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Britain's Sunak Tries to Reclaim Climate Narrative With $2 Billion Pledge

DUBAI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will pledge 1.6 billion pounds ($2 billion) in funding at the U.N. climate summit on Friday, an...

DUBAI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will pledge 1.6 billion pounds ($2 billion) in funding at the U.N. climate summit on Friday, an attempt to bolster his green credentials after watering down Britain's measures to reach net zero targets.Sunak, in Dubai for COP28 leaders' day, will try to restore Britain's reputation as a leader in tackling climate change by committing to spend the mostly new money on projects in Africa and Asia to tackle deforestation and energy innovation.But he will also underline Britain's "pragmatic" approach to climate change, a description he has stuck with since he was criticised by environmental campaigners for delaying a ban on sales of new petrol cars, easing the transition to heat pumps and granting new North Sea drilling licences.Running way behind the opposition Labour Party in the polls before a national election expected next year, Sunak's team believes voters will only support measures to tackle climate change when, or if, they are affordable."The world made ambitious pledges at previous COP summits to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. But the time for pledges is now over – this is the era for action," Sunak said in a statement."The transition to net zero should make us all safer and better off. It must benefit, not burden ordinary families. The UK has led the way in taking pragmatic, long-term decisions at home."The funding, which will be announced during the two-week summit, includes up to 500 million pounds to tackle the causes of deforestation, 316 million for energy innovation projects around the world and up to 60 million for loss and damage.King Charles, a long-time environmental campaigner, will give the opening address to the summit, calling on world leaders to acknowledge the repeated warning signs of the impact of climate change and take "genuine transformational action".For daily comprehensive coverage on COP28 in your inbox, sign up for the Reuters Sustainable Switch newsletter here.(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Miral Fahmy)Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Airlines face formal complaints over contested sustainability claims

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are accused of misleading customers about claims on carbon emissions from ‘sustainable’ jet fuelVirgin Atlantic and British Airways are facing formal complaints over their sustainable flight claims after being accused of misleading potential customers about the environmental credentials of aviation.This week, a Virgin plane took off on the first transatlantic flight by a commercial airliner fully powered by “sustainable” jet fuel, largely comprising cooking oil. The flight, partly funded by the UK government, flew to great fanfare from airlines and ministers as a potentially guilt-free way to fly. However, scientists and environmental groups are more sceptical. Continue reading...

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are facing a formal complaints over their sustainable flight claims after being accused of misleading potential customers about the environmental credentials of aviation.This week, a Virgin plane took off on the first transatlantic flight by a commercial airliner fully powered by “sustainable” jet fuel, largely comprising cooking oil. The flight, partly funded by the UK government, flew to great fanfare from airlines and ministers as a potentially guilt-free way to fly. However, scientists and environmental groups are more sceptical.Now, climate charity Possible and law firm Leigh Day have filed formal complaints against the two major airlines over their claims about reducing emissions from flights.The senior campaigner at Possible, Alethea Warrington, said: “The reality is that technologies for cleaner flight either don’t work, or don’t even exist yet. We think that airlines’ misleading claims about their emissions are unfair on people who want to do the right thing when they travel. It’s time for airlines to start being honest about their sky-high emissions.”The complaints, filed under the National Contact point mechanism run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), set out that both airlines are misleading consumers over their claims on reducing carbon emissions from flights as the layperson does not have the expertise to discern the limits of decarbonisation technology.Airlines claim they can use biofuels made from crops or green hydrogen made from renewable energy, but recent research from the Royal Society has found the UK would have to devote half its farmland or more than double its total renewable electricity supply to make enough aviation fuel to meet its ambitions for net zero flying.The filing highlights that BA claims to be “driving urgent action towards net-zero emissions” and said it has a “clear roadmap to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050”. However, analysis has found BA’s emissions from jet fuel have increased year-on-year between 2016 and 2019.Virgin Atlantic features its “mission to net zero” on its promotional materials but fails to mention it is falling short of its emissions targets, which Possible has argued is crucial information for consumers.The charity also points out scientific literature comparing the lifecycle emissions from biofuels compared to conventional jet fuel, “which is clear that these fuels may produce even more emissions and be worse for the climate than kerosene”. Both feedstocks produce fuels with similar tailpipe emissions to kerosene, and the emissions reductions are claimed to be created at a systemic level.“For fuels derived from biomass, land is not available to produce crops for biofuels in sufficient quantities to power aviation without causing hugely damaging deforestation, which increase emissions and makes biofuels just as bad for the climate as kerosene, if not worse,” the charity said.A British Airways spokesperson said: “In 2019, we committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 and, while there is no single solution to this challenge, as part of our BA Better World programme, we have a clear roadmap of initiatives to get there.skip past newsletter promotionSign up to Business TodayGet set for the working day – we'll point you to all the business news and analysis you need every morningPrivacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy. We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.after newsletter promotion“In the short-term, this means improving our operational efficiency, investing in new, more fuel-efficient aircraft and progressively introducing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with partnerships in the UK and US, while for the medium to longer term, we’re continuing to invest in the development of SAF – a critical path to decarbonise, and looking at how we can help with the growth of zero-emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft and carbon-removal technology.“We were the first airline to report our carbon footprint more than two decades ago and were the first airline to voluntarily participate in the UK emissions trading scheme.”A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “At Virgin Atlantic, we are committed to achieving Net Zero 2050 and have set interim targets on our pathway to get there, including 10% sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.“There are two levers for delivering in-sector carbon reductions in the short to medium term: the fleet we operate and fuel we burn. We already fly one of the youngest and most efficient fleets across the Atlantic.“Beyond fleet renewals, SAF presents an immediate opportunity to deliver lifecycle carbon reductions of up to 70% and is something we have been pioneering for over 15 years.”

Climate change, costly disasters sent Texas homeowner insurance rates skyrocketing this year

Texas rates have increased 22% on average so far in 2023, twice the national rate. More billion-dollar disasters have occurred in Texas this year than any other year on record.

Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news. Insurance companies across Texas have dramatically increased home insurance rates this year, state filings show, as climate change spooks executives and inflation pushes up costs to rebuild after natural disasters. Texas is prone to hurricanes and flooding, both of which are made more severe by climate change. Now insurance companies are becoming increasingly concerned about more powerful thunderstorms that are wrecking homes with flooding, hail and strong winds, analysts and experts said. And as both the impacts of climate change and inflation have worsened over the last couple of years, insurers have “less of an appetite” for taking chances in catastrophe-prone states, said Tim Zawacki, an insurance industry principal research analyst for S&P Global. The impacts are being felt on homeowner’s pocketbooks: Insurance rates in Texas have skyrocketed 22% since the beginning of this year according to an S&P Global analysis of Texas Department of Insurance data. That’s twice the average national increase of 11% over the same time period. “The insurance industry is the canary in the coal mine for the climate crisis we’re facing,” said Steven Rothstein, the managing director of the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets, a nonprofit organization that advocates for sustainable investment practices in the finance industry. Rothstein said he thinks the single biggest cause for increasing insurance costs in Texas is the impacts of climate change. “The risks on [insurance companies’] balance sheets are very significant and growing,” Rothstein said. “This is happening across the country, and across Texas. It is not just coastal Texas.” There have already been 16 disasters in Texas this year that cost $1 billion or more — a new state high for billion-dollar disasters in a single year, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration inflation-adjusted data. And that’s during a year when no hurricanes struck the Texas coast: Almost all of those weather disasters were severe storms. Over the last two years, Zawacki said, property losses from convective storms, which includes thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, and heavy rains, have dramatically increased. While climate change may be a political issue, Zawacki said, “I don’t think companies and their shareholders are willing to take the bet that it’s a transitory situation.” Climate scientists have observed that thunderstorms with heavy rains are now more frequent in the U.S. and longer lasting than they used to be, and the storm conditions that produce large hail are more common, according to the Fifth National Climate Assessment. Texas emits more greenhouse gas emissions than any other state, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It accounts for 14% of the nation’s climate-warming emissions, and produces more than twice the total emissions of California, the next largest greenhouse gas emitter. Texas is also the nation’s largest oil and gas producing state, accounting for more than 40% of the nation’s oil production. Rate filings, which companies are required to submit to state regulators for review, indicate that insurers began to dramatically increase the cost of Texas homeowners insurance in 2022. That year, rates jumped an average of 11% from 2021, according to S&P’s analysis. In the preceding four years, increases ranged between 2% and 5%. The rates are one part of how insurance companies calculate customers’ premiums. Texas Department of Insurance data shows that the average Texas homeowner’s premium was $2,124 in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available. While the state’s data doesn’t yet show the big increases in 2022 and 2023, customers in Texas told the Tribune that their homeowner premiums have jumped. For Bay City resident Eva Malina, 75, and her husband, both of whom are retired university professors, homeowner insurance premiums shot up 61% between 2020 and 2022. Her next bill is due in December. After already absorbing an almost $700 increase in their homeowner premium, Malina decided to add solar panels to her home to cut down on utility bills. She also decided to increase the deductible on the house “because the premiums were so high.” Texas premiums are already among the most expensive in the nation. But many areas of the state are likely underpriced relative to their climate risk, according to a model created by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit group of academics and experts that quantifies climate risks. First Street calculated that more than half of Texas properties are paying lower insurance rates than their risk level would indicate, or about 6.9 million of 12.4 million properties assessed by the model. Nationwide, insurance costs are increasing as inflation has pushed up construction costs and as “reinsurance” expenses have risen globally. Reinsurance — which is essentially insurance for insurance companies — has gotten dramatically more expensive in recent years as companies that issue it attempt to reduce exposure to storms made worse by climate change. In Texas, the impact is particularly clear on the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, or TWIA, the insurer of last resort for homes and businesses on the Texas Gulf Coast. TWIA paid almost $206 million this year for reinsurance, a 63% increase from 2022. TWIA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1971 to provide wind and hail insurance to coastal homeowners and businesses that could not obtain it in the private market due to their risky location on the coast. It largely operates like any other insurance company, except that it can assess a tax on other insurance companies in the state to raise money if its reserves aren’t enough to cover losses from hurricanes or other major disasters. After Hurricane Harvey blasted the Texas coast in 2017, for example, TWIA withdrew more than $740 million from its catastrophe reserve fund, which is financed by premiums, leaving the fund empty. It then had to assess $372 million on Texas insurance companies — which can then pass on that cost to their Texas customers — to pay Harvey-related claims between 2018 and 2020. TWIA’s premiums have steadily climbed in recent years, but Gulf Coast customers are almost certainly dramatically underpaying compared to their risk level. The average TWIA residential premium for customers living in high-risk coastal areas was $2,091 in September. That’s slightly less than the statewide average from two years ago — before the big rate hikes. According to an actuarial analysis, TWIA rates would have to increase a whopping 20% on residential properties and 22% on commercial properties in order for its reserves to be financially sound. But big rate increases on homeowners insurance premiums are politically difficult to swallow: In 2019, TWIA proposed a 10% rate increase, but withdrew it after the governor blocked the Texas Department of Insurance from considering the increase for at least six months. TWIA ultimately implemented a 5% rate increase in 2022, and did not propose an increase for this year. Aaron Taylor, a spokesperson for TWIA, told the Tribune that the board had implemented a strategy to gradually increase rates over time, about 5% each year, but that Hurricane Harvey had disrupted that plan. Matthew Eby, founder and chief executive officer of First Street Foundation, said earlier this year that an over-reliance on insurers of last resort is a “big flashing sign” that the insurance market is not keeping up with climate change. “We are rapidly moving to a place where the cost of insurance will make the most at-risk homes effectively uninsurable,” he said. As climate change continues to worsen, experts said, that raises thorny questions about coastal development. “You run into the question of whether we should be, as a society, encouraging development — through affordable and widely available insurance — in areas that are most likely to be negatively impacted by climate change,” said Zawacki.

Commercial Airliner Is First to Cross Atlantic with Biofuel Power

Virgin Atlantic flew the first large commercial jet to traverse the Atlantic with 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel

November 29, 20233 min readCommercial Airliner Is First to Cross Atlantic with Biofuel PowerVirgin Atlantic flew the first large commercial jet to traverse the Atlantic with 100 percent sustainable aviation fuelBy Brian Dabbs & E&E NewsA Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner as seen on final approach to London Heathrow Airport. CLIMATEWIRE | A Boeing 787 departed London Heathrow on Tuesday with historic cargo: 60 tons of waste fats and low-carbon kerosene to power a Virgin Atlantic flight across the Atlantic Ocean.Roughly seven and a half hours later, the aircraft touched down at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, becoming the first large commercial airliner to traverse the Atlantic with 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a family of biofuel technologies billed by the Biden administration and industry as the chief near-term solution to dramatically decarbonize the global aviation sector.Joey Cathcart, a senior associate at the environmental group RMI who was on board, said “SAF is going to be a significant part of the long-term decarbonization for aviation, especially for long-haul routes.”“From a passenger experience standpoint, the flight is as if you’re on any other flight, but your carbon impact is 70 percent reduced,” he said in an interview after landing in New York.Virgin Atlantic hailed the flight as a “culmination of a year of radical collaboration” featuring RMI, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and other organizations. Rolls-Royce supplied the Trent 1000 engine, and the project received funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport.The announcement came a week after business jet operator Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. flew what it called the first transatlantic flight fueled by SAF. That aircraft model can hold 19 passengers, a fraction of the roughly 248 passengers that can fit on a commercial 787.Globally, SAF has been slow to gain traction because of higher costs and limited supplies. Last year, U.S. production totaled 15.8 million gallons — less than 0.1 percent of total fuel consumed by U.S. airlines and far short of the Federal Aviation Administration's previous goal to use 1 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel annually by 2018. The Biden administration is now aiming for the U.S. to produce 3 billion gallons of SAF annually by 2030.U.S. companies are eyeing an Inflation Reduction Act program that could award a tax credit of between $1.25 and $1.75 per gallon of SAF. Environmentalists and farmers have sparred over whether corn-based ethanol should qualify for the credit, sparking a debate about whether the government will actually be supporting “clean” fuel.Tax experts say the final rules for the credit are likely by the end of the year. A Treasury Department spokesperson declined to comment on timing.Aviation accounts for approximately 2 percent of global emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. The main global airline association, the International Air Transport Association, is targeting net-zero emissions in the sector by 2050. Meanwhile, International Civil Aviation Organization member states agreed last week to cut aviation sector carbon dioxide emissions five percent by 2030.While electric vehicle market shares grow steadily and the U.S. power sector slashes emissions, the aviation sector is considered a much more difficult decarbonization challenge, along with the cement and steel industries. Lithium-ion and other batteries aren’t energy dense enough and are too heavy to power a jet. The hydrogen aviation sector also is in its infancy.To cut aviation emissions, several companies have announced SAF targets. U.S. biofuels producer Gevo is aiming to produce 1 billion gallons annually of biofuel by 2030. Finland-based Neste is set to produce 500 million gallons of waste-based SAF annually by the beginning of 2024. One type of waste SAF called hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) was used on the Virgin transatlantic flight with a blend of “synthetic aromatic kerosene.” Neste, the world’s largest SAF producer, is supplying HEFA to power jets at the Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports.Shai Weiss, CEO Virgin Atlantic, called for more SAF production.“There’s simply not enough SAF and it’s clear that in order to reach production at scale, we need to see significantly more investment,” he said in a statement issued before the flight had landed. “This will only happen when regulatory certainty and price support mechanisms, backed by Government, are in place.”SAF has support in both political parties, although it has faced political attacks. Earlier this year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said SAF “risks becoming the new Solyndra,” a reference to a solar panel company that in 2011 defaulted on a $535 million loan from the Department of Energy.The Virgin flight was only offered to “observers” linked to the project, rather than standard commercial travelers, according to Cathcart.Air BP, the aviation division of the U.K. oil giant BP, supplied the HEFA for the Virgin flight, while Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum, supplied the kerosene.This story also appears in Energywire.Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

Plans to present meat as ‘sustainable nutrition’ at Cop28 revealed

Documents show industry intends to go ‘full force’ in arguing meat is beneficial to the environment at climate summitBig meat companies and lobby groups are planning a large presence at the Cop28 climate conference, equipped with a communications plan to get a pro-meat message heard by policymakers throughout the summit.Documents seen by the Guardian and DeSmog show that the meat industry is poised to “tell its story and tell it well” at the Dubai conference. Continue reading...

Big meat companies and lobby groups are planning a large presence at the Cop28 climate conference, equipped with a communications plan to get a pro-meat message heard by policymakers throughout the summit.Documents seen by the Guardian and DeSmog show that the meat industry is poised to “tell its story and tell it well” at the Dubai conference.The files show how the world’s largest meat company, JBS, is planning to come out in “full force” at the summit, along with other big industry hitters such as the Global Dairy Platform and the North American Meat Institute.The documents, which were produced by the industry-funded Global Meat Alliance (GMA), emphasise the industry’s desire to promote “our scientific evidence” at the summit.Members of the alliance have been asked to stick to key comms messages, which include the idea that meat is beneficial to the environment. Meat and dairy companies are under increasing pressure to over their large greenhouse gas footprints. The dairy industry is responsible for 3.4% of global human-induced emissions, a higher share than aviation.Trade groups also give some indication in the documents of how they hope to shape conversations in Dubai. One said it will “push” the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to host “positive livestock content” at Cop28. The Guardian recently revealed that pressure from the industry led to censorship of FAO reports on the role of cattle in increasing greenhouse gas emissions.Animal agriculture is the largest emitter of methane, a greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide when measured over a 20-year period. Scientists said that unless swift action is taken, methane from agriculture alone will push the world beyond a 1.5C (2.7F) rise in temperature above preindustrial levels that risks tipping the world into irreversible climate breakdown.“These companies are stepping up their game because the exposure they are facing is stepping up,” says Jennifer Jacquet, professor of environmental science and policy at the University of Miami. “It used to be that they were caught on the back foot, but now they’re completely prepared.”“Any credible action to reduce emissions in the food sector will inevitably lead to a reduction in the total volume of meat and dairy products produced,” says Nusa Urbancic, CEO of campaign group the Changing Markets Foundation. “The industry is terrified of that and has been deploying multiple tactics to delay the inevitable.”Ranchers load feed pens for cattle on a farm in Maraba, Brazil. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty ImagesThe meat sector’s largest emitters plan to be on the ground at Cop28 in large numbers, the documents show. At Cop27, JBS, the world’s most polluting meat company, gained access to talks because it came as part of Brazil’s national delegation. Companies at the summit will be accompanied by lobby groups that represent them, some of which have a history of obstructive action. They include the North American Meat Institute (Nami), which represents large meat producers in the US and which in 2022 was still questioning on its website whether climate change was caused by humans.While the leaked documents are aimed at the meat sector, they also show that dairy companies are planning on sending a “large delegation” to Cop28.Earlier this year, backlash from several countries with interests in meat led to the watering down of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendations on diets.Companies and trade groups are told in the documents that one of the ways to “have the most influence” is to “equip delegates with your key messages and solutions”, a list of which are provided in the pack.The files also detail collaborations planned for the event itself, with meat lobbying groups hosting events at country pavilions, including those of the US and Australia.Australia and the US are the second and third largest beef exporters globally after Brazil, and their governments have a strong economic interest in supporting the growth of these industries, as well as close political ties with them.Researchers said government support is a significant factor in determining the continued power of the animal agriculture industry over alternatives. A study this year found that in the EU, meat and dairy farmers received 1,200 times more public funding than new alternative protein sources, while in the US, they received 800 times more support.Jacquet said addressing the cosy relationship between governments and industry was crucial to changing diets to align with climate goals.skip past newsletter promotionThe planet's most important stories. Get all the week's environment news - the good, the bad and the essentialPrivacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy. We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.after newsletter promotion“Typically, the talk is about demand-side interventions, like you can get schools or individuals to give up meat,” she said. “But I’m a little worried that some of this [meat] production is so baked into subsidies and policy, that even with decreased demand, this apparatus will just keep flowing.”In the documents, trade groups also reveal their plans to influence non-country pavilions via sponsorship, which can cost between $10,000 and $200,000. This is championed as a way to host sessions and bring guests along to receptions.The documents also include a messaging summary with key talking points that present meat as “sustainable nutrition” and suggest that meat production can be beneficial to the environment.In a four-page set of arguments, the Global Meat Alliance claims that producers can “play a key role in environmentally sustainable food systems” and that the sector is “continuously driving towards carbon-friendly farming”.Several of these arguments reference the idea that grazing livestock can help maintain healthy soils, which can store carbon. This is often described as “regenerative agriculture”. It is a favoured line with many food companies, despite the fact that scientists have said that soils are not a reliable way to store carbon in the long term, and that removals can be easily undone.In its messaging, the industry also heavily references the role of meat in relieving hunger in the global south, claiming that it “plays a key role in reducing food insecurity and malnutrition”. However, the UN-linked Committee on World Food Security has repeatedly pointed out that hunger and malnutrition are not caused by a lack of food, pointing instead to problems with access, distribution and power.Meat eating worldwide is very unequal. Europeans eat more than twice the global average, and consumption levels in north America and Australia are even higher. One 2018 study found western countries would have to reduce their meat intake by 90% to limit global heating to acceptable levels.Traditional bagels with hot salt beef prepared in a bakery in Bethnal Green, London. Photograph: Paolo Paradiso/AlamyThe documents make passing reference to cutting methane, and encourage participation in events where this is discussed. This is despite the fact that emissions from beef production globally are roughly equal to the emissions of the entire nation of India, with science pointing to a shift in diets as the one surefire way to cut emissions.The Food4Climate pavilion, which aims to promote plant-based food, is labelled in the documents as “extreme”, which also show displeasure at the Cop28 presidency’s choice of a mostly vegan menu.While the Global Meat Alliance presents itself as supporting an “aligned global meat sector” the group’s membership is skewed heavily toward producers in the global north.Fourteen of the group’s 16 partners come from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or North America. The remaining two partners are global lobby groups representing large companies and multiple countries.This follows a wider trend in multi-stakeholder climate initiatives, where smallholder groups are sidelined. A recent report found that small-scale farmers, who produce a third of the world’s food, receive just 1% of climate finance.A GMA spokesperson said: “The GMA is an international networking group with an aim to support a better connected, aligned global meat sector by providing industry with accumulated insights, best practice, and collaboration opportunities to address shared challenges such as sustainability in the pre-competitive space. This includes visibility on intergovernmental events which are often dominated by an anti-meat narrative. GMA works to simplify and distil public information around these events, which is largely complex, to ensure industry understand how and where to engage, having equal opportunity to be heard.”Livestock experts with a focus on the global south have repeatedly stressed the importance of including a range of perspectives in discussions of livestock pollution. Ian Scoones, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development, said: “My big fear in all of this debate is that the likes of pastoralists who we work with around the world will get stuffed because they don’t have a voice.”

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