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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 29.09.2022
Egypt working to prioritise ‘loss and damage’ at COP27

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News.

Egypt working to prioritise 'loss and damage' at COP27
Reuters Read Article

The Egyptian presidency of the COP27 UN climate talks is “working on how to include…[loss and damage] on the formal agenda of the November summit, as pressure grows from vulnerable countries to prioritise the issue, the country’s special representative of the summit said on Wednesday”, Reuters reports. It adds that at COP26 last year, the US and the EU “rejected calls for a fund to compensate countries for climate-driven losses”. The Guardian also reports on the press call held by the COP27 presidency under the headline: “Egyptian hosts urge leaders to set aside tensions over Ukraine.” The paper explains: “Expectations for the meeting have dimmed, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has set nations at loggerheads, while the rocketing energy prices and food prices that have resulted have wrought economic and political damage across the developed and developing world. A diplomatic freeze between the US and China – the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – over Taiwan has also cast a pall over the talks.” It quotes Egypt’s special representative Wael Aboulmagd saying: “I hope and urge everyone to take the right lesson from [rising fossil fuel prices in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine]: that overdependence on fossil fuels is problematic, and we need to expedite the transition to renewable energy.”

In related comment, Time carries an article by Kausea Natano, prime minister of Tuvalu, under the headline: “The climate crisis is making the Pacific Islands uninhabitable. Who will help preserve our nations?” Meanwhile, Carbon Copy reports that around 65% of the $356m in new adaptation finance pledged at COP26 “remains outstanding”. Reuters notes that the World Bank has approved $512m in finance for Turkey “to expand access to housing and infrastructure that is resilient to climate and natural hazard, the bank said on Wednesday”.

US: John Kerry woos Wall Street in bid to bolster US climate finance
Bloomberg Read Article

US special presidential envoy for climate change John Kerry “is courting Wall Street” in a bid to drum up international climate finance, Bloomberg reports. In 2020, developed nations failed to meet a promise to provide $100bn per year to developing countries to help them tackle rising emissions and adapt to warming impacts. Kerry tells Bloomberg Television that he was “working on a new approach to try to attract major capital to this task”, adding: “There are plenty of companies around the world looking for deals, but they want bankable deals. And many of the climate initiatives are not yet bankable.”

Elsewhere, Reuters reports on a failed bill from US senator Joe Manchin that would have accelerated the process of gaining energy permits – potentially offering benefits to both fossil fuel companies and clean energy initiatives. Reuters says: “Environmental groups said the legislation would have accelerated approval for fossil fuel projects, including Equitrans Midstream Corp’s (ETRN.N) long-delayed $6.6bn Mountain Valley Pipeline in Manchin’s state of West Virginia. But it also would have sped up major interstate transmission line projects that clean energy experts say are desperately needed to achieve emissions reductions, and take full advantage of the subsidies in President Joe Biden’s massive Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).” Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer pulled Manchin’s bill on Tuesday after it did not gain enough support, Reuters says. The Hill carries an article titled: “What is the Joe Manchin permitting reform fight about?” Separately, the Atlantic interviews Rhiana Gunn-Wright, the director of climate policy at the Roosevelt Institute, on what she says are flaws in the IRA.

In other US news, the Financial Times reports that Biden’s renewables drive could create major benefits in South Korea. In addition, the Atlantic explores the climate benefits of the Kigali Agreement, a treaty on the world’s use of hydrofluorocarbons, which was recently ratified in the US.

Record methane leak flows from damaged Baltic Sea pipelines
Associated Press Read Article

There is ongoing coverage of the methane leaking from the damaged Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, with Associated Press reporting that the leak “is likely to be the biggest burst of the potent greenhouse gas on record, by far”. It continues: “The Nord Stream pipeline leaks…could discharge as much as five times as much [methane] as was released by the Aliso Canyon disaster, the largest known terrestrial release of methane in US history. It is also the equivalent of one third of Denmark’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions, a Danish official warned [on] Wednesday.” The newswire says sabotage “was suspected to have caused the leaks”. The Guardian also says the leaks “may be biggest ever”. Reuters reports: “EU vows to protect energy network after ‘sabotage’ of Russian gas pipeline.” It quotes EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell saying: “Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.” Another Reuters report says NATO and the EU had “stressed the need to protect critical infrastructure after what they called acts of ‘sabotage’ on the Nord Stream pipelines”. The Financial Times reports the latest under the headline: “Sabotage of gas pipelines a wake-up call for Europe, officials warn.” Bloomberg US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm calling for European countries and tankers carrying liquified natural gas to the region to be on high alert. The Financial Times carries a report on “what we know about the sabotaged Baltic Sea gas pipelines”. It says: “Concern has mounted in western intelligence circles in recent years that Russia has been testing the vulnerability of critical infrastructure in some countries.” The Times reports: “The suspected Russian bombing of two gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed has put Europe on high alert for a devastating attack on its critical infrastructure. Military analysts said the Kremlin could easily wreak havoc by cutting sub-sea data cables or destroying another pipeline.” An editorial in the Times says the sabotage “exposes the vulnerability of infrastructure”. It says: “The aftershocks of the explosions were so powerful as to be felt 800 miles away. They will destabilise the diplomacy of Europe for many years yet. The first and most immediate impact is on energy supply. No longer will Germany’s geopolitical relationship with Russia be defined by its dependency on its petrocarbons.”

Reuters reports that Norway is to deploy its military to protect oil and gas infrastructure. Reuters adds that Finland is “watching its waters closely after gas pipeline blasts, PM says”. Another Reuters article says the US navy has offered its support. Politico reports: “The EU statement did not name a suspected culprit, but some others in Europe were less reticent in blaming Russia as the most likely cause of the pipeline ruptures.” The Hill reports a US senator also pointing the finger at Russia. The Daily Telegraph says the pipeline leaks are an “‘environmental crime’, experts said”. Climate Home News says the pipeline incident “highlighted the vulnerability of fossil fuel infrastructure during a conflict”. The Independent said the leaking methane had “sparked alarm among climate activists”.

Meanwhile, Politico reports: “Russian gas flows across Ukraine jeopardised in transit fee spat.” It says: “Ukraine’s Naftogaz and Russia’s Gazprom are at loggerheads over payments for gas shipments through pipelines across Ukraine – a trade that has continued despite the war between the two countries. But that deal is starting to fray.” Analysis from Reuters says: “If Moscow carries out a threat to sanction Ukrainian energy firm Naftogaz, one of the last functioning Russian gas supply routes to Europe could be shut, exacerbating the energy crisis just as the crucial winter heating season begins.” And Bloomberg reports: “Russia is keeping unsold gas underground rather than flaring it.” Finally, Politico says that France is reconsidering its opposition to the proposed MidCat gas pipeline that would link the country to the Iberian penninsula.

US: Hurricane Ian bears down on Florida with ‘catastrophic’ force
Financial Times Read Article

Hurricane Ian has made landfall in the southwest US state of Florida as a category 4 storm with winds of up to 150mph, the Financial Times reports, adding that, with expected storm surges of 12-18ft (4-5m), millions of the state’s residents are under evacuation orders. The paper says: “Federal officials are already dealing with the devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, which killed more than a dozen people and left hundreds of thousands without power.” The Hill reports: “Hurricane Ian pummelled Florida after making landfall Wednesday afternoon, bringing life-threatening storm surges to the coast and extreme wind and rain ”. The Times reports under the headline: “Hurricane Ian: 18ft wall of water hits Florida as storm [sic] makes landfall.” Reuters reports: “Hurricane Ian plowed into Florida’s Gulf Coast with catastrophic force on Wednesday, unleashing howling winds, torrential rains and a treacherous surge of ocean surf that made it one of the most powerful US storms in recent years.” The newswire says: “Climate change is making hurricanes wetter, windier and more intense. There is also evidence that it is causing storms to travel more slowly, meaning they can dump more water in one place, scientists say.” It quotes weather.com meteorologist and climate scientist Kait Parker saying: “Hurricane Ian’s rapid intensification could prove to be another example of how a warming planet is changing hurricanes…Research shows we are seeing this far more often than we did in decades past.”

Bloomberg has a feature “tracking Hurricane Ian’s latest path”. The Hill carries a report under the headline: “What we know about hurricanes and climate change.” It says climate change is making oceans hotter and thus increasing windspeeds, while a warmer atmosphere is increasing precipitation and sea level rise “makes storms more dangerous”. It adds that with climate change: “Storms intensify faster and are more likely to intensify.” The Independent has a piece titled: “Climate crisis is creating stronger hurricanes than ever before. Here’s why.” It says: “Over the past four decades, the proportion of yearly cyclones that reach at least category 3 in strength…has increased, says the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading authority on global climate science.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reports: “After Fiona, climate experts urge Canada to fix flagship adaptation strategy.” Another Reuters piece says Cuba has begun restoring power in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

In related comment, veteran climate campaigner Bill McKibben writes in the Atlantic under the headline: “Hurricane Ian is a storm that we knew would occur.” He says: “Whatever the eventual damage, it’s already another stark demonstration of what happens when there’s too much physical energy in a closed system, and too little political energy.” In the Guardian, a comment by Mustafa Santiago Ali, executive vice-president for the National Wildlife Federation, points to Hurricanes Fiona and Ian among various other recent extreme weather events and says: “America’s hardest-hit communities need Biden to declare a climate emergency.”

EU countries at odds over possible gas price cap
Reuters Read Article

European Union countries were “at odds” on Wednesday over whether to cap gas prices, with France, Belgium and 13 other states in favour of the move opposed by Germany and others. Reuters explains: “On Wednesday, Belgium’s energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten suggested the measure could be designed as a ‘flexible price corridor’ to address volatile price swings. But with Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark among those arguing that a gas price cap would harm efforts to contain Europe’s energy crunch, there were doubts as to whether any potential proposal could win sufficient support to become law. A second Reuters story says the European Commission warned EU countries that a price cap would “come with risks” for energy security. Bloomberg also reports on this warning, saying that the European Commission is arguing that capping gas prices “risks increasing demand for the fuel rather than addressing its scarcity if imposed in isolation”. In a document seen by Bloomberg, the European Commission says: “Tackling high gas prices can only be achieved as part of an integrated and coordinated intervention that also includes gas demand reduction and supply solidarity. The full effect of such measures can only be achieved through their combination. The stronger the intervention on gas prices, the greater the need for demand reduction and supply solidarity.” The European Commission is also proposing a price cap on Russian oil as part of its latest sanctions package against Russia, Politico reports. The Financial Times publishes an explainer titled: “Why crafting an EU gas price cap is taking so long.” A second FT explainer examines whether Europe’s energy plans are “enough” to get through winter.

Elsewhere in Europe, Slovak prime minister Eduard Heger has warned the energy crisis could “kill” his country’s economy, Politico reports. In addition, the FT reports that Norway is “targeting electricity producers and fish farmers” with a new resource tax.

EDF to review case for keeping open UK nuclear plants set to close in 2024
Reuters Read Article

French utility firm EDF is to review whether there is a case to keep its Hartlepool and Heysham 1 nuclear plants in the UK open beyond the current closure dates in 2024, Reuters reports, citing a company statement. The newswire adds that EDF said its ambition was for the two plants to stay open for longer if possible. The Financial Times says EDF launched the review given what it called the “severity of the energy crisis” and would look to “short” extensions for the two plants. It adds: “The EDF review was not triggered by a request from the UK government but the company said in a report on Wednesday that ‘in the short-term…it is absolutely right that we look at how we can optimise the lifetimes of the remaining [fleet] to provide secure, 24/7, zero carbon electricity and help reduce the UK’s dependence on gas’.” The Guardian says the review is a response to the energy crisis, with both plants due to have closed in March 2024 and all but one of EDF’s other existing nuclear sites due to close by 2028. The paper notes that Hartlepool and Heysham 1 have already had their lifespans extended by 10 years and adds: “Sources said any extra lifespan for the stations was likely to be far shorter than previous extensions.” The Daily Telegraph says any extension to their lifetimes would likely be limited to “a few years” and would depend on the condition of their graphite cores.

Australian state unveils $40bn clean energy plan to slash reliance on coal
Reuters Read Article

Queensland in Australia has announced it will convert its coal-fired power plants to renewable hubs by 2035 under a AUD$62bn ($40bn) clean energy plan, Reuters reports. Describing it as “one of Australia’s top coal-producing states”, the newswire notes that the plan would see the region sourcing 70% of its electricity from renewables by 2032 and 80% by 2035, according to the state’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. This compares to a previous target of 50% renewables by 2030, it adds. Despite the state’s coal mining industry, the Guardian reports that Palaszczuk said Queensland was facing a “climate emergency”, meaning a bold vision was needed. The total cost estimate consists of public and private finance, and the newspaper notes that Palaszczuk said her government was committing an extra AUD$4bn ($2.6bn) to transform the state’s energy system. Another Guardian story concerns Palaszczuk’s “preliminary conversations” with prime minister Anthony Albanese, seeking federal backing for plans to build the world’s largest pumped hydroelectricity project in northern Queensland. She described the 5 gigawatt Pioneer-Burdekin project, which will take around a decade to plan and construct, as the “centrepiece” of the Queensland energy plan.

Meanwhile, in the southern state of Victoria, power company AGL Energy has announced it will shut down Australia’s biggest single carbon-polluting power plant a decade earlier than planned, according to the Guardian. It says this will change the closure date of the coal-fired Loy Yang A power station from 2045 to 2035.

Amid these announcements, Energy Monitor has a piece titled, “Australia gets serious on climate action”, which outlines how the Labor government that won power this year “have started delivering” on climate. In particular, it points to the increase to Australia’s official climate target and a review of the safeguard mechanism – the country’s main policy to control industry emissions. Graham Readfearn, the Guardian’s environment reporter, has a piece about how the right-wing National party has attacked renewables for being “unreliable”, and how the Australian Energy Market Operator has already accounted for much of their criticism.

A further Guardian story explains that the Australian federal government has struck a deal with three major gas exporting companies on the nation’s east coast in order to ensure “sufficient supplies of the fossil fuel are available to avoid a potential shortfall next year”.

China accelerates investments in coal-fired power and steel plants, risking emission goals, report warns
South China Morning Post Read Article

China’s investments in coal-based power, iron and steel capacity ”accelerated in the first half of the year, putting the country’s commitments to decarbonise its economy at risk”, according to experts cited by the South China Morning Post. Approvals for new coal-fired power plants and coal-based iron and steel facilities increased, “even as demand is falling and while renewable power and low-carbon technologies for iron and steel production are making fast progress”, the outlet adds, according to a joint report from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air and Global Energy Monitor. The article stresses that “researchers warned that China cannot afford to ‘walk back’ its industrial decarbonisation goals if it plans to reach its climate pledges of achieving peak emissions by 2030 and nationwide net-zero carbon emissions by 2060”. Citing the same research, Reuters and Bloomberg also cover the acceleration of coal-fired capacity, with Reuters saying that China “approved 15GW (gigawatts) of new coal-fired power capacity and another 30m tonnes of coal-based iron-making capacity in the first half of 2022, despite falling power and steel demand over the period”. Bloomberg says that China’s $3bn coal investment may be a “wasteful climate risk”.

Al Jazeera reports that US president Joe Biden will host leaders from the Pacific Islands this week in what the White House is billing as a first-of-its-kind regional leaders summit in Washington, amid increasing rivalry between the US and China in the Pacific. The summit comes at a “delicate moment for many Pacific countries, which are likely to be among the world’s most affected by the climate crisis”, the article adds. The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, also covers the US-Pacific summit, quoting “observers” saying that “for Pacific island nations, the focus in the summit with the US are economic development and climate change, which is the existential crisis that demands attention above all else, while for the US, the purpose of the summit is using the region as a tool and making it into a clique to suppress China”.

Elsewhere, the state-run newspaper China Daily says that, against the “backdrop” of climate adaptation, Chinese NGOs are “playing a role in helping the public adapt to climate change at grassroots level”. Finally, Forbes writes that researchers “involved in the climate change study” found that “as temperatures rise, droughts are expected to become more severe and frequent in all six countries they studied: Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and India, regions chosen because of their diverse sizes, levels of development and climates across three continents”.

Changes to UN aviation emissions deal near approval – officials
Reuters Read Article

Airline and government officials have told Reuters that changes to a landmark UN aviation emissions agreement are “closer to being approved”, after a trade association of the world’s airlines – the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – reportedly “walked back objections”. The 193 countries that comprise the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are “under pressure to reach consensus to curb emissions from global flights” at the ICAO’s once-in-three-year assembly that begins on 7 October in Montreal, the newswire says. Countries plan to change the baseline for the UN agreement called the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia) and “are weighing an industry-backed goal of net zero emissions by 2050”, according to the story. Airlines initially pledged “to spend billions of dollars to cap their rising emissions at 2020 levels by purchasing carbon offsets”, but this 2020 baseline “was challenged when air traffic plummeted due to Covid-19”, with carriers “fear[ing] higher offset costs when air travel recovered”. Countries suggested a compromise “that would set the baseline at 85% of emissions produced in 2019”, but this was challenged by IATA. Environmentalists have argued that “a 2019 baseline would be cheaper and allow airlines to pollute freely for longer”, saying “we should not entertain anything less”.

Revealed: 5,000 empty ‘ghost flights’ in UK since 2019, data shows
The Guardian Read Article

An “exclusive” report in the Guardian says more than 5,000 completely empty passenger flights have flown to or from UK airports since 2019, with another 35,000 operating with fewer than 10% of seats filled. It says this “makes a total of about 40,000 ‘ghost flights’”. The paper says the report is based on analysis of data from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and includes, for example, 663 empty flights between Heathrow and the US. It says the CAA “will now publish this data quarterly, as a result of a series of FoI requests by the Guardian”.

Comment.

Peak oil has finally arrived. No, really
David Fickling, Bloomberg Read Article

In a comment for Bloomberg, columnist David Fickling writes – with “trepidation” – that “the world’s appetite for oil is peaking, and will soon enter terminal decline”. He explains: “That’s hard to write, because those who’ve called the top in oil have a forecasting record on a par with film producer Harry Warner’s skepticism that people in the 1920s wanted to see talking pictures.” Fickling continues: “One analyst this week argued there’s now a 98% chance of a global recession. Then consider just how close to peak oil we already are. Every forecaster has a different estimate for this number, but the median of 12 who see a future date is for a maximum level of about 103.2 million barrels of liquid fuels a day – something most see occurring some time between the mid-2020s and the mid-2030s. In contrast to a history where consumption grew by more than a million daily barrels per year, that’s a modest enough rise that debates about the precise timing of the peak are almost academic…Now think about what a global recession would do to that outlook.” He concludes: “Since it emerged as our most crucial commodity more than a century ago, oil has always lived on GDP growth. With the Fed planning to push the world economy into a slump to cure the inflation epidemic, we’re about to see it die by the same hand.”

Separately, the Daily Mirror‘s frontpage features an exclusive by Nada Farhoud reporting from the Amazon where she says the “rainforest is being torched at the highest rate in 12 years and is hurtling towards a climate tipping point that puts the entire planet in danger”.

And the BBC News has a feature headlined: “Big oil’s toxic emissions from flaring undeclared.” It is based on a new investigation by Unearthed’s Joe Sandler Clarke focused on Iraq.

The Tories can’t afford to be lapse on climate policy
Sam Alvis and Tom Sasse, The Times Read Article

Writing for the Times Red Box, Sam Alvis, the head of economy at thinktank Green Alliance, and Tom Sasse, associate director at thinktank the Institute for Government, say 75% of UK adults worry about climate change and “support for the UK’s net-zero target remains steadfast. Indeed, many people see it as part of the answer to the current energy crisis.” They write that “what is clear is that climate will become a big electoral issue” in the UK, as in other countries, adding: “However, much of Westminster still operates under an outdated illusion that climate change is a just a young or urban issue, and one that primarily concerns the left.” They continue: “Misreading the ‘green threat’ could be costly for both the Conservatives and Labour…Those on the Tory right might look the other way, to the spectre of an anti-net zero Faragist outrider…However, in the current crisis anti-climate messages have had zero cut through with the British public, who’ve recognised that fossil fuels are its cause and that green energy is its solution. Trying to water down climate action appears to be a much bigger electoral risk.”

Meanwhile, an article in the Times reports: “Mixed messages on zero carbon alarms investors.” It says: “A green energy entrepreneur has warned that renewed government backing for fracking and fossil fuels is prompting infrastructure investors to pause deals.” Another Times article reports: “Investors placed orders for £30bn of a new issue of [UK] green gilts in spite of bond market turmoil yesterday.”

Will Labour’s energy plans work?
Simon Evans, The Guardian Read Article

In an analysis piece for the Guardian, Carbon Brief’s deputy editor Dr Simon Evans looks into the details of Labour’s “green growth” plan and the criticism from certain parts of the media. Evans writes: “Perhaps the strangest was a Daily Telegraph editorial that claimed Labour’s plan ‘would make the country more dependent on imported gas, not less’. As should be obvious, the opposite is true. The UK used 254 terawatt hours (TWh) of gas last year to generate 123TWh of electricity, 40% of the national total. Under Labour’s plan, gas demand for electricity would be 97% lower by 2030.” Labour’s plan leaves only a “very small share” of electricity generation coming from gas, says Evans – about 0.7% by 2030 and a further 0.5% from gas plants fitted with carbon capture technology. He adds: “It’s also worth noting that Labour is not alone in imagining a fully decarbonised UK electricity system will soon be possible. The current government ambition, which is also backed by detailed modelling, is for 95% clean power by 2030 and close to 100% by 2035.” Nevertheless, notes Evans, “there are legitimate questions about the pace of Labour’s ambition, which would imply going from the current level of about 55% clean power to 99% in less than a decade”. He adds: “This rate of change would be historically unprecedented, at the same time as electricity demand increases to meet growing demand from electric vehicles and heat pumps.”

In related UK energy news, BBC News reports that “low-income homes in England are to have their energy efficiency improved under a £1.5bn government plan that will also address poor insulation”. The funding is being made available to local authorities and social housing providers with the aim of upgrading 130,000 homes, the outlet says, adding that “the £1.5bn will come from £6.6bn that was announced in 2021 as part of the government’s Heat and Building Strategy”. DeSmog reports that green campaigners have warned that gas companies and hydrogen lobbyists used the Labour Party’s annual conference to push “false solutions to the climate crisis”. And in a letter to the Guardian, Prof Gordon Andrews from the school of chemical and process engineering at the University of Leeds argues that “green hydrogen” is a better option for replacing natural gas for heating homes than heat pumps. He writes: “The International Energy Agency in 2021 gave the cost of green hydrogen as 3p/kilowatt hour using solar electricity in 2030 – cheaper than the cost of natural gas today. The IEA and the government are right that hydrogen should be a major part of the road to net zero carbon, as it is the only way to decarbonise heating in the next 20 years.” However, Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans points out on Twitter that this “misrepresents the IEA’s position on hydrogen heat”, noting that hydrogen heat “barely features” in the IEA’s pathway for 2050.

Science.

Quantification of meteorological drought risks between 1.5C and 4C of global warming in six countries
Climatic Change Read Article

New research quantifies the projected impacts of different levels of global warming on the probability and length of severe drought in six countries (China, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and India). Under 3C of warming, the study estimates “80%-100% of the population in Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia and Ghana (and nearly 50% of the population of India) are projected to be exposed to a severe drought lasting one year or longer in a 30-year period”. In contrast, holding warming to 1.5C would “greatly benefit” all six countries, the authors say, “greatly reducing exposure to severe drought for large percentages of the population and in all major land cover classes, with Egypt potentially benefiting the most”.

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