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The Vatican, the world’s smallest sovereign state, has stepped up its fight against global warming by installing a huge rooftop solar energy system.

More than 2,000 photovoltaic panels have been fixed to the roof of one of the city state’s main buildings, enabling the Holy See to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by about 225 tonnes a year, saving the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil annually.

Looming over them is the imposing bulk of St Peter’s Basilica, but the panels will not be visible from ground level, leaving the Vatican’s impressive skyline unblemished.

The solar energy system covers the massive roof of the “Nervi Hall”, where Pope Benedict XVI holds general audiences.

The 2,400 panels, designed by a Germany company, will heat, light and cool the hall and several surrounding buildings, producing 300 kilowatt hours (MWh) of clean energy a year.

The hall, built in 1971 and one of the Vatican’s newest buildings, has a sweeping, wave-shaped roof which made the project feasible.

The Vatican’s official mouthpiece, the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial that “the gradual exhaustion of the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect have reached critical dimensions.”

Pope Benedict, like his predecessor John Paul II, has made several appeals for greater efforts to protect the environment.

Last year the Holy See announced that it would become the world’s first carbon-neutral state by planting trees in a national park in Hungary in order to offset its carbon-dioxide emissions.

This latest initiative puts the Vatican at odds with Italy. The Italian government said this week that it would veto new European Union limits on greenhouse gas emissions unless it won concessions.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said a plan proposed by France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, was unrealistic.

Italy’s greenhouse gas emissions are around 13 per cent above 1990 levels – one of the worst performances in the EU.

Analysts believe that Italy may be dragging its heels in order to secure a better deal for its industry and that the government would not dare risk the stigma of sabotaging the EU’s self-declared role as the world leader in tackling climate change.

Source: Telegragh

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(CHICAGO) — President-elect Obama accepted congratulations from nine presidents and prime ministers Thursday, returning calls from world leaders who reached out after his presidential victory.

Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said the president-elect spoke to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Sarkozy’s office says they spoke for 30 minutes and characterized the discussion as “extremely warm” as the president congratulated Obama on a “brilliant” election victory. The statement said they discussed international issues, particularly the financial crisis, and agreed to meet in the “quite near future.”

barack-obama-was-the-first-to-arrive-at-the-british-embassy-to-meet-the-prime-minister Harper’s office said in a statement that they spoke about an international financial summit in Washington on Nov. 15 and its importance for addressing the global financial crisis. Obama had no plans to attend the meeting.

The prime minister’s office says the two leaders emphasized that there could be no closer friends and allies than the United States and Canada and vowed to maintain and further build upon the relationship. Harper’s office called it a warm exchange and said they agreed to talk again soon.

Calderon’s office said Obama pledged continued U.S. support for Mexico’s fight against organized crime and drug trafficking. A statement from the Mexican president’s office says Obama told Calderon he was “conscious of the difficulty of the battle” and offered “decisive” U.S. support.

Congress approved $400 million in anti-drug aid for Mexico last June, but has yet to release the money.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday congratulated Obama on his election win in a letter, — the first time an Iranian leader has offered such wishes to a U.S. president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Iranian leader also said he hopes Obama will “use the opportunity to serve the (American) people and leave a good name for history” during his term in office.

In his conversation with Lee, Obama said the U.S.-South Korea alliance is a “cornerstone” of Asia’s peace and stability, and promised improved relations between the countries, Seoul’s presidential office said.

The United States helped defend South Korea during the Korean war and is its No. 1 ally. About 28,500 American troops are still stationed there to deter threats from communist North Korea.

Brown’s Downing Street office says he and Obama spoke about several issues, including reform of the global financial system. Britain’s Press Association newswire said the two had a “very friendly and positive” 10-minute conversation, covering topics including the world economy, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Middle East peace process.

Australia’s prime minister Kevin Rudd told reporters in Sydney that he spoke by telephone with Obama Friday to congratulate him on his historic win and discuss the various challenges the lie ahead for the world, chief among them the global financial crisis. The two also talked about the issues of national security and climate change during the 10- to 15-minute conversation, Rudd said.

“It was a good conversation, it was a friendly conversation,” Rudd said. “The challenges we face are great….But I believe we have a strong partner in the U.S.”

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Government leaders from the major European Union members posed on the steps of the Élysée Palace in Paris on Sunday during their economic summit.

Government leaders from the major European Union members posed on the steps of the Élysée Palace in Paris on Sunday during their economic summit.

PARIS — European financial and political leaders agreed late Sunday to a plan that would inject billions of euros into their banks in a bid to restore confidence to the teetering financial system.

Taking their cue from a rescue plan announced last week by Britain, the European countries led by Germany and France pledged to take equity stakes in distressed banks and vowed to guarantee bank lending for periods up to five years.

Both France and Germany were planning to unveil national rescue packages on Monday worth hundreds of billions of euros, officials said.

“The meeting that we had was exceptional,” President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, said at a news conference. “We need concrete measures, we need unity. That’s what we achieved. The plan on which we agreed today will be applied in all our respective states.”

“The goal is to kick-start the interbank lending market,” he said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, left, welcomed Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain to the Élysée Palace

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, left, welcomed Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain to the Élysée Palace

The plan “treats all the dimensions of the financial crisis,” Mr. Sarkozy said.

The Belgian finance minister, Didier Reynders, said, “We are committed in all European states to recapitalize banks if we establish a threat to solvency and a risk to the economy.”

“The goal is to kick-start the interbank lending market,” he said.

Mr. Reynders said the European Central Bank had also committed to helping to unfreeze the commercial paper market, which companies use to finance day-to-day operations.

Leaders of the 15 countries that use the euro did not put a price tag on any of their promises — contrary to Britain, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced £150 billion, or $255 billion, in government funds and other measures, and the United States, where a $700 billion bailout plan will now partly be used to recapitalize banks.

European officials said actions would be taken at the national level, within the framework of the agreed “toolbox.” The idea, they said, was that governments face different challenges and needed to act quickly but that a common front would avoid the possibility that one country might undercut another.

Each country, Mr. Reynders said, will announce concrete figures for the measures they expect to take individually.

“There is no question of setting up a European fund,” he said.

Announcements last week by Britain and the United States that they would move to take ownership shares in ailing banks, the 15 leaders of the countries that use the euro found themselves looking for a collective response to avoid tit-for-tat actions by individual countries that might harm their neighbors.

European officials said actions would be taken at the national level, within the framework of the agreed “toolbox.”

Mr. Brown said earlier after meeting at the Elysée Palace with Mr. Sarkozy, that he believed Europe would “work together with America.” Mr. Brown, whose country has maintained its own currency, the pound, also warned that the decisions made Sunday would have economic consequences for years to come.

In contrast to the meeting last weekend, European leaders on Sunday seemed to be reading from the same script.

“Our goal is to have coordinated action for the euro zone,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said, and the meeting “is a very important signal for the strength of the euro zone.”

Germany is considering a plan to inject 50 billion to 100 billion euros into its banks, with a price tag for all of the new measures reaching as much as 400 billion euros, or $536 billion, according to a person briefed on the government’s work. A German official cautioned that the numbers remained speculative.

Source: NYT