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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The referendum: populism vs democracy: The idea of the referendum as an instrument of the people’s will rests on pre-democratic foundations, says George Schöpflin on www.OpenDemocracy.net

16 – 06 – 2008


The result of the Republic of Ireland’s referendum on 12 June 2008, a rejection of the European Union’s “reform treaty” agreed at the Lisbon summit in October 2007, has precipitated a crisis for the union whose resolution is hard to foresee. For the victorious “no” side, and for those elsewhere who support the use of referenda to decide on constitutional or other matters, the outcome in Ireland is also on three grounds a vindication of the institution of the referendum:

â–ª it restores democracy to the people
â–ª it allows the people to tell political elites to be responsive
â–ª it restores “the people’s will” to the storehouse of democratic instruments.

These propositions – which can be summarised as the seduction of direct democracy – are misconceived. The championing of referenda they embody proceeds from a series of four untenable assumptions, which are worth itemising in some detail.

George Schőpflin is a member of the European parliament for Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Union) and was Jean Monnet professor of politics at University College London.

An unsafe vehicle:

First, in complex modern societies there is no such thing as “the people”. The concept is a leftover from the time when democracy had to be legitimated in the eyes of anti-democrats; its residue today leaves it open to political manipulation. The homogeneity it implies can hardly be reconciled with the reality of an enormously varied modern society composed of millions of members with multiple motivations and choices, used to exercising individual rationality in the marketplace. How can they be compressed into something with a single voice, namely “the people”?

In too many cases – European integration among them – referenda function as an instrument not of democracy, but of populism. They can assist democracy only in a few special circumstances: for example, to resolve an issue that is more ethical than political (legalising divorce or abortion, say); or to unblock a political system (offering autonomy or independence to the population of a particular region and thus perhaps helping to avoid civil war or ameliorate division).

An example of the latter is when the populations of the various republics of the Soviet Union voted for or against declaring their sovereignty, which led to their independence as states. Another case where the referendum was a legitimate use of the instrument was the votes in 1997 on devolution for Scotland and Wales within the United Kingdom. The referendum held on 9 March 2008 in Hungary was ostensibly about the government’s health-reform project; in reality it was about a means to articulate the deep disquiet in society about the refusal of the Hungarian government to listen to that disquiet.

Second, referenda are profoundly unsuitable ways of addressing complex issues, because they offer the illusion of a simple answer to complexity. In this sense, they pull the voters into the pre-political stance that lies at the heart of populism. Modern politics is about weighing various options, in circumstances where issues only very seldom appear in stark, good-vs-bad form. Referenda have an implicit, contextual message that says the opposite, something along the lines of “vote no” or “vote yes” and all your problems will be solved; as Tøger Seidenfaden has pointed out, referenda reduce highly complex issues to a simple yes/no answer. In a cultural sense, they “dumb down” the voters.

Moreover, voting “yes” often means accepting the word of the political elite’s saying, in effect, “trust us”. If voters wish to send a message to the elite that they are dissatisfied – for whatever reason, even one wholly distinct from the issue at stake – voting “no” is a convenient and simplistic solution. So the illusion of expressing the popular will is just that, an illusion.

Third, referenda reintroduce the tyranny of the majority, the very thing that modern democracies have sought to dilute by, for example, upgrading the role of civil society. Here again, careful analysis is needed. A great deal of politics is about making matters relatively easily intelligible, but this can readily cross the line into oversimplification, especially when sections of society will be clamouring for just that. The erosion of trust between political elites and society is also about the reluctance of the latter to come to terms with political complexity and the way in which both elites and media pander to the outdated desire for a golden age when choices were simple.

The trouble with that supposed golden age is that – whenever those who invoke it can be persuaded to identify it in terms of a definite period – majorities had no trouble in imposing their views on a minority. The evolution of various forms of lobbying, advocacy and pressure groups, and radical movements since the 1960s and 1970s is precisely about giving otherwise silent groups a voice. Referenda suppress that. It is quite plausible that a referendum on, say, recriminalising homosexuality or reintroducing the death penalty would gain a majority in several European nation-states. It is unlikely that the more vocal protagonists of “the people” expressing its view in this way would approve. Indeed, supporters of referenda as the articulation of the popular will are seldom if ever called upon to define what is a proper topic to be decided by “the people” and what is not. That too is a part of the easy ride the referendum receives in modern democracy (or, to be more precise, in a surrogate for democracy).

Fourth, referenda offer power without responsibility, in that voters can confront elites without having to face the consequences of their action. At their heart, referenda provide an opportunity for ad hoc coalitions that never have to worry about the outcome. The far left and far right coming together in France in the May 2005 referendum on the European Union’s constitutional treaty was a case in point; the two sides could never have governed together, but they could operate as a spoiler. Something similar was in evidence in Ireland in the Lisbon-treaty vote, where rightwing Catholics made common cause with leftwingers suspicious of Europe. The irony of this is that an ad hoc coalition of this kind can focus on a single issue and need never on any single occasion assume responsibility for the power that it wields.
The one-way street:

Referenda have unintended consequences in that they introduce new political actors into the system together with fresh lines of polarisation, often around issues that (regardless of the new actors’ demands) have no straightforward solution. This can also introduce and legitimate potentially destructive discourses – accusations of “sell-out” and “betrayal”, for example – that gain credibility through being voiced by these “untainted” political actors.

Besides, the task of the negative campaigners tends to be simpler than that of the supporters – they only have to argue: “if in doubt, say no”. This was much in evidence in Ireland’s referendum campaign. For all practical purposes it left the supporters of the “yes” camp having to prove their credibility, if not actually their innocence. And once a “no” campaign has won, it cannot be blamed, as it immediately evaporates, once again leaving the (elected) elite with the problem of what to do next. The organisers of “no” campaigns themselves never have to face an election.

When referenda are held on questions to do with the future of Europe, there is a further generally unidentified twist to the story. European integration operates simultaneously with three different sets of actors – the European Union, its institutions and elites; the national elites; and the supposed European demos. These three do not really connect very much. There is some connection between the EU and the national elites, but the linkage between the EU and its demos is very weak and is generally felt to be weak.

It is this political gap that provides the opportunity for negative campaigners in European matters – they believe that they can hold “their own” national political elites to account for European commitments, something not possible at the European level, largely because identification with that level does not exist.

This is the democratic deficit that must be addressed. But referenda, far from overcoming that deficit, actually intensify it. Accountability and responsibility, after all, have to be a two-way process to work at all. Referenda operate only in one direction and, for that reason, are not an appropriate or a democratically sustainable instrument in European matters.
Also by George Schőpflin in openDemocracy:

“Israel-Lebanon: a battle over modernity” (8 August 2005)

“Putin’s anti-globalisation strategy” (10 July 2006)

“Hungary: country without consequences” (22 September 2006)

“Hungary’s cold civil war (14 November 2006)

“The European Union’s troubled birthday” (23 March 2007)

Russia’s reinvented empire (3 May 2007)

Turkey’s crisis and the European Union (23 July 2007)

The new Russia: a model state (27 February 2008)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

June 18, 2008 – EU leaders must reflect on their collective responsibilities in failing to explain Europe.

Ahead of the European Council summit meeting tomorrow in Brussels, the European Parliament held a debate with Council and Commission in Strasbourg today to assess the impact of the Irish vote and its implications for the EU agenda over the coming months.

Graham Watson, leader of the Liberal and Democrat group in the European Parliament, said:
“The heads of state and government should also reflect why, on the threshold of a new French Presidency, we have come full circle since the last. The Commission has a Plan D for Dialogue, but our member state governments have no equivalent. There is a role for Parliament and Commission in explaining the EU – but also for every national government to do so, every single day. Not just when ratification of the latest treaty is due.

My Group’s advice to Council is to get on with the real business of Europe – boosting trade, combating climate change, fighting food and fuel price hikes – whilst those who will, continue to ratify the Treaty.”

Andrew Duff (UK, Lib Dem), ALDE constitutional affairs spokesperson
This afternoon the Westminster parliament will complete ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. It will be refreshing to see Britain say ‘yes’ to Europe for once. It will restore the moral authority and political credibility of the UK and assist the Irish to seek a new consensus based on less ‘Libertas’ and more ‘Veritas’.”
“What is bizarre is that the British eurosceptics in this House prefer to let a referendum in a foreign country take the decision in place of Britain’s sovereign parliament. The plebiscite is a crude form of democracy possibly suited for revolutionary circumstances of regime change but totally unsuited for informed and deliberative decisions on complex treaty revision.”

Marielle de Sarnez MEP (MoDem, France) said: “Since the Treaty of Rome the world has changed. We must rethink and relaunch the European project in order for it to respond to the huge challenges of the new century: financial crisis and crisis of energy. How can we create qualitative growth that is both sustainable and fair ? How can we reduce the inequalities in our society ? How can we achieve a new world order ? These are the questions to which we need answers and to which Europe must now dedicate itself through politics.”

Marian Harkin MEP (Independent, Ireland) underlined that “it is only possible to defend Irish sovereignty if you also recognise the sovereignty of other Member States too. The Lisbon Treaty represents a real test for the principle of unanimity and therein lies the challenge for EU leaders. Ireland must be allowed time to reflect on their vote and answer the questions it raises. Whatever the solutions proposed to the current dilemma, Ireland must remain at the heart of Europe.”

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Ireland’s commissioner under fire for ‘poor’ EU treaty campaign: Commissioner McCreevy has been criticised for doing little to boost support for the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.

LUCIA KUBOSOVA – 17.06.2008, EUOBSERVER / STRASBOURG.

The leader of the Socialists in the European Parliament, Martin Schultz, has accused Irish EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy of “arrogance” for his public revelations that he had not read the Lisbon Treaty and for a visit to the US just ahead of the referendum in Ireland.

“We have to ask Mr Barroso what kind of people he has in his commission, particularly if you have someone acting as the deregulation Pope in Europe who then goes home and says he hasn’t read the treaty and doesn’t understand it,” Mr Schultz told reporters on Tuesday (17 June).

He was reacting to several statements of Mr McCreevy, who is in charge of internal market in the 27-member-strong European Commission, ahead of the only popular vote on the new EU reform treaty in Ireland held last week, in which the Irish rejected the document.

The commissioner admitted a lack of knowledge of details of the treaty in an interview with the EUobserver, saying he had only read most of a summary of the document.

“I would predict that there won’t be 250 people in the whole of the 4.2 million population of Ireland that have read the treaties cover-to-cover. I further predict that there is not 10 percent of that 250 that will understand every section and subsection,” he said.

“But is there anything different about that?” said the commissioner, adding: “Does anyone read the finance act?” referring to the lengthy documents he drew up when he was finance minister in Ireland.

Mr Schultz said he was “particularly disappointed” by such remarks, as well as by Mr McCreevy’s visit to the States four days before the vote. “That is an arrogance that we cannot put up with,” he added.


Moreover, the German Socialist leader criticised the EU executive for tabling proposals on rising oil prices the day after – rather than before – the referendum in Ireland, saying he was “amazed” that it had happened.

There is little passion for European integration, [but] there is passion against Europe. The pro-Europeans need to look to themselves. You cannot allow the No to win because the Yes is not doing anything.”

Both the commission and Slovenia, which currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, will on Wednesday brief MEPs on the expected proceedings at summit of the bloc’s leaders. The summit, which begins on Thursday, is to give the first initial response to what impact the Irish No will have on the Union’s further proceedings.

In his own reaction to the verdict delivered by his fellow Irish citizens, commissioner McCreevy said: “We should remember that Ireland is not alone in being unable to secure a popular endorsement of a European Treaty. As politicians this is something we need to learn from.”

—————–

The strange thing here is how the US got into this. We bet the US does not want to see a strong and united Europe – so does that mean that the US had a hand in this EU fiasco engineered by the Irish?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 13th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From:  press at alde.eu Distribution: immediate – June 13, 2008
Irish vote sends EU back to the drawing board

[ Final results announced just after 1700hrs local time put the no side at 53.4 per cent and the yes at 46.6 per cent, with an average turnout of around 54 per cent, higher than that polled during the defeat of the Nice treaty in 2001, and also more than turned out to vote when Nice was put to a vote the second time in 2002.

What is not clear is how the eight EU member states that have not yet ratified the treaty will proceed, and what, if any, measures will be taken to broker a compromise with the Irish. ]

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats note the outcome of the Irish referendum with deep regret.

Graham Watson, leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament also indicated his huge disappointment:

“If the rejection is confirmed today the incoming French Presidency should convene a special summit of EU leaders with only this one item on the agenda. All 27 Member States must decide a course of action on the fate of the Treaty and its proposed reforms and commit themselves to a concerted campaign to explain what the European Union is, why and how it works and why it deserves their support – the Alliance of EU Parliament Liberals and Democrats say. If there is one clear lesson from Ireland it is that too few people know what the EU is about or how it is adapting to a changing global environment.”
Andrew Duff MEP, constitutional affairs spokesperson for the ALDE group and one of the co-authors of the Treaty of Lisbon, said:

This is a tragic outcome for Ireland, for the EU and for Europe’s place in the world. The problems that the Treaty of Lisbon addressed remain: democracy, efficiency and capacity to act. We continue to believe that the content of the Treaty of Lisbon is in the very best interests of all the member states and citizens of the European Union.

“Brian Cowen, Irish Taoiseach, will have some tough explaining to do next week in the European Council on 19-20 June.

“I urge the heads of government to show strong leadership. They should not delay a decision about how to tackle the problem nor propose any new ‘period of reflection’. If a solution is to be found it needs to be done soon.”

Marian Harkin MEP (Independent, Ireland) commented:

“It is a very disappointing result. It was an extremely difficult campaign, much of the time was spent trying to counteract the misinformation being put out by the very well resourced “no” camp. Ireland became the battlefield of Europe and unfortunately this particular battle was lost. I am hoping that the Council meeting next week will give the necessary leadership to put the EU reform process back on track.”
For more information, please contact:
Neil Corlett: + 32-2-284 20 77 or + 32-478-78 22 84
e-mail:  neil.corlett at europarl.europa.eu
Yannick Laude: +32-2-284 31 69 or + 32-495-22 78 37
Web: www.alde.eu

———-

In effect, www.SustainabiliTank.info is at a loss to understand how a country like Ireland, that started out as if they belonged to the third world – an underdeveloped country that modernized and became an economic leader with the help of the main countries of the EU, is now so ingrate as to believe that they will be better off without a strong EU entity.

Ireland does not have oil like Norway, the best they can dream of becoming is another Switzerland, but then they are geographically not at the center of the world like the Swiss were, so – why do not the rest of the EU simply decide that for the good of the 26 they just put the Irish membership on hold, until the country reapplies, when the people get to their senses.

Anything less then that just is not in Europe’s self interest – and the geopolitical structure of the 21st century needs a strong and united Europe in order to be at the table with China, India and the US. The days that Europe got two memberships at the Security Council (the UK and France) are over. The real Global Security is now a deal that will involve one seat for the EU, and US, China, India, and Russia. Not even Japan, and not yet Brazil, can undo this reality. The individual France and UK, are already overshadowed by Germany, and without being united, Japan is ahead.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EU pledges to create ‘fifth freedom’ of knowledge.
March 14, 2008, By Lucia Kubosova EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS

Part of the EU’s ongoing quest to make itself more competitive, the bloc’s leaders have suggested creating a “fifth freedom” of knowledge to be added to the four original principles of free movement of persons, capital, services and goods in the European Union.

“Member states and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a ‘fifth freedom'”, the heads of states and governments concluded on Friday (14 March) in a statement following their traditional spring summit.

As part of the initiative, the bloc has pledged to boost cross-border mobility of researchers, students, scientists and university teachers, as well as labour markets and work conditions for European researchers and further reforms in high education.

The EU is already providing funding and possibilities for student exchange programmes but some countries falling behind on investment in education, research and development.

According to the latest figures, the EU invested 1.84 percent of GDP in research in 2006 – the same as in 2004 and 2005 – despite having an overall 3 percent target of GDP to meet by 2010.

The statistics show a varied picture across Europe – Sweden (3.82%) and Finland (3.45%) have already reached the goal, and they are followed by Germany, Austria and Denmark with 2 percent R&D expenditure.

Western European countries also register the highest number of scientists and engineers within their domestic labour force, with Belgium (7.9%) at the top of the table, followed by Ireland (6.8%) and Finland (6.7%). For Europe, the figure stood at 4.8 percent in 2006.

At the other end of the scale, some new member states in central and eastern Europe are seriously lagging behind in boosting knowledge-based economies, with Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania investing the least in R&D, below 0.5 percent.

While EU leaders re-confirmed they want to boost efforts in achieving the long established knowledge and innovation goals, economy ministers also pointed out in their working sessions that several countries need better infrastructure in the sector before they can pour in the required investments.

“Just by providing more money does not necessarily mean research and its practical results for national economies will be improved,” said Jan Pociatek, the finance minister of Slovakia, a country also featuring poorly in terms of R&D investment.

“We see it as a key problem of several countries,” he noted, adding that the European Commission has been asked to prepare an analysis on the issue.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

nbsp;www.theelders.org/elders/

 www.theelders.org

 www.theelders.org/supporters/

THE ELDERS -well known people gathered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in order to provide counsel in areas of conflict or on subjects that impact human life, human rights, the right to development etc.
The activity that brought to our attention this group centers now on the attempt to resolve the Kenya crisis. Among Their supporters is the UN Foundation and individuals like Richard Branson.

Welcome Elders Latest Events Global Village Press Our Supporters History

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 18th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Hungary’s parliament, on Monday December 17th became the first of the 27 member states to ratify the bloc’s new treaty, making the move just days after the document was formally signed off by EU leaders. It voted 325 votes in favour, 5 votes against and 14 abstentions for the new set of rules.

In taking the ratification step so quickly, Budapest has stolen the crown from Poland and France, both of whom had indicated they were aiming to be the first.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country rejected the original EU constitution in 2005, had suggested that France should be among the first to prove that the country is back on track in Europe.

The new EU treaty takes on most of the features of the rejected European constitution, including a foreign policy chief, a long-term president of the EU, a binding citizens rights charter, as well as cutting down on the areas where member states have a right to veto.

The new institutional rules, six years in the making, were signed off in a formal ceremony on Thursday (13 December) in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, with EU leaders happy to draw a line under the negotiations.

Each member state has to ratify the treaty for it to come into force, with governments aiming to get it in place by early 2009.

Ireland is the only country to have a referendum on the document, while the British government is undergoing strong pressure from opposition conservatives to hold a popular vote.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 16th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 15th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EU reflection group to be headed by former Spanish PM.

By Renata Goldirova for the EUobserver, December 14, 2007.


The European Union has agreed that its reflection group – a French-inspired idea to sketch the best political recipe for how to deal with Europe’s future challenges – will be chaired by Spain’s former prime minister Felipe Gonzalez.

The group will also have two vice-chairs, Latvia’s former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Nokia’s chief Jorma Ollila. The three are to choose the remaining nine personalities during the second half of 2008, under the French EU presidency.

According to Czech deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra, the group of about nine members, including the three top figures, is expected to kick off its work during the French presidency in 2008.

The timeframe was suggested by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a bid to avoid the group interfering with the upcoming ratification process of the Treaty of Lisbon, formally signed off on Thursday (13 December).

One of the main concern in the negotiations leading to the formation of the reflection group was that it should not affect public discussion on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.

Ireland is the only member states so far to say that it will have a referendum on the document, which needs to approved by all 27 member states before it can come into force. The Irish referendum is set to take place in the early summer of 2008.

The panel is expected to report its findings in June 2010, although it should avoid discussing “the EU’s finances, enlargement and institutional issues”, according to Mr Vondra.
One diplomat noted, however, that the mandate also includes “likely developments outside Europe with an effect on the EU” – something that could be seen as a cover for the touchy issue of future enlargement.

The main issues to be discussed are migration, the fight against terrorism, social and economic challenges and climate change.

“I would say that the reflection group is not the top priority for the European Parliament”, the EU assembly’s chief Hans-Gert Poettering said, when asked about the group, adding “most people think it is not the top priority but we don’t want to stand in the way of it”.

“This group can’t take the decision-making powers away from politicians. It can put forward proposals”, he stressed.

Other names tipped for the group members include former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox as well as Austria’s former chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.

 French president Nicolas Sarkozy has said that the committee   will discuss the future borders of the bloc, despite its mandate having been watered down expressly to avoid this sensitive topic.

Speaking after a meeting of EU leaders, where it was formally agreed to establish the ‘wise group’ – the brainchild of the French president – Mr Sarkozy said that while it will not talk about “EU institutions” or “specific policies” it could talk “about a new European dream.”

This includes “the question of frontiers” he said adding “about enlargement and what consequences.”

“At some point” it should be asked whether “there is a contradiction between integration and enlargement,” said Mr Sarkozy, who has made no secret of his opposition to Turkey’s EU membership bid.

German chancellor Angela Merkel also indicated that the group will probably end up discussing enlargement saying that “you can group anything under that category” referring to the part of the group’s mandate that says it should look at ways to reach out to citizens and address their expectations and needs.

But she said it would “not affect the continuation of [Turkey’s] accession talks, pointing out that ultimately it will be politicians that take decisions and not such a committee.

Mr Sarkozy’s lobbying to set up the group was widely interpreted as a way of putting the brakes on Ankara’s progress towards the EU.

But other member states thwarted his more ambitious aims for the discussion topics by severely limiting the mandate of the group.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 6th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This morning I watched a little the NBC reporting from the Arctic, Antarctic, and Ecuador on the Equator, including the Galapagos. I hope that these well intended reporting about environmental issues in general, global warming   and climate change induced problems in particular, will not just lead to more tourism – which in itself will bring about more negative effects.

Anyway, after that I resumed going over boxes of old material in an effort to reduce the mound of clippings I keep. I found in that box two clippings I want to share with you.

The first is from Newsweek Magazine – a January 6, 1992 back page editorial by Meg Greenfield. She wrote then that among her 1992 New Year’s Resolutions she will “RESOLVE TO STOP LOOKING AT THE WORLD AS THE SUM TOTAL OF ITS GOVERNMENTS.”     Now that comes from a time of real hope – just 15 years ago – there was the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the upcoming 1992 Summit on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.

She does not write about the UNCED, only about how wrong the media is when it looks only at the governments and not at the peoples. In effect, just wait long enough and the people will show what that country is really about. Imposed governments will just not last. What is lasting and durable are such impulses as religion, kinship, and group loyalty (alas, group hatred) she writes.

Could we simply say that the fact we allowed the UN to switch from PEOPLES to GOVERNMENTS is also the undoing of the UN? Is today’s courting by the US of a sinking Musharaf of Pakistan plainly a road to nowhere? Will the recognition of Islamic tendencies in Pakistan or Egypt be a cure worse then the present malaise? But what is the way to have a more peaceful world?

Now, the second clipping is from the November 5, 2005 New York Times. What a coincidence – two years ago to the day – and I just lead my hand on it.
It is by Andrew C. Revkin, the Andy Revkin of the New York Times Science pages, and now the blogger for climate change. He is also a musician and the article deals with a very important musician – Eric Bogle the Scotsman who emigrated in 1969 to Australia and eventually ended up in Ireland.

In 1971, when Australia was embroiled in Vietnam alongside the United States, Mr. Bogle wrote “AND THE BAND PLAYED WALTZING MATILDA.”

“I wanted to write an antiwar song but didn’t want to denigrate the courage of soldiers,” Mr. Bogle is quoted in 2002 by Andy Revkin, as having said this a couple of days earlier in an interview after a concert before roughly 100 people, a great audience, at a small Manhattan nightclub. “There was too much of that ‘baby killer” stuff going on.”     Waltzing Matilda, going back to the Gallipoli war of the beginning of last century, is the unofficial Australian anthem sung whenever Australians get involved in wars which are not theirs to fight – and they get killed and maimed. Mr. Bogle does not see his song as a protest song but rather as “a statement of facts and the feelings they engender.”

For an encore that night, Bogle sang “Hallowed Ground,” which he wrote in 2002 after revisiting the graves on the French battlefield of World War II.

Addressing the fallen soldiers and cyclical nature of conflict, he sings:

“Oh, boys, how I’d like to tell you everything has changed
But that would be a lie
All in all, this world is much the same
Old men still talk and argue while young men still fight and die
And I still don’t know why.”

Pete Seeger told Andy Revkin about Bogle’s songs: “In a few lines of poetry he (Bogle) captured one of the great contradictions of the world: the heroism of people doing something, even knowing it was a crazy something.
And he showed how the establishment has used music thousands of years to support its way of thinking.”

Andy Revkin plays with a band these songs, and writes describing how we go on destroying Planet Earth. Seemingly it is again the old that argue and destroy the future of the young. Hopefully there will be enough of the young ones to listen to “pied-piper” Al Gore and push then on their own for a more rational and sustainable future despite the “WE THE GOVERNMENTS” of the UN.

Attached please find the scanned-in article by Meg Greenfield.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 21st, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

At the UN, September 21, 2007 is the International Day of Peace. It will be celebrated with a ceremony of ringing the Japanese Peace Bell. The Korean UN Secretary-General and the Japanese Head of the UN outreach programs, the Under-Secretary-General in charge of the Department of Public Information will be present. The young Japanese “Tarumi Violinists” will perform, and the United Nations singers will sing a “Song of Peace.”   Also in attendance will be Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, wife of the Secretary-General; Dr. Asha Rose Migiro, Deputy Secretary-General; Mr. Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd General Assembly. We saw missing from that list the President of the UN Security Council – the only body at the UN that has teeth. They usually do not spend time on illusioneering purpose.

Further, there will be present the Messengers of Peace Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall and Elie Wiesel, and Mr. Ban Ki-moon will announce the appointment of two new Messengers of Peace.
The roster of UN Messengers of Peace is as follows – and please Click on the following image, supplied by the UN, for a short biography of each of the Messengers.

messengers.jpg
Click here to learn more about celebrity advocacy and the United Nations.

You may have guessed it, all of the above is related to this year’s effort by the UN Secretary-General on behalf of raising the world’s attention on such matters as Global Warming/Climate Change and the killings in Darfur. This coming week – starting with this Friday and including the weekend – New York will be in a state of mayhem. Starting with Ahmedi-nejad, the city will be host to limousine convoys that will create gridlock-galore. Mega-speeches will wax over the issues – the Secretary-General intends this to become the biggest show on earth. We are being humbled by this effort and please remember our title of a previous article – “The UN and Climate Change are like a bad marriage; you cannot live with him and you cannot live without him” – we also know that the UN is needed and if it did not exist we would have had to create it – but for your own sanity – please – do not hang your hopes and your coat on the UN – it cannot, and will not, answer your needs.
We, just as a small example of folks that hang around the UN, we spent last week in Addis Ababa, and we intend to spend next week in Vietnam. We like to see what goes on in the real world and sometimes miss thus what goes on the UN stage in New York – though we were taught by UN officials recently in Vienna that the UN, like a large spider, tries to reach you even when you are afar.

The UN Department of Public Information is bringing to the attention of the journalists it accredited to the UN a WELCOME TO THE UN page explaining what the UN does.
We bring this also hereforth:

Welcome to the United Nations

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International Day of Peace (21 September 2007)

We will have a busy day today. It will include a special briefing by UNDP on “Adapting Development Efforts To Meet The Climate Change.” and then will follow up with a Heinrich Boell Foundation / Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) German sponsored event with the participation of H.E. Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway and the mother of it all – environment and development – and H.E. Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland who is still active around the UN. After that we take off for the weekend in order to preserve our sanity.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 18th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From:
Email:  andrew.simms at neweconomics.org
Website: www.neweconomics.org

Europe-wide research by nef (the new economics foundation), using a new measure of carbon efficiency and real economic progress reveals that Europe is less efficient today than it was 40 years ago. The European Happy Planet Index: An index of carbon efficiency and well-being in the EU reveals for the first time the carbon efficiency with which 30 European nations produce lives of different relative length and life satisfaction for their citizens. nef’s analysis, published in association with Friends of the Earth, also looks back over the last 40 years and comes worrying conclusions in an age of climate change, when it is more important than ever that we use our resources efficiently. nef’s Index reveals that:
§               Europe as a whole has become less efficient, not more, in translating fossil fuel use into measurable human well being. The Index reveals that Europe as a whole is less carbon efficient now than it was in 1961.
§               Across Europe people report comparable levels of well-being whether their lifestyles imply the need for the resources of six and a half, or just one planet like Earth. The message is that people are just as likely to lead satisfied lives whether their levels of consumption are very low or high.
§               Iceland tops the Index. Scandinavian countries are the most efficient – achieving the highest levels of well-being in Europe at relatively low environmental cost with Sweden and Norway joining Iceland at the top of the HPI table. Iceland’s combination of strong social policies and extensive use of renewable energy demonstrate that living within our environmental means doesn’t mean sacrificing human well-being – in fact, it could even make us happier
§               The UK comes a poor 21st out of the 30 countries analysed, and nations that have most closely followed the Anglo-Saxon, strongly market-led economic model show up as the least efficient on the Index.

The European Happy Planet Index: An Index of carbon efficiency and well-being

__________________________________

Andrew Simms
Policy Director and Head of the Climate Change Programme

nef (the new economics foundation)
economics as if people and the planet mattered
3 Jonathan St
London SE11 5NH
Registered Company No. 319 3399
Registered Charity No. 1055254

Tel: ++ 44 (0)20 7820 6355
Fax: ++ 44 (0)20 7820 6301
Switchboard: ++ 44 (0)20 7820 6300

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 3rd, 2007

From:  Lafla94 at aol.com [mailto:Lafla94@aol.com]
Subject: FW: MISSING CHILD – vanished on a beach in Portugal.

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Phil McCann writes: Please read this message and pass it on!!!!!!!!!
As you are aware my niece, Madeleine, is still missing and I am asking everyone I know to send this as a chain letter i.e. you send it to everyone you know and ask them to do the same, as the story is only being covered in Britain, Eire and Portugal. We don’t believe that she is in Portugal anymore and need to get her picture and the story across Europe as quickly as possible. Suggestions are welcome.

Please Pass this email on to everyone in your address book and they reckon it could cover 80% of the world’s inboxes in 2 weeks.
Madeleine’s Eye Holds Vital Clue
Updated: 18:00 , Saturday May 12, 2007
Madeleine McCann’s family believe a new picture of the missing four-year-old could play a vital role in the search for her.
The photo of the youngster shows clearly the her distinctive right eye, where the pupil runs into the blue-green iris.

The new poster of Madeleine
It is this distinguishing mark that will identify Madeleine to those on the lookout for her, according to aunt and uncle John and Diane McCann.
The Glasgow couple aim to distribute the appeal poster, which features the Crimestoppers telephone number, as far afield as they can.
Family friend Andrew Renwick told Sky News that support for the search had been “overwhelming” and her family were extremely grateful.

Her right eye
Mrs McCann said: “The purpose of the poster is to highlight the distinction in Madeleine’s eye.
“We want to make the most of it, because we know her hair could potentially be cut or dyed.”
Mr McCann added: “The poster was designed by a friend of the family and I’ve begun Emailing it to acquaintances in different parts of the world.
“I’m asking people to circulate it the best they can and make it be seen.”
Madeleine’s Eye Holds Vital Clue.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 4th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 New oil reserves of up to 5 billion barrels were found in Cuban waters last year.
Spain was a colonial power in Cuba until 1898. It accounts for almost half the EU’s €2 billion a year bilateral trade with the island, and Spanish firms, such as Repsol-YPF, are currently bidding for access to the oil reserves in Cuba.

Is Spain in it for the money in its relations with Cuba?

Spanish and Czech diplomats are unwilling to speak openly about a simmering disagreement, which is bubbling away at a low diplomatic level in Brussels, and is set to see a follow-up meeting on 11 April.   Czech NGOs are happy to say out loud, what Prague is thinking in private.

The Czech camp’s argument was bolstered by an European Commission report on Cuba delivered at the March 29, 2007, get-together, with the commission saying existing EU policy towards Cuba has proved “ineffective” in terms of reform, opposition groups remain weak and the EU is losing influence to Venezuela and China in shaping Cuba’s future.

But Spain, supported by Greece and Cyprus, wants Berlin to shelve any new EU paper despite regarding policy towards Cuba despite a German   softly-softly approach. Madrid says any EU policy shift in mid-2007 could damage prospects of a “new era” in Cuba-EU relations, with the opening created by the fragile health of 80-year old leader Fidel Castro and upcoming elections in March 2008.

Pro-democracy Prague is keen to insert new “operational” ideas into the German paper that will help the EU prepare the Cuban opposition for a peaceful hand-over of power instead of talking with the likely “official” successors of Fidel Castro’s reign.

The pro-civil society group also includes Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Portugal but would have to get all 27 EU states on board in the consensus-based legal structure of EU foreign policy making.

“We don’t want ‘tough’ language on human rights and Cuba in the new policy paper – we want operational ideas,” an EU diplomat from the pro-democracy group said. “The status quo is not an option. Doing nothing implies support for the Cuban authorities,” another pro-NGO EU diplomat said.

Italian liberal MEP Marco Cappato, who visited Cuba on 18 March, also advocates greater EU engagement with pro-democracy activists, saying repression has become “worse” since sanctions were suspended in 2005 and expressing concern over future instability on the island if the EU continues on present lines.

“Why should we wait to see what happens? We should influence what happens,” Mr Cappato told EUobserver. “The EU’s role as an international player will be undermined if we just wait and then, if there is violence around the elections, we express concern or impose an embargo.”

In the meantime Spain prepares to visit Cuba. “The visit of the Spanish minister of foreign affairs to Cuba is driven by bilateral economic interests,” “People in Need,” an NGO,   analyst Kristina Prunerova said, predicting that Mr Moratinos will not meet any real dissidents on the trip but that Havana might release a handful of political prisoners to help Madrid “sell” its policy back in Brussels. Is it just because of oil?

“The situation is getting worse in Cuba every day. More and more people are being detained, harassed and threatened,” Ms Prunerova said. “But with this visit, Spain is giving the sign that the Cuban regime is acceptable as a partner and can be dealt with on a regular basis.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 29th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EU to use green tax in fight against climate change.
Reports Renata Goldirova from Brussels, for the EUobserver, March 28, 2009.

Seeking new ways to reach its ambitious environment goals, the European Commission is set to make taxation one of its principal tools in cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

Commissioners Stavros Dimas (environment) and Laszlo Kovacs (taxation) have launched a public debate on how so-called market-based instruments such as emissions trading, environmental taxes and targeted subsidies could be used to discourage pollution.

“Our goal is to promote the use of market-based instruments whenever they are appropriate,” commissioner Dimas said, adding “this cost-effective approach has proved its value, but is still underutilized.”

The major change lies with taxes on energy products, as they currently do not reflect their impact on the environment.

Brussels is suggesting splitting the EU-wide minimum excise duties into energy and environmental elements, which would be mirrored in member states, forcing them to introduce an energy tax and an environmental tax.

According to Mr Kovacs, such a tax differentiation would indirectly favour cleaner energy sources, especially renewable energy and it would push producers and consumers away from non-environmentally friendly goods.

In addition, the commission’s paper – made public on Wednesday (28 March) – has underlined that by adopting differentiated tax rates member states can also promote products containing less polluting substances.

Taking Ireland as an example, Mr Dimas praised the country for introducing a plastic bag levy in 2002, as some 1.2 billion plastic shopping bags were provided free of charge each year. The levy – with revenues assigned to environmental purposes – has led to an over 90 percent reduction in their use, with consumers preferring to bring their own reusable shopping bags with them.

A similar compliment was paid to the Danish government, which decided to reflect the environmental impact of different packaging materials in the tax rate.

“Taxation should in the first place discourage what is undesirable, rewarding at the same time all sorts of positive behaviour, be it energy savings or environment-friendly activities,” Mr Kovacs said.

Mr. Kovacs added that environmental taxes can generate revenues, which can subsequently be put back into the economy or used to cut other taxes, such as on labour.

The public debate is part of efforts to overhaul the energy taxation directive by the end of this year – consultations will be wrapped up by July – that is still during the German EU Precidency period.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 29th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Supermarkets and chain pharmacies will have to use recyclable or compostable sacks.
Paper or plastic? Not anymore in San Francisco.

The city’s Board of Supervisors approved groundbreaking legislation to outlaw plastic checkout bags at large supermarkets in about six months and large chain pharmacies in about a year.

The ordinance, is the first such law in any city in the United States and has been drawing global scrutiny this week. We picked the information up in Austrian press. In Austria people come to shop prepared with bags – otherwise you have to pay for the bags. Hopefully, other cities and other states will follow suit.”

Fifty years ago, plastic bags – starting first with the sandwich bag – were seen in the United States as a more sanitary and environmentally friendly alternative to the deforesting paper bag. Now an estimated 180 million plastic bags, made from petroleum, are distributed to shoppers each year in San Francisco. Made of filmy plastic, they are hard to recycle and easily blow into trees and waterways, where they are blamed for killing marine life. They also occupy much-needed landfill space.

Two years ago, San Francisco officials considered imposing a 17-cent tax on petroleum-based plastic bags before reaching a deal with the California Grocers Association. The agreement called for large supermarkets to reduce by 10 million the number of bags given to shoppers in 2006. The grocers association said it cut back by 7.6 million, but city officials called that figure unreliable and unverifiable because of poor data supplied by markets.

The dispute led to a renewed interest in outlawing the standard plastic bag, which City Board Supervisor Mirkarimi said Tuesday was a “relic of the past.” Under the legislation, which passed 10-1 in the first of two votes, large markets and pharmacies will have the option of using compostable bags made of corn starch or bags made of recyclable paper. San Francisco will join a number of countries, such as Ireland, that already have outlawed plastic bags or have levied a tax on them. Final passage of the legislation is expected at the board’s next scheduled meeting, and the mayor is expected to sign it.

The grocers association has warned that the new law will lead to higher prices for San Francisco shoppers.

“We’re disappointed that the Board of Supervisors is going down this path,” said Kristin Power, the association’s vice president for government relations. “It will frustrate recycling efforts and will increase both consumer and retailer costs. There’s also a real concern about the availability and quality of compostable bags.”

Power said most of the group’s members operating in San Francisco are likely to switch to paper bags “simply because of the affordability and availability issues.”

Mirkarimi’s legislation is one in a string of environmentally sensitive measures – such as outlawing Styrofoam food containers and encouraging clean-fuel construction vehicles at city job sites – adopted by the city in recent months.

“It’s really exciting,” Jared Blumenfeld, director of the city’s Department of the Environment, said after the vote on Tuesday. “We’re thrilled. It’s been a long time in the making.”

Blumenfeld said it takes 430,000 gallons of oil to manufacture 100 million bags. Compostable bags can be recycled in the city’s green garbage bins and will make it more convenient for residents to recycle food scraps, he said.

Recycling of paper bags also is far more active today than it was when the plastic bag was first introduced to U.S. consumers.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who introduced amendments this month that will subject pharmacy chains to the legislation, said many large businesses in San Francisco already participate in recycling programs.

“The target of this legislation is the bags themselves and improving the environment,” she said.

Plastic Bags by the Numbers:

180 Million: Roughly the number of plastic shopping bags distributed in San Francisco each year.

2 to 3 Cents: Amount each bag costs markets, compared with anywhere from 5 to 10 cents for a biodegradable bag.

4 Trillion to 5 Trillion: Number of nondegradable plastic bags used worldwide annually.

430,000 Gallons: Amount of oil needed to produce 100 million nondegradable plastic bags.

Source: S.F. Department of the Environment; Worldwatch Institute.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 13th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Ireland Sets 33 Pct Green Electricity Goal by 2020.

Dublin, March 13, 2007, Paul Hoskins for Reuters – A third of electricity used in Ireland will come from renewable sources by 2020, the government said on Monday as it unveiled plans to reduce dependence on imported fuels and protect itself against supply disruptions.

“By 2020 one third of electricity consumed in this economy will come from renewable sources,” natural resources minister Noel Dempsey said in a speech following publication of a policy document on sustainable energy.

Official figures for 2006 are not yet available but a ministry spokesman said about 8 percent of electricity consumed last year came from green sources, versus 6.8 percent in 2005.

With nuclear power generation banned in Ireland and limited potential for hydroelectricity, the country would have to rely on natural gas for 70 percent of fuel needs in 13 years time if steps were not taken to encourage more diverse energy supplies.

“Wind energy will provide the pivotal contribution to achieving this target,” the government said in its policy paper.

Ireland, which in World War Two used peat to keep trains running and bread ovens alight after coal imports dried up, still imports over 70 percent of its energy needs and relies on two pipelines from the United Kingdom for 90 percent of its gas.

A spat last year between Russia and Ukraine that disrupted gas deliveries to Europe highlighted Ireland’s dependence on fuel imports and its strategic vulnerability, given that geography puts it at the end of Europe’s pipelines.

Other potential green energy sources include biomass such as plant and animal waste which the government hopes to be able to burn soon in three state-owned, peat-fired power stations.

The government said it would also invest in ocean energy with a view to having working technology in place producing electricity from waves or marine currents within a decade.

NO PRIVATISATION

Coal had a “renewed attraction” given large supplies still available and the fact that it does not have the same price and supply sensitivities as oil or gas. Potential “clean coal technologies” may allow it to make a long-term contribution.

Ireland’s Green Party said the plans fell-short, however, pointing to a lack of firm goals for heating and transport. “It is impossible to see how the government would meet the 20 percent commitment it gave in Brussels last week,” party energy spokesman Eamon Ryan said of a European Union pledge that renewables will account for a fifth of all energy use by 2020.

To foster supply competition in an area dominated by the state’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB), Ireland will transfer transmission assets to a separate state body known as EirGrid. The move should attract new suppliers to the Irish market by ensuring a “level playing field”, Dempsey said, adding that land would also be set aside for those looking to enter the market.

Under Ireland’s National Development Plan unveiled earlier this year, state companies such as ESB and EirGrid will invest about 4.9 billion euros (US$6.4 billion) in electricity and gas distribution and transmission networks between 2007 and 2013.

The government stressed, however, that such bodies held key strategic assets and would “never be privatised”.

Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said at the launch of the country’s energy policy that moving towards greener energy supply need not harm Ireland’s thriving economy.

“Meeting the needs of our growing population means that we must provide modern infrastructure, sustain our economic progress and support meaningful employment opportunities.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 12th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

“EU sees light on Turnbull’s bulb proposal” – by Peter Wilson, Europe correspondent for The Australian – March 12, 2007.
EUROPEAN leaders governing 490 million people have decided to follow Australia’s lead and replace old-fashioned light bulbs with more energy-efficient bulbs.

The leaders of the European Union’s 27 member states agreed at an EU summit in Brussels to order European officials to “rapidly submit proposals” for phasing out the energy-wasting incandescent bulbs within two or three years. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern joined German government officials in crediting the Australian Government with the initiative, confirming the influence of Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement last month that Australia would become the first country in the world to ban the old-style bulbs over the next three years.

“We are very impressed by the Australians and before we came to the summit, we had already been in touch with them,” Mr Ahern said. “We support this scheme and hope to take it on.”

A spokesman for Mr Ahern told The Australian yesterday that the Irish delegation had gone to Friday’s summit already converted on the idea.

The light bulb changeover was not the most important decision to come out of the EU summit, which set a legally binding pledge that by 2020, Europe’s carbon emissions would be 20 per cent below those of 1990 and renewable sources like windmills would provide at least a fifth of Europe’s electricity.

But the light bulb move won headlines across Europe as an achievable and easily understood reform. Even more remarkably, it managed to temper Australia’s international reputation as a climate-change laggard by casting Australia as a pioneer in battling greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU is expected to enforce the phasing-out of the old bulbs by issuing directives which force manufacturers to meet new energy standards.

The Brussels summit directed EU bureaucrats to draw up reforms for office and street lighting “to be adopted by 2008” and for incandescent bulbs and other forms of lighting in private homes by 2009.

British PM Tony Blair had already symbolically changed the bulb in the lamp outside his office at No10 Downing Street. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she, too, had made the switch at home, before adding a less-than-rousing personal endorsement. “They’re not yet quite bright enough,” she said.

Australia was not the first nation to promote the use of energy-saving light bulbs, or to consider legislation on the matter. A California assemblyman announced in January that he would try to introduce a law banning incandescent bulbs in the largest US state, and a New Jersey legislator had urged his state to switch to fluorescent lighting in government buildings within three years.

Fidel Castro launched a drive in Cuba two years ago to replace older bulbs with “green” models but the aging dictator did not go so far as to ban the traditional bulbs.

Venezuela has made similar voluntary efforts since last November. New Zealand is promising a similar ban, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia are expected to follow suit and Chile last week launched a non-compulsory effort to switch to new bulbs.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Giant offshore wind farm gets the green light, reports,   Tuesday, February 20, 2007, Susie Mesure for the Belfast Telegraph.

                  Irish firm Airtricity wins £1.2bn wind deal.
/www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/article2287506.ece

The first British offshore wind farm to be built outside UK territorial waters was given the green light yesterday.

Airtricity, the Irish wind developer aiming to make Europe self-sufficient in energy, was awarded the 500-megawatt project, which will be built 16 miles off the Suffolk coast.

Eddie O’Connor, Airtricity’s chief executive, said it would take two years to build the 150 sq km windfarm and he expects work to commence in 2009. Fluor, the US construction giant, is working with the Irish company on the £1.2bn project. The windfarm will be able to supply clean electricity to over 415,000 homes, more than all the demand in Suffolk.

The Greater Gabbard wind farm will be the first to be built outside the 12 nautical-mile boundary of UK waters.

The 2004 Energy Act established a renewable energy zone that extended the Government’s authority to 200 miles in some places.

Alistair Darling, the Trade and Industry Secretary, said: “We need more renewable energy as part of the mix of generation of electricity. It cuts emissions while powering homes.”

Ian Pearson, the climate change minister, said wind farms such as Greater Gabbard “will play a major role in helping to reduce the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050”.

He added: “We must start moving towards a zero-carbon economy now, which involves a significant increase in the uptake of clean technologies, especially renewable energy.”

The 140-turbine wind farm will help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 1.5 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.

Mr O’Connor said he believes that eventually all of Europe’s energy needs could be met by wind power.

“Wind is not just the North Sea oil and gas of the 21st century but its Saudi Arabia,” he said. He wants Britain and Germany to pool their wind-powered electricity in a “supergrid … that would provide infinite access to this treasure trove of energy”.

He is flying to Berlin this week for meetings with the German government.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 9th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

“Spain and Luxembourg call for ‘pride’ in EU constitution” writes Helena Spongenberg from Brussels
“Those of us that have ratified [the constitution] must be proud of it,” said Spanish foreign affairs minister Miguel Angel Moratinos adding that the ratifiers should not have to justify their choice.

“[We should be] open and constructive but defending our principles and values, and the existence of a treaty that we consider a fundamental element,” he said, according to Spanish daily El Mundo.

The minister was in Luxembourg on Monday (8 January) to meet with the country’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn.

The two are preparing a conference on 26 January for the 18 EU member states that have ratified the constitution – both before and after French and Dutch voters rejected the charter in 2005.

Mr Asselborn said the objective of the conference was to analyse the political situation of the EU and “help” the German EU presidency in the debate on the reform of the bloc’s institutions after it was paralyzed by the votes in France and the Netherlands.

Mr Moratinos said reactions had generally been positive, despite the fact that the plan has received some criticism – EU liberal constitutional spokesman and UK MEP Andrew Duff said last month the initiative “carries the serious risk of dividing the union.”

He added that Ireland and Portugal – countries which have not ratified the constitution – had shown interest in taking part in the Madrid conference.

Mr Asselborn pointed out that at the Madrid conference, it would be decided if a second conference should take place in Luxembourg at the end of February, which would include the seven member states that have not yet ratified the constitution.

He made assurances, however, that the two countries “do not want to constitute a block” against those that have rejected or not yet ratified the constitution. “On the contrary, we try to encourage them to ratify and to help the German presidency to find keys that impel dialogue.”

Spain and Luxembourg are the only two countries that ratified the EU constitution by referendum, with 77 percent of Spaniards and 56 percent of Luxembourgish voting “yes” to the document.

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom parked the process of ratification after it was rejected in 2005.

Bulgaria and Romania which entered the EU in January already ratified the constitution before accession.

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