links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter

United KingdomGermanyMediterranean MembersBenelux
BrazilChinaIrelandPoland
Other EuropeEast EuropeScandinavia

 
European Union:
parliamentcom-logo-120.jpg
EU Observer

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Lithuania to see energy independence as liquid gas terminal arrives.

Related: Still no Russia gas deal as Europe heads into winter

By Peter Teffer, for the The EUobserver, October 28, 2014


Brussels – A floating liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal arrived at the Lithuanian city Klaipeda on Monday (27 October) where it was greeted by locals as the guarantor of the Baltic region’s energy supply.

The vessel, called The Independence, is expected to reduce the Baltic states’ dependence on Russian gas.

“This is a strategic geopolitical project that may decide the future of the whole region. Lithuania will become an energy-security guarantor for the whole Baltic region”, Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite said according to media reports.

“From now on, nobody will dictate us the price for gas – or buy our political will,” she said.

More than a third of Lithuania’s energy comes from natural gas. It and its Baltic neighbours have been completely dependent on Russia for their gas supply, due to historical and geographical reasons.

While natural gas is transported via pipelines, liquefied natural gas, or LNG, can be transported by sea. But a country needs a terminal to import LNG.

Lithuania ordered the vessel in 2011, but the Ukrainian crisis, which has seen a bellicose Moscow seek to extend its sphere of influence, means it is arriving at a timely point.

According to the Lithuanian president’s press service, “the Klaipeda LNG terminal can serve and fulfill about 90 percent of the gas supply needs of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia”.

The terminal should be operational before the end of 2014. Lithuanian gas company Litgas has signed a five-year agreement with Norwegian Statoil to import 540 million cubic metres of gas annually from 2015.

The Independence is 294 metres long, 46 metres wide and 26 metres deep.

In a recent ‘stress test’ on the resilience of the European gas system, the European Commission concluded that with the LNG terminal in Klaipeda, the impact of a cut in the supply of Russian gas should be limited.

“Once the Klaipeda LNG terminal enters into operation the supply for the protected customers [all households] would be ensured in the three Baltic States in all scenarios.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The info in our title, as based on reporting of the NYT on line, is tempered by our info as provided by the Austrian OERF:
orf.at/stories/2250813/2250848/ that informs us that there was no general enthusiasm with this compromise agreement that called for bringing down energy savings only by 27% – as compared to 1990 – from the anticipated 30%. Those that are in the 60% range as compared to the 50% average in the emitters’ list – will be helped free from a stash of 400,000 of certificates that result from an emissions trading system. The Austrians remark that this will help Poland that might continue to pollute..

Also before the Copenhagen COP 15 the EU had prepared a program of its membership but then found out that they were not able to get an agreement of the other major emitters. Thus the renewed effort must now watch how China, the US, India, Brazil, Japan, Australia will react.

———————————————————–

European Leaders Agree on Targets to Fight Climate Change.

By JAMES KANTEROCT. 23, 2014

BRUSSELS — The 28 leaders of the European Union agreed early on Friday on targets for protecting the climate and generating greener power despite deep divisions among their nations over how to produce energy.

The main target that won approval was a pledge to slash emissions by at least 40 percent, compared with 1990 levels, by 2030.

The new target “will ensure that Europe will be an important player, will be an important party, in future binding commitments of an international climate agreement,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said at an early-morning news conference.

The accord makes the European Union the first major global emitter to put its position on the table ahead of an important United Nations climate meeting in Paris at the end of 2015.

“Deal!” Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, the body that represents European Union leaders, wrote on his Twitter account. “World’s most ambitious, cost-effective” climate policy agreed on, he wrote.

Related Coverage

For E.U. Climate Meeting, Deep Divisions and High Stakes OCT. 21, 2014
Goats grazing near wind turbines in Fantanele and Cogealac villages, Romania.
Europe, Facing Economic Pain, May Ease Climate Rules JAN. 22, 2014

Hopes are rising in Europe — as they were five years ago ahead of a failed United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen — for a global agreement next year in Paris that would oblige other parts of the world, like China and the United States, to do more to share the burden limiting the warming of the planet to under two degrees Celsius.


While most European Union states agree on lessening their energy dependence on countries outside the bloc, like Russia, cooperation is extremely hard because of sharply conflicting energy choices in Europe.

The pledge to cut emissions by 40 percent would eventually come with legally binding targets for each of the bloc’s member countries to share the burden equitably.

The bloc also agreed on a target of generating at least 27 percent of its energy from renewable sources, a goal that will be binding at the European Union level but not the national level. A separate target for improving energy efficiency by at least 27 percent was “indicative” only, meaning it would not be binding even at the bloc level. Both of those targets raised questions about their enforceability.

Curbing the emissions that contribute to a changing climate has long been a popular cause in Europe. Policy makers here frequently highlight how their industries and citizens emit lower levels of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide than those of the United States and other industrialized countries. But there is not the same enthusiasm in Europe to embrace the green agenda as there was five years ago, before the climate conference in Copenhagen that ended in failure.

The protracted downturn in Europe set off by the sovereign debt crisis has crimped funding for green projects. Also, the takeoff of technologies to tap cheap shale gas — despite the highly uncertain future of that industry in Europe, where the technology is unpopular — has dented prospects for some renewable alternatives. { THIS LINE IS NOT CLEAR – THE WRITER OUGHT TO KNOW THAT FOSSIL GAS AND OIL RESULTING FROM FRAKING ARE NOT RENEWABLES – THOUGH THEY ARE AN ALTERNATIVE TO IMPORTED OIL AND GAS }

Another factor adding to the complexity of developing strategies to cut emissions in Europe is the disaster at Fukushima, Japan, where an earthquake and a tsunami in 2011 led to meltdowns at a nuclear plant. Germany has since stepped up its phaseout of nuclear technology even though it emits almost zero planet-warming gases.

Also hanging over the summit meeting was the standoff between the Europeans and Russia over its annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Ukraine.

For Poland, reliance on highly polluting coal is seen as a defense against the need to switch to natural gas, a resource that the government in Moscow has already used as a political weapon by cutting supplies, and a source of employment for the mining industry. But Poland’s stance put it at odds with countries like Sweden and Germany that were seeking far-reaching targets on energy efficiency and renewable sources.

“We could have envisaged getting more, but we, in the spirit of compromise, decided to agree on a 27 percent target,” Ms. Merkel told the news conference, referring to the target for renewable sources.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


We ask above question in light of the Romanian Mission to the UN sponsored ASUA promoted UN event which we covered at large in our posting:

A laudable ECO-DRIVE training for petroleum fuel-saving of conventional motor-vehicles was presented at the UN in New York by the Japanese ASUA Inc., at a time the world is watching attempts at innovation that replace both – the conventional engines and the fuel. Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 20th, 2014  www.sustainabilitank.info/#34692

If this is the case, how will it impact the price of carbon in the EU and will emission savings outside the EU be allowed as carbon credits into this market or will it all be an internai EU market? These are points that we expect to be followed with interest by by the world-wide auto-motive industry.

We expect the EcoDrive caravan to make Brussels as their next target.

—————–

EU set to allow car emissions into carbon trading market

Date: 24-Oct-14
Country: BELGIUM
Author: Barbara Lewis
The European Union is set to make it easier to bring road transport emissions into the carbon trading market, a move that critics say could empower carmakers to push back against more effective curbs on greenhouse gases.

As posted by PlanetArk // Reuters from Brussels, EU leaders will attempt to agree on energy policy for 2030 when they meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, including an EU-wide cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 percent compared with 1990 levels.

The EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), key to efforts to reduce emissions, has so far excluded road transport. It has focused on curbing pollution from heavy industry and the power sector by forcing more than 12,000 power plants, factories and airlines to surrender an allowance for every tonne of CO2 emitted under a gradually decreasing emission cap.

But a draft of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy package, seen by Reuters, says individual member states can include road transport in the EU ETS if they choose.

It also calls on the executive European Commission to “further develop instruments and measures for a comprehensive and technology neutral approach for the promotion of emissions reduction and energy efficiency in transport”.

The phrase “technology neutral” is often used by business to champion using the EU ETS to tackle emissions, rather than sector-specific targets.

Transport is Europe’s second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the power sector, and is also the fastest-growing one.

Bringing cars into the ETS could reduce the costs the car industry faces in meeting existing regulation as well as tackling the oversupply on the carbon market which has pushed prices of carbon allowances down to around 6 euros ($7.64) per tonne from more than 30 euros six years ago.

But the impact on emissions would be negligible, analysts say. A study published this week by consultancy Cambridge Econometrics estimated that bringing road transport into the ETS would curb emissions by 1 percent by 2030 at current ETS prices.

It also found that to achieve a vehicle emissions goal of 60 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer (g/km) by 2030 — the logical extension of existing car emissions targets — carbon prices would need to rise to over 200 euros per tonne, imposing huge costs on heavy industry.

Climate campaigners say heavy lobbying from business has already ensured a proposed emissions cut of 40 percent will not include a sub-target for transport, whereas the current set of 2020 targets includes a 6 percent cut in road fuel emissions compared with 1990.

Existing EU law also includes emissions standards to limit carbon dioxide pollution from cars, which extend to 2021 and have attracted stiff resistance, especially from the German luxury car sector, led by brands such as BMW and Daimler.

Several EU officials said there was no unanimity on bringing road transport into the ETS, so member states were likely to agree on asking the European Commission to look at ways to expand the carbon trading scheme.

But green campaigners say even the mention of flexibility in achieving targets could give carmakers more stick to persuade lawmakers to drop efforts for any further car specific standards, which they say have had a major impact on reducing vehicle fuel use and cutting pollution.

“The draft text makes the theoretical possibility of transport in the ETS move closer to reality,” said Greg Archer of environmental group T&E. “It is a dangerous precedent that will undermine reductions in transport emissions while damaging EU growth and jobs.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Education for green growth – new issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way”.

from Michael Funch
october 23, 2014


Education for green growth – new issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way”.

In the latest issue of “Green Growth the Nordic Way” you can read about a number of projects the Nordic Council of Ministers has initiated or supported to secure a stronger focus on climate and sustainability issues in the school systems of the Nordic countries.

Read more at www.nordicway.org

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

Feature articles:

1. “The Great Nordic Climate Challenge” aims at raising the awareness of secondary school pupils around climate issues in a fun and playful way, while giving them instruments to actually monitor and change their own activities in a more a climate friendly manner.

2. Adult education and university teaching is the focus of two other projects, one a follow up to the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development, the other part of the Nordic Prime Ministers’ green growth initiative that provides the mainstay of this magazine.

3. Finally, the Biophilia educational project aims to incorporate the teaching materials based on the singer Björks eponymous work into the teaching of children in Nordic schools to stimulate their curiosity and interest in the natural sciences.

Taken as one, these projects fall well in line with a Nordic tradition for encouraging an open and playful education system, with room for independent thinking and proactive initiatives.

Read the new edition of Green Growth the Nordic Way: www.nordicway.org

Follow us on facebook or find more background information at www.norden.org or www.norden.org

Venlig hilsen/Kind regards

Michael Funch
Seniorrådgiver/Kommunikation
Senior Adviser/Communication

Direct +45 21 71 71 43
 mifu at norden.org

Nordisk Ministerråd
Nordic Council of Ministers

Ved Stranden 18
DK-1061 København K
Tel +45 33 96 02 00
  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in Archives, Iceland, Norway, Scandinavia

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From George Soros, October 23,2014

In an essay published in the New York Review of Books entitled Wake Up, Europe George Soros says that European leaders are failing to show adequate financial and military support for Ukraine. The situation there, he argues, presents Europe with what amounts to an existential threat from Russia. “Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it.” he says. Soros goes on to propose a set of actions that Europe and US could take to assist Ukraine and, ultimately, further their own interests.

All best,

Michael Vachon

*****

Wake up, Europe

New York Review of Books

By George Soros

Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.

The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded. It is based on the use of force that manifests itself in repression at home and aggression abroad, as opposed to the rule of law. What is shocking is that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved to be in some ways superior to the European Union—more flexible and constantly springing surprises. That has given it a tactical advantage, at least in the near term.

Europe and the United States—each for its own reasons—are determined to avoid any direct military confrontation with Russia. Russia is taking advantage of their reluctance. Violating its treaty obligations, Russia has annexed Crimea and established separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. In August when the recently installed government in Kiev threatened to win the low level war in eastern Ukraine against separatist forces backed by Russia, President Putin invaded Ukraine with regular armed forces in violation of the Russian law that exempts conscripts from foreign service without their consent.

In seventy-two hours these forces destroyed several hundred of Ukraine’s armored vehicles, a substantial portion of its fighting force. According to General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the Russians used multiple launch rocket systems armed with cluster munitions and thermal-baric warheads (an even more inhumane weapon that ought to be outlawed) with devastating effect. * The local militia from the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk suffered the brunt of the losses because they were communicating by cell phones and could thus easily be located and targeted by the Russians. President Putin has, so far, abided by a cease-fire agreement he concluded with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on September 5, but Putin retains the choice to continue the cease-fire as long as he finds it advantageous or to resume a full-scale assault.

In September, President Poroshenko visited Washington where he received an enthusiastic welcome from a joint session of Congress. He asked for “both lethal and nonlethal” defensive weapons in his speech. However, President Obama refused his request for Javelin hand-held missiles that could be used against advancing tanks. Poroshenko was given radar, but what use is it without missiles? European countries are equally reluctant to provide military assistance to Ukraine, fearing Russian retaliation. The Washington visit gave President Poroshenko a façade of support with little substance behind it.

Equally disturbing has been the determination of official international leaders to withhold new financial commitments to Ukraine until after the October 26 election there (which will take place just after this issue goes to press). This has led to an avoidable pressure on Ukrainian currency reserves and raised the specter of a full-blown financial crisis in the country.

There is now pressure from donors, whether in Europe or the US, to “bail in” the bondholders of Ukrainian sovereign debt, i.e., for bondholders to take losses on their investments as a pre-condition for further official assistance to Ukraine that would put more taxpayers’ money at risk. That would be an egregious error. The Ukrainian government strenuously opposes the proposal because it would put Ukraine into a technical default that would make it practically impossible for the private sector to refinance its debt. Bailing in private creditors would save very little money and it would make Ukraine entirely dependent on the official donors.

To complicate matters, Russia is simultaneously dangling carrots and wielding sticks. It is offering—but failing to sign—a deal for gas supplies that would take care of Ukraine’s needs for the winter. At the same time Russia is trying to prevent the delivery of gas that Ukraine secured from the European market through Slovakia. Similarly, Russia is negotiating for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the borders while continuing to attack Donetsk airport and the port city of Mariupol.

It is easy to foresee what lies ahead. Putin will await the results of the elections on October 26 and then offer Poroshenko the gas and other benefits he has been dangling on condition that he appoint a prime minister acceptable to Putin. That would exclude anybody associated with the victory of the forces that brought down the Viktor Yanukovych government by resisting it for months on the Maidan—Independence Square. I consider it highly unlikely that Poroshenko would accept such an offer. If he did, he would be disowned by the defenders of the Maidan; the resistance forces would then be revived.

Putin may then revert to the smaller victory that would still be within his reach: he could open by force a land route from Russia to Crimea and Transnistria before winter. Alternatively, he would simply sit back and await the economic and financial collapse of Ukraine. I suspect that he may be holding out the prospect of a grand bargain in which Russia would help the United States against ISIS—for instance by not supplying to Syria the S300 missiles it has promised, thus in effect preserving US air domination—and Russia would be allowed to have its way in the “near abroad,” as many of the nations adjoining Russia are called. What is worse, President Obama may accept such a deal.

That would be a tragic mistake, with far-reaching geopolitical consequences. Without underestimating the threat from ISIS, I would argue that preserving the independence of Ukraine should take precedence; without it, even the alliance against ISIS would fall apart. The collapse of Ukraine would be a tremendous loss for NATO, the European Union, and the United States. A victorious Russia would become much more influential within the EU and pose a potent threat to the Baltic states with their large ethnic Russian populations. Instead of supporting Ukraine, NATO would have to defend itself on its own soil. This would expose both the EU and the US to the danger they have been so eager to avoid: a direct military confrontation with Russia. The European Union would become even more divided and ungovernable. Why should the US and other NATO nations allow this to happen?

The argument that has prevailed in both Europe and the United States is that Putin is no Hitler; by giving him everything he can reasonably ask for, he can be prevented from resorting to further use of force. In the meantime, the sanctions against Russia—which include, for example, restrictions on business transactions, finance, and trade—will have their effect and in the long run Russia will have to retreat in order to earn some relief from them.

These are false hopes derived from a false argument with no factual evidence to support it. Putin has repeatedly resorted to force and he is liable to do so again unless he faces strong resistance. Even if it is possible that the hypothesis could turn out to be valid, it is extremely irresponsible not to prepare a Plan B.

There are two counterarguments that are less obvious but even more important. First, Western authorities have ignored the importance of what I call the “new Ukraine” that was born in the successful resistance on the Maidan. Many officials with a history of dealing with Ukraine have difficulty adjusting to the revolutionary change that has taken place there. The recently signed Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was originally negotiated with the Yanukovych government. This detailed road map now needs adjustment to a totally different situation. For instance, the road map calls for the gradual replacement and retraining of the judiciary over five years whereas the public is clamoring for immediate and radical renewal. As the new mayor of Kiev, Wladimir Klitschko, put it, “if you put fresh cucumbers into a barrel of pickles, they will soon turn into pickles.”

Contrary to some widely circulated accounts, the resistance on the Maidan was led by the cream of civil society: young people, many of whom had studied abroad and refused to join either government or business on their return because they found both of them repugnant. (Nationalists and anti-Semitic extremists made up only a minority of the anti-Yanukovych protesters.) They are the leaders of the new Ukraine and they are adamantly opposed to a return of the “old Ukraine,” with its endemic corruption and ineffective government.

The new Ukraine has to contend with Russian aggression, bureaucratic resistance both at home and abroad, and confusion in the general population. Surprisingly, it has the support of many oligarchs, President Poroshenko foremost among them, and the population at large. There are of course profound differences in history, language, and outlook between the eastern and western parts of the country, but Ukraine is more united and more European-minded than ever before. That unity, however, is extremely fragile.

The new Ukraine has remained largely unrecognized because it took time before it could make its influence felt. It had practically no security forces at its disposal when it was born. The security forces of the old Ukraine were actively engaged in suppressing the Maidan rebellion and they were disoriented this summer when they had to take orders from a government formed by the supporters of the rebellion. No wonder that the new government was at first unable to put up an effective resistance to the establishment of the separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. It is all the more remarkable that President Poroshenko was able, within a few months of his election, to mount an attack that threatened to reclaim those enclaves.

To appreciate the merits of the new Ukraine you need to have had some personal experience with it. I can speak from personal experience although I must also confess to a bias in its favor. I established a foundation in Ukraine in 1990 even before the country became independent. Its board and staff are composed entirely of Ukrainians and it has deep roots in civil society. I visited the country often, especially in the early years, but not between 2004 and early 2014, when I returned to witness the birth of the new Ukraine.

I was immediately impressed by the tremendous improvement in maturity and expertise during that time both in my foundation and in civil society at large. Currently, civic and political engagement is probably higher than anywhere else in Europe. People have proven their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country. These are the hidden strengths of the new Ukraine that have been overlooked by the West.

The other deficiency of the current European attitude toward Ukraine is that it fails to recognize that the Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the European Union and its principles of governance. It ought to be evident that it is inappropriate for a country, or association of countries, at war to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity as the European Union continues to do. All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort even if that involves running up budget deficits. The fragility of the new Ukraine makes the ambivalence of the West all the more perilous. Not only the survival of the new Ukraine but the future of NATO and the European Union itself is at risk. In the absence of unified resistance it is unrealistic to expect that Putin will stop pushing beyond Ukraine when the division of Europe and its domination by Russia is in sight.

Having identified some of the shortcomings of the current approach, I will try to spell out the course that Europe ought to follow. Sanctions against Russia are necessary but they are a necessary evil. They have a depressive effect not only on Russia but also on the European economies, including Germany. This aggravates the recessionary and deflationary forces that are already at work. By contrast, assisting Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression would have a stimulative effect not only on Ukraine but also on Europe. That is the principle that ought to guide European assistance to Ukraine.

Germany, as the main advocate of fiscal austerity, needs to understand the internal contradiction involved. Chancellor Angela Merkel has behaved as a true European with regard to the threat posed by Russia. She has been the foremost advocate of sanctions on Russia, and she has been more willing to defy German public opinion and business interests on this than on any other issue. Only after the Malaysian civilian airliner was shot down in July did German public opinion catch up with her. Yet on fiscal austerity she has recently reaffirmed her allegiance to the orthodoxy of the Bundesbank—probably in response to the electoral inroads made by the -Alternative for Germany, the anti-euro party. She does not seem to realize how inconsistent that is. She ought to be even more committed to helping Ukraine than to imposing sanctions on Russia.

The new Ukraine has the political will both to defend Europe against Russian aggression and to engage in radical structural reforms. To preserve and reinforce that will, Ukraine needs to receive adequate assistance from its supporters. Without it, the results will be disappointing and hope will turn into despair. Disenchantment already started to set in after Ukraine suffered a military defeat and did not receive the weapons it needs to defend itself.

It is high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war. They are better off helping Ukraine to defend itself than having to fight for themselves. One way or another, the internal contradiction between being at war and remaining committed to fiscal austerity has to be eliminated. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Let me be specific. In its last progress report, issued in early September, the IMF estimated that in a worst-case scenario Ukraine would need additional support of $19 billion. Conditions have deteriorated further since then. After the Ukrainian elections the IMF will need to reassess its baseline forecast in consultation with the Ukrainian government. It should provide an immediate cash injection of at least $20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice.

The spending of borrowed funds is controlled by the agreement between the IMF and the Ukrainian government. Four billion dollars would go to make up the shortfall in Ukrainian payments to date; $2 billion would be assigned to repairing the coal mines in eastern Ukraine that remain under the control of the central government; and $2 billion would be earmarked for the purchase of additional gas for the winter. The rest would replenish the currency reserves of the central bank.

The new assistance package would include a debt exchange that would transform Ukraine’s hard currency Eurobond debt (which totals almost $18 billion) into long-term, less risky bonds. This would lighten Ukraine’s debt burden and bring down its risk premium. By participating in the exchange, bondholders would agree to accept a lower interest rate and wait longer to get their money back. The exchange would be voluntary and market-based so that it could not be mischaracterized as a default. Bondholders would participate willingly because the new long-term bonds would be guaranteed—but only partially—by the US or Europe, much as the US helped Latin America emerge from its debt crisis in the 1980s with so-called Brady bonds (named for US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady).

Such an exchange would have a few important benefits. One is that, over the next two or three critical years, the government could use considerably less of its scarce hard currency reserves to pay off bondholders. The money could be used for other urgent needs.

By trimming Ukraine debt payments in the next few years, the exchange would also reduce the chance of a sovereign default, discouraging capital flight and arresting the incipient run on the banks. This would make it easier to persuade owners of Ukraine’s banks (many of them foreign) to inject urgently needed new capital into them. The banks desperately need bigger capital cushions if Ukraine is to avoid a full-blown banking crisis, but shareholders know that a debt crisis could cause a banking crisis that wipes out their equity.

Finally, Ukraine would keep bondholders engaged rather than watch them cash out at 100 cents on the dollar as existing debt comes due in the few years. This would make it easier for Ukraine to reenter the international bond markets once the crisis has passed.

Under the current conditions it would be more practical and cost-efficient for the US and Europe not to use their own credit directly to guarantee part of Ukraine’s debt, but to employ intermediaries such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank and its subsidiaries.

The Ukrainian state-owned company Naftogaz is a black hole in the budget and a major source of corruption. Naftogaz currently sells gas to households for $47 per trillion cubic meters (TCM), for which it pays $380 per TCM. At present people cannot control the temperature in their apartments. A radical restructuring of Naftogaz’s entire system could reduce household consumption at least by half and totally eliminate Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for gas. That would involve charging households the market price for gas. The first step would be to install meters in apartments and the second to distribute a cash subsidy to needy households.

The will to make these reforms is strong both in the new management and in the incoming government but the task is extremely complicated (how do you define who is needy?) and the expertise is inadequate. The World Bank and its subsidiaries could sponsor a project development team that would bring together international and domestic experts to convert the existing political will into bankable projects. The initial cost would exceed $10 billion but it could be financed by project bonds issued by the European Investment Bank and it would produce very high returns.

It is also high time for the European Union to take a critical look at itself. There must be something wrong with the EU if Putin’s Russia can be so successful even in the short term. The bureaucracy of the EU no longer has a monopoly of power and it has little to be proud of. It should learn to be more united, flexible, and efficient. And Europeans themselves need to take a close look at the new Ukraine. That could help them recapture the original spirit that led to the creation of the European Union. The European Union would save itself by saving Ukraine.

* I am deeply disturbed by a report in the NY Times quoting the Human Rights Watch that subsequently – on October 2 and 5- Ukrainians also used cluster bombs, which I condemn. NATO should clarify both alleged Ukrainian and Russian use of such munitions.

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

EU leaders gear up for heated climate summit

The EUobserver – October 23, 2014

By Peter Teffer

Brussels – The EU’s 28 leaders are meeting on Thursday (23 October) in Brussels for what are expected to be tough negotiations on climate targets.

The so-called climate and energy framework is expected to contain specific targets for 2030 in the form of percentages.

While the European commission, which did a sort of opening bid in January, emphasizes its targets are “in line with science”, the figures fall victim to political bargaining.

At least seven of the EU’s 28 member states, mostly central and eastern European countries, want a 25 percent target for energy efficiency by 2030, instead of the 30 percent proposed by the commission and laid down in the draft conclusions.

They fear too ambitious goals will harm their competitiveness towards non-EU states.

A diplomatic source from one member state predicted the negotiators will end up with an efficiency figure in the middle: “I guess it will be 27 percent.”

The talks of Thursday focus on three targets for 2030. In addition to the efficiency target, EU leaders will discuss what share of the EU’s energy should come from renewable sources in 2030, and by how much greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced.

However countries come with a shopping list of ‘wants’. The UK wants only a greenhouse gas target. Ireland wants its heavy dependence on agriculture taken into account. Central and easter European countries want “conditional targets” which can be adjusted depending on the outcome of global climate talks in Paris in 2015.

This is because the EU by itself cannot limit global warming – it will need to convince other countries to also cut back on emissions.

The average global temperature has already risen about 0.85 degrees Celsius between 1880 and 2012, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The European Commission, the EU’s executive organisation, believes that to achieve the goal of not having the global average temperature increase by more than 2 degree Celsius (seen by experts as the minimum that needs to be achieved) the EU should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in 2050 – compared to the level in 1990.

The commission says that a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emission by 2030 – again, compared to 1990 levels – will put the bloc on track for the 2050 goal of an 80 percent reduction, athough this is disputed by environmental groups.

Brigitte Knopf, researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, emphasizes that science alone cannot be the only basis for policy-makers.

“How to distribute the burden? Who has to reduce how much of the emissions? These are ethical questions which clearly belong to the policy side.”

These questions will be discussed in Brussels starting Thursday afternoon, evening and possibly night.
Economy

While EU leaders will tackle climate change on Thursday, tomorrow will see them talk about the economy amid heightened concerns about the health of the Eurozone.

A special meeting of the 18 single currency leaders, as well European Central Bank Chief Mario Draghi, will begin at lunchtime.

Worries about the eurozone have begun to increase again amid fears of deflation and with Germany, the biggest economy, suffering a slowdown.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund warned there is a 40 percent chance of the eurozone falling into recession again.

The meeting also comes against the backdrop of highly sensitive assessments of national budgets to be taken by the European Commission, with France particularly on Brussels’ radar.
Ebola

EU leaders are also due to discuss how to increase their support for Ebola-stricken countries in west Africa.

UK leader David Cameron is set to ask EU leaders to follow the UK in screening air passengers coming from the outbreak zone. Only France and Belgium have screening at their main airports.

Earlier this week foreign ministers agreed to more co-ordination of resources to fight the disease.
European Commission

Finally, in what is mostly a formality, the council wll appoint the new European Commission under the leadership of Jean-Claude Juncker.

This summit thus also is a send-off for Juncker’s predecessor, Jose-Manuel Barroso. It is also the last council summit chaired by Herman van Rompuy, who will be succeeded by Donald Tusk.

——————————————————————-

Lobbying for Sustainable Development and Sustainability in general go on in parallel – like in:

“Beim Europäischen Rat am 23. und 24. Oktober werden die Staats- und RegierungschefInnen der EU über einen neuen Rahmen für die EU-Klima- und Energiepolitik bis 2030 entscheiden. In einem Lobbybrief an Bundeskanzler Faymann weist die AG Globale Verantwortung auf die Auswirkungen der EU-Klimapolitik auf internationale Entwicklung hin und fordert ambitionierte Zielsetzungen.

Der Lobbybrief der AG Globale Verantwortung erging gemeinsam mit einem Brief des europäischen Dachverbands CONCORD an Bundeskanzler Faymann sowie in Kopie an Vizekanzler Mitterlehner, Bundesminister Kurz und Bundesminister Rupprechter.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Biofuel Companies Look Beyond the Gas Tank

By DIANE CARDWELL, for The New York Times, October 17, 2014

When it comes to the future of advanced biofuel production, Abengoa Bioenergy, the Spanish company whose $500 million plant in Hugoton, Kan., is opening on Friday, has just one word: plastics.

For many of the companies opening big new biofuel plants in the Midwest, executives are already shifting their focus to replacing petroleum not only in the gas tank but elsewhere as well. In Abengoa’s case, a big target is plastic bottles.

“There really is a huge upside potential in the nonfuel side of the business,” said Chris Standlee, executive vice president of global affairs at the company. “Hugoton is the step that allows us to move on to some of these other things.”

Other companies are joining in. DuPont, which is developing a plant in Nevada, Iowa, recently announced that it had reached an agreement with Procter & Gamble to funnel some of its ethanol into Tide Cold Water laundry detergent.

And companies using other technologies are pursuing similar paths. Under an agreement with Unilever, for instance, Solazyme, which uses microalgae to produce oils, is making ingredients for Lux soaps.

The ethanol companies are still relying on the fuels business for much of their sales. Of the roughly 25 million gallons of ethanol Abengoa plans to produce from agricultural waste — mainly the nonedible parts of corn plants — it will most likely sell the bulk to California, where a low-carbon fuel mandate is creating a stronger market for clean fuels. Since its technology can also transform municipal solid waste to fuel, Mr. Standlee said, the company could also open plants outside of the heartland.

But ethanol demand is limited, and it has turned out to be much more complicated and expensive to develop biofuel from cellulosic biomass like plant residue, wood chips and municipal solid waste. So despite millions in government grants and tax subsidies, many companies that originally aimed to make renewable fuel are also looking to make products and chemicals for which they can reap a higher price.

Abengoa plans to pursue supplying plastic for bottles, something beverage companies have been seeking to help bolster their green credentials, Mr. Standlee said.

This direction poses a problem for the Department of Energy, whose aim was to ignite the development of clean fuels, said Wallace E. Tyner, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue. But the energy market may not be ready.

“Today, if you want to build a plant economically, it doesn’t work unless you can get a decent amount of higher value product in the product stream,” he said. “You would hope that the companies who are investing in these plants are learning a lot. Some of them — many of them, maybe — are going to fail. But maybe some of them who are making higher value products will learn enough that they can more efficiently get some fuels out of it too.”

Ethanol operators have faced a shifting landscape in recent years. The market for ethanol to be used in vehicle fuels is already saturated, analysts say, and the industry is waiting on a long-delayed decision by the Environmental Protection Agency on whether to cut the amount required to be blended into the fuels by more than 40 percent. On top of this, technical challenges remain.

Still, major plants, representing hundreds of millions in investment, continue to come online. In addition to Abengoa’s opening, a joint venture between Poet, an ethanol producer, and Royal DSM, the Dutch life and materials sciences company, held its grand opening in Emmetsburg, Iowa, in September. Together, they are expected to produce about 50 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year — all generated from agricultural waste like corn cobs, husks and leaves, known as stover.

The uncertainty has forced ethanol producers like Abengoa to broaden their horizons.

DuPont is even looking overseas. On Thursday, it announced an agreement with Macedonia to develop a commercial-scale plant in partnership with Ethanol Europe, to produce about 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.

“This is yet another example of the market’s readiness for cellulosic ethanol and the global interest,” the company said in a statement.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Making the SDGs Relevant.

From Emily Benson  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or…

From Sustainable Development Announcement List of IISD.
London, UK, October 13, 2014

Dear friends,

With less than a year to go until the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are agreed, the big question now is implementation. Specifically, how do we make the SDGs relevant to businesses as well as national and local level decision makers?

As part of the Measure What Matters initiative, we are bringing together statisticians from corporate reporting with national and international statistical bodies to explore how we align data frameworks at different scales (global, national, corporate, local).

Our first consultation is focused on WATER: How might global Goal(s) on water sustainability be operationalised at local, corporate and national levels? How do we ensure that the data frameworks are aligned?

If you are involved in water – then we want to hear from you! We need your expertise.

We will feed the results of this consultation directly into the implementation working groups for the SDGs, discussions at the national level on alternative GDP measurements, and consultations for strengthening corporate reporting.

The dialogue is available here. Please also see our one-page guidance note on taking part.

Measure What Matters is an initiative aiming to generate dialogue amongst diverse stakeholder groups on the case for operationalising global sustainability goals at the national and corporate levels. Please do see our website for more information. The initiative is led by the Green Economy Coalition in partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative, Accounting for Sustainability, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the International Institute for Environment and Development, and Stakeholder Forum.

Do contact us for more information or help:  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or….
Emily Benson
Programme Manager
Green Economy Coalition

E:  emily.benson at greeneconomycoalition.or…

T: +44 (0)203 463 7399

M: +44 (0) 7771 915 591

Come join the debate: www.greeneconomycoalition.org

IIED is a company limited by a guarantee and incorporated in England. Reg. No 2188452. Registered office: 80-86 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8NH, UK. VAT Reg. No. GB 440 4948 50. Charity No. 800066. OSCR No 039864 www.iied.org

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The key to nuclear’s future or an element of doubt?

Date: 14-Oct-14
REUTERS – PLANET ARK – October 13, 2014
Author: Geert De Clercq

The key to nuclear’s future or an element of doubt?

Work at the Cadarache CEA (Atomic Energy Authority) site near Saint-Paul-les-Durance, south eastern France, September 26, 2014.


For sodium, the sixth-most abundant element on the planet, is being held up as the key to one of several new types of nuclear reactor being developed as governments grapple with the problem of making atomic energy more environmentally friendly, safe and financially viable.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan effectively brought a global nuclear boom to a halt, but a decade-old research program into new reactors has regained relevance of late.

Quite apart from Germany’s decision to phase out a large slice of its nuclear capacity in the wake of Fukushima, Britain and Belgium have recently switched off several aging reactors over safety concerns while a number of U.S. plants have closed because they can no longer compete with cheap shale gas.

Launched by the United States in 2000, the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) has 13 member countries including China, Russia, France, Japan and Britain, which have whittled down nearly 100 proffered concepts to focus research on six nuclear reactor models.

By far the most advanced of the six is the sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR), developed by France, Russia and China from a concept pioneered in the United States in the 1950s.

The SFR’s main advantage is that it can burn spent uranium and plutonium. These unwanted byproducts from water-cooled reactors have been piling up for years and the World Nuclear Association estimates stocks at about 1.5 million tonnes.

“We could produce power for several thousands of years with that without getting new natural uranium,” said Christophe Behar, the vice-chairman of GIF.

Behar, also head of research at French nuclear agency CEA, points out that SFRs can also burn up uranium’s most long-lived radioactive waste products, reducing the need for deep storage.

EXPLOSIVE DRAWBACK

Liquid sodium is better than water at evacuating heat from the reactor core and its high boiling point of about 900 degrees Celsius allows SFRs to operate close to atmospheric pressure, negating the need for the thick, steel containment vessels at pressurized water reactors.

But sodium has significant disadvantages, too. On contact with air, it burns; plunged into water, it explodes.

Early SFRs built by France, Russia and Japan have suffered corrosion and sodium leaks. But these were not built to GIF standards and the CEA research facility amid the pine trees in Cadarache, southeast France, is working on how to tame sodium as the agency seeks to convince lawmakers to allow construction of its new Astrid reactor, a 600 megawatt SFR.

The Astrid project was granted a 652 million euro ($823 million) budget in 2010 and a decision on construction is expected around 2019.

The use of sodium, which occurs naturally only as a compound in other minerals, presents huge challenges, however.

Nitrogen-driven turbines are being designed to prevent sodium from mixing with water, while purpose-built electromagnetic pumps are seen as the solution to moving the superheated metal within reactors. Then there’s the headache of not being able to see through the liquid metal should something go wrong in a reactor core.

The other five concepts – including lead and helium-cooled fast neutron reactors and three very-high-temperature reactors – are less mature than the SFR and face similar technological hurdles.

But technology is not the only obstacle. Cost is key, as ever, and abundant U.S. shale gas and a renewables energy boom in Europe have undermined the viability of the nuclear industry, leading some GIF member states, including Japan, Canada and Switzerland, to scale back funding.

SCIENCE FRICTION

Regardless of which, if any, of the new concepts eventually holds sway, the inevitable political wrangling over commercial projects will almost inevitably bring further delays, as with Britain’s 16 billion pound ($26 billion) Hinkley Point C plant to be operated by French utility EDF.

“Between the ambition in the beginning and today’s status, the Generation IV research is not exactly on track,” the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s Thierry Dujardin said.

GIF’s target of having the first prototypes in operation around 2020 has been pushed back to 2030, with the first commercial plants not expected before 2040-2050, but such are the timescales in the nuclear industry.

The group does have some wriggle room, as many of the second-generation reactors built in 1970s and 1980s are expected to run for another decade, while third-generation plants built today by firms such as Areva and Westinghouse are designed to operate for up to 60 years.

Critics of GIF say that France and other nations have been too quick to focus research on the SFR and should have made a more audacious bet on newer technologies, such as the pebble-bed high-temperature reactor or the molten-salt reactor.

“There is not a single really new idea among the 4G models,” said Bernard Laponche, a retired CEA nuclear engineer.

Given sodium’s explosive potential, Laponche argues that the molten-salt reactor, the least developed technology, is the safest of the six models.

“It’s not a windmill, but it’s better than the others,” he said.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


EU regional projects see ‘encouraging’ shift in focus.

10.10.14 By Honor Mahony – The Euobserver

BRUSSELS – As he finishes up his mandate as EU regional affairs commissioner, Johannes Hahn says his “legacy” is getting member states to spend money on the real economy rather than hulking infrastructure projects.

Romania’s Corina Cretu (Partidul Social Democrat) is due to take over as EU regional affairs commissioner in November

Under his watch, rules governing how regional aid money – running to €325 billion between 2014-2020 – is spent were given a shake-up to encourage projects in line with the EU’s long-term economic goals.

Adopted at the end of December, the new rules have already resulted in a big decrease in spending on traditional infrastructure – such as roads – and a leap in spending on green and ICT projects.

“We see a clear shift from investment in infrastructure towards stimulation of the “real” economy,” Hahn told this website, adding that this is “encouraging”.

“I like to think [of this] as a legacy of my time as commissioner for this policy.”

Analysis by late September of the plans of various regions have showed that there was a 22 percent rise in spending (to €125bn) on projects dedicated to research & development, innovation, ICT, small businesses, and low-carbon economy compared to the last budget cycle (2007-2013).

Spending on transport and other major infrastructure has sunk by 21 pecent, to €60bn, while member states such as Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Portugal, and the UK have made helping small companies a priority.

On energy security and green projects specifically, the chunk of aid money has more than doubled to €38 billion.
Red tape – also in the member states

Hahn notes that while the more stringent rules mean that getting spending programmes agreed is more time-consuming, the “insistence” on focussing on what results will be achieved rather than just whether money will be spent is “very valuable”.

“Member states will have to spell out what they want to achieve and by when, and be monitored whether those results are there,” he says.

And while he admits that the rules are still complicated – or not simplified “as much as we might have wished” – leading to grumbling by some local authorities, he says member states themselves are just as much to blame.

“Many layers of red tape come from member states themselves – what we call ‘gold-plating’ and it is too easy to blame this on the so-called ‘Brussels bureaucracy ‘.”

On tying funds to good economic governance – a controversial innovation to the rules – Hahn said stopping EU aid because a member state is fiscally misbehaving would be a “last resort”, but underlines that “investments will deliver more in the context of budgetary discipline”.

“We are not talking about punishment but rather about an incentive to maintain financial and budgetary discipline so that funds can deliver for citizens.”

The Austrian politician, who is due to take over the European neighbourhood policy dossier from November, declines to give advice to his successor candidate, Romania’s Corina Cretu.

But he does suggest that, in future, GDP – or how rich a region is – should not be the only criteria for determining whether it should qualify for EU money.

“Other measures such as innovation performance could be taken into account,” he says, indicating that being a forward-looking region with clever ideas should be enough for a shot at EU aid.
 euobserver.com/regions/125754

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

VIENNA CONFERENCE ON THE HUMANITARIAN IMPACT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. 8-9 December 2014

Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons
Logo HINW

Vienna Hofburg Palace, 8 – 9 December 2014

Conference Information:
 www.bmeia.gv.at/en/european-forei…

Draft Program
Registration
UNDP Sponsorship Program
Conference Venue
Tourist Information
Exhibition space


A world without nuclear weapons is a goal shared by all humanity. Yet, so far, it has remained elusive. An estimated 16.300 nuclear weapons still exist nearly 25 years after the end of the cold war. Today, nine states are believed to possess nuclear weapons, but as nuclear technology is becoming more available, more states, and even non-state actors, may strive to develop nuclear weapons in the future.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use by design, miscalculation or madness, technical or human error, remains real. Nuclear weapons, therefore, continue to bear an unacceptable risk to humanity and to all life on earth. Any use of nuclear weapons could cause gravest humanitarian emergencies and have catastrophic global consequences on the environment, climate, health, social order, human development and the economy.

A single detonation of a modern nuclear weapon would cause destruction and human suffering on a scale far exceeding the devastation seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No State or international body would be able to provide adequate assistance. Nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat to all humankind. These risks are not abstract. They are real, more serious than previously known and can never be eliminated completely.

In the past few years, a growing number of states and many civil society actors focussed on the humanitarian consequences and risks associated with nuclear weapons through different national, regional and international events and activities. Two international conferences were devoted specifically to this issue; in Oslo, Norway, in March 2013 and Nayarit, Mexico, in February 2014.

This increased focus on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons is an important development and has a positive and uniting effect on international discussions about nuclear weapons. The more the international community discusses and understands the scale of these consequences and of the risks involved, the clearer the case and the stronger the sense of urgency become for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The government of Austria is proud to host the 3rd international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons which will take place on 8 and 9 December 2014 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. With this conference, Austria wishes to strengthen the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime and to contribute to the growing momentum to firmly anchor the humanitarian imperative in all global efforts dealing with nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament.

The Vienna Conference will

- be open to all interested parties. All states will receive official invitations and will be invited to nominate experts and/or senior officials. International organizations and civil society representatives with relevant expertise will also be welcome;

- will feature facts based discussions and expert presentations and aims to allow for an interactive debate among participants;

- Will also provide delegations an opportunity for statements of a more general nature;

A limited sponsorship program for LDC participants is forseen.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Eastern countries (of the EU) oppose EU climate goals.

The EUObserver, By Peter Teffer, .October 2, 2014

Brussels – With only three weeks to go before the European Council is to make a final decision on new climate goals for 2030, six Central and Eastern European countries have declared their opposition to the proposed targets.

In an effort to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, the European Commission proposed in January 2014 several targets for 2030.

Greenhouse gas emissions should be 40 percent lower; the market share of renewable energy should be 27 percent and energy efficiency should be improved by 30 percent.

In March and June, the European Council failed to agree on the commission’s proposal. When the EU government leaders meet again on 23 and 24 October in Brussels, they hope to reach a “final decision on the new climate and energy policy framework”.

However, the ministers and deputy ministers for environment of six Central and Eastern European countries, declared on Tuesday (September 30) their opposition to binding targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The six countries are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

The six ask for a framework that “reflects different regional needs and circumstances”. The energy mix differs greatly among member states and reaching the targets will be easier for some than others.

The EU share of renewable energy consumption was 14.1 percent in 2012, according to Eurostat, but that average conceals regional differences.

Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic are below that average, with shares between 9.6 and 11.2 percent. Most of the six rely heavily on coal, which is one of the energy sources that emits the most carbon dioxide.

The question then is, which targets will be binding for the whole of EU, and which for each individual member state.

A group of 13 mostly western and northern European states, called the Green Growth Group, is in favour of a binding greenhouse gas target of 40 percent for member states.

But in March it said the “Council should agree on a binding EU renewables energy target which should not be translated into binding national targets by the EU, leaving greater flexibility for Member States to develop their own renewable energy strategies.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Our original posting date was September 25, 2011, and we do this re-posting because we were just reminded of the article by a comment I received from India from seemingly a non-political person. We wonder ourselves if that article is still relevant after this week’s events at the UN, and on the eve of a new meeting today in Washington between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

—————————————————————————————–

THE LINK IS HERE AND YOU CAN READ IT BUT NOT COPY IT:
 www.menafn.com/qn_news_story_s.as…

of September 25, 2011.

MENAFN – stands for Middle East North Africa – read ARAB  Financial Network – it is   a Delaware-based corporation with a wholly owned subsidiary in Amman, Jordan.

So, it must be an American Oil Industry enterprise, probably close to the Republican party,  with a Jordanian address as well.

The site [www.menafn.com] offers regional and global business content in both Arabic and English. It attracts over 340,000 highly targeted visitors on a regular basis.

It has a weekly e-Newsletter that reaches 55,000 subscribers. It summarizes major business news and events, market data and research for the Middle East region and the globe.

We hope that our readers in the Arab world see this posting of ours on www.SustainabiliTank.info so they understand the depth of the hole their leaders have dug for the Arab world. There is no way to bitch about Israel – if you are not ready to acknowledge the Israelis that try to find a way to peace. You will not have peace if you do not recognize Israel.
If some business interest thinks they can profit from the state of war the time has come that the Arab World distances itself from them.

——————————-

BUT THE ARTICLE IS AS FOLLOWS – AND WE GOT IT FROM URI AVNERY HIMSELF.

WHY DID MENAFN NOT POST THAT ARTICLE AS ORIGINALLY POSTED?  - THEY TOOK IT VERBATIM FROM AVNERY AND DID NOT MENTION HIM –  NEITHER DID THEY SAY  THAT AVNERY, – OR AT LEAST “THE WRITER” –  IS AN ISRAELI.  THIS SHORTCOMING POSES BIG QUESTION ON THE CREDIBILITY OF THIS MENA – MIDDLE EAST NORTH AFRICA – READ ARAB – FINANCIAL REPORT.

THIS REMINDS US OF THE ARAB SPRING, TAHRIR SQUARE,  LEADER WHOM I ASKED IN VIENNA, BEFORE AN AUDIENCE  - IF AN ISRAELI LIKE URI AVNERY APPROACHES YOU WOULD YOU OUTSTRETCH YOUR HAND IN PEACE?  SHE ANSWERED FLATLY – “NO! HE IS A ZIONIST.”

THIS IS THE REAL DOWNFALL OF THE ARAB WORLD – AND IN NO WAY CAN I HAVE SYMPATHY FOR SUCH HYPOCRASY.

WHY DID NOT THIS MENAFN ACKNOWLEDGE URI AVNERY? WHY DID THEY NOT HAVE THE GUTS TO SAY – WELCOME ABOARD – HERE YOU ARE THE ISRAELI WE WANT TO TALK TO.  IN THE LIGHT OF THIS LACK OF HONESTY AND LACK OF COURAGE  -  I THINJK NOW THAT URI AVNERY HAS INDEED GOOD REASON TO RETHINK HIS NOBLE VIEWS.

————————–

Uri Avnery

September 24, 2011

Abu Mazen’s Gamble

A WONDERFUL SPEECH. A beautiful speech.

The language expressive and elegant. The arguments clear and convincing. The delivery flawless.

A work of art. The art of hypocrisy. Almost every statement in the passage concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue was a lie. A blatant lie: the speaker knew it was a lie, and so did the audience.

It was Obama at his best, Obama at his worst.

Being a moral person, he must have felt the urge to vomit. Being a pragmatic person, he knew that he had to do it, if he wanted to be re-elected.

In essence, he sold the fundamental national interests of the United States of America for the chance of a second term.

Not very nice, but that’s politics, OK?

IT MAY be superfluous – almost insulting to the reader – to point out the mendacious details of this rhetorical edifice.

Obama treated the two sides as if they were equal in strength – Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis.

But of the two, it is the Israelis – only they – who suffer and have suffered. Persecution. Exile. Holocaust. An Israeli child threatened by rockets. Surrounded by the hatred of Arab children. So sad.

No Occupation. No settlements. No June 1967 borders. No Naqba. No Palestinian children killed or frightened. It’s the straight right-wing Israeli propaganda line, pure and simple – the terminology, the historical narrative, the argumentation. The music.

The Palestinians, of course, should have a state of their own. Sure, sure. But they must not be pushy. They must not embarrass the US. They must not come to the UN. They must sit with the Israelis, like reasonable people, and work it out with them. The reasonable sheep must sit down with the reasonable wolf and decide what to have for dinner. Foreigners should not interfere.

Obama gave full service. A lady who provides this kind of service generally gets paid in advance. Obama got paid immediately afterwards, within the hour. Netanyahu sat down with him in front of the cameras and gave him enough quotable professions of love and gratitude to last for several election campaigns.

THE TRAGIC hero of this affair is Mahmoud Abbas. A tragic hero, but a hero nonetheless.

Many people may be surprised by this sudden emergence of Abbas as a daring player for high stakes, ready to confront the mighty US.

If Ariel Sharon were to wake up for a moment from his years-long coma, he would faint with amazement. It was he who called Mahmoud Abbas “a plucked chicken”.

Yet for the last few days, Abbas was the center of global attention. World leaders conferred about how to handle him, senior diplomats were eager to convince him of this or that course of action, commentators were guessing what he would do next. His speech before the UN General Assembly was treated as an event of consequence.

Not bad for a chicken, even for one with a full set of feathers.

His emergence as a leader on the world stage is somewhat reminiscent of Anwar Sadat.

When Gamal Abd-al-Nasser unexpectedly died at the age of 52 in 1970 and his official deputy, Sadat, assumed his mantle, all political experts shrugged.

Sadat? Who the hell is that? He was considered a nonentity, an eternal No. 2, one of the least important members of the group of “free officers” that was ruling Egypt.

In Egypt, a land of jokes and jokers, witticisms about him abounded. One concerned the prominent brown mark on his forehead. The official version was that it was the result of much praying, hitting the ground with his forehead. But the real reason, it was told, was that at meetings, after everyone else had spoken, Sadat would get up and try to say something. Nasser would good-naturedly put his finger to his forehead, push him gently down and say: “Sit, Anwar!”

To the utter amazement of the experts – and especially the Israeli ones – this “nonentity” took a huge gamble by starting the 1973 October War, and proceeded to do something unprecedented in history: going to the capital of an enemy country still officially in a state of war and making peace.

Abbas’ status under Yasser Arafat was not unlike Sadat’s under Nasser. However, Arafat never appointed a deputy. Abbas was one of a group of four or five likely successors. The heir would surely have been Abu Jihad, had he not been killed by Israeli commandoes in front of his wife and children. Another likely candidate, Abu Iyad, was killed by Palestinian terrorists. Abu Mazen (Abbas) was in a way the choice by default.

Such politicians, emerging suddenly from under the shadow of a great leader, generally fall into one of two categories: the eternal frustrated No. 2 or the surprising new leader.

The Bible gives us examples of both kinds. The first was Rehoboam, the son and heir of the great King Solomon, who told his people: “my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions”. The other kind was represented by Joshua, the heir of Moses. He was no second Moses, but according to the story a great conqueror in his own right.

Modern history tells the sad story of Anthony Eden, the long-suffering No. 2 of Winston Churchill, who commanded little respect. (Mussolini called him, after their first meeting, “a well-tailored idiot.”). Upon assuming power, he tried desperately to equal Churchill and soon embroiled Britain in the 1956 Suez disaster. To the second category belonged Harry Truman, the nobody who succeeded the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt and surprised everybody as a resolute leader.

Abbas looked like belonging to the first kind. Now, suddenly, he is revealed as belonging to the second. The world is treating him with newfound respect. Nearing the end of his career, he made the big gamble.

BUT WAS it wise? Courageous, yes. Daring, yes. But wise?

My answer is: Yes, it was.

Abbas has placed the quest for Palestinian freedom squarely on the international table. For more than a week, Palestine has been the center of international attention. Scores of international statesmen and -women, including the leader of the world’s only superpower, have been busy with Palestine.

For a national movement, that is of the utmost importance. Cynics may ask: “So what did they gain from it?” But cynics are fools. A liberation movement gains from the very fact that the world pays attention, that the media grapple with the problem, that people of conscience all over the world are aroused. It strengthens morale at home and brings the struggle a step nearer its goal.

Oppression shuns the limelight. Occupation, settlements, ethnic cleansing thrive in the shadows. It is the oppressed who need the light of day. Abbas’ move provided it, at least for the time being.

BARACK OBAMA’s miserable performance was a nail in the coffin of America’s status as a superpower. In a way, it was a crime against the United States.

The Arab Spring may have been a last chance for the US to recover its standing in the Middle East. After some hesitation, Obama realized that. He called on Mubarak to go, helped the Libyans against their tyrant, made some noises about Bashar al-Assad. He knows that he has to regain the respect of the Arab masses if he wants to recover some stature in the region, and by extension throughout the world.

Now he has blown it, perhaps forever. No self-respecting Arab will forgive him for plunging his knife into the back of the helpless Palestinians. All the credit the US has tried to gain in the last months in the Arab and the wider Muslim world has been blown away with one puff.

All for reelection.

IT WAS also a crime against Israel.

Israel needs peace. Israel needs to live side by side with the Palestinian people, within the Arab world. Israel cannot rely forever on the unconditional support of the declining United States.

Obama knows this full well. He knows what is good for Israel, even if Netanyahu doesn’t. Yet he has handed the keys of the car to the drunken driver.

The State of Palestine will come into being. This week it was already clear that this is unavoidable. Obama will be forgotten, as will Netanyahu, Lieberman and the whole bunch.

Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen, as the Palestinians call him – will be remembered. The “plucked chicken” is soaring into the sky.


###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 30th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We knew Hank as a friend and tennis partner of Ernie Schneider who was the editor of the writings of Mr. Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute (the Herman on the Hudson). We met Hank at the house of Suzy and Ernie Schneider. Suzy who was a daughter to a honored Austrian family was a colleague of my wife at the Austrian Consulate General in New York City and the Schneiders and Laventhols lived in Croton on the Hudson.

Hank liked to talk politics but professionally was rather a relaxed painter who liked classic music and jazz. We praised his work, and for disclosure I must say that we are proud of one of his piano/Chopin prints that hangs in our Vienna living room next to a New Orleans Jazz scene done by our son Gil.

When I first wrote the review I wanted to make reference to Hank’s whole range of work and realized that some of the reviews of his work were under a wrong spelling of his name that used the letter “a” instead of the “o” in Laventhol. I did not think that he should suffer from that seemingly widespread mistake and mentioned this other spelling as well. It turns out that Ms. Laventhol is upset with this alternate spelling – so I am taking it of my posting but have no power over all those other articles one finds on the internet.

Also, and this is more substantial, I was not careful in giving credits to the source of the material I quoted in that first posting. Now let me add here that probably all the photos of the paintings by Hank Laventhol were taken by his wife – Josay Laventhol. Probably much of the data about him was also taken from biography written by his wife, though I am sure I peppered it with material from some of the other reviews as well. Sorry if all of this has hurt feelings of the family.


THE FOLLOWING IS PART OF OUR ORIGINAL REVIEW OF DECEMBER 26, 2011.

HANK  LAVENTHOL  

Birth name     Henry Lee Laventhol

Born               21 December 1927

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Died               21 February 2001

Somers, New York

Field              painting, graphics, sculpture,

photography

Movement     neosurrealism

Laventhol’s mysteriously romantic  landscapes and  multiple  images evoke dream states and double meanings.” Pictures on Exhibit. N.Y.C.

shell wars, oil on linen, 20”X26”        Image 1

Hank Laventhol, an American painter,   made his early career in Europe. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Laventhol graduated Yale University with a B.A. in Fine Arts and did post graduate studies at Columbia University. At age 32 he left his business life in New York City for Europe to pursue his early vocation and life long interest in art. He studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Florence, Italy and eventually spent ten years in Europe, making his home in Mallorca, Spain. He had four solo shows in London and exhibited in  major cities in Western Europe.  He returned to the United States for good in 1970, settling in Westchester County, New York, with his  Dutch born wife.

Trained as a sculptor he  worked in many other media, including painting, print making, drawing and photography.  He said “ they all mesh for me.” Laventhol painted on wooden panels prepared with gesso using the ancient egg tempera technique until he towed an American couple  in a failing rental car to a garage outside Madrid.  In gratitude, they sent him a roll of Belgian linen which started him painting on canvas using oil and acrylics.

He was a master printer,  specializing in multi plate color etchings and aquatints, a demanding and precise process that provided him with a variety of color and texture, unrivaled by any other etching technique. He owned two Wright presses and pulled his own limited edition  prints. Publishers include Associated American Artists,  New York Graphic Society, Original Print Collectors Group Ltd., Georges Visat, Paris, and Pierre Chave, Vence, France.  Laventhol was a guest lecturer at Pratt Graphic Center, New York City and wrote articles about print making,   specializing in how to achieve perfect register in multiple color aquatint.

In the United States, his work was seen at four solo shows in New York City as well as  one man and group  shows across America.

Laventhol’s work is in corporate and private collections, museums and libraries, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Yale University Museum, the New York Public Library Print Collection, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Bibliotèque Nationale,  Paris, France.  Laventhol has been listed in Benezit, the definitive international  Directory of Artists.

Published illustrated portfolios include: “Le Miroir Aux Alouettes” by Georges Visat, Paris, with six color aquatint etchings and a poem by Andre Serini. Later porfolios include “Les Crises” and “Eyedeas.”

Eggs, eyes, roses, and flying torsos were recurring themes. Some critics considered him a surrealist. Laventhol, however, preferred to think of his work as dealing with fantasy realism.

* * *

Hank Laventhol, a gregarious,  kind man with a fine, broad mind  enjoyed life to the fullest. Besides being a disciplined, hard worker he had a wide array of interests and hobbies. His art was his passion, but he rarely started a day without an early game of tennis. He was an eclectic music lover and an opera and chamber music buff.  It was hilarious to hear him sing along with all the voices while listening to an opera as he worked. He was well versed in American folk music and loved playing  his classical  guitar  -  not well,  he admitted. During the 1960s he sought out small locales all over Europe to tape indigenous music – Flamenco in Spain, Fado in Portugal, Stornelli in Italy and jazz in Northern Europe – using a huge reel to reel recorder.  Mexican and South American indigenous music  was another interest added to his music  collection .

He spoke fluent Spanish and Italian and said he knew enough French,  Dutch and German  to defend himself. Whatever the topic, he communicated. His sense of humor got him past being embarrassed. An adventurous traveler with an infallible sense of direction, Laventhol met his Dutch born wife over a chessboard in Mallorca, Spain, and was kind enough to let her win a few times during the ensuing 40 years. An imaginative chef, he made up his own multi cultural recipes. Stuffed trout was served with the head on. Asian wok-cooked food was a treat. Dill, unavailable in Mallorca, was imported from the U.S. to pickle a fresh crop of cucumbers in large clay pots placed around his Mallorca rental house.  When  they started fizzing,  it was time to serve them to his  “expat” friends, together with his amazingly good  baked beans. He used a wood chip smoker to prepare  fish and fowl and made his own gravlax and seviche. He said eating Dutch New Herring in the Netherlands was a life altering experience.

Frugal artistic life never held his ingenious imagination back. Any potential problem or road block was dealt with and solutions found. The Mallorcan car mechanic built an hibachi that was carried from his tiny fishing boat, which he called,  a “one lunger”, to friends’ houses. The same mechanic fabricated a roof rack for a convertible VW beetle  to carry paintings to art shows. Laventhol’s talents  converted what he saw as poetry into striking atmospheric work with a touch of the mystical.

* * *

1991                                                                       1992 – self portrait
hand /eye wind mill

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 27th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


LOCATION: Vienna International Centre, Wagramer Strasse 5, 1400 Vienna, Austria.


A Meeting intended to help shape the new development agenda for next decade.


Background and Mandate:

The General Assembly in its resolution 66/214 of 22 December 2011 and resolution 67/222 of 3 April 2013 decided to hold a comprehensive ten-year review Conference of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2014, in accordance with paragraph 49 of the Almaty Programme of Action and paragraph 32 of the Declaration on the midterm review.

This Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) will be held from 3 to 5 November 2014 in Vienna, Austria. At the LLDC Conference, participants from governments of LLDCs, transit developing countries and donor countries, UN and other international organizations and the private sector will come together to shape the new development agenda for the landlocked developing countries for the next decade.

The Conference will be preceded, where necessary, by regional and global as well as thematic preparations in a most effective, well-structured and broad participatory manner. Intergovernmental mechanisms at the global and regional levels, including those of the United Nations Regional Commissions, as well as relevant substantive material and statistical data, should be effectively utilized in the review process.

In the same resolution the General Assembly designated the UN Office of the High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS (UN-OHRLLS) as the United Nations System-wide focal point for the preparatory review process and noted that United Nations system organizations, including UNCTAD, UNDP, Regional Commissions and relevant international and regional development and financial organizations, within their respective mandate, should provide necessary support and actively contribute to the preparatory review process and the comprehensive ten-year review conference itself.
Conference Objectives:

Comprehensively and critically assess the implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action (APoA), with the view to identify effective international and domestic policies in the light of the outcome of the comprehensive appraisal, as well as new and emerging challenges and opportunities and the means to address them, and develop a new common action-oriented strategic framework for the next decade.
Reaffirm the global commitment to addressing the special needs of the landlocked developing countries, in particular those related to infrastructure development, transit and trade facilitation, policy framework, in order to reduce prohibitive transit costs and enable those countries to fully participate in the global trade.
Mobilize additional international support measures in favour of the landlocked developing countries, and in this regard, formulate and adopt a renewed partnership between the landlocked developing countries, transit developing countries and their development partners.
Develop a more efficient monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the successful implementation of the new programme of action by an effective functioning of existing arrangements at national, sub-regional, regional and global levels.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Environment – The Guardian / By Fiona Harvey

Lord Stern Report: Transform Global Economy to Fight Climate Change: One of the most influential voices on global warming releases a plan to fight climate change while growing the global economy.

September 16, 2014 |

The world can still act in time to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and enjoy the fruits of continued economic growth as long as the global economy can be transformed within the next 15 years, a group of the world’s leading economists and political leaders will argue on Tuesday.

Tackling climate change can be a boon to prosperity, rather than a brake, according to the study involving a roll-call of the globe’s biggest institutions, including the UN, the OECD group of rich countries, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and co-authored by Lord Stern, one of the world’s most influential voices on climate economics.

The report comes ahead of a UN-convened summit of world leaders on global warming next week at which David Cameron has pledged to lead calls for strong action.

“Reducing emissions is not only compatible with economic growth and development – if done well it can actually generate better growth than the old high-carbon model,” said Stern.

It is his most significant intervention in climate politics since the landmark 2006 Stern review of the economics of climate change, which made the case that tackling climate change as a matter of urgency will be cheaper than attempting to deal with the effects of the problem decades in the future. That report marked a revolution in thinking on global warming, and was a major factor in the agreements forged in Copenhagen in 2009 by which developed and major developing countries for the first time set out joint measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The economic transformation proposed in the new report will improve the lives of billions, the authors argue, from people suffering from air pollution in crowded cities to farmers struggling with poor soils in developing countries, the authors found. But achieving this change will require strong political action to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions, while promoting alternatives such as renewable energy, sustainable cities, teaching modern farming techniques and better-designed transport.

The world is expected to add billions of people to the global population in the next two decades, and trillions of dollars in economic growth – but if the massive expected growth of developing world cities is poorly managed, and global investment is poured into existing high-carbon infrastructure, then a unique opportunity to change the pattern of prosperity will have been lost, and billions of people will be left the poorer as a result, the report warns.

Stern gave the example of cities, which if designed on public transport can have more efficient economies – because people aren’t spending hours commuting and polluting, with its attendant effects on health – as well as better quality of life and lower carbon emissions.

The energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, told the Guardian that the UK has already seen benefits from focusing on clean development, and was committed to helping developing countries do the same. He said: “It has required UK business and international investors to recognize the costs of failure and the benefits of change and it has been sustained by a strong, vocal and committed network of NGOs, pressure groups and activists who have been instrumental in sustaining political will and public acceptance.”

At next week’s climate summit, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, will convene heads of state and government from around the world to discuss climate change for the first time since the 2009 Copenhagen conference, which produced the first commitments from major developing countries such as China and India to curb emissions, and marked the first time the US agreed to binding emissions targets, but was widely derided for the scenes of chaos that accompanied it.

Convening world leaders again is a risky strategy, but is seen by the UN as essential to lay the ground for a crunch meeting in Paris next year, at which world governments will attempt to forge a new agreement that will cut global greenhouse gas emissions after 2020, when current pledges run out. The EU has vowed to cut emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, but is the only major developed country bloc to have laid out clear plans.

Today’s report, the New Climate Economy, from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, says that although technological “fixes” to climate change – such as renewable energy, low-carbon fuels, better urban design and better use of agricultural land – are growing fast, they are currently nowhere near enough to produce the transformation needed. As new power stations, cities and transport networks are built today, they are still being engineered on a high-carbon basis – coal-fired power plants, roads rather than public transport, slums without facilities rather than planned developments – and once these are built they lock in high carbon emissions for decades to come. Breaking that cycle requires a coordinated effort, from rich and poor countries, that prioritizes sustainability and penalizes high-carbon growth, for instance through a price on carbon.

Such efforts will come at a price, but this is far outweighed by the benefits in economic growth and improvements in health, the report suggests. For instance, reducing the world’s dependence on coal and other dirty fuels will cut air pollution and remove a key source of strain on healthcare systems.


The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, launched a year ago by the UK along with six other countries, has involved the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the International Energy Agency and the UN, as well as several research institutes, and former world premiers. It has been chaired by the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, and advised by leading economists including Lord Stern and Nobel prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Michael Spence.

Ottmar Edenhofer, chief economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and an adviser to the report, said: “Economic growth and emissions reductions can be achieved together, the report clearly confirms …

Pricing CO2 is key. The heaven above us today is a waste dump for gases that harm our climate system. Wealthy states are disposing of them, free of charge, at the expense of all of us. If emitting CO2 came at a reasonable price, this would stabilize investors’ expectations so they can push forward the innovation of climate friendly technologies.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 From Daniel Pipes:

Dear Reader:

The article below began life as a presentation at a Muslim conference in Toronto a week ago and is today published in Turkish and English by a newspaper in Turkey.

Also: I appeared August 22 on Sun News Network’s The Arena with Michael Coren, and discussed “Hamas and ISIS on the Rampage.” It’s studio quality and 8 minutes long. Click here.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Pipes


The Caliphate Brings Trauma.

by Daniel Pipes
Ayd?nl?k (Turkey)
August 24, 2014

www.danielpipes.org/14791/caliphate-trauma

Without warning, the ancient and long powerless institution of the caliphate returned to life on June 29, 2014.
What does this event augur?

The classic concept of the caliphate – of a single successor to Muhammad ruling a unified Muslim state – lasted just over a century and expired with the emergence of two caliphs in 750 CE.

The power of the caliphate collapsed in about the year 940 CE. After a prolonged, shadowy existence, the institution disappeared altogether in 1924. The only subsequent efforts at revival were trivial, such as the so-called Kalifatsstaat in Cologne, Germany. In other words, the caliphate has been inoperative for about a millennium and absent for about a century.

 

“The Kaplan Case,” a German magazine cover story about the “Caliph of Cologne.”


The group named the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria conquered the city of Mosul, population 1.7 million, in June; days later, it adopted the name Islamic State and declared the return of the caliphate. Its capital is the historic town of Raqqa, Syria (population just 220,000), which not-coincidentally served as the caliphate’s capital under Harun al-Rashid for 13 years.

Under the authority of an Iraqi named Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim, the new caliphate projects boundless ambition to rule the entire world (“east and west”) and to impose a uniquely primitive, fanatical, and violent form of Islamic law on everyone.

 

{Harun al-Rashid was the fifth Abbasid Caliph. His actual birth date is debatable, and various sources give dates from 763 to 766. His surname translates to “the Just,” “the Upright” or “the Rightly-Guided.”  He died: March 24, 809 AD, Tous, Iran.

Al-Rashid ruled from 786 to 809, during the peak of the Islamic Golden Age. His time was marked by scientific, cultural, and religious prosperity. Islamic art and music also flourished significantly during his reign. He established the legendary library Bayt al-Hikma (“House of Wisdom”) in Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, and during his rule Baghdad began to flourish as a center of knowledge, culture and trade.

In 796, he moved his court and government to Ar-Raqqah in modern-day Syria.

Since Harun was intellectually, politically, and militarily resourceful, his life and his court have been the subject of many tales. Some are claimed to be factual, but most are believed to be fictitious. An example of what is factual, is the story of the clock that was among various presents that Harun had sent to Charlemagne. The presents were carried by the returning Frankish mission that came to offer Harun friendship in 799. Charlemagne and his retinue deemed the clock to be a conjuration for the sounds it emanated and the tricks it displayed every time an hour ticked.  Among what is known to be fictional is  The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, which contains many stories that are fantasized by Harun’s magnificent court and even Harun al-Rashid himself.

Amongst some Shia Muslims he is despised for his role in the murder of the 7th Imam, Musa ibn Ja’far.

(These lines above were  added by PJ when editing this material for SustainabiliTank.info as we wonder how the ISIS fighters reconcile their deeds with the historic image that put the Ar-Raqqah town on the Caliphate’s map?)}

Caliphs of Baghdad
(749–1258)

 

 

Harun al-Rashid as imagined in a 1965 Hungarian stamp.

 

I have predicted that this Islamic State, despite its spectacular rise, will not survive: “confronted with hostility both from neighbors and its subject population, [it] will not last long.” At the same time, I expect it will leave a legacy:

No matter how calamitous the fate of Caliph Ibrahim and his grim crew, they have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it.

 

Looking ahead, here is my more specific forecast for the current caliphate’s legacy:

1. Now that the ice is broken, other ambitious Islamists will act more boldly by declaring themselves caliph. There may well be a proliferation of them in different regions, from Nigeria to Somalia to Afghanistan to Indonesia and beyond.

2. Declaring a caliphate has major implications, making it attractive to jihadis across the umma (the worldwide Muslim community) and compelling it to acquire sovereign control of territory.

3. The Saudi state has taken on a quasi-caliphal role since the formal disappearance of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. With the emergence of the Raqqa caliphate, the Saudi king and his advisors will be sorely tempted to declare their own version. If the current “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (as the Saudi king like to be called), who just turned 90, does not indulge this claim, his successors might well do so, thereby becoming the first caliphate in a recognized state.

 


Pope Benedict XVI (right) met in 2007 with Saudi king (and future Caliph?) Abdullah.
{is this picture a sign of things to come – the Saudi King’s ambition to speak for all Islam?}


4. The Islamic Republic of Iran, the great Shi’ite power, might well do the same, not wanting to be conceptually out-gunned by the Sunnis in Riyadh, thus becoming the second formal caliphal state.

5. This profusion of caliphs will further exacerbate the anarchy and internecine hostility among Muslim peoples.

6. Disillusion will quickly set in. Caliphates will not bring personal security, justice, economic growth, or cultural achievement. One after another, these self-declared universal states will collapse, be overrun, or let lapse their grandiose claims.

7. This caliphate-declaring madness will end some decades hence, with a return to roughly the pre-June 29, 2014, conditions. Looking back then on the caliphal eruption, it will appear as an anachronistic anomaly, an obstacle to modernizing the umma, and a bad dream.

 

In short, declaring the caliphate on June 29 was a major event; and the caliphate is an institution whose time has long passed and, therefore, whose revival bodes much trauma.

—————————–

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. This paper was first delivered at a QeRN Academy conference on “The Caliphate as a Political System: Historic Myth or Future Reality?” in Toronto on August 16, 2014. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Related Topics:  History, Islam This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism:

ISIS Atrocities Started With Saudi Support for Salafi Hate.

By ED HUSAIN,  

ALONG with a billion Muslims across the globe, I turn to Mecca in Saudi Arabia every day to say my prayers. But when I visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the resting place of the Prophet Muhammad, I am forced to leave overwhelmed with anguish at the power of extremism running amok in Islam’s birthplace. Non-Muslims are forbidden to enter this part of the kingdom, so there is no international scrutiny of the ideas and practices that affect the 13 million Muslims who visit each year.

Last week, Saudi Arabia donated $100 million to the United Nations to fund a counterterrorism agency. This was a welcome contribution, but last year, Saudi Arabia rejected a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council. This half-in, half-out posture of the Saudi kingdom is a reflection of its inner paralysis in dealing with Sunni Islamist radicalism: It wants to stop violence, but will not address the Salafism that helps justify it.

Let’s be clear: Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism across the globe.

Most Sunni Muslims around the world, approximately 90 percent of the Muslim population, are not Salafis. Salafism is seen as too rigid, too literalist, too detached from mainstream Islam. While Shiite and other denominations account for 10 percent of the total, Salafi adherents and other fundamentalists represent 3 percent of the world’s Muslims.

Unlike a majority of Sunnis, Salafis are evangelicals who wish to convert Muslims and others to their “purer” form of Islam — unpolluted, as they see it, by modernity. In this effort, they have been lavishly supported by the Saudi government, which has appointed emissaries to its embassies in Muslim countries who proselytize for Salafism. The kingdom also grants compliant imams V.I.P. access for the annual hajj, and bankrolls ultraconservative Islamic organizations like the Muslim World League and World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

After 9/11, under American pressure, much of this global financial support dried up  {something this website doubts indeed – a PJ comment}, but the bastion of Salafism remains strong in the kingdom, enforcing the hard-line application of outdated Shariah punishments long abandoned by a majority of Muslims. Just since Aug. 4, 19 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, nearly half for nonviolent crimes.

We are rightly outraged at the beheading of James Foley by Islamist militants, and by ISIS’ other atrocities, but we overlook the public executions by beheading permitted by Saudi Arabia. By licensing such barbarity, the kingdom normalizes and indirectly encourages such punishments elsewhere. When the country that does so is the birthplace of Islam, that message resonates.

I lived in Saudi Arabia’s most liberal city, Jidda, in 2005. That year, in an effort to open closed Saudi Salafi minds, King Abdullah supported dialogue with people of other religions. In my mosque, the cleric used his Friday Prayer sermon to prohibit such dialogue on grounds that it put Islam on a par with “false religions.” It was a slippery slope to freedom, democracy and gender equality, he argued — corrupt practices of the infidel West.

{ Above is an oxymoron – Wahhabism is the religious base that kept Salafism alive and is the base on which was mounted the Saudi throne. The Saudi monarchy and Wahhabism are one and the same so the Saudi treasury it is also the modern age father of Salafism. And what fills the Saudi treasury? Those are the foreign currencies spent at any gas-pump – be it by buying Saudi oil products or any oil products. As oil is fungible, any oil sold globally increases the value of Saudi oil sales.The bottom line is thus that anyone of us, by his thirst for oil, feeds ISIL.}

This tension between the king and Salafi clerics is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s inability to reform. The king is a modernizer, but he and his advisers do not wish to disturb the 270-year-old tribal pact between the House of Saud and the founder of Wahhabism (an austere form of Islam close to Salafism). That 1744 desert treaty must now be nullified. 

{WHAT IS HE TALING ABOUT HERE – WHAT TENSION? IT REALLY IS A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP.
(PJ comment)}

The influence that clerics wield is unrivaled. Even Saudis’ Twitter heroes are religious figures: An extremist cleric like Muhammad al-Arifi, who was banned last year from the European Union for advocating wife-beating and hatred of Jews, commands a following of 9. 4 million. The kingdom is also patrolled by a religious police force that enforces the veil for women, prohibits young lovers from meeting and ensures that shops do not display “indecent” magazine covers. In the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the religious police beat women with sticks if they stray into male-only areas, or if their dress is considered immodest by Salafi standards. This is not an Islam that the Prophet Muhammad would recognize.

Salafi intolerance has led to the destruction of Islamic heritage in Mecca and Medina. If ISIS is detonating shrines, it learned to do so from the precedent set in 1925 by the House of Saud with the Wahhabi-inspired demolition of 1,400-year-old tombs in the Jannat Al Baqi cemetery in Medina. In the last two years, violent Salafis have carried out similar sectarian vandalism, blowing up shrines from Libya to Pakistan, from Mali to Iraq. Fighters from Hezbollah have even entered Syria to protect holy sites.

Textbooks in Saudi Arabia’s schools and universities teach this brand of Islam. The University of Medina recruits students from around the world, trains them in the bigotry of Salafism and sends them to Muslim communities in places like the Balkans, Africa, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt, where these Saudi-trained hard-liners work to eradicate the local, harmonious forms of Islam.

What is religious extremism but this aim to apply Shariah as state law? This is exactly what ISIS (Islamic State) is attempting do with its caliphate. Unless we challenge this un-Islamic, impractical and flawed concept of trying to govern by a rigid interpretation of Shariah, no amount of work by a United Nations agency can unravel Islamist terrorism.

Saudi Arabia created the monster that is Salafi terrorism. It cannot now outsource the slaying of this beast to the United Nations. It must address the theological and ideological roots of extremism at home, starting in Mecca and Medina. Reforming the home of Islam would be a giant step toward winning against extremism in this global battle of ideas.

—————————

Ed Husain is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior adviser to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 23, 2014, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Commentary Magazine

Contentions

Israel’s Record on Civilian Casualties Compares Well to America’s.

@EvelynCGordon -  08.19.2014 – The Commentary Magazine.

Writing in the Washington Post last Friday, Natan Sharansky argued that Western nations are quite right to hold Israel to a higher standard than its nondemocratic neighbors; the problem is that they hold Israel to a higher standard than they hold themselves. Many Westerners would doubtless deny doing so. But for proof, just compare the recent war in Gaza to the Iraq War.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, of the victims of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq whose age and gender could be determined, 46 percent were women and 39 percent were children. The study, based on data from Iraq Body Count, covered the period from March 2003 to March 2008, but specifically excluded airstrikes carried out during periods of intense fighting, such as the initial U.S. invasion and the 2004 battle of Fallujah. In other words, it excluded those periods when fire was likely to be heaviest and most indiscriminate due to the need to protect troops at risk.

By contrast, according to statistics published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 12 percent of all Palestinians killed in Gaza were women and 23 percent were children (239 women and 459 children out of 1,976 fatalities). Thus even if OCHA’s numbers are accurate, the percentages of women and children killed in Gaza were far lower than the percentages killed in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. Yet one would expect them to be higher, for at least three reasons.

First, unlike the NEJM study, OCHA’s figures cover the entire war, including periods of intense fighting when soldiers’ lives were at risk. In other words, they include the battles involving the heaviest fire, which NEJM’s study excluded. Second, the NEJM figures referred only to airstrikes, which utilize precision weapons; OCHA’s figures also include people killed by non-precision weaponry such as artillery fire. Third, though the claim that Gaza is one of the world’s mostly densely populated places is nonsense, almost all the fighting took place in dense urban areas: Since Hamas’s strategy depends on massive civilian casualties, it locates its rocket launchers and tunnels mainly in such areas. In contrast, U.S. airstrikes in Iraq weren’t limited to dense urban areas.

In short, even if OCHA’s figures are credible, Israel comes off well by comparison with coalition forces in Iraq. But in fact, they aren’t. First, OCHA doesn’t say whether any of these “children” were combatants, though it’s hardly unheard of for 16- or 17-year-old Palestinians to bear arms. More importantly, however, it doesn’t say how many of these women and children were actually killed by Hamas rather than Israel.

As I’ve noted before, almost a sixth of all Palestinian rockets launched at Israel–475 out of 3,137–actually landed in Gaza, where, given the lack of either Iron Dome or civilian bomb shelters, they would have been far more lethal than they were in Israel. In one documented case alone, a misfired Hamas rocket killed 10 people in a park, including eight children.

Moreover, as I’ve also noted, Hamas’s practice of booby-trapping and storing rockets in houses, mosques, and clinics means that many Israeli strikes inadvertently set off massive secondary explosions. In other words, many Palestinian “victims of Israeli attacks” were likely killed not by the Israeli strike itself, but by secondary explosions caused by Hamas’s own bombs.

Americans rightly expect the world to understand that when U.S. airstrikes decimate a Yemeni wedding party or kill civilians in Iraq, it isn’t because the U.S. is bloodthirsty, but because mistakes happen in wartime, especially when fighting terrorists who don’t wear uniforms and operate from amid civilian populations. But Israel is entitled to that same understanding.

Instead, the White House, Pentagon, and State Department have all accused Israel in the harshest terms of doing too little to prevent civilian casualties. Given that Israel’s record on this score, as the NEJM study shows, is even better than America’s, that is the height of hypocrisy.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The changing landscape of religion.

Laxenburg, Austria, 20 August 2014: The mixes of religion and ethnicity in society are changing in Vienna, Europe, and the world. IIASA research provides a demographic perspective. 

Religion is a key factor in demography, important for projections of future population growth as well as for other social indicators. A new journal, Yearbook of International Religious Demography, is the first to bring a quantitative demographic focus to the study of religion. The journal is co-edited by IIASA researcher Vegard Skirbekk, an expert in the field of religious demography. The first edition of the journal includes three studies by IIASA researchers:
 

Vienna: Growing diversity in religion and ethnicity.

The city of Vienna is growing increasingly diverse in both religion and ethnicity, according to a new study by IIASA researcher Markus Speringer and Ramon Bauer of the Vienna Institute for Demography, which explored how Vienna’s ethnic and religious diversity has developed from 1970 to 2011.

The study reflects Vienna’s changing religious and ethnic structure, which has seen increased migration since 1970. By 2011, almost a third of Vienna’s population was foreign-born, the study showed. But while in 2001, a majority of those immigrants came from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, in 2011 the immigrant population was far more diverse, including many newcomers from Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.

At the same time, the percentage of Roman Catholics has declined in the city, from nearly 80% in 1971 to less than 50% in 2001. This decline is due to both an increase in religious disaffiliation as well as an influx of people of different religions, the study shows.

The study also assessed the makeup of Vienna’s neighborhoods – showing that most migrants live in Vienna’s inner districts, in diverse, mixed neighborhoods. The outer districts of Vienna, by contrast, are mainly home to people born in Austria with a catholic religious affiliation.

 

Europe:  Immigration and religious switching.

Christians still make up 75% of people in Europe, according to a second paper published in the journal, which quantified Europe’s population by religious affiliation. The study, led by IIASA researcher Marcin Stonawski, showed that the next-largest group (18%) of Europeans claims no religious affiliation, and Muslims are the third-largest group with about 6% of the population. The study estimated religious distribution by age and sex for 42 countries – the first to provide such a detailed demographic analysis over all of Europe. It shows that the Christian population is relatively old, with a median age of 41.7 years, while the median age for the Muslim population was 31.8 years.
Contact: Marcin Stonawski stonaw@iiasa.ac.at


A third paper published in the new journal provides the methodology behind the Pew Research Global Religious Landscape Study published in 2012, the most thorough demographic analysis to date of global religious populations. The study, based on more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers, found that 84% of the 2010 world population was affiliated with a religion. The study also found that roughly one-in-six people around the globe had no religious affiliation.

The report included estimates of the religious composition of over 230 countries and territories and, for the first time ever, median age data for followers of each religion. The study documented a wide gulf between the median age of Muslims (23) and Jews (36).
 
The report was produced by the Pew Research Center in collaboration with researchers from the Age and Cohort Change Project (ACC) at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), including Vegard Skirbekk, Marcin Stonawski and Michaela Potancokova.
Contact: Vegard Skirbekk  skirbekk@iiasa.ac.at

Reference
Feng, Kuishuang, Klaus Hubacek, Stephan Pfister, Yang Yu, Laixiang Sun. 2014. “Virtual Scarce Water in China.” Environmental Science and Technology, dx.doi.org/10.1021/es500502q.

For PDF copies of the studies highlighted in this release please contact IIASA Press Officer Katherine Leitzell.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Burgenland Nachhaltigkeitstage Nachhaltigkeitstage Nachhaltigkeitstage Nachhaltigkeitstage Nachhaltigkeitstage Nachhaltigkeitstage Nachhaltigkeitstage NachhaltigkeitstageLogo Lebensministerium
for the full article:    
Stimmen-Alois_Schwarz Dr. Alois Schwarz, Diözesanbischof. In der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz für Wirtschaft und Nachhaltigkeit zuständig
Über ethische und nachhaltige Grundsätze in der Wirtschaft

„Langfristig erfolgreiche Unternehmen zeichnen sich dadurch aus, dass sie eine Balance finden zwischen den Interessen ihrer EigentümerInnen, ihrer KundInnen, Ihrer Mit-arbeiterInnen und der sie umgebenden Umwelt. Solche Unternehmerinnen und Unternehmer würden statt einer kurzfristigen Gewinn-Maximierung langfristiger Stabilität, fairen Kundenbeziehungen und respektvoller Mitarbeiterführung den Vorrang einräumen und mit ihrer gesellschaftlichen und ökologischen Umwelt in offener und verantwortungsvoller Beziehung stehen. Leitbilder leben von den Vorbildern, die sie leben. Erfolgreiche Unternehmen verstünden es, ihren Wertekanon in allen Phasen und Ausgestaltung ihres wirtschaftlichen Daseins konsequent zu leben.“

 

stimmen_helga_kromp-kolbHelga Kromp-Kolb, Institut für Meteorologie Department Wasser-Atmosphäre-Umwelt Universität für Bodenkultur Wien, Österreich

„Nachhaltigkeit, Zukunftsfähigkeit, Enkeltauglichkeit – sie alle bedeuten, heute so zu handeln, dass es ein glückliches Morgen geben kann. Dieses Handeln kann erfreulicher Weise schon heute zu einem erfüllteren Leben verhelfen – um den Preis, Gewohnheiten zu ändern.
Leider müssen wir schnell Handeln – das Klimasystem gerät unwiederbringlich aus dem Gleichgewicht. Es ist wichtig, jetzt zu handeln und andere für das nachhaltige Leben zu begeistern!“

###

« Previous Articles

RSS Feed

back to top