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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Green Prophet Headlines – Architectural Pornography: Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower www.greenprophet.com/


 

Saudi Arabia announced its Kingdom Tower, a skyscraper aiming for a new world height record of over 1 kilometer high in the sky.

 

Architectural Pornography: Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom TowerPosted: 22 Mar 2013.

Saudi Arabia announced its Kingdom Tower, a skyscraper aiming for a new world height record of over 1 kilometer high in the sky.

Boys, boys, boys, when will you learn that size doesn’t matter as much as performance? Next Azerbaijan broadcast plans to top that with their own mile-high cloud-puncher. Then Pakistan upstaged both with their own biggest building boast. And performance brings us full circle back to Team Saudi who just commissioned the project delivery team for their kilometer-high Kingdom Tower. Is this engineering ingenuity or architectural porn?

Actions speak louder than empty press releases. Obama may have scratched another trip to the moon, but, regrettably, the terrestrial race towards the heavens is on.

Green Prophet’s told you all about Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower. First conceived years back, geological testing commenced in 2008 for the planned one-mile-high structure. That initial engineering resulted in a down-sizing of tower height, which still bests Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Now Kingdom Tower is off the theoretical and into production. Its staying power lies in its wider context of regional development and in the deep pockets of its owner, billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The Prince likes his things big.

The Tower is the centerpiece of an ambitious urban development project called Kingdom City, a phased construction on 2 square miles of undeveloped waterfront property near the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. Once the Tower’s erected, they’ll be multiple phases of expansion and major infrastructure works to support it all.

British-based EC Harris and Mace have hooked up to provide project, commercial and design management for the $1.2 billion development which will break ground later this year. (Construction, by Bin Laden Group, is planned to wrap up in six years.)

This team’s delivered over 100 skyscrapers including London’s Shard and Abu Dhabi’s The Landmark. Adrian Smith, the American architect behind the Burj Khalifa and New York City’s Trump Tower, is the designer.

Stack up those four skyscrapers and you could run a 5k race along their facades without ever treading on something sustainable. Despite their sky-high project price tags, they are devoid of innovative design elements that would reduce their gargantuan environmental impacts or enhance occupant safety.

Consider the waste generated, the power and water consumed, the resultant road congestion, and the devastating impact on local real estate. Consider the thousands of birds who die in collisions with the acres of tower skin (ornithologist Daniel Klem, Jr. estimates that collisions with skyscraper glass kills up to 1 billion birds a year in the United States alone). Are Jeddah emergency services equipped to handle fires a kilometer above ground? Think of the attraction for splashy acts of terror.

Then read through their project press releases. You’ll find nothing to address those previous questions, but spot a few ho-hum green features including proximity to mass transit, high performance thermal glass, and efficient plumbing fixtures. The same can be said about my little apartment which was built over 25 years ago.

Middle Eastern mega-projects tend to chase world records in terms of manly dimensions or bloated price tags. What would it take to incite project teams to hit new heights in green technologies? Buildings made from smart materials that don’t deplete already-stressed water resources, with on-site renewable energy-generation. International media would eat it up, and it would be a powerful project differentiator for all stakeholders to lay claim to, with bragging rights to the host nation.

Call me Miss Cranky, but these competitions to see whose is biggest are better suited for the locker room and not the world construction stage.

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World’s Next Largest Tower to be Built in Saudi, For Real

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unsustainable development, Kingdom Tower, Saudi Arabia  Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill make their own announcement: they’re designing the Kingdom Tower, but it won’t be a mile high.

 

Every blogger who gives a toot about sustainable building fell over themselves earlier this year to mock Saudi’s mile high tower. We all bought the story without really thinking about what such a tall building might look like; but there’s a very good reason we fell for what turned out to be a dirty news leak: absurd stuff like this actually happens in the Middle East.

 

Recently a billionaire Sheikh from Abu Dhabi etched his name – Hamad – into the sands of a one mile stretch of island. His self-aggrandizing graffiti is visible from space. And Dubai has the 2,651 foot Burj al Khalifa tower. Perhaps feeling left out of the cockshow, Saudi has now officially commissioned Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill to design a 3,280-foot spacescraper – skyscraper just doesn’t seem high enough- that will surpass the Burj as the world’s next tallest tower.

 

unsustainable development, Saudi Arabia No restraint

 

World Architecture News recently announced that Dubai will not bid for the Olympics because it needs to focus on its own security and peace, showing uncharacteristic restraint. Saudi Arabia shows no such thing.

 

His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, today announced this newest addition to a slew of flashy Arab projects that always have disastrous environmental ramifications.

 

Part of the 17.4 million square foot Kingdom City development project, the Kingdom Tower alone will take up 5.7 million square feet of  north Jeddah, a sea port town along the Red Sea and the gateway to Saudi Arabia’s holiest city Mecca.

 

Saudi Arabia, unsustainable developmentTaller than the tallest

 

568 feet taller than the world’s current tallest building also designed by Adrian Smith while at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the Kingdom Tower will feature a Four Seasons hotel, Four Seasons serviced apartments, Class A office space, luxury condominiums and the world’s highest observatory.

 

Construction of the $1.2 billion tower is expected to begin as soon as possible and the entire Kingdom City project is anticipated to cost at least $20 billion.


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

As Jeremic (Former Foreign Minister of Serbia) Talks Sovereignty, What of Egypt and Kosovo, Budget from Serbia?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 3 — The UN seems to make even articulate people bland, and to turn everything into buzzwords and cliches. So it seemed at Vuk Jeremic’s first press conference as President of the UN General Assembly.

His deputy spokesman chose only five question — by the end of which, the obvious word “Kosovo” had not once been said.

Only on the seventh and last pre-drinks questions was the word broached. Jeremic answered indirectly, saying that just as he fought “for five and a half years” as Serbian foreign minister for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, now he would fight for those things for the whole world. Is that a message to the proponents of Azawad in Northern Mali? Inner City Press has covered Mali’s on-again, then off-again recognition of Kosovo.


More pertinently, is it true as buzzed at the UN that the “new” Egypt may move to recognize Kosovo? What if anything could a PGA (President of the UN General Asembly) try to do?

Inner City Press covered — and called — Jeremic’s election as General Assembly President, and when the media in Serbia contacted it for stories about Jeremic’s budget, Inner City Press also asked Jeremic’s predecessor how much Qatar had spent (this was never answered).

But now one wants to know if it is true that the request to and contribution of Serbia is down to $1.5 million, and what will be the actual budgets of the office.

Wednesday these questions were not taken, nor more generic ones about mediation and the G-20. Team Jeremic offered drinks and cheese cubes to the correspondents, but that time might have been better spent on answering these questions. Perhaps in the future they will be answered.

———————-

UN Statement Calls for Restraint From Turkey and Syria, SC Prez Tells ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — On the UN Security Council’s press statement on Akcakale in Turkey, what changed in the 22 hours between the silence procedure being broken by Russia and the statement’s read-out by Council President Gert Rosenthal on Thursday evening?

Mostly the inserting of nine final words: “The members of the Security Council called for restraint.”

Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rosenthal, once he had read out the statement, whether it would be fair to read this as a call for restraint by Turkey as well, or just Syria.

“Both,” Rosenthal said. He confirmed that a separate draft press statement on bombings in Aleppo is under the Council’s “silence procedure” until 10 am on Friday. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the press that one Council member had extended silence until then. But would it be further extended?

There were a few other minor changes from the initial Azerbaijani (or “Ottoman”) draft and the one agreed to: the first draft expressed condolences first to the Government of Turkey then to the families of the victims; this was reversed in the final statement. Also a reference to “international peace and security” was removed.

Some drew a link from the negotiations to an upcoming visit to Turkey by Russian president Putin on October 14. Others speculated about some other deal being reached.

In the run-up to the passing, a well placed diplomat told Inner City Press of passing the press statement, “If they can do it to keep Turkey quiet, good.” But will it?

—————–

As France Spins 2-Step on Mali, ECOWAS Frustration, What of Algeria and Chad?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — When Thursday’s Mali consultations of the UN Security Council broken up near 5 pm, French Ambassador Gerard Araud emerged and confirmed that France would circulate a draft resolution shortly (in a day or two) but NOT yet to deploy ECOWAS forces.

Why the delay? Araud twice said, we’ve been waiting for some time for details from ECOWAS. He said the resolution might specify, deliver the delays in 30 days or as soon as possible.

Inner City Press asked Araud, what about Mali neighbors which are not members of ECOWAS, like Mauritania and Algeria?

Araud replied that any and all countries are invited to be involved. He mentioned the European Union, then circled back to Chad.

But again, what about Algeria? The country has long opposed interventions, especially involving former colonialism France. While pretending not to take the lead or play any special role on Mali, it was Araud who came to the stakeout; it is France which is drafting.

Then again, MUJAO in Northern Mali last month executed an Algerian diplomat. Araud said that there is unanimity in the Council on Mali, and afterward Cote d’Ivoire Ambassador Bamba, who was not allowed in the meeting, emphasized to the press that at the Sahel meeting at the UN during General Debate week, there was a strong political demand a resolution authorizing force.

But what about the neighbors, which are not members of ECOWAS?

—————-

At UN, Syria Praises Jeremic as Heavyweight, Critiqus Qatari Ex-PGA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — Syria UN Ambassador Bashir Ja’afari had many duels with Qatar’s Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser while the latter was President of the General Assembly, culminating in UN Television being turned off when Ja’afari spoke.

On October 4, on UNTV, Inner City Press asked Ja’afari about new PGA Vuk Jeremic and about Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. Video here, from Minute 14:09.

Ja’afari lashed out at Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and praised Jeremic as a “heavyweight.” Later it was noted that Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser repeatedly offered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a private jet to travel for free.

Ban has since named Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser as High Representative on the Alliance of Civilizations.

By contrast, Ja’afari told Inner City Press:

“I think the former PGA harmed his personal reputation, the credibility of his country’s policy and the United Nations by misusing his mandate and the very important podium of the General Assembly. I think that he tried to use the national agenda of his country and to dictate this national agenda on the Member States as a whole…

“You may remember the procedural and political mistakes he made towards the point of view of my country as well as toward myself. In these wrongdoing, procedural and political, he crossed the line. He wasn’t diplomat. He didn’t act responsibly.

“In one of these meetings, the former PGA stopped the translation one time, and stopped recording the session, for the first time since 1945. He on many occasion manipulated the rules and procedure of the session and meetings of the General Assembly.

“The new PGA will be by all means different in his approach, his analysis, from former PGA. He is a real heavyweight, a trouble shooter, a professional diplomat… I guess that he will not fall in the same trap in which the former PGA had fallen.

My minister met with the new PGA and they discussed the best ways to help Syria, Government and people, to achieve national dialogue and to implement the Kofi Annan Six Point Plan as well as other instruments adopted by consensus with regard the Syrian crisis. We look forward to working with him very closely.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The scare tactics – The pundits say: “In a matter of hours of the Strait of Hormuz being shut down, prices would increase anywhere from $25 to $30 a barrel, after 72 hours, they foresee oil prices spiking to $150 very quickly, and rising much faster from there. From there, prices could climb to $180… even $200.

But what is the likelihood of this scenario?

———————
 www.tomdispatch.com/post/175487/t…

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Energy Wars 2012
Posted by Michael Klare at 9:37am, January 10, 2012.

Last week, the president made a rare appearance at the Pentagon to unveil a new strategic plan for U.S. military policy (and so spending) over the next decade.  Let’s leave the specifics to a future TomDispatch post and focus instead on a historical footnote: Obama was evidently the first president to offer remarks from a podium in the Pentagon press room.  He made the point himself — “I understand this is the first time a president has done this.  It’s a pretty nice room.  (Laughter)” — and it was duly noted in the media.  Yet no one thought to make anything of it, even though it tells us so much about our American world.

After all, when was the last time the president appeared at a podium at the Environmental Protection Agency to announce a 10-year plan for a “leaner, meaner” approach to the environment, or at the Education Department to outline the next decade of blue-skies thinking (and spending) for giving our children a leg-up in a competitive world?  Or how about at a State Department podium to describe future planning for a more peaceable planet more peaceably attained?  Unfortunately, you can’t remember such moments and neither can America’s reporters, because they just aren’t part of Washington life.  And strangest of all, no one finds this the tiniest bit odd or worth commenting on.

Over the last decade, this country has been so strikingly militarized that no one can imagine 10 years of serious government planning or investment not connected to the military or the national security state.  It’s a dangerous world out there — so we’re regularly told by officials who don’t mention that no military is built to handle the scariest things around.  War and the sinews of war are now our business and the U.S. military is our go-to outfit of choice for anything from humanitarian action to diplomacy (even though that same military can’t do the one thing it’s theoretically built to do: win a modern war). And if you don’t believe me that the militarization of this country is a process far gone, check out the last pages of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent piece, “America’s Pacific Century,” in Foreign Policy magazine.  Then close your eyes and tell me that it wasn’t written by a secretary of defense, rather than a secretary of state — right down to the details about the “littoral combat ships” we’re planning to deploy to Singapore and the “greater American military presence” in Australia.

Of course, the irony of this American moment is that the Republicans, those supposed advocates of “small government,” are the greatest fans we have of the ever increasing oppressive powers of the biggest of governments.  In recent years, have they seen a single enhanced power they didn’t put their stamp of approval on or enhance further? Predictably, no sooner did the president’s Pentagon press briefing end than assorted Republicans began attacking Obama and his relatively modest Pentagon plan for reshuffling military funds — from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (“a lead from behind strategy for a left-behind America”) and Senator John McCain (“greatest peril”) to presidential candidate Mitt Romney (“inexcusable, unthinkable”) — as if it were a program for unilateral disarmament.

So when the U.S. faces a problem in the world — say, keeping the energy flowing on this planet — the first thing that’s done is to militarize the problem.  It’s the only way Washington now knows how to think.  As Michael Klare — whose upcoming book The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources will certainly be a must-read of the season — makes clear, a further militarization of oil and gas policy is underway with an eye tothe Pacific, and we have another anxious year on the horizon. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

Danger Waters
The Three Top Hot Spots of Potential Conflict in the Geo-Energy Era
By Michael T. Klare

Welcome to an edgy world where a single incident at an energy “chokepoint” could set a region aflame, provoking bloody encounters, boosting oil prices, and putting the global economy at risk.  With energy demand on the rise and sources of supply dwindling, we are, in fact, entering a new epoch — the Geo-Energy Era — in which disputes over vital resources will dominate world affairs.  In 2012 and beyond, energy and conflict will be bound ever more tightly together, lending increasing importance to the key geographical flashpoints in our resource-constrained world.

Take the Strait of Hormuz, already making headlines and shaking energy markets as 2012 begins.  Connecting the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, it lacks imposing geographical features like the Rock of Gibraltar or the Golden Gate Bridge.  In an energy-conscious world, however, it may possess greater strategic significance than any passageway on the planet.  Every day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankers carrying some 17 million barrels of oil — representing 20% of the world’s daily supply — pass through this vital artery.

So last month, when a senior Iranian official threatened to block the strait in response to Washington’s tough new economic sanctions, oil prices instantly soared. While the U.S. military has vowed to keep the strait open, doubts about the safety of future oil shipments and worries about a potentially unending, nerve-jangling crisis involving Washington, Tehran, and Tel Aviv have energy experts predicting high oil prices for months to come, meaning further woes for a slowing global economy.

The Strait of Hormuz is, however, only one of several hot spots where energy, politics, and geography are likely to mix in dangerous ways in 2012 and beyond.  Keep your eye as well on the East and South China Seas, the Caspian Sea basin, and an energy-rich Arctic that is losing its sea ice.  In all of these places, countries are disputing control over the production and transportation of energy, and arguing about national boundaries and/or rights of passage.

In the years to come, the location of energy supplies and of energy supply routes — pipelines, oil ports, and tanker routes — will be pivotal landmarks on the global strategic map.  Key producing areas, like the Persian Gulf, will remain critically important, but so will oil chokepoints like the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca (between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea) and the “sea lines of communication,” or SLOCs (as naval strategists like to call them) connecting producing areas to overseas markets.  More and more, the major powers led by the United States, Russia, and China will restructure their militaries to fight in such locales.

You can already see this in the elaborate Defense Strategic Guidance document, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership,” unveiled at the Pentagon on January 5th by President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.  While envisioning a smaller Army and Marine Corps, it calls for increased emphasis on air and naval capabilities, especially those geared to the protection or control of international energy and trade networks.  Though it tepidly reaffirmed historic American ties to Europe and the Middle East, overwhelming emphasis was placed on bolstering U.S. power in “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean and South Asia.”

In the new Geo-Energy Era, the control of energy and of its transport to market will lie at the heart of recurring global crises.  This year, keep your eyes on three energy hot spots in particular: the Strait of Hormuz, the South China Sea, and the Caspian Sea basin.

The Strait of Hormuz

A narrow stretch of water separating Iran from Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the strait is the sole maritime link between the oil-rich Persian Gulf region and the rest of the world.  A striking percentage of the oil produced by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE is carried by tanker through this passageway on a daily basis, making it (in the words of the Department of Energy) “the world’s most important oil chokepoint.”  Some analysts believe that any sustained blockage in the strait could trigger a 50% increase in the price of oil and trigger a full-scale global recession or depression.

American leaders have long viewed the Strait as a strategic fixture in their global plans that must be defended at any cost.  It was an outlook first voiced by President Jimmy Carter in January 1980, on the heels of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan which had, he told Congress, “brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world’s oil must flow.”  The American response, he insisted, must be unequivocal: any attempt by a hostile power to block the waterway would henceforth be viewed as “an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America,” and “repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

Much has changed in the Gulf region since Carter issued his famous decree, known since as the Carter Doctrine, and established the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to guard the Strait — but not Washington’s determination to ensure the unhindered flow of oil there.  Indeed, President Obama has made it clear that, even if CENTCOM ground forces were to leave Afghanistan, as they have Iraq, there would be no reduction in the command’s air and naval presence in the greater Gulf area.

It is conceivable that the Iranians will put Washington’s capabilities to the test.  On December 27th, Iran’s first vice president Mohammad-Reza Rahimi said, “If [the Americans] impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz.”  Similar statements have since been made by other senior officials (and contradicted as well by yet others).  In addition, the Iranians recently conducted elaborate naval exercisesin the Arabian Sea near the eastern mouth of the strait, and more such maneuvers are said to be forthcoming.  At the same time, the commanding general of Iran’s army suggested that the USS John C. Stennis, an American aircraft carrier just leaving the Gulf, should not return.  “The Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added ominously, “will not repeat its warning.”

Might the Iranians actually block the strait?  Many analysts believe that the statements by Rahimi and his colleagues are bluster and bluff meant to rattle Western leaders, send oil prices higher, and win future concessions if negotiations ever recommence over their country’s nuclear program.  Economic conditions in Iran are, however, becoming more desperate, and it is always possible that the country’s hard-pressed hardline leaders may feel the urge to take some dramatic action, even if it invites a powerful U.S. counterstrike.  Whatever the case, the Strait of Hormuz will remain a focus of international attention in 2012, with global oil prices closely following the rise and fall of tensions there.

The South China Sea

The South China Sea is a semi-enclosed portion of the western Pacific bounded by China to the north, Vietnam to the west, the Philippines to the east, and the island of Borneo (shared by Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia) to the south.  The sea also incorporates two largely uninhabited island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys.  Long an important fishing ground, it has also been a major avenue for commercial shipping between East Asia and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.  More recently, it acquired significance as a potential source of oil and natural gas, large reserves of which are now believed to lie in subsea areas surrounding the Paracels and Spratlys.

With the discovery of oil and gas deposits, the South China Sea has been transformed into a cockpit of international friction.  At least some islands in this energy-rich area are claimed by every one of the surrounding countries, including China — which claims them all, and has demonstrated a willingness to use military force to assert dominance in the region.  Not surprisingly, this has put it in conflict with the other claimants, including several with close military ties to the United States.  As a result, what started out as a regional matter, involving China and various members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has become a prospective tussle between the world’s two leading powers.

To press their claims, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have all sought to work collectively through ASEAN, believing a multilateral approach will give them greater negotiating clout than one-on-one dealings with China. For their part, the Chinese have insisted that all disputes must be resolved bilaterally, a situation in which they can more easily bring their economic and military power to bear.  Previously preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has now entered the fray, offering full-throated support to the ASEAN countries in their efforts to negotiate en masse with Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi promptly warned the United States not to interfere.  Any such move “will only make matters worse and the resolution more difficult,” he declared.  The result was an instant war of words between Beijing and Washington.  During a visit to the Chinese capital in July 2011, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen delivered a barely concealed threat when it came to possible future military action.  “The worry, among others that I have,” he commented, “is that the ongoing incidents could spark a miscalculation, and an outbreak that no one anticipated.”  To drive the point home, the United States has conducted a series of conspicuous military exercises in the South China Sea, including some joint maneuvers with ships from Vietnam and the Philippines.  Not to be outdone, China responded with naval maneuvers of its own.  It’s a perfect formula for future “incidents” at sea.

The South China Sea has long been on the radar screens of those who follow Asian affairs, but it only attracted global attention when, in November, President Obama traveled to Australia and announced, with remarkable bluntness, a new U.S. strategy aimed at confronting Chinese power in Asia and the Pacific.  “As we plan and budget for the future,” he told members of the Australian Parliament in Canberra, “we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.”  A key feature of this effort would be to ensure “maritime security” in the South China Sea.

While in Australia, President Obama also announced the establishment of anew U.S. base at Darwin on that country’s northern coast, as well as expanded military ties with Indonesia and the Philippines.  In January, the president similarly placed special emphasis on projecting U.S. power in the region when he went to the Pentagon to discuss changes in the American military posture in the world.

Beijing will undoubtedly take its own set of steps, no less belligerent, to protect its growing interests in the South China Sea.  Where this will lead remains, of course, unknown.  After the Strait of Hormuz, however, the South China Sea may be the global energy chokepoint where small mistakes or provocations could lead to bigger confrontations in 2012 and beyond.

The Caspian Sea Basin

The Caspian Sea is an inland body of water bordered by Russia, Iran, and three former republics of the USSR: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.  In the immediate area as well are the former Soviet lands of Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.  All of these old SSRs are, to one degree or another, attempting to assert their autonomy from Moscow and establish independent ties with the United States, the European Union, Iran, Turkey, and, increasingly, China.  All are wracked by internal schisms and/or involved in border disputes with their neighbors.  The region would be a hotbed of potential conflict even if the Caspian basin did not harbor some of the world’s largest undeveloped reserves of oil and natural gas, which could easily bring it to a boil.

This is not the first time that the Caspian has been viewed as a major source of oil, and so potential conflict.  In the late nineteenth century, the region around the city of Baku — then part of the Russian empire, now in Azerbaijan — was a prolific source of petroleum and so a major strategic prize.  Future Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin first gained notoriety there as a leader of militant oil workers, and Hitler sought to capture it during his ill-fated 1941 invasion of the USSR.  After World War II, however, the region lost its importance as an oil producer when Baku’s onshore fields dried up.  Now, fresh discoveries are being made in offshore areas of the Caspian itself and in previously undeveloped areas of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

According to energy giant BP, the Caspian area harbors as much as 48 billion barrels of oil (mostly buried in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan) and 449 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (with the largest supply in Turkmenistan).  This puts the region ahead of North and South America in total gas reserves and Asia in oil reserves.  But producing all this energy and delivering it to foreign markets will be a monumental task.  The region’s energy infrastructure is woefully inadequate and the Caspian itself provides no maritime outlet to other seas, so all that oil and gas must travel by pipeline or rail.

Russia, long the dominant power in the region, is pursuing control over the transportation routes by which Caspian oil and gas will reach markets.  It is upgrading Soviet-era pipelines that link the former SSRs to Russia or building new ones and, to achieve a near monopoly over the marketing of all this energy, bringing traditional diplomacy, strong-arm tactics, and outright bribery to bear on regional leaders (many of whom once served in the Soviet bureaucracy) to ship their energy via Russia.  As recounted in my book Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, Washington sought to thwart these efforts by sponsoring the construction of alternative pipelines that avoid Russian territory, crossing Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to the Mediterranean (notably the BTC, or Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline), while Beijing is building its own pipelines linking the Caspian area to western China.

All of these pipelines cross through areas of ethnic unrest and pass near various contested regions like rebellious Chechnya and breakaway South Ossetia.  As a result, both China and the U.S. have wedded their pipeline operations to military assistance for countries along the routes.  Fearful of an American presence, military or otherwise, in the former territories of the Soviet Union, Russia has responded with military moves of its own, including its brief August 2008 war with Georgia, which took place along the BTC route.

Given the magnitude of the Caspian’s oil and gas reserves, many energy firms are planning new production operations in the region, along with the pipelinesneeded to bring the oil and gas to market.  The European Union, for example, hopes to build a new natural gas pipeline called Nabucco from Azerbaijan through Turkey to Austria.  Russia has proposed a competing conduit called South Stream.  All of these efforts involve the geopolitical interests of major powers, ensuring that the Caspian region will remain a potential source of international crisis and conflict.

In the new Geo-Energy Era, the Strait of Hormuz, the South China Sea, and the Caspian Basin hardly stand alone as potential energy flashpoints. The East China Sea, where China and Japan are contending for a contested undersea natural gas field, is another, as are the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands, where both Britain and Argentina hold claims to undersea oil reserves, as will be the globally warming Arctic whose resources are claimed by many countries.  One thing is certain: wherever the sparks may fly, there’s oil in the water and danger at hand in 2012.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, ofRising Powers, Shrinking Planet. His newest book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, will be published in March.  To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Klare discusses the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, click here, or download it to your iPod here.


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 8th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

With Turkey so much in the news – mainly in its attempt at becoming more Arab then the Arabs and reseting itself as the leader of the Middle East by picking up the cause of the Palestinians and doing everything possible in order to annoy the Israelis, here comes a very different set of news – Turkey has become the ultimate test case for Austria – sort of who is better suited to play in the European Soccer games championship. Austria needed a win in order to have a chance to survive – in effect a win by two goals – to be accurate. This in a group of States, in the Qualifying games – that included also Germany and Belgium, but also Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan – call it a situation where three members of the EU had been accidentally paired with three Muslim countries on the outskirts of Europe.

The game was scheduled for September 6, 2011, 20:30 or 8:30 PM, at the largest stadium in Austria -that seats 53.000 people. The old, but rather newish looking Ernst Happel Stadium was built between 1929 and 1931 for the second Workers’ Olympiad to the design of German architect Otto Ernst Schweizer. It was called the Prater Stadion until 1992, sometimes also called Wiener Stadion. It is located in Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district of Vienna. The stadium was renamed in honor of Ernst Happel following his death in 1992. Ernst Franz Hermann Happel (29 November 1925 – 14 November 1992) was Austrian –  football-player and coach.

Ernst Happel is regarded as one of the most successful football team-managers ever, winning both league and domestic cup titles in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria as well as winning the European Cup twice, the first in 1970 and the second in1983, and a runners-up medal at the 1978 FIFA World Cup. He is the first of three managers to have won the European Cup with 2 different clubs, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jose Mourinho being the other two. Austria is now desperately looking for a manager that could get close to Happel. These days Austria suffers from manager-collapse and it showed in the games.

I sensed that this will not be just a football game – it really had political implications – so I decided to attend in order to get a sniff at the atmosphere these days – how it is to be a Turkish guest-team in an Austria where there is a large Turkish minority that roots naturally for their country of origin, while pushing for their own position of new Austrians and for Turkey’s acceptance into the EU, while it is known that there is probably a majority in Austria that neither would like to see Turkey in the EU nor like the increase in immigration from Turkey to the EU – this latter being a basic cause for the slow progress in the steps the EU handles this Turkey problem.

I made my move too late – the Stadium was sold out but two well placed gentlemen that I happened to meet – Mr. Walter Weise, Manager of the Sport-facilities of the city of Vienna – that includes the management of the Stadium – and Mr. Peter Klinglmueller, the Head of all the Press and Public Relations of the Austrian Football Association (OEFB), to whom I was introduced by the first gentleman, extended a courtesy ticket to me when I managed to convince them that the evening has real value to me, though I am no professional football reporter.

I came to the Stadium about 6:30 PM and the U-train was all in red – that is people wrapped in the Turkish flag – some with funny hats – all red&white – some with noise making trumpets. When I got off – I saw one flag with a man drawn on it that looked like a Kazakh. I asked – and was told that was Kemal Ataturk.  Interesting as he is no more the real favorite of the present government of Turkey. He was a secular dictator while the present government is moving more and more to the Islamic religion.

When I sat in my seat in Section B, At 7:00 PM, the Turkish team came out to show itself to the crowd that in my corner – a very Turkish corner, was received by the youth with call “Giul” which I assume meant “Goal.” The same Turkish_Austrians in the stands did actually boo when the Austrian team showed up. When it came to playing the National anthems – the Turkish first, the older kids had to tell the younger brothers or cousins to continue to stand up and clap hands at the end. The pro-Turkish partisanship seemed to have taken hold of the younger and less experienced kids. Think for a moment – while the Turkish side showed a team with all on it having Turkish names, the Austrians had also one Turk on their team – EKREM DAG – who used to play for Besiktas, Istambul. The Austrians also had on their team an Austrian player who plays now for Munich – but was the best player on the field at this game - David Olatukunbo Alaba – born in Austria but clearly of West African parentage. I mention this as clear indication that Austria has overcome some of the personal background problems that are capable to create disunity.

I watched the advertisements along the Stadium. They were basically from the companies you would expect: Hyundai, Generali, Raiffeisen Bank (only one bank is my bank), Burgenland for tourism, the arches of McDonald without the name and saying “I’m loving it,” the Kronen Zeitung, Toto, Puma, The City of Vienna etc., but also one single new company – GAZI – which is a Turkish-German company that makes the best Yogurt and cheese. I love it indeed – only that there is not enough chains that carry their products. I bought their yogurt t at Penny’s.

On the negative side of the experience, I must mention just that some people managed to smuggle in firecrackers they used to make noise in an attempt to encourage the Turkish team.

Still during the first half – it became obvious that both teams were not at their best – so the 0-0 final score was no surprise – but it had the effect that the Turkish team loved. This indecision actually was a decision – it hopelessly eliminated Austria from contention to get the second place and the chance to move on to the UEFA EURO games. It left two contenders for that spot – Turkey and Belgium, but looking up the remaining games, it seems to us that Turkey will be the eventual #2 See please the following:
Both Turkey-Belgium games have been played already – and ended in  a Turkish win 3-2  on September 7, 2010, and a draw 1-1 on June 2, 2011. Each team still has two games to play. One of these games is with the tough German team. Both have finished their games with Austria. The other game left for each of them is with the weaker teams Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan.

The tough upcoming games Turkey still has to play is with Germany on October 7, 2011 and Belgium still has to play Germany on October 11, 2011.

These calculations leave in our opinion Turkey with the advantage to qualify for the second spot in group A for the UEFA EURO 2012 games. So this is the way for Turkey to show they are a power in Europe – at least so far as soccer goes.

AHEAD OF THESE LAST TWO GAMES – THE STANDS ARE AS FOLLOWS AND WE BELIEVE THAT THE FINAL ORDER WILL BE THE SAME AS TODAY:

	Germany		   21   7  0  0  22  3
    -------------------------------------------------------------
	Turkey		   14   4  2  2  11  8
    -------------------------------------------------------------
	Belgium		   11   3  3  2  16 11
	Austria  	    8   2  2  3  10 10
	Azerbaijan	    7   2  1  5   9 21
	Kazakhstan	    3   1  0  7   5 20
Coming 2012 - Turkey will thus play in the European tournament - Belgium and Austria will stay out. 
On the other hand, Turkey will play in the Middle East political stakes, and it is highly possible 
that most of Europe will be out there.
So why did we say that this was a political game? Turkey got in soccer what it might not get in
geopolitics - or perhaps the soccer will also show the way for how Europe might decide to link to
Turkey in their arena where they play in the Islamic World. We wait to see which will be it.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 25th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Power Plant Attacked in Caucasus

Yevgeny Kayudin/Reuters

The damaged turbine hall of Baksanskaya hydroelectric power station after it was attacked by militants Russia’s restive North Caucasus region on Wednesday.

By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: July 21, 2010

MOSCOW — Militants attacked a hydroelectric power plant in Russia’s restive North Caucasus region on Wednesday, killing two guards before setting off several bombs that forced the facility to be shut down, Russian investigators said.

Between three and five armed men raided the plant, a small station in the southern Russian region of Kabardino-Balkaria, around 5:30 a.m. local time, the investigators said. They said the attackers shot the two guards, then broke into the engine room of the plant, the Baksanskaya station.

“Unknown men in masks broke into the power plant, broke down a closed door, then tied up the employees,” Valery Shigenov, the plant’s director, told Russian television. Two of the employees were injured and had to be hospitalized.

The militants then set and detonated at least four bombs, which destroyed three generators, but failed to cause a breach in the dam, officials said. A fire caused by the explosions had been extinguished by midday, and no power failures were reported in the region.

Russian forces have for years been struggling to quash a simmering Muslim insurgency in the region, which includes Chechnya.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The GUAM States are Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova – States on the Western Extended Borders of Russia – that have expressed interest in good relations with the West and in adopting Western Ways of Government and joining Western Institutions. They are not part of the EU. Azerbaijan is a Muslim Oil-State in conflict with Russia backed Armenia.

——————–

Remarks at Meeting With the Staff and Families of Embassy Baku.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Embassy Baku
Baku, Azerbaijan
July 4, 2010

SPEAKER: Madam Secretary, on behalf of our entire embassy family, we welcome you to the embassy, and welcome you to our garden.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you.
SPEAKER: Please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, thank you. Well, Happy Fourth of July to all of you.
(Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is a wonderful way to celebrate the American Independence Day, here in this beautiful garden, and to be with all of you here in Azerbaijan, where independence and the values of freedom and equality and opportunity enshrined in our Declaration of Independence are all the more meaningful for this young, independent country.
This has been a very whirlwind trip, and I thank every one of you who has helped to make it possible. And I thank you, too, for all the work you have done this past year to further and steady our relationship between our country and Azerbaijan, and we are trying to do everything we can to support you, including working for a new embassy compound — although you won’t have a garden like this, I’m afraid. That’s kind of a trade-off, isn’t it?
Earlier today I had a productive meeting with President Aliyev, and assured him of the importance of Azerbaijan to the United States, and that we are committed to working in partnership to enhance global security and promote democracy and stabilize the region.
I just came from a meeting with some young people at the Mugam Club in the historic, beautiful old city, who are working to promote civil society, protect human rights, develop a free media in the country. They are the reason that I come to work every day, because much of what I do is about the next generation. And I was very proud and impressed to listen to them, and especially 5 of the 10 had studied in the United States under the exchange programs that some of you help to run.
We are very focused in the Obama Administration on working to strengthen our relationship, and supporting the modernization, the secularization, the democratization of this very exciting country at this time in history.
I want to thank Chargé Donald Lu for his steady leadership during this past year. He has kept everything running during a difficult time without the help of an ambassador. We are working very hard to get our new ambassador confirmed, and hopefully he will be joining you shortly. And, in the meantime, I welcome Adam Stirling as the new chargé, and will look forward to working with him.
Now, I can imagine that for our locally-engaged staff, who have never celebrated an American Fourth of July — which means that you have never eaten barbeque or gone to a fireworks or gotten sunburned with your family out in some beautiful place — it might seem a little bit distant to be here in Baku, celebrating the founding of our country. But for Americans this is a very special day. And it’s a day that we really do take time out to appreciate the founding of our country 234 years ago, and all that we have had to do over those years to create a more perfect union, to overcome injustice, discrimination, to make sure that the circle of opportunity grew bigger and bigger, so that it could encompass every American.
So, I thank each and every one of you on this Fourth of July for your hard work: our foreign service and our civil service officers, all of our colleagues from other U.S. government agencies, our Peace Corps volunteers, our family members, and especially our locally-engaged staff. We honor your sacrifices and your dedication. And I wish you a very safe and happy Independence Day. But, more than that, I wish you a day every single day of this upcoming year of greater cooperation and partnership to deepen and broaden our relationship.
And I know that when someone like me comes, it adds to your workload. So I am hoping that with the outgoing chargé and the incoming chargé, that maybe they will give you the rest of the Fourth of July off. What do you think? That’s a departmental, Secretary of State directive.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 2nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

www.unece.org/oes/disc_papers/climat_change.html

—–

UNECE climate change activities[1]

Table of Contents:

Introduction
Conventions
Vehicle regulations
Energy efficiency in production
Energy-efficient housing
Sustainable forestry
Sustainable biomass
Other related UNECE areas of work

Introduction

Climate change is a human-induced process of global warming, largely resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and fluorocarbons.[2] Countries are under increasing pressure to curb their emissions of these gases and to enhance carbon sinks in a drive to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, combating the threats of human-induced global warming requires more than mitigation; it is equally important to reduce society’s vulnerability to climate change through adaptation, as established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, launched in 2005. Adaptation addresses the impacts of climate change, including climate variability and weather extremes.[3]

The United Nations Secretary-General has put climate change at the top of the United Nations agenda, ensuring that the “United Nations system will continue … to bring to bear the collective strength of all its entities as an integral part of the international community’s response to climate change.”[4] The five regional commissions have assumed an active role in coordinating United Nations support for action on climate change at the regional level through the regional coordination mechanisms mandated by the Economic and Social Council in its resolution 1998/46 (annex III).[5] The five commissions are seen as conveners to support global, regional and national action on climate change, while coordinating their workplans and implementation efforts with other organizations that have significant mandates in their respective areas.[6]

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is a key driving force in combating climate change in the pan-European region and beyond. The UNECE region comprises 56 member States, spanning the whole European continent, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and also including Israel, Turkey, Canada and the United States of America. The region has a crucial role in contributing to the local and regional success of UNFCCC, as was noted by UNECE member States at the “Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” (Belgrade, 10–12 October 2007).[7] UNECE has spearheaded the region’s efforts to achieve the targets of United Nations Millennium Development Goal 7, especially to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and to reverse the losses of environmental resources.

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Conventions

Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution

The 1979 UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), and its protocols aim to cut emissions of air pollutants, inter alia, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs). Such pollutants can either directly influence global warming, by affecting the cooling or absorptive characteristics of the atmosphere, or indirectly influence it through, for example, ozone formation. Recent studies have shown important synergies in addressing air pollution control and climate change mitigation and have highlighted the economic and environmental co-benefits that are possible by tackling these issues in an integrated way.

The Convention has 51 Parties and eight protocols, which are all in force. The most recent of these, the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol, is currently under revision. It targets the environmental effects of acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone through emission cuts for SO2, NOx, NMVOCs and ammonia. Such cuts are known to mitigate global warming.

A recent major conference and workshop entitled “Air Pollution and Climate Change: Developing a Framework for Integrated Co-benefit Strategies” was held in September 2008 in Stockholm under the auspices of the Convention and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and in consultation with the UNFCCC secretariat. It brought together policymakers and scientists from all United Nations regions to consider ways to develop and implement integrated programmes for decreasing emissions of both air pollutants and GHGs. The conclusions stressed the importance of using integrated strategies. Of special note was the possible “buying of time” in GHG mitigation through cuts in such air pollutants as black carbon and ozone, and air pollutants with a strong radiative forcing effect, which might be cut more readily than CO2 and achieve some GHG mitigation in the short term. The conference agreed there was a need to strengthen air pollution abatement efforts as well as climate change mitigation to achieve better health and environmental protection. It also noted the significant cost savings of using integrated approaches. The conclusions and recommendations of the workshop will be considered by the Convention’s Executive Body (Meeting of the Parties) in December 2008.

The Convention is using different models and methods to analyse environmental effects and to calculate the necessary emission abatement and related costs. In this way, cost-effective pollution control strategies can achieve the desired environmental targets with the least overall expenditure. Recent use of the Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) integrated assessment model, developed by the Convention’s Centre for Integrated Assessment Modelling, has explored synergies and trade-offs between emissions of air pollutants and GHGs, for current and projected energy use. The model includes both end-of-pipe controls and non-technical measures, such as behavioural changes in traffic or economic instruments.

The Convention’s scientific bodies are also incorporating climate change issues into their programmes of work. The European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), which monitors and models air quality, is involved in reporting and estimating emissions. Reporting requirements of the Parties have been harmonized with those of UNFCCC. EMEP is also responsible for the integrated assessment modelling work described above. The international programmes of the Working Group on Effects monitor and model environmental and human health effects of air pollution. Increasingly, these need to take account of the links to observed or predicted changes in climatic conditions. They also provide long-term monitoring of data that can identify changes that might be associated with a changing climate.

Discussions in the Convention’s bodies have drawn attention to the strong links between air pollutant and GHG emissions and have highlighted specific issues where integration of strategies is needed. For example, the current emphasis on renewable energy is leading to increased use of wood as a fuel. However, unless appropriate boiler technology is used, this can also lead to increased air pollution.

Water

The intrinsic relation of the hydrological cycle – and thus water availability, quality, and services – to climate change makes adaptation critical for water management and the water sector in general. The UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) is an important legal framework for the development of adaptation strategies, in particular in the transboundary context.

At their fourth meeting in Bonn, Germany, in 2006, the Parties to the Water Convention took a decisive step to supporting the development of adaptation strategies by agreeing to elaborate a guidance document on water and adaptation to climate change. A draft has now been prepared by the Task Forces on Water and Climate and on Extreme Weather Events, both under the Convention’s Protocol on Water and Health. This marks the first attempt under any convention to flesh out a climate change adaptation strategy in the water sector with a particular emphasis on transboundary issues. Based on the concept of integrated water resources management, the Guidance will “provide advice on how to assess impacts of climate change on water quantity and quality, how to perform risk assessment, including health risk assessment, how to gauge vulnerability, and how to design and implement appropriate adaptation measures” [ibid. p. 8]. The Guidance is expected to be formally adopted in November 2009 at the next meeting of the Parties.

One important step in the Guidance’s preparation was a workshop on climate change adaptation in the water sector organized under the Water Convention and the Protocol on Water and Health (Amsterdam, 1–2 July 2008). The workshop, which allowed for an exchange of experience in the region, an assessment of information needs for adaptation strategies and a discussion of the benefits of and mechanisms for transboundary cooperation, touched upon the institutional, policy, legal, scientific and financial aspects of adaptation in the water sector and included cross-cutting issues such as education. The workshop highlighted current challenges such as still limited transboundary cooperation, the focus on short-term rather than long-term measures, and the need to consider climate change together with other global drivers of change, e.g. the energy and food crises and changes in production and consumption patterns.

The Protocol on Water and Health, the first legally binding instrument aimed to achieve the sustainable management of water resources and the reduction of water-related disease, is also highly relevant to climate change adaptation. It establishes joint or coordinated surveillance and early-warning systems, contingency plans and response capacities, as well as mutual assistance to respond to outbreaks or incidents of water-related disease, especially those arising from extreme weather events. The Protocol’s Ad Hoc Project Facilitation Mechanism is a funding tool for implementation of the Protocol at the national level; its provisions on safe drinking water and sanitation are also of relevance to climate change.

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Access to information, public participation and justice

The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) constitutes the only legally binding instrument so far to implement principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which provides for the participation of citizens in environmental issues by giving them appropriate access to the information concerning the environment held by public authorities, including access to judicial or administrative proceedings, redress and remedy. Access to scientifically based information and public participation in decision-making on environmental issues – as provided by the Convention – are widely recognized as an important foundation for climate change mitigation efforts. UNFCCC, for example, underlined the importance of these principles at its thirteenth session, encouraging Parties to facilitate access to data and information and to promote public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and in developing adequate responses.[8] Environmental information can help to raise awareness about climate change issues and to strengthen synergies between mitigation and adaptation needs. Public participation in this process ensures that social values and trade-offs are represented in political decisions on climate-related issues.

UNECE is a co-organizer of the international conference, “The Role of Information in an Age of Climate Change” (Aarhus, Denmark, 13–14 November 2008). The event, marking the Aarhus Convention’s tenth anniversary, brings together leading scientists, policymakers, government authorities, non-governmental organizations, and representatives of the private sector to promote public access to information and public participation in addressing climate change.

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), adopted in May 2003, is the first legally binding international instrument on PRTRs. PRTRs assist governments in collecting information on the emission of GHGs and toxic or hazardous substances from industrial facilities and other sources. By making this information available to decision makers and the wider public, PRTRs contribute to enhancing companies’ environmental performance, regional mitigation efforts and the fight against global warming and climate change.

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Vehicle regulations

Transport is a significant and growing contributor to global climate change. According to some estimates, it is responsible for 13 per cent of all anthropogenic emissions of GHGs and for almost one quarter of the world’s total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.[9]

In May 2008 in Leipzig, Germany, UNECE took part in the OECD International Transport Forum Ministerial Session, “The Challenge of Climate Change”, the first global meeting of transport ministers that focused on energy and climate change challenges relevant to the transport sector. Climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in the transport sector focus on different means of CO2 abatement: (a) innovative engine technologies to increase fuel efficiency; (b) use of sustainable biofuels; (c) improved transport infrastructure, including inter-modal transport and logistics to avoid road congestion; (d) dissemination of consumer information on eco-driving; and (e) implementation of legal instruments. In their key messages, transport ministers urged UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) to “accelerate the work to develop common methodologies, test cycles and measurement methods for [light] vehicles” [ibid. p. 5], including CO2 emissions. For over 50 years, the World Forum has served as a platform for developing harmonized global regulations for vehicle construction, thus increasing their environmental performance and safety.

The World Forum agreed that a possible strategy for the automotive sector to contribute to the abatement of emissions was to pursue: (a) improved energy efficiency and the use of sustainable biofuels as a short-term objective (2015); (b) the development and introduction into the market of plug-in hybrid vehicles as a mid-term objective (2015–2025); and (c) the development and introduction into the market of electric vehicles as a long-term objective (2025–2040). This strategy would shift the automotive sector from the use of fossil energy to the use of hydrogen and electric energy. To be effective, this strategy needs to rely on the sustainable production of electricity and hydrogen, a crucial policy issue identified for future discussions on global warming and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

The World Forum previously adopted amendments to UNECE regulations to limit the maximum admissible level of vehicle emissions for various gaseous pollutants (e.g. carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, NOx) and particulate matter. These have resulted in a substantial abatement of the emissions limits for new private cars and commercial vehicles. Moreover, UNECE Regulations were amended to include electric and hybrid vehicles as well as vehicles with engines fuelled with liquefied petroleum gas or compressed natural gas. At the present time, the World Forum is considering a number of energy efficiency measures, such as the development of a common methodology and measurement method to evaluate environmentally friendly vehicles, hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, the use of other alternative energy sources such as biofuels including biogas, the installation in vehicles of engine management systems (e.g. the stop-and-go function), intelligent transport systems, tyre-pressure monitoring systems and the development of tyres with low rolling resistance. Once a consensus is reached, many of these measures are likely to be added to the UNECE regulations, which will help increase vehicles’ energy efficiency.

As concerns fuel-quality standards, in 2007 the World Forum demonstrated the close link between the market fuel quality and the emissions of pollutants from motor vehicles.  It recognized that further reduction of emissions required that cleaner fuel be available to consumers.  The lack of harmonized fuel quality standards was seen to hamper the development of the new vehicle technologies. Supported by UNEP and the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, the World Forum is committed to developing a necessary standard on market fuel quality, thus enabling vehicles to use fuels that minimize vehicle emission levels.

The Transport Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP), a joint project of UNECE and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, was initiated to help achieve more sustainable transport patterns and a better reflection of environmental and health concerns in transport policy. In particular, THE PEP also promotes sustainable urban transport, including alternative modes of transport, in the region.

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Energy efficiency in production

As energy is a major market in the UNECE region, which contains 40 per cent of the world’s natural gas reserves and 60 per cent of its coal reserves, a number of UNECE activities promote a sustainable energy development strategy, a key to the region’s climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The combustion of fossil fuels, the mainstay of the region’s electricity generation, is also a major source of GHG emissions. The sustainable energy projects of UNECE aim to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable and secure energy future by optimizing operating efficiencies and conservation, including through energy restructuring and legal, regulatory or energy pricing reforms. UNECE projects also encourage the introduction of renewable energy sources and the use of natural gas until cleaner energy sources are developed and commercially available, as well as the greening of the coal-to-energy chain.

For the period 2006–2009, the UNECE Energy Efficiency 21 (EE21) programme is working to promote regional cooperation to enhance countries’ energy efficiency and to reduce their GHG emissions, thus helping them meet their international treaty obligations under UNFCCC and the UNECE conventions. Energy efficiency is achieved by focusing on more efficient production, conservation and use of all energy sources in order to minimize GHG emissions.

Within the overall EE21 programme, UNECE manages the Financing Energy Efficiency Investments for Climate Change Mitigation project, with a budget of approximately US$ 7.5 million, financed by the Global Environment Fund, Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial and the European Business Congress. This project is currently establishing a privately managed equity fund with private and public sector partners. The fund, which will benefit from both public and private sources, will target energy efficiency and renewable investment projects in 12 countries in Central Asia and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

Another project within the EE21 programme is RENEUER, a regional activity supported by the United States Agency for International Development, the United States Department of Energy, France and other bilateral donors. RENEUER promotes sustainable development in the region by overcoming regional barriers and creating favourable conditions for the introduction of advanced technologies for the efficient use of local energy resources.

Outreach activities to other regional commissions in the context of energy efficiency for climate change mitigation are being organized under the Global Energy Efficiency 21 (GEE21) project. This project, to be launched in December 2008 in Poznan, Poland, will develop a systematic exchange of information on capacity-building, policy reform and investment project financing to promote cost-effective energy efficiency improvements that will reduce air pollution, including GHGs.

The work of two expert groups under the Committee on Sustainable Energy relates to climate change mitigation. The Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane (CMM) promote the recovery and use of methane gas from coal mines to minimize GHG emissions. In February 2008 in Szczyrk, Poland, a UNECE-supported workshop assessed prospects for CMM recovery and use, noting that “Global potential for CMM projects to contribute to climate change mitigation and take advantage of the carbon markets is very strong because a reduction of one ton of methane yields reductions of 18 to 23 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”.[10] However, economic feasibility of such projects typically requires a clear regulatory and legal framework, reasonable access to markets and relatively stable prices.

The Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Coal and Other Fossil Fuels held its first meeting in November 2007. Its programme of work includes reviewing the prospects for cleaner electricity production from fossil fuels and measures or incentives to promote investment in cleaner electricity production. The Group also assesses the regulatory needs for promoting investment in cleaner electricity production from fossil fuels, appraises the comparative advantages of investments in new capacities and analyses issues related to carbon capture and storage technologies, especially in the context of emerging economies in the UNECE region.[11]

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Energy-efficient housing

Due to both its high GHG emissions and its large potential for energy-saving measures, the housing sector plays a critical role in climate change mitigation. IPCC estimates that the global potential to reduce emissions at roughly 29 per cent for the residential and commercial sectors.[12] The energy-saving potential in this sector is also considerable: UNEP estimates that in Europe, buildings account for roughly 40 to 45 per cent of energy consumption, emitting significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Residential buildings account for the lion’s share of these emissions.[13]

Energy-efficient buildings can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation by reducing buildings’ energy consumption as well as by making them more resistant to severe weather events. Improving energy efficiency is especially important in the UNECE region, where projected increased housing construction and homeownership are likely to be accompanied by higher electricity consumption and thus growing emissions. UNECE has a programme geared to achieving maximal energy efficiency in the region’s housing, which will allow countries to share experience and good practice in reducing energy consumption in the residential sector, both vis-à-vis existing housing stock and new residential housing construction. This is expected to especially improve energy performance in parts of the region where progress is hampered by low innovation capacity and by a lack of knowledge about technical options to improve the thermal efficiency of existing buildings, and by outdated building codes that prevent countries from embracing the latest energy-efficient construction techniques. The programme will also include a wide-ranging regional assessment – featuring financing mechanisms, case studies, workshops and seminars for policymakers – and will benefit from close collaboration with above-mentioned EE21 project.

To date, UNECE has published country profiles on the housing sectors of Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia Lithuania, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation and Serbia and Montenegro. In 2009, two workshops (in Sofia and Vienna) will address the issue of energy efficiency in housing. A group of interested experts will assist the host countries in shaping the programme of the events and will provide the necessary expertise. In September 2008, the Committee on Housing and Land Management addressed energy efficiency in housing in the region, focusing on the legislative framework and incentives.[14]

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Sustainable forestry

Forests and wood are integrally linked to climate change and have an important role to play in mitigation and adaptation. Forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere when they grow, thereby offsetting a significant part of GHG emissions. According to the forthcoming UNECE Annual Report, the annual increase of carbon in EU-27 forests is equivalent to 8.6 per cent of GHG emissions in the European Union (EU). In Europe, forests sequester approximately 140 million tons of carbon a year. Wood products are a store of carbon, keeping it from release to the atmosphere. Forests store more than 80 per cent of terrestrial aboveground carbon and more than 70 per cent of soil organic carbon. They are also the source of wood energy that can substitute fossil energy, thereby reducing GHG emissions.[15] Wood can also be a substitute for non-renewable construction materials such as plastics, steel or concrete.

The UNECE Timber Committee has an active role in monitoring these trends and in promoting sustainable forest management. It collects basic data on forest resource assessment (e.g. carbon sequestration and storage in forests) and the production of and trade in forest products (e.g. harvested wood products, substitution of other materials). It contributes to policy monitoring by reporting on qualitative indicators of sustainable forest management and by publishing a chapter in the Forest Products Annual Market Review. It is currently developing a database on forest sector policies and institutions. In September 2008, UNECE hosted a workshop on “Harvested Wood Products in the Context of Climate Change Policies” to discuss different approaches to account for carbon stored in wood products and their economic, social and ecological impacts. It will also participate in the plenary session on Forest and Climate Change during European Forest Week (Rome, 21–24 October 2008). Finally, the UNECE Timber Committee provided an analytical contribution to the European Forest Sector Outlook Study in 2005 and has authored various papers on wood availability and the market for wood.

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Sustainable biomass

Since 1998, UNECE has been directing a major cross-sectoral project for enterprises in the biomass sector in the region. One of the central tasks of climate change mitigation is to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy. The project aims to strengthen sustainable biomass supply from selected countries in the UNECE region to energy producers in the EU, with a focus on agro- and wood residues, whose use is an important alternative to the use of (food) crops for fuel. The project also seeks to improve the logistics chain of biomass trade from producer to the end-user through improved inland transportation, port and trade logistics, and customs cooperation with respect to imports and exports of biomass. Two further aims of the project are facilitating the exchange of good practice with the private sector and exploring cross-sectoral approaches that take into account environment, energy, trade and transport issues.

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Other related UNECE areas of work

The “Environment for Europe” ministerial process

The “Environment for Europe” process provides a pan-European political framework for the discussion of key policy issues, development of programmes and launching of initiatives to improve the region’s environment and harmonize environmental policies. At the Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” (Belgrade, 10–12 October 2007), environment ministers explicitly recognized the urgent need to address climate change in the UNECE region. The Conference saw the launch of the Belgrade Initiative[16], a subregional effort in South-Eastern Europe to support subregional implementation of the UNFCCC through a Climate Change Framework Action Plan and a virtual climate change-related centre in Belgrade designed to help raise awareness and build capacity.

UNECE Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development

The UNECE Strategy of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), adopted in 2005 by ministers and other officials from education and environment ministries across the UNECE region, endeavours to integrate key themes of sustainable development into all education systems. It constitutes the regional pillar of implementation of the United Nations Decade of ESD. At the joint session on ESD held during the Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe”, environment and education ministers referred to the problems posed by climate change as a “leading example of where ESD could be applied to daily life, as climate change affects everyone and ESD offers an essential way to shape knowledge and attitudes, and hence could help us to address these problems” [17]

Modifying transport policies based on traffic-based information about carbon dioxide emissions

In order to evaluate the implementation of new national or regional measures to reduce their contributions to the global warming, Governments must analyse different possible strategies, especially those that address the total energy consumption of the transport sector. To make the right policy decisions and to optimize their strategies to attain CO2 reduction targets, an assessment and analysis tool is needed that integrates the most recent developments in transportation. This tool should be transparent so as to ensure that decisions overly swayed by special-interest groups. Such an information tool is currently under consideration. It is based on a uniform methodology for evaluating CO2 emissions in the land transport sector, and incorporates climate-relevant indicators as well as new transportation trends.

Environmental Performance Reviews

The UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs), based on the OECD/DAC peer review process, aim to improve individual and collective environmental management. Since 1996, Central, South-East and Eastern European as well as Central Asian countries have been reviewed by UNECE, in addition to a few countries in transition that were reviewed in cooperation with OECD (Bulgaria, Belarus, Poland and the Russian Federation). A second round of EPRs have already been carried out for Belarus (2005), Bulgaria (2000), Estonia (2001), Republic of Moldova (2005), Ukraine (2006), Montenegro and Serbia and (2007) and Kazakhstan (2008), and are in process for Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

By disseminating relevant information, they contribute to enhancing public access to information about the environment and environmental issues and thus to more informed decision-making, relevant to the climate change debate. In future, they can provide a comprehensive analysis of instruments used in the context of regional climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, a means to share good practice and highlight gaps in this area, and a way to offer important policy recommendations.

Strategic environment assessment

The UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) provides a framework for considering transboundary environmental impacts in national decision-making processes.

The Convention’s Protocol on Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA), not yet in force, will ensure that Parties integrate consideration of the environment into their plans and programmes at a very early planning stage. SEA can be used to introduce climate change considerations into development planning. This is in line with the conclusions reached at the high-level event “The Future in Our Hands”, convened by the Secretary-General in September 2007, as well as the recommendation of IPCC[18] that climate change mitigation and adaptation be integrated into an overarching sustainable development strategy. The IPCC also concluded that consideration of climate change impacts in development planning, as might be provided by SEA, is important for boosting adaptive capacity, e.g. by including adaptation measures in land-use planning and infrastructure design or by reducing vulnerability through existing disaster risk reduction strategies.[19]

Statistics related to climate change

The global official statistics community still only engages in an ad hoc way with the issues of climate change. UNECE is reviewing the possibility of setting up a joint task force (subject to the approval of the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians) to explore statistical activities related to the UNFCCC guidelines on the compilation of emission inventories. The task force will also take into account the recommendations that are expected to be developed at a forthcoming conference on statistics of climate change in the Republic of Korea. In June 2008, the meeting of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting (UNCEEA) recommended that statistics on emissions should become part of the regular production and dissemination process of official statistics at the national level. In this context, national statistical offices should gradually take on the responsibility for regularly compiling emission statistics and contributing to the review of the guidelines to assembling emission registers.

This is expected to contribute to a better understanding of how official statistics can contribute to the understanding, measurement and monitoring of the different aspects of climate change as well as to bring together all current activities in a coherent framework.

Innovation and financing

UNECE has organized workshops and seminars with a view to enhancing the understanding of the process of technology diffusion, identifying possible barriers to take-up, and providing training and technical assistance to the region’s Governments on their innovation policies. This includes a financing dimension, in particular regarding early-stage financing of innovative enterprises. During the International Conference Investing in Innovation, which took place in Geneva in April 2008, a session on how environmental challenges can be addressed through innovation brought together policy makers and specialized financial intermediaries to discuss emerging trends in the allocation of risk capital for eco-investing and the type of policies required to encourage the mobilization of private financing in this area.

Efforts to mitigate or adapt to climate change are significantly boosted by the diffusion of existing technologies but also by the introduction of new ones. Given the scale and systemic nature of the necessary shift towards low carbon technologies, there is a clear link between the challenges posed by climate change mitigation and innovation policies.  In future, work on innovation and its related financing and intellectual property aspects could help to inform policies in relation to climate change.


[1] This note, prepared by Laura Altinger, has benefited from valuable inputs by Ella Behlyarova, Francesca Bernardini, Nicholas Bonvoisin, Lidia Bratanova, Keith Bull, Paola Deda, George Georgiadis, Franziska Hirsch, Romain Hubert, Matti Johansson, Albena Karadjova, Marco Keiner, Monika Linn, Eva Molnar, José Palacin, Kit Prins, Juraj Riecan, Patrice Robineau, Gianluca Sambucini, Angela Sochirca and Michael Stanley-Jones.

[2] More formally, climate change is defined as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (UNFCCC, art. 1).

[3] According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Change 2007 Synthesis Report (p. 76), adaptation relates to the ‘initiatives and measures aimed at reducing the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects. Various types of adaptation exist, e.g. anticipatory and reactive, private and public, and autonomous and planned. Examples are raising river or coastal dykes, the substitution of more temperature-shock resistant plants for sensitive ones”.

[4] A/62/644 , para. 11.

[5] E/2008/SR.38 , para. 25.

[6] Letter by United Nations Secretary-General to the members of the Chief Executives Board and the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, 30 May 2008.

[8] Decision 9/CP.13, annex, paras. 14 and 15 (FCCC/CP/2007/6/Add.1), amended the New Delhi Work Programme on article 6 of the UNFCCC. The thirteenth session was held from 3 to 15 December 2007 in Bali, Indonesia.

[9] OECD (2008), The Challenges of climate change, key messages, International Transport Forum, Ministerial Session, 29 May, p. 2.

[12] Quoted in Deda, P. and G. Georgiadis, “Tackling climate change ‘at home’: trends and challenges in enhancing energy efficiency in buildings in the ECE region”, in UNECE Annual Report 2009.

[13] Ibid. p. 3.

[14] ECE/HBP/2008/2 of 7 July 2008.

[15] Prins, Kit et al (2008), “Forests, wood and climate change: challenges and opportunities in the UNECE region”, in UNECE Annual Report 2009.

[18] Ibid.

[19] IPCC, WG II, Summary for policymakers.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: BESA Center
Date: Wed, Feb 10, 2010
Subject: BESA Lecture: “Turkey and the Caucasus,” Dr. Alexander Murinson, February 14, 2010

You are kindly invited to a lecture on

Turkey and the Caucasus

Dr. Alexander Murinson
University of London

Sunday, February 14, 2010, 17:00
BESA Seminar Room (Building 203), Room 131
Bar-Ilan University

Faculty of Social Sciences

Dept. of Political Studies

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 12th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 
The Czar Makes Up With the Sultan 

 

Analysis by Hilmi Toros
ISTANBUL, Aug 12 (IPS) – Once the worst of enemies, involved in 12 wars in three centuries, Turkey and Russia have suddenly become the best of friends, forging strong bonds that could be a counterpoint to the European Union if it freezes Turkey out of full membership.

The countries call their ties “multi-dimensional co-operation,” somewhat short of a “strategic partnership”, but that too may be in the offing. 

On an eight-hour visit to Turkish capital Ankara last week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed 20 deals with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These are mostly commercial contracts in energy, collectively worth some 40 billion dollars. 

The two leaders also declared that rival gas pipelines Nabucco and South Stream to bring natural gas to European markets would be “complimentary” rather than “conflicting”. 

Nabucco, the 7.9 billion euro project backed by the EU and the United States, would bypass Russia in bringing gas from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iraq and potentially also from Iran to Europe via Turkey. It is due to be operational by 2014. 

The Russian proposed South Stream, to become operational by 2016, would carry gas from Russia to Europe through Turkey’s territorial waters in the Black Sea and onward to Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Austria. Its objective is to bypass Ukraine, currently the conduit for 80 percent of Russian gas pumped to Europe.

In the end, conflicting or complimentary, if both projects are realised, Russia and Turkey would play a major role in meeting Europe’s growing gas needs. For Europe, either an unfriendly Turkey or Russia would endanger energy security – and it would be much worse if both were ever to gang up on the EU together. 

There already are signs that Turkey, aware of its critical role as a corridor for EU energy needs, is flexing its muscles, with the rapprochement with Russia seen as a warning to the EU. 

“Turkey is not changing its foreign policy. It still gives priority to ties with the West. But the energy issue is giving a new dimension,” writes Sami Kohen, foreign affairs columnist for the daily Milliyet. “The energy equation will make Turkey’s policy more independent.” 

That translates into more national, less EU, interest. 

“If EU doesn’t want us, we won’t beg,” businessman Hasan Aydemir told IPS. “Europe has to think twice of the implications of Turkey out of its union and allied with Russia. If that happens, why not?” 

Yusuf Kanli, chief columnist for the English language daily Hurriyet, says the current Turkish-Russian closeness will in turn bring Turkey closer to EU as Europe becomes more aware of Turkey’s growing importance and critical geopolitical status. 

But Turkey within the EU is far off, if ever it will happen. Its aspiration to join the EU as the first Muslim nation is now in the 50th year since the first bid – perhaps the longest engagement on record with no marriage in sight. The accession process is faltering in the face of opposition from EU members such as France, Germany and Austria. 

Meanwhile, Turkish-Russian ties are in constant expansion. Russia will ship oil through a pipeline to a southern Turkish port and also deliver gas to Lebanon and Israel via Turkey. A Russian company will be involved in Turkey’s plans to build a nuclear power station. 

Culturally, Turkey will open Russian study institutes and cultural centres. Russians are now the second largest group after Germans visiting Turkey; they numbered about three million last year. Signs in Russian accompany those in English in resorts such as Fethiye, Antalya and Alanya. Radio stations broadcast in Russian. And there are now Russian language newspapers in Turkey. 

Turkey declared 2007 The Year of Russian Culture, and Russia reciprocated in 2008. 

Last year, trade between the two countries reached 38 billion dollars, an eight-fold increase in eight years, making Russia Turkey’s biggest partner. Trade is forecast to reach 100 billion dollars in four years. 

The combined diplomatic weight of the two countries may also help find solutions to regional conflicts, including disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Armenia and Turkey. They might even persuade Iran to take a more moderate stand. One or the other has solid relations with most countries involved in opposition to one another. 

The closeness may be helped by a similarity between Putin and Erdogan: both come from humble origins; both seem ready to bury historical enmities; both are seen as strong leaders firmly entrenched in power for years to come (they are in their 50s); both are dynamic and sporty (Putin excels in judo and Erdogan is a former soccer player); both are stern and all business. 

If there is the touch of a Czar in Putin, there is a Sultan in Erdogan. The Turkish leader has become a regional folk hero for his defence of Palestinians against Israeli strikes when he stormed out of a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, Switzerland, in February when the moderator attempted to cut short his anti-Israel oratory. 

The closeness contrasts sharply with the history of the two nations. The Czarist Russian and the Ottoman Turkish empires were at each other’s throats from the 17th up to the 20th centuries, when Russia eventually succeeded in wresting the Black Sea and the Balkans from Ottoman domination. 

Later, after World War II, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin eyed but failed to control the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits in Turkey for passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Even as late as the 1980s, Turkey was the West’s bastion against feared Soviet expansionism from the East. If that was seen as the unwelcome Soviet Bear Hug, this now is a mutual embrace. 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 1st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The following are the top 28 finalists in the Official 2009 New 7 Wonders of Nature competition – nominated from among hundreds of sites around the world that have been proposed.


see please: www.new7wonders.com/ and you can vote – for up to 7 of the 28 list – at that link.

you can vote for your choice of 7 on line, by phone, or text message. It is expected that one billion people will vote and the winner will be announced in 2011.

A similar effort two years ago elected seven manmade wonders generated considerable publicity. We backed at that time Machu Picchu, Peru

These selections are being organized by a Swiss filmmaker and entrepreneur, Bernard Weber, and the committee that chose the 28 finalists included Federico Mayor, former chief of UNESCO, and Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Like everything else that has a UN connection, obviously such selections will be politicized beyond the simple angle of national pride – just see the country called Chinese Taipei for what most call Taiwan.

In this year of climate change we thing the Amazon will get the world’s nod, but watching in Vietnam (it is Halong Bay) how a whole country can get beyond a particular location we would have said that China could muster the vote, but will they do it for Taipei?

From among the many places on the list that we have been to – I am voting as Numero Uno for the Iguazu Falls.

Country

VENEZUELA
SURINAME
PERU
GUYANA
FRENCH GUIANA
ECUADOR
COLOMBIA
BRAZIL
BOLIVIA

VENEZUELA

CANADA

GERMANY

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

IRELAND

PALESTINE
ISRAEL
JORDAN

PUERTO RICO

ECUADOR

UNITED STATES

PAPUA NEW GUINEA
AUSTRALIA

VIET NAM

BRAZIL
ARGENTINA

LEBANON

KOREA (SOUTH)

TANZANIA

INDONESIA

MALDIVES

POLAND

SWITZERLAND
ITALY

NEW ZEALAND

AZERBAIJAN

PHILIPPINES

INDIA
BANGLADESH

SOUTH AFRICA

AUSTRALIA

ITALY

CHINESE TAIPEI

From the competition on the 7 Man-made wonders – a stamp collection from Gibraltar:

For all media inquiries and interview requests, please contact:

Tia B. Viering, Head of Communications
Mobile: +41 79-762-2784
Phone: +49 89 489 033 58 (Munich office)
Email at press@n7w.com.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We found an excellent blog that specializes in the understanding of “de Facto States” in general, and in the GUAM states and their separatist outside backed generally unrecognized states.

 blogs.euobserver.com/popescu/ is manned by Nicu Popescu who is a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in London, where he deals with the EU’s eastern neighborhood and Russia.

These days, with China ready to pour in $1 billion into Moldova, the East flank of the EU may become even more interesting, so good inside information will be important o Brussels and those that would like to see Europe hold together.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 23rd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Russia claims a sphere of influence over its “near abroad” – a message that involves Belarus and Kazachstan with whom Russia has special trade agreements and the GUAM States – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova that eye the European Union.

President Obama visited Moscow in order to “reset” US-Russia relations and coordinated a visit by Vice President Biden to Kiev and Tbilisi in order to reassure both Ukraine and Georgia that this reset will not sell out their interests.

For us what is of interest here is the talk in Kiev about the way the Ukraine is handling its energy sector, and we are in full agreement that the Ukrainians are totally forfeiting their independence of Russia, and by the way also endangering their own standing in their relations with Europe, all this by sticking with insane dependence on the pipelines of oil and gas – and mind you subsidizing this addiction on their own will.

The disparity between market prices and the cheap government-sold gas that arrives on the Russian pipeline, has in addition created a black market and vested interests that led to rampant corruption, economy distortions, and make it hard to solve the problem. These subsidies have strangled the economy by forcing Kiev to rely on below-market-price imports from Russia and submitted themselves to Russia’s direct influence on the Ukrainian economy, while at the same time making themselves into a handy tool for Russia disrupting supplies also  EU parts of Eastern and Central Europe.

Mr. Biden lectured publicly in Kiev: ” Your economic freedom depends more, on your energy freedom than on any other single factor,” he said. Energy efficiency will be a boon to your economy and an immeasurable benefit to your national security, he continued.

WOULD IT NOT BE NICE HAD Mr. BIDEN SAID THOSE THINGS ALSO ABOUT THE US IN WASHINGTON DC?

Further, Mr. Biden lectured that “Friendship requires honesty” and continued by saying that: “Mature democracies survive because they develop institutions such as free press, a truly independent court system, an effective legislature – all of which serve as a check on the corruption that fuels the cynicism and limits growth in any country, including yours.” How true! If above are looked at honestly, so will emerge the desire to decrease the dependence on outside supplies of energy by promotion of energy efficiency.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 20th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Turkey Gets Boost from Pipeline Politics.

by Helena Cobban

WASHINGTON, Jul 19 (IPS) – The political geography of the modern Middle East has been affected for one hundred years by the appetite of westerners and other outsiders for the region’s hydrocarbons. Last week, the region’s “pipeline politics” took another step forward with the signing in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, of an agreement to build a new, 3,300-kilometre gas pipeline called Nabucco, running between eastern Turkey and Vienna, Austria.

The project underlines the new influential role that Turkey, a majority Muslim nation of 72 million people, is playing in the Middle East, and far beyond. The new project’s name was chosen, Austrian officials said, after the Verdi opera that representatives of the five participating countries – who include Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, along with the two terminus states – saw together during an earlier round of negotiations in Vienna.

But the name also gives clues to two intriguing aspects of the project’s geopolitical significance. The theme of the opera is the liberation from bondage of slaves held by the ancient Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (‘Nabucco’) – and it is a widely discussed feature of the Nabucco project that many European nations want access to a gas source that is not under the control of Russia. Last winter, several European nations suffered severe gas shortages after Russia, locked in a tariff dispute with transit-country Ukraine, closed off the spigots completely.

But the other implication of the name is more strictly Middle Eastern. The modern-day home of Nebuchadnezzar is Iraq. Washington has given strong support to the Nabucco project – and one of the reasons U.S. officials give for this support is their hope that once Nabucco is up and running in 2015, Iraq can be one of the nations that reaps large profits by feeding gas into it. However, construction of the pipeline is estimated to cost some eight billion dollars, and many officials in the participating countries are still unclear where they will get enough gas to make it economically viable.

The Nabucco participants had been hoping that a key feeder state would be one of Turkey’s eastern neighbours, Azerbaijan. But on the eve of the project’s inauguration in Ankara, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took the CEO of the vast Russian gas company Gazprom to Azerbaijan, where they signed a contract with the state gas company that will force Nabucco to compete hard against Gazprom for any purchase it wants to make from Azerbaijan. One fairly evident other source for Nabucco’s would be Iran, which is reported to have considerable amounts of new gas coming online in the next five years.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 26th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals.
Jim Lobe, Terra Viva, February 26, 2009.

WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (IPS) – Strong majorities of people in predominantly Muslim countries reject terrorism but support key goals of Al Qaeda, notably expelling U.S. military forces from the Islamic world, according to a major new study of public opinion in seven nations and the Palestinian territories released here Wednesday.

Nearly 90 percent of Egyptian respondents, 65 percent of Indonesians, 62 percent of Pakistanis, and 72 percent of Moroccans said they agreed with Al Qaeda’s goal of “pushing the U.S. to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries,” according to a detailed survey carried out late last summer by the University of Maryland’s Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

Majorities or pluralities of respondents in five of the eight countries – the Palestinian territories (90 percent), Egypt (83 percent), Jordan (72 percent) and Morocco (68 percent), and Turkey (40 percent) – said they approved of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. Slightly lower percentages in each of those countries said they approved of attacks on U.S. military forces elsewhere in the Gulf and in Afghanistan.

“The U.S. faces a conundrum,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA’s WorldPublicOpinion.org. “U.S. efforts to fight terrorism with an expanded military presence in Muslim countries appear to have elicited a backlash and to have bred some sympathy for al Qaeda, even as most (Muslims) reject its terrorist methods.”

Indeed, only small minorities in all seven of the countries surveyed – ranging from six percent in Azerbaijan to 15 percent in Jordan – said they approved of attacks on U.S. civilians working in Islamic countries. Respondents in the Palestinian territories, however, said they approved of such attacks, although 50 percent said they opposed them, and another 18 percent said they had mixed views on the question.

But, as a general principle, majorities took a negative view toward the use of violence, such as bombings and assassinations, to achieve political or religious goals. Two-thirds of Pakistani respondents, 83 percent of Egyptians and nearly 90 percent of Indonesians said such methods could not be justified at all, according to the survey.

The survey, which was the latest in a series dating back to 2007 conducted by PIPA, was designed to gauge public opinion about al Qaeda and the United States in predominantly Muslim countries.

Because the polling took place last summer, the new study did not account for how the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president may have affected views on these issues, if at all.

“There is openness that things could change” with the new administration, Kull said Wednesday, citing post-election polls of Muslim countries, but it hasn’t happened yet, and the Islamic world is “still watching.”

PIPA and its affiliates carried out detailed face-to-face interviews with more than 1,000 respondents in each of the three countries – Egypt, Indonesia, and Pakistan – where PIPA had asked the same questions in previous polling. Additional polling was carried out in Azerbaijan, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, and predominantly Muslim regions of Nigeria.

Among the three countries that were polled in 2007, especially Pakistan, where U.S. missile attacks on al Qaeda and Taliban targets have drawn strong protests, popular support for attacks on civilians increased over the past two years, while
rejection of such tactics fell, according to the study.

At the same time, the survey found a growing belief that terrorism is ineffective. The number of Egyptian respondents who said such attacks were “hardly ever effective” rose from 35 percent two years ago to 52 percent last summer, although in Pakistan the percentage was largely unchanged.

Strong approval in all three countries of al Qaeda’s goal of forcing the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from Islamic countries was virtually unchanged from 2007.

Hostility to the U.S. military presence in the Islamic world appears related to the perception of Washington’s goals in the region, according to Kull.

“They perceive those bases as there to coerce. (To them), the bases are there as a threat,” he said.

Large majorities ranging from 65 percent in Azerbaijan to 87 percent in Egypt and the Palestinian territories said they believed that one major goal was to “weaken and divide Islam”; from 52 percent (Indonesia) to 88 percent (Palestinian territories) cited “spread(ing) Christianity”; and from 62 percent (Pakistan) to around 90 percent (Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan) cited “maintain(ing) control over the oil resources of the Middle East.”

Pluralities and majorities ranging from 43 percent in Azerbaijan to 96 percent in Egypt and 90 percent in the Palestinian territories also cited “expanding Israeli borders” as a U.S. goal in the region, although, remarkably, a majority of Palestinians (59 percent) said they believed that Washington also wants to create a Palestinian state.

The poll found that negative views of U.S. objectives have softened somewhat in Indonesia over the past two years but have hardened in Egypt and much more so in Pakistan.

Conversely, more benign U.S. goals, such as spreading democracy, are given little credence, with pluralities agreeing with the statement that “the U.S. favours democracy in Muslim countries, but only if the government is co-operative with the U.S.”

“These results show a reason (for the U.S.) not to promote democracy,” said Daniel Brumberg, acting director of the Muslim World Initiative, United States Institute of Peace.

On U.S. relations with the Islamic world, an average of only 12 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that Washington “mostly shows respect”. The rest were split between those who agreed that Washington’s disrespect derived from “ignorance and insensitivity” and those who said the U.S. “purposely tries to humiliate the Islamic world.”

Kull added that the people interviewed saw al Qaeda as “a balancer” to the U.S. “larger effort to achieve world domination.” He quoted one interviewee as saying “(the U.S.) wants a uni-polar system.”

However, “If you ask people generally if you think that Sharia law should be applied, there are a lot of people who say yes, but they have their own interpretations of it,” said Telhami. But if you ask them if they support a Taliban-like state, then you only get very few – less than 8 percent.

The survey also found strong support for Islamic parties being permitted to participate fully in government. Majorities ranging from 53 percent in Turkey to 83 percent in Pakistan agreed with the proposition that “all people should have the right to organise themselves into political parties and run candidates, including Islamist groups.” In Jordan, a 50 percent plurality agreed (compared to 26 percent) who disagreed, and the question was not asked in Egypt.

Shibley Telhami, an expert on Arab public opinion at the University of Maryland, said the latest survey results were consistent with his own polling in the region, which he conducts annually.

“The only apparent difference is that (the PIPA poll) suggests there is broad agreement with al Qaeda’s objective of spreading Islamic governance. But people have their own interpretation of what that means, and if you ask them if they support Taliban-like states, then the support for that is usually only five or six percent.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 29th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Who’s Next? Russia’s Cat and Mouse Game with Moldova.
William H. Hill, October 24, 2008, on Open Democracy.
 www.opendemocracy.net/article/rus…

Two years ago Moldova’s president President Vladimir Voronin began a process of repairing his relations with Russia and seeking Moscow’s cooperation in negotiating a settlement with breakaway republic of Transnistria. Moldova has not yet received its payoff from improved relations with Russia and its reintegration with Transnistria has remained as uncertain as before.

Russia’s crushing use of force against Georgia last August gave rise to frenzied speculation that Moscow would mount similar military threats to other neighboring states and former Soviet republics.   However, the next major Russian initiative in the “post-Soviet space” has come in a different fashion in the miniscule Republic of Moldova.   In contrast to the Georgian case, the Russian scenario in Moldova casts President Dmitri Medvedev in the role of sage peacemaker in an internal territorial dispute left over from the days of the Soviet collapse.

A small nation of some four million, predominantly Romanian-speaking people wedged between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova sought and won its independence as the USSR disintegrated in the late 1980s.   A group of primarily Slavic Soviet political figures and enterprise managers on the east, or left bank of the Nistru (Dniestr) River in the Soviet Republic of Moldavia resisted Moldovan attempts to leave the USSR and proclaimed their small sliver of land a separate, Transnistrian Moldovan Republic.   In 1992 Moldova and Transnistria fought a brief, bitter war which the separatists won, with the assistance of a contingent of locally-based Russian troops left over from the Soviet Red Army.

During the conflict in 1992 Moldova appealed for assistance to the UN, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (now the OSCE), and various western nations.   Only Moscow heeded Chisinau’s call for mediation and brokered a cease fire that left Russian troops in place as peacekeepers.   Negotiations for a political settlement have dragged on since that time between Chisinau and Tiraspol (the separatist “capital”), with Russia, and then the OSCE and Ukraine serving as mediators.   In 2005 the U.S. and European Union formally joined the negotiations as observers.

With a population roughly the size of Luxembourg, Transnistria’s prospects as an independent state were always sketchy.   The region supported itself partially through a heavy industrial base left over from Soviet times that enjoyed surprising success in penetrating the EU and North American markets.   The left bank enclave received subsidies from Moscow, especially in the form of low-cost natural gas, running at least $30 million per year.   Finally, the region augmented its income and solidified its political position mostly by serving as a haven for smuggling and tax evasion, not only for its own residents, but also politicians and businessmen from all of the neighboring states.   “A giant off-shore” is how one Moldovan political figure characterized the region to me.

No state, including Russia, has recognized Transnistria’s independence.   Moscow’s stated policy has always been that Transnistria is a part of Moldova, and the two sides should agree voluntarily on peaceful unification of the country, with a special status for the left bank.   However, backed by influential circles in Moscow, Transnistrian leaders have been reluctant to give up their lucrative status quo for an uncertain future.   Moldova, by most statistical measurements the poorest country in Europe, has few material incentives to win over its breakaway region.   Instead Chisinau has generally pinned its hopes on intervention by a large outside power – Russia, the U.S. or the EU – to coerce Tiraspol into the Republic of Moldova.

In 2003 Moldova and Transnistria almost reached a political settlement of their conflict.   The proposed agreement, the so-called “Kozak Memorandum,” brokered by Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Dmitri Kozak, fell apart at the last minute, partially because of western objections to a provision calling for a long-term Russian troop presence.   With Kozak as point man in 2003, Moscow bypassed the existing negotiating mechanism with its broader international participation.   Swayed by promises that Moscow would overcome Transnistrian resistance and unite his country, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin went along with the gambit until the last minute.   With angry crowds gathering outside the Presidential Building and frantic calls from western leaders, only at the last moment did Voronin call Russian President Putin and tell him not to come to Chisinau to sign the Memorandum.   Putin has reportedly nursed a grudge ever since.

Five years later events are in the works that may repeat this scenario.   The leader of one of the last post-Soviet communist parties in power in the former USSR, Voronin turned toward the West after 2003 and declared a policy of European integration.   Russia retaliated by banning imports of Moldovan meat, fruit, and wine, placing grave economic pressure on the small country.   Moscow also frustrated Moldovan attempts to use Ukrainian, EU, and U.S. support to press Transnistria into a political settlement.

In late 2006, while keeping western negotiators informed of his course of action, President Voronin began a process of repairing his relations with Russia and seeking Moscow’s cooperation in negotiating a settlement with Transnistria.   There have been some modest gains from this process, but overall the results are disappointing for Chisinau.

As events in Kosovo and Georgia developed in 2008, Moldova sought to portray itself as more moderate and reasonable than Tbilisi.   Moldova did not recognize Kosovo, declared itself a neutral country (already guaranteed in the 1994 Moldovan constitution), and ostentatiously announced that it had no need to seek NATO membership.   Chisinau was rewarded in March, when after theatrical hearings the Russian Parliament advocated recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but recommended only a special status for Transnistria within Moldova.   On August 25, one day before he announced Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian President Medvedev met with Voronin in Sochi and reaffirmed Russia’s dedication to seeking a peaceful resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.

The formal Transnistrian political settlement negotiation process goes on, although there has not been an official round of negotiations since February 28, 2006, when Moldovan negotiators walked out in protest of Transnistrian provocations.   The mediators and observers in the so called “5+2″ process – Russia, Ukraine, the OSCE, the EU, and the US – continue to call regularly for resumption of the negotiations.   The latest meeting of mediators and observers took place September 8 at OSCE Headquarters in Vienna, ending with a hopeful statement.   However, a full-scale negotiating round scheduled for October 7-8 in Vienna failed to materialize.   The ostensible reason was the Transnistria’s refusal to attend, widely seen as a tactic to allow more time for Moscow’s bilateral efforts with Chisinau to bear fruit.

Meanwhile Moscow has intensified contacts with Voronin and Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov.   Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brokered a one on one meeting between Voronin and Smirnov in April; the two had not met in person since August 2001.   Shortly after his Sochi conversation with Voronin, Medvedev also received Smirnov.   The blustery Transnistrian leader, whose line is usually that he has nothing to discuss with Voronin except bilateral relations between their two independent states, announced meekly after his talk with Medvedev that the two sides needed to meet to bring their positions closer together.

The current expectation in Moldova and Russia is that Voronin and Smirnov will get together once more, to be followed by a meeting of both of them with Medvedev.   Lavrov has floated a trial balloon in the Russian press that revival of the Kozak Memorandum might be a good basis for reaching a solution in Moldova.

However, Transnistrian leaders continue to do their utmost to deflect any settlement process and to defend their comfortable status quo.   Smirnov recently annoyed his Moldovan interlocutors and Russian patrons, ducking a widely anticipated late September meeting with Voronin in order to celebrate Abkhaz “independence” on the beaches near Sukhumi.   Moldovan negotiators, on the other hand, are increasingly frustrated by Moscow’s failure to react to a comprehensive Moldovan package proposal that has been on the table for almost two years.   Venting his irritation during a late September visit to Moldova’s largest landfill, President Voronin announced that this – a garbage dump – was the proper place for the separatist regime.

The Moldovan President is under great pressure to reach agreement now to unite his country, or give up on what has been the highest priority of his two terms in office.   National elections must be held in Moldova no later than spring 2009, when Voronin’s second and final term as president runs out.   Constitutional experts claim the sitting Moldovan Parliament must approve any settlement at least six months before the end of its term, so there are only a few weeks left before a Transnistrian settlement becomes impossible for the remainder of this legislative term.   For Voronin, who was born and raised on the left bank during Soviet times, and who desperately wishes to see his country united, it is frustrating in the extreme to watch the clock run out on his opportunity to reach a settlement.

Moscow will not go after Moldova with military means.   The small contingent of Russian troops now stationed in the Transnistrian region (around 1400) is no match in military terms for either the Moldovan or the Transnistrian armed forces.   Russian military forces in Moldova serve rather as a political symbol, tripwire, and deterrent to small-scale military adventures.   Any Russian reinforcements need to come through or over Ukraine, not a realistic possibility in current political circumstances.   Including their armies, special forces, militia, interior ministry and security troops, both Chisinau and Tiraspol can muster between 12000 to 18000 men under arms.   This is enough to deter each other (and the Russians), but probably not enough to take and hold territory.   In addition – as opposed to Georgia – no one on either side in Moldova wants to fight.   The quarrel along the Nistru is between political and economic elites, and not hostile communities, ethnic, or national groups.

Russia has already established a public posture on Moldova that implies clearly: “Here is how we deal with friendly countries that don’t join NATO and don’t use violence to settle separatist conflicts.”   Moldova has not yet received its payoff from improved relations, and Moscow appears to be stringing Chisinau along with the hope of a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.   The crucial time will come, much as it did in 2003, if and when a solution presented to Chisinau in its separate 2008 track with Moscow turns out to have a crucial catch in it, such as a bilateral agreement with significant obligations, perhaps a long-term troop presence.

In 2003 western negotiators (I was one of them) repeatedly argued with our Russian counterparts that negotiating a political settlement in Moldova was not and should not be a zero sum game.   We tried to convince Moscow that there were win-win solutions that protected and furthered the fundamental security interests of all parties in the region, indeed in the Euro-Atlantic area.   Obviously we did not succeed; Russia apparently considered primacy in the region more important than cooperation.   In 2008, with the strategic security environment much worse, Russia seems to favor the same myopic, unilateralist path.

With respect to Moldova in 2008, the absence of a solution to the Transnistrian question will be better than a bad solution that cripples the country’s chances for reform and integration into Europe as a whole.   For any settlement to succeed, Russia must be a part – but so must the rest of Europe and the North Atlantic community, i.e. the EU and US.   Commenting on US actions elsewhere in the world, the Russians are fond of proclaiming that unilateral solutions do not work.   The conflict areas like Moldova on the periphery of the former USSR are places where they ought to listen to their own advice.
—————-
The author, currently Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College in Washington DC, served two terms between 1999 and 2006 as Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova.   The views expressed are entirely his own.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 25th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

[EUobserver Comment] No easy answers to the status of Ossetia, Abkhazia and others – 24.10.2008.

The collapse last week (on the first day!) of EU backed peace talks between
Georgia and Russia to resolve the crisis in the breakaway regions of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, with the sides unable to enter the same room, serves
merely to illustrate that there are no easy answers to the question of the
status of Ossetia, Abkhazia, and indeed many other territories in the
world, writes MEP Richard Corbett.
 euobserver.com/9/26983/?rk=1

===============

Strained relations between Russians, EU monitors in Georgia – 24.10.2008.

Russia is not informing the EU mission of their deployment of troops, nor
is it allowing observers to enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Hansjorg
Haber, the head of EU’s civilian monitoring mission to Georgia (EUMM) has
said.
 euobserver.com/9/26993/?rk=1

==============
 Romania opens door to Gazprom pipeline – 24.10.2008.

Romania is open to investing in the Gazprom pipeline South Stream, not just
the EU Nabucco project, designed to reduce energy dependency on Russia,
Romanian minister of economy Varujan Vosganian said on Thursday as general
elections loom.
 euobserver.com/9/26988/?rk=1

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THEN ESCAP URGES the SPECA CENTRAL ASIA TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH REST OF CONTINENT FOR GREATER SECURITY. The above has clearly political implications by bundling non-Arab Islamic States.

Greater cooperation between Central Asia and the rest of Asia is essential to achieve sustainable development for the whole continent, given the current climate of global financial instability and food and energy insecurity, a senior United Nations official, ESCAP’s Executive Director   stressed today of all places – right in Moscow.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) stands ready to facilitate technical and regional cooperation and provide a neutral forum for engaging in policy dialogue, Executive-Secretary of ESCAP Noeleen Heyzer told a gathering of senior Central Asian policymakers in Moscow.

“We are gathering here against the backdrop of a gloomy economic environment with pressing challenges in food and energy security, as well as the need for greater financial stability,” Under-Secretary-General Heyzer warned participants at the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) meeting.

“By adopting the South-South cooperation modality, SPECA can provide home-grown solutions and policy options to achieve inclusive and sustainable development,” she told officials from the seven SPECA member states – Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

SPECA aims to strengthen sub-regional cooperation, mainly in the areas of energy and water, transport, trade, technology, gender and the economy, in Central Asia, as well as its integration into the world economy with support from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

His Excellency Manouchehr Mottaki, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 2005, has come now for the third time to The Asia Society during the September – October period of the UN General Assembly In New York City.

Last year I had the opportunity to ask him about about Climate Change and why Iran, with its great scientists, and people involved at the UN level, does not embark in a leadership position in the area of renewable energy rather then striving for nuclear energy incurring only indignities. Others asked him about Iran’s stand on Israel.

This year – none of the above. One question from the floor asked about Israel – but was answered in the general line of the presentation – without the question been tackled at all. The Moderator was illustrious US Career Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, who served as impeccable host, presenting lots of compliments to his guest and making sure he is very comfortable. Further, The Asia Society simply managed to put the press away in a back room, and without the Q & A period reaching out to them – that is except the literally last question which asked about the possibility for regional negotiations in the crucial Middle East problem.   And the answer to that question was then submerged under the previous line of presentation that exposed beautifully the way Iran wants to be seen. No mention was made of the name Israel also in this   answer by the Minister.

The reality is   that many in Iran like actually some of the cocoons   created via the 1980 revolution that came as a reaction to some real injustices its people incurred from the hand of the US CIA when it undid the Mohammad Mosaddeq   April 28, 1951 – August 19, 1953 regime for its nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) and reinstated the   Shah who returned   on 22 August 1953, from the brief self-imposed exile in Rome. Also, some in the US Administration feared that Mossadeq was, or would become, dependent on the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, at a time of returning Soviet influence, and too close for comfort to have the cold War Tectonic Plates reach towards the Saudi and Iraqi oilfields.

The extent of the US role in Mossadeq’s overthrow was not formally acknowledged for many years, although the Eisenhower administration was quite vocal in its opposition to the policies of the ousted Iranian Prime Minister. In his memoirs, Eisenhower writes angrily about Mossadeq, and describes him as impractical and naive, though he stops short of admitting any overt involvement in the coup.

Eventually the CIA’s role became well-known, and caused controversy within the organization itself, and within the CIA congressional hearings of the 1970s. CIA supporters maintain that the plot against Mosaddeq was strategically necessary, and praise the efficiency of agents in carrying out the plan. Critics say the scheme was paranoid and colonial, as well as immoral.

In March 2000, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated her regret that Mosaddeq was ousted: “The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development, and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America.” In the same year, the New York Times published a detailed report about the coup based on alleged CIA documents. For his sudden rise in popularity inside and outside of Iran, and for his defiance of the British, Mosaddeq was named as Time Magazine’s 1951 Man of the Year. Other notables considered for the title that year included Dean Acheson, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur.

In early 2004, the Egyptian government changed a street name in Cairo from Pahlavi to Mosaddeq, to facilitate closer relations with Iran.

 Now, these last few paragraphs, obviously, do not come from the monologue of Minister Mottaki, but I thought to bring this up because otherwise the show at the Asia Society cannot be understood, and the Ministers personality grasped.

***

The literally last question mentioned above, that came from the back-room filled with people from media was added when the announced “last question” that came from a lady sitting at the front-right table, clearly laudatory asked, “for those of us interested in the understanding of the history of the Middle East, when did Iran invade last one of its neighbors?”   The clear short answer was – “not in our lifetime.”

***

Had be given to me the opportunity to ask a question – what I had in mind was something like this:

“In light of what your excellency has said in regard to regional solutions for regional problems, and in light of justifiable aspirations by Iran to become an Asian powerhouse, what is your reaction to the Bahrain proposal at this year’s High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly, when Bahrain suggested the creation of a new UN organization comprising ALL STATES OF THE REGION – that wasinterpreted as meaning a Middle East organization that includes Israel?” This is exactly the most wanting direct question that was not put before our guest.

***

From The Speakers Profile and The Internet:

 Manouchehr Mottaki was born   May 12, 1953 in Bandar Gaz, in the northern Iranian Province of Golestan, and went to school there. Bandar-Gaz, during the Reza Shah Pahlavi rule, was an important city in the north with a national railroad and “several infrastructures.” It was considered   a transit bridge to the Soviet Union. After graduation, he joined the army and as per national plan joined the public education program by which was conducted by the government. He went to Khorasan province and established a school in a poor village around Mashhad, and taught there. After his service in the army, since he was interested in social and political issues, he decided to travel abroad both for experience and study. At that time India was a popular academic destination for young Iranians. So he traveled and studied for a few years in India, before the revolution in Iran.       He holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Bangalore University in India (1976). Mottaki also holds a master’s degree (MA) in international relations from the University of Tehran (1996).

 After the 1980 revolution, he was elected by the people of his home town and the neighboring cities as the first parliament representative and assigned by the other representatives as the head of the national security and foreign policy committee due to his politic and diplomatic talents. During his years in Majlis (Congress) and effective collaboration with the foreign ministry, he was employed then by the ministry after parliament.   Or, he made thus his career within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during 24 years of continuous presence in different positions through   the Majlis (Parliament)..

He served thus as member of parliament in the first Majlis, head of seventh political bureau of Foreign Ministry (1984),

Iran’s ambassador to Turkey (1985),

Foreign Ministry’s secretary general for Western European affairs (1989),

Deputy Foreign Minister – first for international affairs (1989) and then   for legal, consular and parliamentary affairs (1992).

 Iran’s ambassador to Japan (1994),

Advisor to foreign minister (1999),

Deputy head of Culture and Islamic Communications Organization (2001)

Chief of the Foreign Relations Committee of the 7th Majlis National Security and Foreign Relations Commission (2004).

During the 2005 presidential election, he was the campaign manager of Ali Larijani, the right-conservative candidate.

President Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, in 2005,   appointed him to the position of Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2005.

 

Mottaki quotations:

“Referring the case to the Security Council would be a lose-lose game, and we would prefer that this game does not happen. We see a win-win situation, that is where the EU and international community have confidence and the Islamic Republic of Iran reaches its legitimate right.”

“The Islamic Republic pays great cost to control and prevent transfer of narcotics to West.

“We do not accept global nuclear ‘apartheid’ and scientific ‘apartheid’.

“All voluntary measures taken over the past two-and-a-half or three years have been halted and we have no further commitment to the additional protocol and other voluntary commitments.”

“We should try to cool down the situation. We do not support any violence.”

“Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned.”

“The time for using language of threats is over, it’s time for negotiation. We express our readiness for negotiations based on justice and a comprehensive compromise. We want to peacefully solve the problem.

“Nuclear weapons are not in Iran’s defense doctrine.”

“The issue is quite simple. We would like to enjoy our membership as well as the other members of the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty. The country has followed the rules and regulations of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and wants to keep its rights.”

***

The Foreign Minister’s Introductory Presentation Before The Asia Society, Thursday, October 2, 2008:

Mottaki started by saying that since our last meeting here (2007), we had three events:

(1) The enjoyable visit of members of this Society in Tehran – he hopes this is a start for more such exchanges. This as a better way for mutual understanding – Scholars, Tourists, Students in such exchanges create the possibility to have more realistic picture of each other.

 

(2) LEBANON: A solution of more then 30 months of crisis was achieved after being initiated by different parties. Foreign Minister Mottaki wants to talk about how it was achieved – because the process is as important as the results.

It was a regional-based solution for the Lebanon crisis. The decision was that it has to be a solution based on votes by a 50+ plurality of all groups in the country – all groups in the country come to the table and a consensus is built – that was the tone of the Lebanon Policy agreement.

On the second day of the negotiations in Doha, at 2:30 AM, the feeling was that it all collapsed the negotiations were locked. Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League said go ahead, but others opposed. Mottaki was in contact with Doha and Beirut and   at 9 AM they took up the issue again, and it was settled after a day of negotiations by 9 PM.

One learned that use of force should expect a reaction from the other side. Then also that territorial integrity is an integral part of any solution. These lessons apply whenever you have conflict – this clearly also in the Georgia – Russia case.

 

(3) GEORGIA: The areas are already affected by crisis – energy, transportation, security.

The crisis started by use of force based on wrong information and miscalculation. The latter by not expecting reaction.

The second point is territorial integrity.

Its the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia now, before it was Kosovo, Does it result from the same policies? If so, are there other areas where action led to reaction? If Yes – What are these?

On the second day of the Georgia case there was an agreement signed with Poland. If this signing of the agreement with Poland has become another step, should we look for reaction in Syria? in Venezuela?

What is NATO going to do?

Iran is a neighbor of Azerbaijan and Armenia – so there is a regional concern and Iran has to take part in the initiatives – parallel with Europe. So he went to the region and to Berlin. Is NATO moving to accept Georgia as a member?                             The interesting question is then the borders.

***

 

Now it was the turn for Ambassador Frank G. Wisner to take his position as moderator and conversation partner.

He has retired from the US Foreign Service in 1997 with the highest rank – that of a Career Ambassador, but continued to be involved in special positions like the Special US envoy for the Kosovo Final Status (December 2005 – March 2008).   Now he is in the private sector.   In his career postings he was Ambassador to India, the Philippines, Egypt, Zambia… among other appointments, he was also Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.

He started by saying that Iran is a great nation that commands and deserves respect – yet for many of us it is difficult to see how Iran chooses to challenge the international community. How do you square your requirement for respect with a confrontation attitude he then asked the Minister.

Mottaki, who made his introductory presentation in English, but now used a translator for the conversation part of the event, started to smile.

His answer was: A very nice gathering and behavior – my response – What we see is   selective dealing and approach – and double standards.

Back in the 80s we extensively talked up issues. I suggest how the first Iraq war was dealt with and the second war – the war of Saddam against Kuwait. In all   these the underlying issue is the occupation of foreign lands. {I assume he means the Iraq war against Iran as the first war and the war of Iraq on Kuwait as the second war}   Back then the heated discussion was having a cease-fire not a settlement. So the first step is a cease-fire, another first step is withdrawal. We wanted to have the an “a” inserted so that it is clear that a withdrawal comes after the cease-fire. See, using “oil-for-food” money – even now a percentage goes to Kuwait, this while for 4 years we were engaged in lengthy negotiations that were ordered by the UN. Two Assistant Secretary-Generals that dealt with this are present here – they remember those negotiations. Sometimes just to keep things going we had to put proposals on the table. We felt these were in Iraq’s favor and Iraq asked – what do you pay us to accept?

On the nuclear issue – at the end of the day – it is officials of one country … But Islamic and Sharia teachings say that atomic bombs have no place in our defense.we also contend that nuclear weapons are nomore effective. Also military powr has lost effectiveness.

I outlined new agreements for the IAEA last year. 1,5 years ago, in Madrid, we said to the Agency we will give the right answers to the IAEA questions. Then the US turned over questions to the IAEA and they posed them to us. The agency said they have other questions and we started answering them one by one. For each set of questions they sent us a written letter that they accepted the answer as adequate. What expectations should Iran have? We expect the 5+1 to thank us for these efforts to answer all questions. We expected that at the September meeting to be told by the Agency that they put aside all questions, but they provided a second US set of contentions.

They were supposed to bring up questions in one set of timetable. These questions went beyond the timetable. but we accepted.

These questions, like the previous are baseless, we will not agre to the US directed routes. I believe if we continue the negotiations we will reach a point of agreement that will lead to action.

 

{All the above sounded to me like a reprise of the 1001 Nights stories – this time from Tehran. I wonder how many people in the room accepted these, though, as I remarked at the beginning of this article, I am probably one of the most inclined to allow some slack to the Iranians because of past US behavior – but this story contained really too much rope. It did not inspire safety at all.}

 

Now Ambassador Wisner had one more short question he said. The elections in the US. “Do you see from Iran’s point of view an opportunity for dialogue? What will be the modalities for negotiation?

A. A US President will have to reach out including the Middle East. If there are changes in the White House we will intently consider them. We take note of comments made by previous Presidents, who are not in power anymore, also candidates not yet elected. Comments made, promises given by them cannot yet be seriously considered. We have to wait and see.

As for an interest section, there is only stories in news media.

 

***

Q&A from the floor:

Answer On Israel of sorts:   Iran US relations are dependent on a number of issues. Unilateral Vs. Policies in the Middle East have complicated the situation. NO MENTION OF ISRAEL IN THE ANSWER.

 

Answer on Nuclear In The Middle East:   Atomic weapons cannot provide security. We all heard that the US had enough to destroy Russia. It helped in the balance of fear.

Six years have passed from the day your troops have entered Iraq – they have not succeeded. Why could not atomic weapons help in Afghanistan and Iraq? This year the 13th anniversary since the Islamic revolution in Iran.

if I were to list our grievances against the US it will be a long long list. Had we a nuclear bomb, could that have changed your actions in Iraq?

In tandem with development on hardware side, the software side. The US is not lacking in modern weapons, also in its economic might (except for the present problems). No serious changes will occur in the US. The problem is – insufficient reasoning to convince the international public opinion.

 

Answer to the last question on the Middle East: We go about our business about our nuclear problems. We provided the answers.

if a person is asleep- how hard you knock, it will not help. The US cannot accept Iran’s peaceful proposals because once they accept they will not be able to stay in this position.

US intelligence agencies announced that Iran does not work on nuclear bomb, but the uS did not accept. I know of five different reports. I think it is high time for them to accept this.

The 15 years they were against my country. What is wrong about changing policies – and see what was wrong for their country?

 iran002.gif

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 6th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Chinese company wants to buy Brussels Airlines and its Airport.
VALENTINA POP, September 5, 2008.

Chinese airline Hainan may challenge a bid by Lufthansa to buy Brussels Airlines, with the Asian firm already in talks to snap up Belgium’s Charleroi airport.

German carrier Lufthansa remains the favourite bidder for Brussels Airlines, but some shareholders in the Belgian company believe the offer is too low and are looking at other partners, such as British Airways and Hainan, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday (5 September).

Late last week, Lufthansa said it was in “constructive negotiations” to acquire a 45 percent stake in Brussels Airlines for €65 million, expecting to close the deal within the next few weeks. The remaining stake was then to be taken over after two years.

But shareholders in Brussels Airlines believe the carrier is worth at least €200 million. Brussels Airlines is the heir to the bankrupt Sabena, with a 30 percent share having been taken over in 2006 by Richard Branson’s Virgin Express.

Hainan’s interest in Brussels Airlines is fortified by its bid for Charleroi airport, a low-cost hub 46 km south of the Belgian capital.

Hainan is among the three companies shortlisted to buy up the currently publicly owned Charleroi airport, with the Chinese company saying it is one of their priorities and promising further developments of the low cost terminal, La Libre Belgique reported on Tuesday.

The move has sparked internal competition between Charleroi and the main Brussels airport, Zaventem, out of which Hainan operates a number of flights. Unidentified sources close to the deal told the Belgian newspaper that the managers of Zaventem had launched a “sabotage and denigration campaign” of Charleroi airport, in order to distract the Chinese.

La Libre Belgique also reported that the Flemish region and the Brussels Airport Company (BAC) who manages Zaventem gave Hainan Airlines financial advantages worth €1.5 million.

The newspaper draws a comparison with the aid offered by the Charleroi airport and the Walloon region to the Irish carrier Ryanair, aid deemed illegal by the European Commission in 2004.

After having read the newspaper report, the Walloon minister for transportation, Andre Antoine, said: “Nobody is stupid. The aim of the manoeuvre is to attract the Chinese to Zaventem, not Charleroi.”

Zaventem is Brussel’s main international airport.

In return, BAC said it didn’t understand the minister’s reaction and didn’t see any problems with the €1.5 million contract it signed two years ago with the Chinese company, in order to promote the Flemish region in Shanghai and Beijing. The contract does not involve directly neither BAC, nor Hainan Airlines, a press spokesman for BAC said.

La Libre Belgique reported that the contract involved some €400,000 being payed to Hainan for “marketing support” and €200,000 for language training for the pilots of the company. Only €900,000 were allocated to promoting the region in China, the newspaper says.

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[Comment / Opinion on EUobserver] After Georgia: is Ukraine next?
ANDREW WILSON, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, September 5, 2008.

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - The war in Georgia began by exposing the security vacuum in the surrounding region. Now it has claimed its first collateral victim, after the fall of the Ukrainian government on 2 September.

The crisis has been brewing over the summer recess, but came to a head in late August after President Yushchenko’s administration accused Prime Minister Tymoshenko of trading her relative silence over Georgia for Russian support in a campaign to supplant him as president.

Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko – the 2004 Orange Revolution feels a long time ago (Photo: timoshenko.com.ua)

When parliament reassembled, Tymoshenko joined forces with the east Ukrainian-based Party of Regions, ramming through a law to reduce presidential power, and apparently repositioning herself as a more pro-Russian candidate in the presidential race.

Parliament was also unable to agree any of several diametrically opposed resolutions on Georgia, ranging from outright condemnation of Russia to recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The crisis comes in between the emergency EU summit on Russia-Georgia in Brussels on 1 September and the regular EU-Ukraine summit on 9 September in Evian, France.

The EU therefore has an ideal opportunity to push back against Russia’s attempts to dominate the European neighbourhood by starting with Ukraine, which is also the linchpin for the whole region.

***

War of words:

Many Ukrainians now hear domestic echoes of the lead-up to war in Georgia. Ukraine has its own potentially separatist region in Crimea, and the country’s Russian minority numbers some 8.3 million (the largest minority in Europe).

Half of Ukraine’s population of just over 46 million are Russian-speaking in various degrees. Although the Ukrainian constitution bans dual citizenship, the government has launched an inquiry into alleged covert Russian passport-holding in the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Some Ukrainians note that Russia justified its invasion of Georgia, as the Nazis once justified their dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, as being necessary to “protect” a minority to whom they had just given citizenship.

Russia has begun a war of words over Ukraine’s alleged supply of arms to Georgia. And the conflict itself has shown that the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol, can operate with impunity, whether Ukraine likes it or not.

Based on its analysis of Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” as a foreign-backed “NGO coup,” Russia has also been quietly building its own network of Russia-friendly NGOs in Ukraine since 2004.

Ukrainians also talk of an otkat ekonomiya (“kickback economy”), in which Russian money percolates throughout the Ukrainian elite.

***

A strategy for Ukraine:

What should the EU therefore offer in Evian? The European Neighborhood Policy is a worthy enough technical process, but it does not address pressing political concerns about maintaining and securing Ukraine’s independence.

Many member states will worry about leaping straight to the contentious issue of ultimate membership for Ukraine, but the EU already recognizes Ukraine’s theoretical right to join once it has met the Copenhagen criteria; and it cannot be beyond EU leaders’ verbal dexterity to play up the prospect.

What Ukraine would value and needs most is a real sense that it is being treated distinctly in its own right. The key words are “association” and “partnership,” in whatever order or combination.

The EU has greater scope for short-term measures, which should be designed to deliver a multi-dimensional solidarity strategy for Ukraine.

The EU’s foreign ministers should invite their Ukrainian counterpart to give a briefing on Ukraine-Russia relations at their next meeting.

Ukraine should be offered a road map for visa-free travel, as well as ensuring that member states deliver on current visa facilitation measures. The new EU-Ukraine agreement should include a beefed-up solidarity clause, building on the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, whereby the EU would consult and assist Ukraine in case of challenges to its territorial integrity and sovereignty. And the EU should back Ukraine if it insists that the Russian Black Sea Fleet leaves on schedule in 2017.

The EU should also launch a comprehensive study of all aspects of Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies, including transit, energy security and conservation, supply diversification, and the impact of “bypass” pipelines like Nordstream and South Stream.

It should consider linking the opening of the Nordstream pipeline, which would allow Russia to cut off gas to Poland and Ukraine while maintaining deliveries to Germany, to the opening of the proposed “White Stream” pipeline to bring gas from Azerbaijan directly to Ukraine via Georgia, bypassing Russia.

The EU could even play a part in keeping the 2012 European Championship football finals on track. The decision to appoint Ukraine and Poland as co-hosts was a powerful symbol of European unity across the current EU border (Poland is a member, Ukraine is not).

UEFA is unhappy with Ukraine’s progress in building the necessary infrastructure, but Ukraine should be given time to get its act together.

Where appropriate, the EU should extend these measures to Moldova, which is now calling Ukraine a “strategic shelter,” most probably after the elections in March 2009.

Ukraine faces a crucial presidential election in 2009 or 2010. After getting its fingers badly burned at the last election in 2004, Russia is clearly tempted to intervene again. The “Russian factor” will strongly influence the campaign.

Greater Western engagement is needed to ensure that the “Europe factor” is equally prominent.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 3rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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Op-Ed Columnist Thomas Friedman, The New York Times, September 3, 2008 (written September 2, 2008)

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AND THEN THERE WAS ONE.
As we emerge from Labor Day, college students are gathering back on campuses not only to start the fall semester, but also, in some cases, to vote for the first time in a presidential election.

There is no bigger issue on campuses these days than environment/energy. Going into this election, I thought that — for the first time — we would have a choice between two “green” candidates.

That view is no longer operative — and college students (and everyone else) need to understand that.

With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.

***

Given the fact that Senator McCain deliberately avoided voting on all eight attempts to pass a bill extending the vital tax credits and production subsidies to expand our wind and solar industries, and given his support for lowering the gasoline tax in a reckless giveaway that would only promote more gasoline consumption and intensify our addiction to oil, and given his desire to make more oil-drilling, not innovation around renewable energy, the centerpiece of his energy policy — in an effort to mislead voters that support for drilling today would translate into lower prices at the pump today — McCain has forfeited any claim to be a green candidate.

So please, students, when McCain comes to your campus and flashes a few posters of wind turbines and solar panels, ask him why he has been AWOL when it came to Congress supporting these new technologies.

***

“Back in June, the Republican Party had a round-up,” said Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “One of the unbranded cattle — a wizened old maverick name John McCain — finally got roped. Then they branded him with a big ‘Lazy O’ — George Bush’s brand, where the O stands for oil. No more maverick.

“One of McCain’s last independent policies putting him at odds with Bush was his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” added Pope, “yet he has now picked a running mate who has opposed holding big oil accountable and been dismissive of alternative energy while focusing her work on more oil drilling in a wildlife refuge and off of our coasts. While the northern edge of her state literally falls into the rising Arctic Ocean, Sarah Palin says, ‘The jury is still out on global warming.’ She’s the one hanging the jury — and John McCain is going to let her.”

Indeed, Palin’s much ballyhooed confrontations with the oil industry have all been about who should get more of the windfall profits, not how to end our addiction.

***

Barack Obama should be doing more to promote his green agenda, but at least he had the courage, in the heat of a Democratic primary, not to pander to voters by calling for a lifting of the gasoline tax. And while he has come out for a limited expansion of offshore drilling, he has refrained from misleading voters that this is in any way a solution to our energy problems.

I am not against a limited expansion of off-shore drilling now. But it is a complete sideshow. By constantly pounding into voters that his energy focus is to “drill, drill, drill,” McCain is diverting attention from what should be one of the central issues in this election: who has the better plan to promote massive innovation around clean power technologies and energy efficiency.

Why? Because renewable energy technologies — what I call “E.T.” — are going to constitute the next great global industry. They will rival and probably surpass “I.T.” — information technology. The country that spawns the most E.T. companies will enjoy more economic power, strategic advantage and rising standards of living. We need to make sure that is America. Big oil and OPEC want to make sure it is not.

***

Palin’s nomination for vice president and her desire to allow drilling in the Alaskan wilderness “reminded me of a lunch I had three and half years ago with one of the Russian trade attachés,” global trade consultant Edward Goldberg said to me. “After much wine, this gentleman told me that his country was very pleased that the Bush administration wanted to drill in the Alaskan wilderness. In his opinion, the amount of product one could actually derive from there was negligible in terms of needs. However, it signified that the Bush administration was not planning to do anything to create alternative energy, which of course would threaten the economic growth of Russia.”

So, college students, don’t let anyone tell you that on the issue of green, this election is not important. It is vitally important, and the alternatives could not be more black and white.

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