If the goal is to reduce CO2 Emissions – Trading in Permits to Pollute was born at a dead-end and today’s European trading in such permits shows above to be true. New free thinking – that is outside the banking system – is being called for.
In Europe, Paid Permits for Pollution Are Fizzling.
Andrew Testa for The International Herald Tribune
By STANLEY REED and MARK SCOTT
Published: April 21, 2013
LONDON — On a showery afternoon last week in West London, a ripple of enthusiasm went through the trading floor of CF Partners, a privately owned financial company. The price of carbon allowances, shown in green lights on a board hanging from the ceiling, was creeping up toward three euros. That is pretty small change — $3.90, or only about 10 percent of what the price was in 2008. But to the traders it came as a relief after the market had gone into free fall to record lows two days earlier, after the European Parliament spurned an effort to shore up prices by shrinking the number of allowances.
“The market still stands,” said Thomas Rassmuson, a native of Sweden who founded the company with Jonathan Navon, a Briton, in 2006.
Still, Europe’s carbon market, a pioneering effort to use markets to regulate greenhouse gases, is having a hard time staying upright.
This year has been stomach-churning for the people who make their living in the arcane world of trading emissions permits. The most recent volatility comes on top of years of uncertainty during which prices have fluctuated from $40 to nearly zero for the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide.
More important, though, than lost jobs and diminished payouts for traders and bankers, the penny ante price of carbon credits means the market is not doing its job: pushing polluters to reduce carbon emissions, which most climate scientists believe contribute to global warming.
The market for these credits, officially called European Union Allowances, or E.U.A.’s, has been both unstable and under sharp downward pressure this year because of a huge oversupply and a stream of bad political and economic news. On April 16, for instance, after the European Parliament voted down the proposed reduction in the number of credits, prices dropped about 50 percent, to 2.63 euros from nearly 5, in 10 minutes.
“No one was going to buy” on the way down, said Fred Payne, a trader with CF Partners.
Europe’s troubled experience with carbon trading has also discouraged efforts to establish large-scale carbon trading systems in other countries, including the United States, although California and a group of Northeastern states have set up smaller regional markets.
Traders do not mind big price swings in any market — in fact, they can make a lot of money if they play them right.
But over time, the declining prices for the credits have sapped the European market of value, legitimacy and liquidity — the ease with which the allowances can be traded — making it less attractive for financial professionals.
A few years ago, analysts thought world carbon markets were heading for the $2 trillion mark by the end of this decade.
Today, the reality looks much more modest. Total trading last year was 62 billion euros, down from 96 billion in 2011, according to Thomson Reuters Point Carbon, a market research firm based in Oslo. Close to 90 percent of that activity was in Europe, while North American trading represented less than 1 percent of worldwide market value.
Financial institutions that had rushed to increase staff have shrunk their carbon desks. Companies have also laid off other professionals who helped set up greenhouse gas reduction projects in developing countries like China and India.
When the emissions trading system was started in 2005, the goal was to create a global model for raising the costs of emitting greenhouse gases and for prodding industrial polluters to switch from burning fossil fuels to using clean-energy alternatives like wind and solar.
When carbon prices hit their highs of more than 30 euros in 2008 and companies spent billions to invest in renewables, policy makers hailed the market as a success. But then prices began to fall. And at current levels, they are far too low to change companies’ behaviors, analysts say. Emitting a ton of carbon dioxide costs about the same as a hamburger.
“At the moment, the carbon price does not give any signal for investment,” said Hans Bünting, chief executive of RWE, one of the largest utilities in Germany and Europe.
This cap-and-trade system in Europe places a ceiling on emissions. At the end of each year, companies like electric utilities or steel manufacturers must hand over to the national authorities the permits equivalent to the amount gases emitted.
Until the end of 2012, these credits were given to companies free according to their estimated output of greenhouse gases. Policy makers wanted to jump-start the trading market and avoid higher costs for consumers.
Beginning this year, energy companies must buy an increasing proportion of their credits in national auctions. Industrial companies like steel plants will follow later this decade.
Companies and other financial players like banks and hedge funds can also acquire and trade the allowances on exchanges like the Intercontinental Exchange, based in Atlanta. Over time the number of credits is meant to fall gradually, theoretically raising prices and cutting pollution.
The reality has been far different because of serious flaws in the design of the system. To win over companies and skeptical countries like Poland, which burn a lot of coal, far too many credits have been handed out.
At the same time, Europe’s debilitating economic slowdown has sharply curtailed industrial activity and reduced the Continent’s overall carbon emissions.
Steel making in Europe, for instance, has fallen about 30 percent since 2007, while new car registrations were at their lowest level last year since 1995.
Big investments in renewable energy sources like wind and solar also reduced carbon emissions, which have fallen about 10 percent in Europe since 2007.
As a result, there is a vast surplus of permits — about 800 million tons’ worth, according to Point Carbon. That has caused prices to plunge.
The cost of carbon is far too low to force electric utilities in Europe to switch from burning coal, a major polluter, to much cleaner natural gas. Just the opposite: Britain increased coal burning for electricity more than 30 percent last year, while cutting back gas use a similar amount, and other West European nations increased their coal use as well.
“The European energy scene is not a good one,” said Andrew Brown, head of exploration and production at Royal Dutch Shell. “They haven’t got the right balance in terms of promoting gas.”
Fearing that prices might go to zero because of the huge oversupply, the European authorities proposed a short-term solution known as backloading, which would have delayed the scheduled auctioning of a large portion of the credits that were supposed to be sold over the next three years. But the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted the measure down on April 16.
Lawmakers were worried about tampering with the market as well as doing anything that might increase energy costs in the struggling economy.
“It was the worst possible moment to try to implement something like that,” said Francesco Starace, chief executive of Enel Green Power, one of the largest European green-energy companies, which is based in Rome.
The European authorities, led by Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate change, have not given up on fixing the system. But analysts like Stig Scholset, at Point Carbon, say that there is not much the authorities can do in the short term and that prices may slump for months, if not years.
That means more tough times for financial institutions. Particularly troubled is the business of investing in greenhouse gas abatement projects like wind farms or hydroelectric dams in developing countries like China. JPMorgan Chase paid more than $200 million for one of the largest investors in these projects, EcoSecurities, in 2009.
Financiers say these projects used to be gold mines, generating credits that industrial companies could use to offset their emissions elsewhere. But so many credits have been produced by these projects — on top of the existing oversupply of credits in Europe — that they are trading at about a third of a euro.
Market participants say they see many rivals pulling back from world carbon markets. Deutsche Bank, the largest bank in Germany, has cut back its carbon trading. Smaller outfits like Mabanaft, based in Rotterdam, have also left the business.
Anthony Hobley, a lawyer in London and president of the Climate Market and Investors Association, an industry group, estimates that among the traders, analysts and bankers who flocked to the carbon markets in the early days, half may now be gone.
But carbon trading is unlikely to fade completely.
For one thing, European utilities and other companies now must buy the credits to comply with the rules. And they can buy credits to save for later use, when their emissions increase and the price of credits rises.
Despite Europe’s sputters, carbon trading is beginning to gain traction in places like China, Australia and New Zealand.
In London, Mr. Rassmuson concedes that the business has turned out to be more up-and-down than he anticipated when he and his partner set up their firm in a tiny two-man office in 2006.
But he said his firm was benefiting from others’ dropping out. He is also branching out into trading electric power and natural gas.
Like many in the carbon markets, he says what he is doing is not just about money.
“Trying to make the world more sustainable is important to us,” he said. “It is a good business opportunity that makes us proud.”
THE ISSUE IS NOW – HOW DO YOU STIMULATE INDUSTRIES THAT HELP REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS WITHOUT RESORTING TO THE ABOVE GIMMICK OF CARBON-POLLUTION TRADING-in-CERTIFICATES?
WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN BETTER A SYSTEM THAT IS BASED ON ORDERING THE POLLUTING INDUSTRIES IN A DIRECT WAY? DESPITE ANYTHING THAT IS BEING SAID BY THE BANKING FINANCIAL TRADING COMPANIES – MUCH MORE OF THE TRADING SYSTEM WAS BASED ON EXPORTING POLLUTION OVERSEAS – “ON THE HOT AIR BALLOONS THAT RESULTED BY CLOSING INEFFICIENT INDUSTRIES” and on FOREIGN AID PROJECTS THAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED ANYWAY. WE HOPE THAT BIG MARKETS LIKE THE EU, the US, and CHINA, ESTABLISH NOW INTERNAL SYSTEMS, MODELED IN PART BY THE THE COASTAL USA PROGRAMS in CALIFORNIA AND THE EAST COAST – AND ESTABLISH COUNTRY-WIDE PENALTIES PER TONE OF CO2 – and yes – penalty always hurts initially but change in behavior eventually bears fruit.
from material posted on the Inner City Press website that reports from the UN Headquarters in New York City:
Taken in part from the Inner City Press – UNITED NATIONS, April 12 report — “The reopening of UN Headquarters after its $2 billion renovation.
In the past, the Delegates Lounge had a big wooden bar, and a second floor loft serving coffee. Now, the loft is gone, and so is the wooden bar, replaced by one of black stone.The lobbyists for different causes used to sit in the upper level coffee shop and watch who comes in at the lower level, then do their business later at the bar. Also, Journalists would come after hours and meet delegates at the bar and get answers to traditionally unanswered questions while having a drink.
Delegates were sitting or snoozing all day – in the hall itself – supported by warm color furniture. Now it seems that these activities of old will be interfered with by a much more rigorous structure, that to our amazement is colored a bright green.
The computers in the Lounge are now covered with plastic half-spheres, like in a women’s beauty parlor.
Inner City Press on Friday asked Capital Master Plan chief Michael Adlerstein where the wooden bar has gone. He said he’d look into it, and let it be known that the designer of the new Delegates Lounge was none other than noted Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
The chairs are on wheels; there are spindly rocking chairs reminiscent for those who’ve been there to those in the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, writes Matthew Russell Lee – the Inner City Press coverage.
Adlerstein explained the layout as based on Dutch berms around fields. An Inner City Press reader, seeing the Tweeted photo, chimed in that the “chartreuse tables actually look like my kids’ elementary schools. They still have 1960s Soviet liberation art, I guess.”
Actually the art remains the same as before – donations from various countries Soviet-style art or not – this depends on the donor: the carpet or wall hanging of the Great Wall of China is back, returned from its sojourn in the UN’s North Lawn building.
We post this because of the green color that we are instinctively fond of – except when BP painted their oil tanks green in an attempt to tell us that they are a green company. WE ARE VERY MUCH AFRAID THAT THE UN GREEN IS INDEED OF THE SAME PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPT LIKE THE BP OF OLD. This sort of green image does not sooth our nerves.
The Saudis – they have Oil and a Subhuman Regime. A Saudi Islamic Judge just ordered a man surgically paralyzed according to Islamic Law (literally an eye-for-an-eye) and they were allowed to buy the Motiva Refinery of Texas – biggest in the United States. Shell Oil seems to be their partner in business and Shell Oil is now dancing to their tune. The US Department of State has just acknowledged that there might be a problem indeed.
Reports of Saudi Paralysis Sentence (Taken Question)
Office of the Spokesperson
April 5, 2013
Question: What is the U.S. response to reports that a Saudi judge gave a court order for a prisoner to be surgically paralyzed?
Answer: If these reports are true, they would be incredibly disturbing. We expect the Saudi Government to respect international human rights norms. We regularly make this point as part of our bilateral dialogue.
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
The Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, the largest in the United States, ensures a bigger market for Saudi crude and a stronger global voice for the kingdom.
This can now be seen in context!
‘Shell to dump energy firm over its ties to Israel’
Australia’s Woodside Petroleum has a 30-percent interest in Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field
April 5, 2013, 3:28 pm 2
THE HAGUE (JTA) – Royal Dutch Shell declined to comment on reports that it will divest its stake in an Australian energy firm because of that firm’s investment in Israel’s gas fields.
According to the RTL Dutch television network, a spokesperson for Shell said on Wednesday that he had no comment on a report by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia which said Shell would likely dump its 23.1-percent stake in Australia’s Woodside Petroleum.
The report said Shell planned the move to avoid the risk of boycott by Arab countries following Woodside’s agreement to purchase a 30-percent interest in Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field. RTL reported that Shell’s stake in Woodside is worth more then $7 billion.
Last year, Shell said that involvement with Woodside was “incompatible” with Shell’s “long-term plans.”
For the sake of our European Friends – There are two Europes Now – the Triple A North and the South that was kept alive by the image of a Common Market for the North. Oh Well – the Voters in the North seem to rebel now and call for the South to grow up.
The following is a presentation of facts that cannot be ignored anymore. Deserves close reading by those in the North that thought you can bumble your way through without creating a real union capable of calling out “it is all for one and not just one for all!” The EU is not just the fulfilling of the German dream of takeover of Europe by peaceful means. Cyprus dreaming of being the Mediterranean base of Russia? What else? Austria a bridge to the East? Yes, but only after twinning up with Finland.
Everyone learned a lesson from the “bail-in” of the Cypriot banks: Russian account holders who’d laundered and stored their money on the sunny island; bank bondholders who’d thought they’d always get bailed out; Cypriot politicians whose names showed up on lists of loans that had been extended by the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank but were then forgiven and written off. Even brand-new Finance Minister Michael Sarris who got axed because he’d been chairman of Laiki when this was going on. His lesson: when a cesspool of corruption blows up, no one is safe. And German politicians learned a lesson too: that it worked!
“With the Cyprus aid package, it was proven that countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland, if they stick together, are able to push for a strict stability course,” Hans Michelbach told the Handelsblatt. The chairman of the finance committee in the German Parliament and member of the CSU, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, called for deeper collaboration of the triple-A countries in the Eurozone “to strengthen the confidence of citizens and investors in the common currency.”
There are still five in that euro triple-A club: Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, and Luxembourg. “It would be good if we could also convince Luxembourg to participate more strongly in this stability collaboration,” he said. It would be in the best interest of Luxembourg as major financial center, he added. A reference to Luxembourg’s precarious status, as Cyprus had learned, of being a tiny country with banks so large that it can’t bail them out by itself.
To protect the euro, the alliance of the triple-A countries must be united firmly against large euro countries like Italy and France, he said. “Strong signals of stability would be of great importance for the Eurozone,” particularly now, given the “unclear situation” in Italy, renewed doubts about Greece, and the failure of the French government in its stability policies.
Exactly what French President François Hollande needs: the euro triple-A club breathing down his neck. He’s already in trouble at home. To reverse the slide, he got on state-owned France 2 TV last Thursday to speak to the French people so that they could see how his sincerity, wisdom, and economic policies would stop the country from sinking ever deeper into a quagmire.
And a quagmire it is: double-digit unemployment, a Purchasing Managers Index just above Greece’s, new vehicle sales that plunged almost 15% so far this year, a budget deficit that refuses to be brought under control…. He has tweaked some policy measures here and there. And he dug up a new version of the 75% income-tax bracket that had been squashed by the Constitutional Court. But Jérôme Cahuzac, the Budget Minister who’d tried to get the first version through the system, went up in flames over allegations of tax fraud and “tax fraud laundering.”
Now the people have had it. After the TV appearance, his approval rating, ten months into his term, plummeted another 6 points to 31%, a low that scandal-plagued Nicolas Sarkozy took four years to reach. And only 27% approved of his economic policies. “The French simply don’t want austerity,” lamented an unnamed government insider.
France was suffering the consequences of the “socialist experiments” of its government and was becoming less and less competitive, explained Michelbach. He emphasized that France would remain an important partner of Germany. He wasn’t kidding: France buys 10% of Germany’s exports and is crucial to the German economy. But if France didn’t change course, he said, that could become a “serious problem” for the Eurozone.
As opposed to the mere hiccups of Cyprus or Greece. More banks and more countries will require bailoutsSlovenia, Spain, Italy, and Malta are on the list. And no one wants to see France on that list. Even Italy is too large to get bailed out by other countriesthough it’s rich enough to bail itself out, à la Cyprus [ A "Politically Explosive" Secret: Italians Are Over Twice As Wealthy As Germans].
But in Germany, a revolt against these save-the-euro bailouts has been brewing for a while. With elections in September, it’s taking on volume and voices, and the structure of a political party, the Alternative for Germany, not unpalatable radicals but the educated bourgeoisie, and they want to stop the bailouts and dump the euro.
The government is feeling the heat. No one can afford to lose votes. Michelbach’s triple-A club, a line of demarcation in the Eurozone, is one of the reactions. Merkel might benefit from it in the elections. The other four countries might find if appealing, though it will be of dubious appeal in the rest of the Eurozone. But if efforts fail to fix the Eurozone’s problemsand the Eurozone lumbering that waya tightly knit triple-A club could weather the storm together, more stable and more unified than the Eurozone ever was. And Michelbach had just floated a version of that idea.
Every country in the Eurozone has its own collection of big fat lies that politicians and Eurocrats have served up in order to make the euro and the subsequent bailouts or austerity measures less unappetizing. Here are some from the German point of view…. Ten Big Fat Lies To Keep The Euro Dream Alive
Wolf Richter wrote also – “White House Hypocrisy And Trade Sanctions Against China.” - Practically every car sold in the US contains Chinese-made components. But suddenly, in the middle of a heated presidential campaign, the Obama administration decided to do something about it.
Wolf Richter is a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience.
In www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/03/w… he explains “Having worked a bit on international deals, and for companies operating in foreign markets, cross border transactions have an even lower success rate than domestic ones. The big reason is the one mentioned here, which is marked cultural incompatibility between the seller and buyer. Here the Chinese did less badly than they could have (they could have tried forcing Chinese practices on the German operation, which would have destroyed the value of the asset). But the logic of the transaction was unclear. Was it technology transfer? Consolidation? It appears both might have been goals, and neither happened very much.
But I find it intriguing that as lousy as the Japanese were at doing deals (they found it hard to understand that the contract was the deal, and were too inclined to overpay), they were good at managing workers in manufacturing operations (service businesses were another kettle of fish, there they tended to drive Americans crazy). This is a skill the Chinese will have to master, since they desperately need to re-invest their surpluses, and they are trying to acquire more real-economy assets.” FASCINATING.
His insights in Wall Street machinations are also very good.
A Global Reporting Initiative is unleashed April 11, 2013 by the New York Stock Exchange to step up to a Global event this 22-24 of May, in Amsterdam. Will this be guidelines to bamboozle or the inclusion of the so called externalities that now pass expenses to the public and allow stock-holders to collect unreal gains to the economy at large?
THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE IS INVOLVED IN A GLOBAL REPORTING INITIATIVE (GRI) - Reporting on Sustainability with a G4 in their sight or front line - G4 is GRI’s fourth generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and is now in development. G4 is part of GRI’s commitment to the continuous development of its Guidelines.
They say: The next generation of the GRI Guidelines – G4 – should address requirements for sustainability data, and enable reporters to provide relevant information to various stakeholder groups. It should also improve on content in the current Guidelines – G3 and G3.1 – with strengthened technical definitions and improved clarity, helping reporters, information users and assurance providers.
The Information they talk about is non-financial information and it could be thus part of very positive intent, but we are not sure if it preaches also the importance of true financial reporting that includes the so called externalities – or the passing on of the true expenses on the public at large – these ought to be part of the financial implications that make up the value of a stock and ought not be covered by bamboozle.
At this stage we can just say that we do not know what that G4 will be like and that we have no information about the first three generations of guidelines that this posting – as received – talks about. It looks to us like some gibberish that business is throwing at the innocents.
We did our research and found:
North-American G4 Campaign: The kick-off event at the New York Stock Exchange –
April 11, 2013
Kick-off event GRI’s North American G4 Campaign at New York Stock Exchange – Master Class 1: GRI Refresher and G4 Update.
Date: April 11, 2013
Location: New York Stock Exchange, 11 Wallstreet, New York City, NY 10005, USA
Host: New York Stock Exchange and G4 Campaign sponsor HP
9.30 am – 10.30 am GRI Update by Mike Wallace and Marjella Alma on GRI’s Global Conference and G4 Campaign. Find out how you can join our official delegation!
10.30 am – 12.30 pm Master Class 1 – GRI Refresher and G4 Update – organized by GRI’s Certified Training Partner Deloitte featuring HP (reporter perspective) and Bloomberg (Sector Leader; data user perspective)
13.15 pm 25 of our GRI Organizational Stakeholders can join the CR Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizen Announcements; email GRI to reserve your spot
4-5 pm CR Magazine Reception
Casazza Herman LLC
Curran & Connors, Inc.
Donnelly Mechanical Corp
Ernst and Young
General Motors Company
Global Development Solutions, LLC
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc.
GRI Focal Point USA
Lilium Consulting, LLC
New York Stock Exchange
NYU-POLY – New York University that includes now also the former technically excellent Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.
Stewardship Action Council
The Linley Company
The Mosaic Company
W R Beer & Co.
The Algemeiner, March 24, 2013 6:32 pm 10 comments
Passover. This week we will all eat more matzo then we ever thought possible, hear more commentary about the Haggadah and its multiple messages for our time, and sit back in awe and (hopefully) love at the site at of our extended family circle.
But this Pesach, let’s leave some space for one young Muslim who deserves the world’s attention and support. He is not a martyr and desperately wants to avoid becoming one. But as of now, he and his family are in hiding in an undisclosed location in the Netherlands, because of death threats.
His name is Mehmet Sahin, a doctoral student, who has volunteered to reach out to street youth in the city of Arnhem. A few weeks ago he interviewed a group of Dutch-Turkish youth on Nederlands TV2 during which several declared their unabashed hatred of Jews and open admiration of Hitler. “What Hitler did to the Jews is fine with me,” said one. “Hitler should have killed all the Jews,” said another.
While these teens knew all about the fate of iconic Holocaust child victim, Anne Frank, that knowledge did nothing to deter them from expressing their outright hatred of Jews over and over again, and insisting that everyone at their school harbored similar views. When you view the clip you will see that their smirks and body language confirm a deeply-embedded hatred. Watch the video as one boy smiles as he declares: “What Hitler said about Jews is that there will be one day when you see that I am right that I killed all the Jews. And that day will come.”
From where does such bigotry emanate? Here’s a hint. When Mehmet Sahin reprimanded the youngsters and committed to spend however much time it would take to debunk and remove their ignorance and hate, here is how his neighbors reacted: They collected signatures to demand he leave the area. When Mehmet began to receive death threats, the Mayor of Arnhem, Pauline Krikke, urged him to go into hiding.
And that is where he and his family are today.
Is this the best solution that democratic Netherlands can come up with? A Witness Protection Program for a man guilty of fighting anti-Semitism and standing up for the truth? Are there no consequences for the hate and threats emanating from adults? Are authorities going to question the student’s parents or teachers?
One member of the Dutch Parliament, Ahmed Marcouch says he will raise the scandal in Parliament. “It is horrible that someone has to be afraid because he has done something that we all should do – teach children not to hate.”
Against the backdrop of Anne Frank’s legacy, how today’s Netherlands deals with such deeply embedded hatred of Jews will impact not only on the future of Dutch Jewry but also on the future of Dutch society. SimonWiesenthal, the late Nazi hunter was much revered by the post-WWII generation in the Netherlands. In the 21st century some have forgotten his oft-repeated warning: warned: “Hate often begins with Jews, but history proves, it never ends with the Jews.”
Mehmet Sahin has written these words; “Within a couple of days, I will move to another city of the Netherlands. My personal situation/story is a shame of the European civilization because it is inconceivable that such barbarism can occur in this country. After what happened in the last three weeks, I understood the eternal loneliness and pain of the Jewish population. In the rest of my life, I will tell the whole world that we all must resist this aggression…”
Dayenu – enough good guys being martyred. We don’t need another martyr. Those kids in the Netherlands and their peers in Europe need Mehmet Sahin and other heroic messengers of truth, peace and tolerance. While me may not be able to guarantee his future we can let him know today, he is not forgotten. Push the pause button on our Matzoth marathon and take a moment to send a message of solidarity to Mehmet c/o email@example.com and together we will let him know he is not alone.
Rabbi Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
On Chemical Weapons – while the assumed news are of their having been used in Syria – Vienna becomes the hub like it is about Nuclear Weapons. March 19, 2013 we watched at the Andromeda Tower, outside the UN Vienna compound, Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, explain the report of his Commission to the Vienna based organization experienced in work on Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) - www.vcdnp.org - is the place for International discussions among representatives of civil society, governments, and organizations on nuclear disarmament & proliferation. This is a main reason for why there is still some value to the UN despite the fact that the UN in incapable of reaching decisions, it is a place like this, outside the perimeter of the UN, but nevertheless a center that was inspired and came into its existence because of the UN, that the bulky and unwieldy UN itself gets its lease for life.
Interesting to note that VCDNP is located in the Andromeda Tower which is just outside the perimeter of the UN Center in Vienna – clearly as a way to allow for the participation of those that UN Member States might want to keep out and thus on a different level – also a further example to how one could improve the performance of deliberations on topics of real interest to the UN organization – just do it outside the reach of forbidding rules or habits.
We post today on VCDNP having planned and hosted a seminar by H.E. Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), titled “The Chemical Weapons Convention: Making Disarmament Happen.” The event was held in the conference room of the VCDNP on Tuesday, 19 March 2013, 1:15-2:30 pm.
The background of the seminar is the very timely – newspapers front page issue, of the chemical weapons of the Syrian arsenal and the danger that they might be used by the Syrian government or by the opponents fighting the government. In the past fifteen years, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have developed a robust verification and monitoring mechanism for chemical disarmament and non-proliferation. With almost 80 percent of the world’s global stocks of chemical weapons eliminated, the questions in focus are – what are the key issues on the agenda of the OPCW today? What are future objectives and activities? How to preserve the Convention and its core mission of the effective prohibition of chemical weapons? These and other issues were addressed by OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü.
Angola, Burma/Myanmar, and South Sudan have started the process to destroy their Chemical Weapons stockpiles. This leaves only 5 remaining States without intention to join – a main concern now being Syria.
The OPCW works on the basis of countries declaring voluntarily their stockpiles and subscribing to a regime of destroying them. The organization’s present director was Turkey’s representative in Geneva and at NATO. He is only the third director and started his term July 25, 2010, following Rogelio Pfirter of Argentina who served for two terms starting July 25, 2002.
The first director was Jose Bustani – a Beazilian diplomat. His first term started May 13, 1997, but then fell into US disfavor.
The second term of the first Director-general, Jose Bustani, cut on grounds of financial mismanagement. There is much controversy surrounding the reasons behind Bustani’s removal. Bustani had been negotiating with the Iraqi regime, and was hoping to persuade them to sign up to the OPCW, thus granting OPCW inspectors full access to Iraq’s purported chemical weapons arsenal. If Bustani had succeeded, this would have placed a formidable obstacle in the path of the Bush administration’s war plans, by removing their ostensible motive. Bustani’s supporters insist this was the reason why the US forced him out. The Bush administration claimed that Bustani’s position was no longer tenable, stating three main reasons: “polarizing and confrontational conduct”, “mismanagement issues” and “advocacy of inappropriate roles for the OPCW”. Bustani’s supporters also claim that the U.S. ambassador issued threats against OPCW members in order to coerce them to support the U.S. initiative against Bustani, including the withdrawal of U.S. support for the organization. It has been said that Bustani was bullied out from the OPCW by John Bolton — something that appears consistent with what was said about Bolton’s practices during the U.S. Senate hearings prior to his appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This decision was highly controversial and deemed improper by the International Labour Organization. Following this he was Ambassador of Brazil to the United Kingdom between 2003 and 2008 and is currently Ambassador of Brazil to France.
The Hague was chosen as the location for the seat of the organization after a successful lobby of the Dutch government, competing against Vienna and Geneva. The organization has its headquarters next to the World Forum Convention Center (where it holds its yearly Conference of States Parties) and storage/laboratory facilities in Rijswijk (on the premises of TNO). The headquarters were officially opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 20 May 1998 and consist of an eight-story building built in a semi-circle. There is a memorial to the victims of chemical warfare.
Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü is a Turkish career diplomat who is the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Üzümcü was consul at the Consulate General in Aleppo, Syria and ambassador in Israel. This besides his appointments to Geneva and NATO.
He seems well positioned in this present problem with Syria. The problem is nevertheless that the Convention allows only for sort of an evaluation capability, but there is no effective management of the weapons’ destruction process. When I spoke with him here in Vienna, he told me that just three of the Convention member countries, Albania, India , and Korea (South) have completely eliminated their stockpiles. Now, the newly joining three States will try to do the same. In effect it is just the US and Russia that have very substantially reduced their declared Chemical Weapons arsenals.
Destroying those supplies is difficult and a very expensive undertaking. Facilities exist in Russia and the US and even the metal part s of the weapons have to be burned and there is a problem how to get rid in an environmental acceptable way even of this part of the weapon. The US is building now to sites – in Kentucky and in Colorado – the latter to be put in use in 2015. The Russians will have 4 facilities in 2015. Looking at problematic States – Libya is another one. They have repaired now equipment that can destroy mustard gas and it is expected the stock-piles will be destroyed under OPCW supervision. Syria has no facilities, no means, and at present probably no interest in destroying these weapons. Ambassador Üzümcü is looking into beefing up his capability to do an investigation if called upon in Syria – but he cannot send experts into a conflict zone – first a permissible environment has to be created if the inspectors are to be sent out.
What is worse – the Convention did not foresee terrorism as a danger from Chemical Weapons – it is intended to work with consigning States. As such for instance, Japan sends its weapons to China for decommissioning and destruction. States find Chemical Weapons ineffective today – but this is not the way terrorists think.
Also, Qatar (near Doha) and Kenya (near Nairobi) have proposed to establish destruction centers for CW material. The effort is to use the verification know-how and apply it in the context of a verification regime. In effect some 50 countries can handle this through their Chemical industries. A conference is planned for April 8, 2013 to discuss the findings of a report released three years ago. This in order to provide a further report on how to proceed.
Further, Chemicals is one thing – weaponization is something else – the development of delivery systems. Then Chemicals could be considered by some if it is just tear gas. All this makes it more difficult to read the news because much of it could be in the eye of the beholder and here com in the technical personnel of the convention’s verifiers – clearly very important when judging what is known about Syria.
There is a “high probability” that Syria used chemical weapons against opposition forces, though verification is needed, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday.
The claims come amid pressure in the West to arm the rebels, long overmatched by the Syrian military and its allies.
The embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday accused rebels of a deadly chemical weapon missile attack on the town of Khan al-Asal in Aleppo province. The opposition has accused al-Assad’s forces of using such weapons.
The civil war — which began two years ago after a government crackdown on Syrian protesters — has left around 70,000 people dead, the United Nations says, and uprooted more than 1 million people.
UN chief says chemical weapon use would be ‘outrageous’
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “remains convinced that the use of chemical weapons by any party (in Syria) under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime,” the UN said Tuesday.
The comment came after Syria’s government and opposing rebels on Tuesday each accused each other of using chemical weapons for the first time in two years of unrest in Syria.
Ban and Ahmet Uzumcu, Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, “shared deep concern about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria,” the UN said, in a statement following their conversation.
The two men pledged to “maintain close contact as developments unfold.”
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said that the UN was “aware of the report” that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, but said “we are not in a position to confirm it.”
Key Bashar al-Assad ally Moscow said it had “information” from Damascus that rebels had used chemical weapons, while Washington said there was “no evidence” the insurgents had staged their first chemical attack and warned it would be “totally unacceptable” for the regime to use such arms.
Remarks by Deputy Ambassador Philip Parham Deputy Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN, on Allegation
Thank you very much. Good evening everyone. As Ambassador Araud has said we have raised in the Security Council this afternoon the very worrying reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And I emphasise reports plural. As Ambassador Araud said, the National Coalition issued a statement today saying that there had been two cases of chemical weapons being used in Syria yesterday, one in the Damascus area and one in the Aleppo area. The Syrian Government has also issued statements about the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Aleppo area and have attributed that to the opposition. The opposition have attributed both the cases they cited to the Government.
Clearly, if chemical weapons have been used, this will be abhorrent. It will be very grave. It will warrant a serious response by the international community. And it will force us to revisit the approach that we have been taking so far. But the facts are not clear at the moment and this is the whole point, and the point that we raised in the Security Council. The facts need to be clarified. But I think on that point it is worth just remembering how many distortions and falsehoods we have seen from the Syrian regime over the last two years. Also remembering that it is the Syrian regime which has stockpiles of chemical weapons and materials in Syria and who are responsible under Security Council resolutions to ensure those are not proliferated. And it is also worth remembering too that we have seen many, many cases, all too many cases of the Syrian regime using heavy weaponry against its own people in an entirely disproportionate and unjustified way.
So what we have is reports and allegations. They are very serious and they need to be investigated. And what we said to our colleagues on the Security Council this afternoon was that we would be asking the Secretary-General to conduct such an investigation, swift, thorough and impartial, of any reports of use of chemicals weapons.
The request which the Syrian Government has apparently made to the Secretary-General is a request about only one alleged instance and the way that they have framed the request prejudges the outcome of the investigation by alleging that it’s the opposition that is responsible for that case of use of chemical weapons. What we want is an impartial, thorough and swift investigation which will come to the truth as far as that is possible. That is what we asked for. I would say also that we found among our colleagues on the Security Council that the vast majority of them supported this and I think will support the request that we put to the Secretary-General.
Q: Have you had any information earlier that the opposition in Syria seized some stockpiles, some chemical stockpiles. Have you had any of this kind of information? If the allegations were to be proven right or true, have you heard anything about that before? That the opposition seized some stockpiles, chemical stockpiles?
Q: Ambassador Parham could you tell us what the next step is? Are you planning to send a letter to the Secretary General signed just by those members of the Council who support a wider investigation of not just the Aleppo incident or are you going to try and see if all the Council members will sign on which from what Ambassador Churkin said doesn’t really sound like a possibility?
A: I think from what you’ve heard that’s pretty clear that Ambassador Churkin is not going to sign the letter and as we have also said speed is of the essence here so it will be a case of a number of a number of us, as many as possible, writing to the Secretary General.
The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) is currently calling for expressions of interest and an invitation to tender for three major knowledge management projects. Please respond if you are interested, or pass to others in your network who may be well placed to respond:
CDKN is seeking a partner organisation to lead its new initiative to capture and synthesise learning from projects at the sub-national level.
CDKN is seeking a partner organisation to lead its new initiative to capture, synthesise and share learning from national climate compatible development (CCD) planning in Africa.
Deadline for submissions of Invitation to Tender: 17:00 GMT 25 February 2013
CDKN is looking to commission a set of policy briefs on developing countries’ practical experiences in climate compatible development.
Any questions about these tenders should be addressed not to me, but to CDKN’s Procurement team on: firstname.lastname@example.org who will be pleased to respond.
KMAF-0014 – National climate compatible development planning: learning from experiences in Africa.
CDKN is seeking a partner organisation to lead its new initiative to capture, synthesise and share learning from national climate compatible development (CCD) planning in Africa.
CDKN’s overall purpose is to support developing countries to design and deliver climate compatible development. We provide a combination of advisory work, research and knowledge-sharing, tailored to countries’ needs. We are partnering with progressive national and local governments to design and deliver policies that combine low carbon, climate resilient, and inclusive green growth. We are now working in 40 countries, disbursing GBP20 million a year. CDKN began in 2010 with funding from the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and now also receives funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. It runs initially for a five year period to 2015.
As CDKN enters its fourth year, we are embarking on a range of initiatives to share learning from our programme to date. One of these is a major initiative to synthesise and share African solutions and best practice emerging from national climate compatible development planning to support learning, policy development and possible replication and up-scaling efforts in other countries.
With a number of mature and maturing projects in implementation, African governments have a strong body of evidence and experiences to communicate regionally and globally and ensure that it is transferable and catalytic. In the fourth year of CDKN, we are committed to bringing experience-based knowledge and insight from Africa to the forefront.
We welcome tenders from organisations and consortia that specialise in organisational learning to partner with us on this endeavour. The work will run to December 2014. This initiative will broadly involve:
The Learning Partner’s team must include the following skill sets:
In order to express an interest in this opportunity, please complete the following 2 steps:
Send an email to the CDKN Procurement team (email@example.com) including the following information:
Your nominated contact(s) will receive an email from the CDKN Procurement team, including [an Expressions of Interest selection document] / [Invitation to Tender document], a Non Disclosure Agreement, a copy of CDKN’s Expense Policy and the CDKN Terms and Conditions. Complete the documents where relevant and submit these to the CDKN Procurement team ( cdknetwork.procurement at uk.pwc.com) before the deadline stated below.
Your documents [including the signed Non-Disclosure Agreement] should be submitted by the deadline of 17.00 UK time on 25 February 2013.
Please note, we will accept and respond to questions with respect to this opportunity and the associated documents, provided they are received by CDKN Procurement before 17.00 UK time on 15 February 2013.
China University of Political Science and Law wins the ICC Trial Competition (Chinese version).
In a published photo – ICC Judge Cuno Tarfusser (centre), ICC Associate Legal Officer Silvestro Stazzone (left) and ICC Associate Legal Officer Simon Grabrovec (right) with the winners of the ICC Trial Competition (Chinese version), representing China University of Political Science and Law, at the seat of the Court in The Hague © ICC-CPI
China University of Political Science and Law is the winner of the ICC Moot Court Competition – Chinese version. The final round was held today, 1 June 2012, in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The winning team is composed of (from left to right in above photo): Mr Guanqun Ge, Ms Ying Zhu, Ms Chenchen Liang, Coach Mr Lijiang Zhu and Mr Xinxiang Shi. China Foreign Affairs University and PekingUniversity won, respectively, the second and third places. The award for the Best Speaker went to Ms Chenchen Liang from China University of Political Science and Law.
The teams competed before ICC Judge Cuno Tarfusser (presiding) and ICC Associate Legal Officers Silvestro Stazzone and Simon Grabrovec, on a fictitious case, presenting oral arguments during a confirmation of charges hearing in the roles of Prosecution, Defence and the Legal representative for victims. The final round of the ICC Trial Competition in Chinese was also web streamed live on the Court’s official website.
Following the decision rendered by the Chamber on the winners of the competition, the ICC hosted an awards ceremony for the winners and participants. Judge Tarfusser, Mr Stazzone and Mr Grabrovec delivered awards to the best teams and top speakers.
This year, 13 universities in China participated in the competition, where students put to the test their knowledge of the applicable law and jurisprudence of the ICC. The three top teams came to The Hague for a five-day study visit before the final competition at the ICC. During their time in The Hague, the students visited four other international criminal tribunals: the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). The study visit offers to the students a unique opportunity to come together in an exciting setting and to meet with eminent personalities of the international law scene.
This version of the ICC Trial Competition is organised by Professor Yan Ling of the China University of Political Science and Law, with the institutional support of the ICC and the support of several institutions and organisations, including the Chinese Embassy in The Hague and the Royal Dutch Embassy in Beijing.
The Court is also supporting three other language versions of the ICC Trial Competition this year and hosting their finals in the ICC courtroom: English (27 April), Russian (1 June) and Spanish (22 June). It is envisaged that, in the medium and long term, the ICC Trial Competition will also be expanded, in cooperation with others, to the other official languages of the Court: French and Arabic.
Photos of the competition and awards ceremony are here.
Course on Climate change governance: adaptation and mitigation as institutional change processes.
“Climate Change Governance – Business as usual is not an option”
A course on Climate Change Governance will be held from 21 November – 2 December 2011 in Wageningen, the Netherlands. The course builds on experiences in capacity building programmes on climate change adaptation in developing countries in which Wageningen UR collaborates with research institutions and development networks world wide.
In the course climate change adaptation and mitigation are placed within the context of sustainable development and involve complex change processes which require the involvement of different stakeholders such as policy makers, scientists, communities, citizens, farmers, extension workers, media, businesses, etc.
If you or your colleagues are interested to participate in this course we would like to encourage you to find funding from your employer or any other sponsoring organisation.
This year there are no scholarships available from the Dutch Government.
In order to secure your place in this course and for more information please contact:
Contact: Mrs Titia Magendans/Mrs Elisabeth Hopperus Buma
Elisabeth Hopperus Buma
Project Support Department
Wageningen UR Centre for Development Innovation
P.O. Box 88, 6700 AB Wageningen, the Netherlands
September 7-8, 2011, The Hague, The Netherlands
Tenth Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) Dialogue on Forests, Governance and Climate Change
With the livelihoods of millions of the world’s poorest at risk, leading experts from the human rights, climate, farming and forestry sectors gather to find common approaches to strengthen rights, improve land use governance, reduce hunger and environmental degradation and catalyze joint action.
The convergence of global climate change, food insecurity, and political exclusion in the world’s poorest countries threatens to reverse global gains in poverty alleviation and raises the risks of conflict around the world. Close to 1 billion people were undernourished in 2010, and food prices have continued to rise. Climate change is putting millions of the world’s poorest people at an even greater risk. Meanwhile, according to the World Bank, industrial land acquisitions, so called “land grabbing,” grew more than 1000% between 2008 and 2009, while local land rights have been weakened.
Poverty and exclusion in rural areas are not new phenomena, but the booming global demand for food and other commodities is putting unprecedented pressure on rural people, their land, and related natural resources. The related increase in industrial agriculture presents a major threat to the rights and livelihoods of the rural poor by driving deforestation and carbon emissions that in turn exacerbates global climate change, causing a vicious circle.
Until now, the global development community has responded with particular programs focusing on each crisis, yet, limited rights and weak governance persists. While there has been growing recognition of just governance and the fundamental role that human rights play in preventing, diminishing, or dealing with these crises, the efforts of civil society, development organizations, and local actors working in these areas have not been well connected. There has not been adequate discussion, across sectors and levels, about the underlying institutional drivers of the lack of rights, weak governance, and political and social exclusion.
The Tenth Dialogue is hosted by Oxfam and the Rights and Resources Initiative, in collaboration with IS Academy on Land Governance (LANDac), Netherlands, and EcoAgriculture Partners.
EcoAgriculture Partners is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting innovators from the agriculture, conservation, and rural development sectors to strengthen and scale up ecoagriculture management approaches. EcoAgriculture Partners aims to improve understanding and knowledge of ecoagriculture, facilitate collaboration among practitioners from diverse sectors in rural landscapes, and mobilize strategic institutional change. Ecoagriculture refers to diverse landscape approaches that link farming and natural resource management to pursues three goals: conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services, sustainable agricultural production, and improved rural livelihoods. For more information, visit www.ecoagriculture.org.
IS Academy on Land Governance for Equitable and Sustainable Development (LANDac) is a partnership between several Dutch organisations (Academics, NGOs, private sector and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and their Southern partners involved in development-related research, policy and practice. The partners share a concern for increasing land inequality and new land-related conflicts, and how land governance – rules and practices on access to land – can be used to promote equitable and sustainable development in the Global South. LANDac aims at bringing together researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the field of land governance and development. LANDac is one of the IS Academies for International Cooperation. For more information on LANDac and the partner organisations involved, visit www.landgovernance.org
Oxfam International is an international group of independent non-governmental organizations dedicated to fighting poverty and related injustice around the world. Oxfam Novib in The Netherlands is part of Oxfam International, a framework which allows individual Oxfam’s to achieve greater impact with collective efforts. Oxfam programmes aim to address the structural causes of poverty and related injustice by working primarily through local accountable organizations. Oxfam seeks to strengthen their empowerment and help people directly where local capacity is insufficient by means of assisting the development of structures which directly benefit people facing the realities of poverty and injustice. For more information on Oxfam, visit www.oxfam.org (Oxfam International) and www.oxfamnovib.nl (Oxfam Netherlands).
The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) is a strategic coalition comprised of international, regional, and community organizations engaged in development, research and conservation to advance forest tenure, policy and market reforms globally. The mission of the Rights and Resources Initiative is to support local communities’ and indigenous peoples’ struggles against poverty and marginalization by promoting greater global commitment and action towards policy, market and legal reforms that secure their rights to own, control, and benefit from natural resources, especially land and forests. RRI is coordinated by the Rights and Resources Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.rightsandresources.org.
South Africa President Zuma and Durban born UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay make Durban the wrong place also for dealing with Climate Change. By now Italy, Netherlands, The US, Israel, the Czech Republic have announced in full voice their repulsion of the name Durban.
Italy and The Netherlands Join Canada, Israel, U.S. and the Czech Republic in Boycotting UN’s Durban III.
Italy and The Netherlands announced over the weekend that they will not take part in the notorious United Nations Durban III meeting scheduled for September 22, 2011 in New York City.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini pointed out that “The [Durban] Process has been transformed … into a tribunal for accusations against Israel.”
As the main reason for boycotting Durban III the Italian foreign minister pointed to the anti-Israel elements of the Durban Declaration and its progeny.
In the past few days, UN negotiators – who are currently drafting a final political declaration for Durban III – signalled rejection of Czech, Italian and Dutch proposals to denounce the anti-Israel portions of the original Durban Declaration.
The Italians had asked that Durban III “explicitly recognize that past references, in the context of the Durban Process, to the specific situation of the Middle East are not part of the international commitment against racial discrimination.”
According to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic all wanted to include in Durban III a statement that “all participating states emphatically distance themselves from the linking of subjects that have nothing to do with the fight against racism.”
Their request was ignored by conference organizers, who are largely being driven by Arab and Islamist states, as well as South Africa and UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay, herself a native of Durban.
For more United Nations coverage see www.EYEontheUN.org.
EYEontheUN monitors the UN direct from UN Headquarters in New York. EYEontheUN brings to light the real UN record on the key threats to democracy, human rights, and peace and security in our time. EYEontheUN provides a unique information base for the re-evaluation of priorities and directions for modern-day democratic societies.
Roberto Foa, of Harvard, The World Bank, and the Club of Madrid, gives us the facts why the EU must have its hands on the IMF. It is because the eurozone is incapable of fixing its own problems, and requires an IMF leader pliant and willing enough to take the controversial decisions for the EURO bloc’s survival. So, the IMF is now really important to the UN mainly via the EU.
Roberto Foa has his BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economy from Oxford, and his and his MPhil from Jesus College, Cambridge. In 2004 he was selected as a Peter Martin Fellow at Financial Times. He wrote -
Since 2006 he has been working in Washington DC towards creating the Social Development Indicators Project, which is a study being conducted on the relevance of social institutions and their effectiveness.
Roberto Foa is now a doctoral researcher at Harvard University, Department of Government, Center for European Studies, and further information given out there:
Biographical Statement: Foa came to Harvard from the World Bank in Washington DC, where he was founder of the Washington European Society www.eu-society.org). He is currently author of the “Merchant of Venice” blog on EU Observer, a consultant to the Club de Madrid, and has published a wide range of academic and journalistic articles covering such topics as democratization, economic policy, and institutional reform in the European Union. He is involved in research projects on the legacies of European colonialism, democratic consolidation in post-communist Europe, and in the European and World Values Surveys.
The following was posted as blogs.euobserver.com/foa/2011/05/… on May 31, 2011.
Why a European at the IMF?
After initial excitement that the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn might lead to an emerging market candidate to follow him as head of the IMF, Europe has placed its seal firmly upon a successor – Strauss-Kahn’s own distant replacement as French Minister of Finance, Christine Lagarde.
At first glance, the insistence on a European candidate may seem odd. After all, even if the shareholders of a major company, such as Louis Vuitton, all come from a particular area – say, the western suburbs of Paris – they would be crazy to insist on having a CEO from the same neighbourhood. Their interest lies in finding the most competent person for the job. They are likely to search far and wide to find that person.
A similar logic may apply to the IMF, where European countries already have the lion’s share of the votes. Whoever becomes managing director will be responsible to Europe’s directors on the Board, so why insist on having a European to serve them?
The real reason, of course, is political. Europe needs a European to run the IMF, because in the absence of easy credit from the International Monetary Fund, the euro area is politically incapable of arranging and taking responsibility for its own eurozone rescue package. Moreover, even if it were thus capable, many believe that it is not in the best interests of the eurozone to do so.
Let us unpack this a little further. The need for a European to shepherd through easy credit is simple enough: most of the IMF’s lending is now in the European neighbourhood, including also non-eurozone countries such as Hungary, Ukraine or Iceland. The IMF package for Greece, at €30bn, was already the largest in its history, and the package for Portugal, approved last week, added another €26bn. A similar package for Spain could add over €100bn. Italy could be twice as large still. These are vast amounts, and will be hugely controversial if and when they arise. A non-EU director might not be inclined to jeopardise such sums.
Yet why cannot the eurozone arrange its own bailout mechanism? After all, rather than rely on the IMF for financing, Europe could very well establish its own “European” monetary fund, funded by Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Indeed, this is in part what the EFSF and the future ESM are intended to accomplish. However, as I have discussed long ago, the reality of a “European” Monetary Fund would spell death for the project of European integration. It would mean core European nations taking direct responsibility for implementing austerity policies in the eurozone periphery, and taking the resultant political flak. EU nations simply do not have the ‘political capital’ to dictate harsh spending cuts in neighbouring countries, unlike the IMF, which does so as a matter of routine. By shifting surveillance of austerity packages during their most difficult period to the Fund, the core Eurozone countries are able to continue dictating the agenda, but via the front of an international organisation with greater credibility, manouverability, and anonymity.
But what about simply allowing Greece and Ireland to default? After all, under the present Eurogroup and IMF packages, Greece and Ireland can neither pay off their debts, nor default on them, and are thus maintained in permanent debt servitude. Is this not a terrible policy failure?
The answer is no, insofar as these packages were never designed to save Greece and Ireland in the first place. Rather, their purpose is to save the eurozone banking system from collapse. The key beneficiaries of this long, drawn-out process are Dexia, BNP Paribas, and Commerzbank, and behind them, the French and German governments who currently insure their losses. Everyone knows that eventually, Greece and Ireland will have to default, but if they do so in two years time rather than today, then this gives eurozone banks enough time to transfer their assets to the European Central Bank, while shoring up their capital base ahead of the impending haircut. Leaving aside the problem of ECB recapitalisation, this means the contagion effect will be minimised: at the very least, it will not least to the wholesale meltdown that would have occurred if a default were effected today, say, or last summer.
Europe therefore needs a European to run the IMF: but not for reasons of competency, or familiarity. Rather, it is because the eurozone is incapable of fixing its own problems, and requires a candidate pliant and willing enough to take the controversial decisions needed for the currency bloc’s survival. Even, one might add, if such decisions may be perilous for the IMF itself.
What above translates to in our mind is that better forget the UN – IMF linkage. The evolving economies that really count – China, Brazil etc. better leave the IMF to the Europeans who anyhow use it for their own purpose mostly – this so the fiction of an EU and an EURO can be continued rather then face a splintered multi currency situation in Europe that will cause further havoc in World trade, and pass early the responsibility for managing such trade to China.
The UN sheds light on the failed diplomacy regarding Climate Change negotiations, that fell of the Sustainable Development path, and hopes that at Rio+20 in 2012 it will be possible to start from scratch.
News about the UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was told to the Guardian by Mr. Robert Orr, UN assistant secretary general for strategic planning and a key adviser in Mr. Ban’s office. He was brought in some three years ago to work in this capacity in order to save Mr. Ban’s image when things seemed to go bad. Since then they got worse and the Ban Ki-moon & Yvo de Boer climate change UN efforts turned into a lot of show and no results. To be fair to them – the cards were staked against them and they were blind to this reality talking about blue skies when in reality there was clear disinterest in the subject by the main players – the US and China. Mr. de Boer was of no help when he accepted the Ban Ki-moon blue sky concept of Seal the Deal knowing well that there was no deal to seal in his shop in Bonn.
Orr means light in Hebrew – so allow me please to say that finally the UN top – having been reduced from its 38th floor in the main building to a merely third floor of its present North building location – has seen the light at this lower level.
Yes, there is no chance for the 2011 UNFCCC meeting in Durban to do what the Cancun meeting of 2010 was not able to do. The ray of light is now to move to 2012 – to the Rio+20 meeting of 20 years after the big Rio de Janeiro 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development – the locus where the UN Convention on Climate Change sailed off to its voyage that by 1997 took it to Kyoto and the stillborn birth of the now infamous Kyoto Protocol that came about with the blessing of US Vice President Al Gore in spite of the fact that 95 US Senators said that without China being an active participant in the called for activities of that Protocol, there will be no US ratification of the deal.
OK – in Copenhagen, 2009, President Obama and the Chinese started out on a joint voyage – but this was not enough to call for a Kyoto II thus a completely new approach will indeed be hammered out – most probably without the UN G-192 help. Rio+20 comes now to revive the spirits of the UN functionaries, but it could also play to the advantage of the founders of that old AGENDA 21 – the main tool that came out from the original UNCED meeting. Let us hope that Mr. Morris Strong will be called from his present Beijing home so that he can devise a revival on the path he started in 1972 with the Stockholm UN Conference on the Environment, that was followed 20 years later by the incorporation of the idea of Sustainable Development as a tool to save the environment. In 2012 the obvious issue is the Global Environment or what we are used to call the issue of man induced climate change.
We believe that the greatest achievement of Kyoto was to highlight the problem.
We believe that the greatest achievement of Copenhagen was to bring on board the leaders of the US, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.
We believe that the greatest achievement of Cancun was to show that decisions do not have to be unanimous. This time Bolivia was left out of the consensus. Actually they were not the worst opponents. Others will have to be left out also – some because they think that they have an irreversible right to sell petroleum, others because they only suffer but do not pollute. In the end – it will be some number close to 30, rather then 192 of the UN membership, that will list their contributions at Rio+20 and the future will be in their hand.
Having said the above we will now serve up the two articles of the Guardian.
The first article is all right – the Robert Orr light on the fouled up issue of UN global climate negotiations.
The second article by Yvo de Boer shows that the man still does not really realize what went wrong when he followed the Ban Ki-moon orders on the road to Copenhagen.
Ban Ki-moon ends hands-on involvement in climate change talks.
UN secretary general will redirect efforts to making more immediate gains in clean energy and sustainable development
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent guardian.co.uk, Thursday 27 January 2011.
In a strategic shift, Ban will redirect his efforts from trying to encourage movement in the international climate change negotiations to a broader agenda of promoting clean energy and sustainable development, senior UN officials said.
The officials said the change in focus reflected Ban’s realisation, after his deep involvement with the failed Copenhagen summit in 2009, that world leaders are not prepared to come together in a sweeping agreement on global warming – at least not for the next few years.
“It is very evident that there will not be a single grand deal at any point in the near future,” said Robert Orr, UN assistant secretary general for strategic planning and a key adviser to Ban.
The view from UN headquarters will likely dismay developing countries who fought hard at Copenhagen and last year’s summit at Cancún for countries to renew their commitments to the Kyoto protocol in just that type of grand deal.
UN officials say Ban will no longer be deeply involved in the negotiations leading up to the next big UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, meeting at Durban in December 2011.
“He will continue to encourage leaders to aim for a higher level of ambition but there will need to be less day-to-day stuff,” said one UN official. “The negotiations are very important, but it is the big-picture issues that he needs to be more engaged with.”
Ban will focus on broader issues of sustainability, which will be in the spotlight at a summit in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, marking 20 years since the first Earth summit.
“Because the circumstances have changed, the nature of his engagement is changing,” Orr said. “The relative balance of his time is shifting towards getting it done on the ground out there.”
UN officials, and those who closely track climate change negotiations, insist that Ban has not lessened his commitment to finding a solution to climate change. Ban has called global warming “the greatest collective challenge we face as a human family”.
“His heart is still there, and he does want to make a breakthrough in his tenure, but this might provide a better platform in the near future,” said one UN official.
However, they say he now believes there are more immediate gains to be made in mobilising international finance to support a green economy in developing countries than in trying to persuade world leaders to
Others inside the UN system as well as in world capitals have been circling towards a similar conclusion as Ban: that gains in clean energy technology and energy efficiency could do more in the near future to reduce emissions. They could then drive the overarching deal
“The idea that the world will gather together and parcel out emissions cuts among the various nations is probably a non-starter at this point,” said Reid Detchon, vice-president for energy and climate at the United Nations Foundation, a Washington thinktank. “Whether it is in 2012 or 2013, the political consensus does not exist for a top-down approach.”
In operational terms, Ban’s climate change advisory team, which grew to about a dozen people ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, has shrunk to less than five people.
Meanwhile, he is in the course of expanding his advisory team on sustainable development to about a dozen people ahead of the Rio meeting.
“The things that are moving faster are the investments in renewable energy, the kind of actual investments and changes on the ground that will make a difference,” said Tariq Banuri, director of the division of sustainable development at the UN’s department of economic and
Ban still believes an international agreement on climate change is essential, Orr said. “The sails haven’t been trimmed. We are still going in the same direction, but we will have to tack back and forth between the multilateral negotiating process and national realities on the ground.”
The strategic shift by the UN secretary general in some ways mirrors thinking in Washington, where environmentalists are looking at how to many progress on climate change without votes in Congress or the
In the case of the UN, however, Ban’s decision is not a product of failure. The climate negotiations at Cancún produced modest progress on some of the essential pre-conditions to a global deal, such as climate finance and forest preservation.
The first public indication of a shift in direction was delivered in a speech to the UN general assembly on 14 January, in which Ban ranked sustainable development as the lead item on his agenda for 2011, ahead of climate change, human rights, security and humanitarian aid for
But UN officials and others who closely follow climate diplomacy say the UN chief had been considering how best to move forward on climate change at least since the failure of the Copenhagen summit.
Ban has said repeatedly he sees climate change as the challenge of the generation. He staked his reputation as secretary general on gathering world leaders at Copenhagen, arguing that environment ministers and
The hands-on approach worked in 2007 when Ban stepped in to prevent a collapse of the Bali summit over George Bush’s refusal to agree to emissions cuts.
But the elevated hopes for reaching a final deal at Copenhagen resulted instead in acrimony and a tentative last-minute understanding among the big polluters that was not fully endorsed by the 190 countries in the UN negotiating process.
The Cancún meeting, overseen by Christiana Figueres, managed to get the talks back on track, and some see Ban’s disengagement as a sign of confidence in the negotiation process.
“The phase the negotiations are going into now is one more of rule-making, rather than heads-of-state engagement,” said Jennifer Morgan, who directs the climate and energy programme at the World Resources Institute in Washington. “It is just in a different phase
Yvo de Boer on Ban’s green growth agenda.
In doing this, Cancún also heralded two significant shifts. First a shift away from a top-down approach where targets are set internationally, towards a far more bottom-up approach that leaves countries free to formulate their own plans, but within a framework that revolves around international monitoring, reporting and verification. Secondly Cancún moved climate action away from a
From here on the focus needs to be on implementation and convincingly making the green growth case at the national level. No mean feat, given that the concept of green growth enjoys near universal lip-service, while there is little real evidence that it can be made to work in practice.
Advancing the climate negotiations has been a top priority for UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon since the beginning of his tenure and he can rightly claim credit for what has been achieved. Now he must shift the UN’s focus to take climate into the mainstream debate on
The 2012 celebration of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development represents a unique lens to bring this new focus. In all probability it will focus on two major themes: green growth and (related) reform of the United Nations system. By strategically
This is sorely needed for two reasons. First because the fight to combat climate change can only be won successfully if the economics of this can be argued and demonstrated convincingly. Secondly because the UN system does need to adjust to the emerging challenges the world is facing. The UN currently has no platform where governments can discuss energy issues. Environment, industry and development policy are
A shift in focus now can bring the UN new relevance and an opportunity to force some urgently needed change.
Yvo De Boer is a senior adviser at KPMG, and formerly executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
From: Wilfried van Sark <firstname.lastname@example.org>
We at the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University have recently published an edited book on “Technological Learning In The Energy Sector Lessons for Policy, Industry and Science”. It is a major update with respect to the 10-year old IEA publication by Clavs-Otto Wene, who gladly volunteered to write the preface of our book.
We have received enthusiastic support:
‘This expert analysis provides an important contribution to understanding the technicalities of energy technology cost dynamics. Given the urgent need for delivery of low-cost renewable energy technologies in particular, it is vital to understand how to accelerate this process of technological learning.’
‘“Experience curves” are an important instrument for policy makers. This book has a thorough discussion of such “curves” for a large number of energy technologies and will therefore be very useful around the world.’
The book describes technological learning to be a key driver behind the improvement of energy technologies and subsequent reduction of production costs. Understanding how and why production costs for energy technologies decline, and whether they will continue to do so in the future, is of crucial importance for policy makers, industrial stakeholders and scientists alike. This timely and informative book therefore provides a comprehensive review of technological development and cost reductions for renewable energy, clean fossil fuel and energy-efficient demand-side technologies.
It responds to the need for a quality-controlled data set of experience curves, including assessment of measurement methodology, technological knowledge and associated cost. The expert contributors present a thorough overview and discussion of the pitfalls of applying the experience curve approach, including aspects such as geographical system boundaries, whether the slope of the experience curves is constant or not, statistical error and sensitivity analysis of experience curves, and whether the experience curve approach can be utilized to quantify improvements in energy efficiency. A clear set of recommendations for the use of the experience curve approach is also prescribed.
Providing a significant contribution to the current literature on energy and climate models, scenario analysis, and methodological lessons on experience curves, this book will strongly appeal to academics and students in the areas focusing on energy and public sector economics. Policy makers in these fields will also find the book to be of great interest.
The book is edited by Martin Junginger, Wilfried van Sark, and André Faaij, all from the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.
The book is published by Edward Elgar Publishing, and can be ordered directly from them or through various internet bookstores.
Direct link: www.e-elgar.co.uk/Bookentry_DESCR…