Morning mail: Paris targets in reach, Canada approves vaccine, lives in limbo |

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 10 December.

Top stories

An unexpected rise in cheap renewable energy has buoyed Australia’s chances of meeting Paris climate agreement targets, with Scott Morrison set to release updated national greenhouse gas emission projections in coming days. The prime minister had hoped to announce the better-than-expected prognosis at a global leaders’ climate ambition summit this weekend, but it has not been confirmed whether Australia will be one of 70 nations to receive a speaking slot. It is not yet certain whether Morrison still intends to count controversial “carryover credits” from Kyoto-era targets to reach Australia’s goal of a 26% to 28% reduction compared with 2005 levels, a plan that previously drew condemnation from many leading nations. The news comes as Australia recorded its hottest spring on record, something that would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change, new research suggests. Measuring 2.03C above average temperatures taken between 1961 and 1990, it would be deemed a one-in-500,000-years event but for greenhouse emissions.

Canada has become the third nation to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, following the UK and Bahrain in approving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. “The approval of the vaccine is supported by evidence that it is safe, effective and of good quality,” Health Canada Health Canada said. Across the border, the Trump administration has faced criticism for its failure to secure millions of vaccine doses on a day on which the number of confirmed national cases in the US passed 15 million. In Germany, an uncharacteristically angry Angela Merkel slammed the “unacceptable” death toll domestically, as the number of positive cases continues to rise dramatically across Europe, and globally.

On Human Rights Day, Guardian Australia is launching our Lives in limbo series, a week-long series of news, features and analysis that examines the abject failures of Australia’s offshore processing policy. Between July 2013 and December 2014, 3,127 people seeking protection were sent to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island or Nauru. Some 86.7% have subsequently been recognised as refugees, but for nearly half – about 47% – their lives remain in some form of limbo. That’s the case for Thanush Selvarasa, a 32-year-old Sri Lankan Tamil and Hindu man, who is being held in immigration transit accommodation in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows where he is awaiting medical treatment.

Australia

Rex Patrick
Independent senator Rex Patrick said ‘unfortunately the data is not there’ to support the government’s plan to make the cashless debit card scheme permanent. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The Morrison government’s cashless debit card has been extended for a further two years after a plan to make it permanent was dealt a major blow in the Senate. The swing vote senator Rex Patrick refused to back the Coalition’s bill due to a lack of evidence, but the government introduced last-minute amendments, paving the way to give trials a two-year extension.

Clive Palmer is facing a challenge from his Brisbane neighbours over an allegedly unauthorised concrete fence built on his riverfront property that prevents ducks from reaching the nearby water.

Australian companies paid $3.8bn more tax in 2019 but almost one-third of the largest businesses are still not paying a cent. Revenues are expected to decline in the aftermath of Covid-19 but the ATO says citizens can be “confident” about its ability to “detect and deal with” corporate taxation going forward.

Gladys Berejiklian announced more than $250,000 for Wagga Wagga council during a byelection in the seat, the inquiry into local government grants has heard. The NSW premier’s staff have previously admitted that evidence for how $140m worth of grants were allocated was shredded.

The world

London's man-made skyline
London human-made skyline. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Human-made things now outweigh the world’s biomass for the first time, with the “stamp of humanity” doubling every 20 years since the beginning of the 20th century. It now weighs around 1.1 teratonnes.

Swiss taxpayers have footed the bill for Chinese agents to interview would-be deportees, the text of a secret deal between the two nations has revealed.

The UK and EU have resolved the so-called “sausage wars”, agreeing upon a six-month delay on mandatory health checks on all chilled meats moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The first black female dancer at Berlin’s principal ballet company has accused the institution of racial harassment, citing instances in which she was encouraged to wear white makeup to help “blend in”.

Recommended reads

Emmanuel Asante
Aspiring artist Emmanuel Asante, originally from Ghana, now lives in Fairfield, western Sydney. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Australia’s appreciation of art has been a major driver for Ghanaian-born mural painter Emmanuel Asante. But after the onset of Covid any hope of fashioning a career in the arts dissipated. “It was like the world was coming to an end. Everything was cancelled. I was very anxious. I didn’t know what to do,” he told Guardian Australia. And while work is starting to trickle in once more, his plans for attending National Art School remain no closer to fruition.

Looking at Australian house prices you could be forgiven for doubting that we are in the middle of a deep recession, writes Greg Jericho: “The latest residential house price index shows that in the September quarter prices grew in every capital city except Melbourne … They even increased in Perth and Darwin where prices have been falling for five years due to the end of the mining boom. And residential prices in every capital city except Darwin are higher now than they were a year ago.”

It’s called “impossible pie”. But is it realisable? Yes. As Jackie Middleton explains: “It’s a 1970s cult recipe, which, in its original, simple form was one of the first dishes I learned to make on my own. The incentive was the perfectly wobbly custard. I don’t know a single person that doesn’t have a soft spot for custard.” And, for a 2020 twist, try it with toasted coconut and velvet-rich dark chocolate custard.

Listen

Ethiopia’s Nobel peace prize winner Abiy Ahmed was acclaimed just over a year ago for his peacemaking efforts with neighbouring Eritrea. In the past month he’s launched a major military offensive. On this episode of Full Story, the Guardian’s Africa correspondent Jason Burke examines what’s happening in Ethiopia.

Full Story

The Nobel peace prize winner fighting a war in Ethiopia

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.

Sport

Caitlin Foord playing for Arsenal
Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord has ranked at No 51 in the Guardian’s 2020 list of the best female footballers in the world. Photograph: David Price/Arsenal FC/Getty Images

Caitlin Foord captured global attention as a 16-year-old in 2011 with her masterful performance marshalling six-time Fifa World Player of the Year, Marta. A decade on, the Australian been named for the first time in the Guardian’s 100 best footballers in the world. Samantha Lewis charts her journey.

World rugby is only just starting to come to terms with the long-term implications of head injuries but after news of 2003 World Cup winner Steve Thompson’s diagnosis with early onset dementia the code has been forced to confront some tough realities.

Media roundup

The industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, could dump central tenets of the Coalition’s new IR bill, reports the Financial Review, as Labor and the unions go on the offensive over what they’ve called the biggest attacks on workers since WorkChoices. The ABC reports how Australian scientists mapped Sydney’s Ryde hospital Covid cluster using the science of genomic sequencing. And the Australian cricket coach, Justin Langer, has revealed how he almost quit the role to the West Australian, after he was struck down by a debilitating ear infection that left him suffering migraines, tinnitus and vertigo for 10 months.

Coming up

Chinese dissidents will march from Sydney’s Martin Place to the Chinese consulate in Camperdown to mark World Human Rights Day.

Sir Donald Bradman’s first baggy green Test cap will go under the hammer. It’s expected to fetch more than $1m at auction.

And if you’ve read this far …

Most teachers have heard of “the dog ate my homework”. But one clumsy canine was almost responsible for the loss of an incredibly valuable set of papers – notes by Isaac Newton attempting to unlock the secret codes used to build the Great Pyramids. Thankfully the manuscripts were only partially damaged when Newton’s dog Diamond leapt on to his work table and knocked over a candle; they’ve just sold for £378,000 at auction.

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