annual Global Carbon Budget prepared by the Global Carbon Project.

Researchers from University of Exeter, University of East Anglia, CICERO and Stanford University found that coal and gas emissions are set to grow more in 2021 than they fell in 2020.

While all major emitters – U.S., China, India and the EU27 – are seeing a rise in emissions by a minimum of 4% in 2021, India and China are set to beat their respective 2019 emission levels.

“Investments in the green economy in post-COVID recovery plans of some countries have been insufficient so far, on their own, to avoid a substantial return close to pre-COVID emissions,” study leader Pierre Friedlingstein, who holds a chair in Mathematical Modelling of the Climate System at the University of Exeter, said.

Looking ahead, Friedlingstein said, “To achieve net-zero by 2050, we must cut emissions every year by an amount comparable to that seen during COVID.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Missing girl found in Australia, man in custody: ‘Our family is whole again’

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(CARNARVON, Australia) — A 36-year-old man is now in custody following the rescue of missing 4-year-old Cleo Smith, who disappeared 18 days ago while camping with her family, the Western Australia Police Force announced during a press conference.

Police said they received a tip Tuesday that led to a suburban home in Carnarvon, Australia, where they broke in and found Cleo around 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

“When she said, ‘My name is Cleo,’ I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house,” Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch said Wednesday, while describing the girl’s words to the police officers. “To see Cleo rescued this morning, I’m speechless.”

He added that many detectives were “openly crying with relief.”

Blanch confirmed that Cleo has since been reunited with her parents and that the suspect in custody is currently being questioned by detectives.

Cleo’s mother, Ellie Smith, said, “Our family is whole again,” in a post on social media.

Cleo went missing on Oct. 16 after she disappeared from the tent she was sleeping in with her parents at a popular camping site north of Carnarvon.

Despite the state government offering a 1 million Australian dollar reward — equivalent to $743,000 — five days after Cleo went missing, Blanch said the money is not expected to be claimed.

“This is the outcome we all hoped and prayed for. It’s the outcome we’ve achieved because of some incredible police work,” Blanch said. “I want to thank Cleo’s parents, the Western Australian community and the many volunteers.”

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China could have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030: Pentagon

Ivan Cholakov/iStock

(WASHINGTON) — China is rapidly increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal and could have as many as 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, according to a new Pentagon report released Wednesday.

The development comes on the heels of China’s recent test of a hypersonic weapon that has raised serious concerns about China’s military buildup and its growing capability.

“The accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027,” said this year’s version of the annual Pentagon report formally known as “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.”

“The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020,” it added. That increase is dramatically different than was projected in last year’s version of the report which predicted a doubling of China’s current nuclear arsenal of several hundred warheads.

Even with China’s dramatic increase, it’s larger nuclear arsenal will still be much less than the United States’ declared stockpile of 3,750 warheads capable of being deployed by hundreds of land-based and sea-launched missiles and a strategic bomber fleet.

In recent months, the growth of China’s nuclear force has been captured by commercial satellite images showing the construction of hundreds of missile silos at three locations in northern and western China.

“New developments in 2020 further suggest that the PRC intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force,” said the report.

China’s leaders have publicly stated that they want China’s military become a global power by 2050 as they move beyond what is currently assessed to be a military force with only regional capabilities.

The report indicated China’s growth of its military capabilities are in line with that plan noting that they “continue to strengthen the PRC’s ability to “fight and win wars” against a “strong enemy” [a likely euphemism for the United States], coerce Taiwan and rival claimants in territorial disputes, counter an intervention by a third party in a conflict along the PRC’s periphery, and project power globally.”

That growing military capability was demonstrated recently after reports emerged that over the summer China had tested a new hypersonic glide weapon capable of orbiting the earth that could eventually carry a nuclear weapon.

The development of a “fractional orbital bombardment system” raised concerns about how the United States could counter such a system that could conceivably travel at hypersonic speeds, or greater than five times the speed of sound, after reentering the atmosphere.

Like other hypersonic vehicles it would be hard to track because the glide vehicles are maneuverable in the atmosphere, unlike ballistic warheads that follow a fixed trajectory, meaning they could weave their way around American radars and ground-based interceptor missile systems.

“The U.S. does not currently have the ability to even track this weapon, much less defeat it,” said Steve Ganyard, a retired Marine colonel and ABC News contributor who noted that American radars pointing to the Cold War threat of missiles coming over the North Pole would not be in a position to detect a hypersonic weapon coming from the south.

Earlier on Wednesday, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that China’s recent test of an apparent hypersonic weapon capable of delivering a nuclear warhead was “very significant,” but “not a Sputnik moment,” at least in terms of novelty.

That term refers to the 1957 launch of the Sputnik satellite by the Soviet Union that caught Americans off guard and led the United States to play catch up leading to a space and arms race.

“They’re not new, they’ve been around for a while. So, in that limited, narrow sense, it’s not a Sputnik moment, because Sputnik was new at the time,” Milley said in comments at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C.

Last week, Milley was the first American official to publicly confirm the test labeling it “a very significant technological event” but also said he didn’t know “if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that.”

Milley described the test as part of the larger trend by China to be a bigger player on the international stage.

“If you look at the totality, this test that occurred a couple weeks ago is only one of a much, much broader picture of a military capability with respect to the Chinese,” said Milley. “That is very, very significant. We’re witnessing, in my view, we’re witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power at the world has witnessed.”

Recent flight activity near Taiwan has once again raised concerns about whether China is poising to launch military action against the island it considers to be a breakaway province.

Asked if he believed that China is likely to invade Taiwan, Milley replied, “Based on my analysis of China, I don’t think that is likely in the next near future,” a time period he defined as meaning over the next six to 24 months.

“Having said that, though, the Chinese are clearly and unambiguously building the capability to provide those options to the national leadership if they so choose at some point in the future,” he said.

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