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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From pro-American to pro-Russian? Nikola Gruevski as a political chameleon.
Vassilis Petsinis, 22 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

A former staunch ally of the US-led War on Terror, Macedonia PM Nikola Gruevski has gradually turned his country away from the west towards Russia – all the while keeping his neoconservative ideology intact.

Following the unrest in Kumanovo and the massive anti-government protests, FYR Macedonia has captivated the interest of the international press. The most recent mobilization has been the peak of a wave of discontent that commenced with the countrywide student protests some weeks ago. In the domestic front, opposition circles have issued a series of charges against the government led by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE such as: promotion of nepotism, unwillingness to combat corruption, illegitimate surveillance of political opponents and, on top of all, growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, political analysts have detected a certain rift in the relations between Skopje and the West which has resulted in the Macedonian government’s more decisive reorientation towards Moscow.

Russia has pledged its political support to Nikola Gruevski’s and the two sides have extended their cooperation in energy issues and other areas of economic concern. Without neglecting the crucial impact of shifting geopolitics, this brief piece mostly concentrates on VMRO-DPMNE’s, predominantly, neoconservative agenda under the leadership of Nikola Gruevski. It also sets in a comparative context how this neoconservative platform has remained intact despite the gradual readjustment of the state’s foreign policy from Euro-Atlantic institutions towards Moscow’s orbit of influence.

From one neocon to another:

In 2003, Nikola Gruevski succeeded Ljub?o Georgievski in the party’s leadership. An ambitious young politician back then, Gruevski’s main ambition was to centralize decision-making within VMRO-DPMNE and modernize the party’s structures.

The latter objective was achieved via the recruitment of a younger pool of cadres. Following a widespread trend all over Southeast Europe (e.g. Albania’s Edi Rama and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremi?), the party’s central committee and later the Cabinet of Ministers consisted of young, aspiring and, often, Western-educated individuals (e.g. the Foreign Minister between 2006 and 2011, Antonio Milošoski). Moreover, Gruevski maintained the central aspects of Georgievski’s strategy of rapprochement vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian community.

Despite this, Gruevski’s term in office has been marked by the emphatic endorsement of Neo-Macedonism to the detriment of the modernist narratives over the Macedonian ethno-genesis in the nineteenth century. The adoption of Neo-Macedonism became further institutionalized through the endorsement of grandiose architectural projects, largely inspired by classical antiquity, which commenced in 2010.

On the domestic front, the Socialists/SDSM and other opposition circles accused the government of investing a disproportional percentage of the state’s budget on these projects. In foreign policy, the emphasis on Neo-Macedonism further complicated relations with the southern neighbour, Greece.

Since the early days of Nikola Gruevski’s term in office, the ‘new’ VMRO-DPMNE drew inspiration from the rather influential trend of neoconservatism among policymaking circles in the US. As it was the case with various other statesmen in Central and Southeast Europe (e.g. Romania’s Traian B?sescu), Nikola Gruevski underlined his firm commitment to Euro-Atlantic institutions and opted for the rapid liberalization of the economy along post-Keynesian lines.

Meanwhile, Gruevski constantly stressed his deep faith in God and highlighted the significance of Eastern Orthodoxy and its system of moral values as a fundamental pillar of the state’s identity. In the field of foreign policy, Nikola Gruevski soon emerged as a staunch supporter of George W. Bush’s policy-doctrine on the Middle East. Throughout the 2000s, FYR Macedonia had dispatched military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq under the auspices of the US-led ‘Coalition of the Willing’.

The NATO summit in Bucharest (April 2-4, 2008) was a landmark. As a gesture of gratitude to its small Balkan ally, the US delegation elaborated possible ways to include FYR Macedonia in the NATO enlargement round irrespective of the state’s dispute with Greece. However, the Greek PM, Kostas Karamanlis, vetoed this proposal on the basis that any outstanding issues with the northern neighbour must be previously resolved in order for Greece to grant its assent.

The Greek veto was met with discontent in Washington and infuriated Skopje. Especially in the light of Karamanlis’ opening to Russia, Skopje-based policymakers and think-tanks did not simply charge Athens with ‘parochial and introverted nationalism’. They went a step further and accused Greece of acting as a ‘Trojan horse’ in Moscow’s service with the aim to destabilize NATO and sabotage its enlargement in Southeast Europe.

The pendulum shifts: Fluctuating geopolitics and disillusionment with the West

Barack Obama, who succeeded G.W. Bush to the US Presidency in 2009, watered down various aspects of his predecessor’s ‘hawkish’ foreign policy. Instead, the new administration in the White House opted for a doctrine of appeasement in regards to their regional competitors (e.g. Russia and Iran).

Meanwhile, the simultaneous advent of the economic crisis made European policymakers more introverted and reluctant to the prospects of the EU’s wider enlargement. With specific regard to FYR Macedonia, European policymakers and political analysts soon stroke a critical stance towards Nikola Gruevski and his apparatus. The main areas of concern were symptoms of nepotism and authoritarianism as well as accusations over the relentless propagation of ‘ethno-kitsch’.

This shifting landscape in global and regional politics had direct ramifications on the government circles in Skopje. Several commentators have argued that delaying the state’s accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions runs detrimental to FYR Macedonia’s stateness and it is largely to account for Skopje’s disillusionment with the West. From a more ‘ideological’ angle, though, the change of guard in the White House and the subsequent adoption of a new US foreign policy doctrine are not to be overlooked either.

In other words, Nikola Gruevski’s government has lost much of the patronage that it enjoyed during George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Moreover, we are currently experiencing the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The last few years have witnessed the consolidation of semi-authoritarian models of governance among emerging regional actors (e.g. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Turkey and Vladimir Putin in Russia). The latter development has encouraged the, if only subtle, admiration of certain statesmen throughout Central and Southeast Europe towards the above-mentioned models.

For instance, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán recently coined the concept of illiberal democracy. According to the Hungarian PM, ‘it is not an imperative that contemporary democracy must be structured along the ideological frame of Liberalism…there can be numerous other models of democracy in Europe, nowadays’. Moreover, Viktor Orbán has also positioned Hungary’s foreign policy more solidly within Russia’s orbit of influence.

In particular, both FIDESZ and VMRO-DPMNE converge along a common axis. Both are post-Communist parties that commenced their engagement in politics as, anti-establishment, umbrella-initiatives that hosted a wide range of conservative as well as liberal standpoints. However, in the long run, local adaptations of neoconservatism evolved into the dominant intra-party trend.

Nikola Gruevski and/or Viktor Orbán are not merely unhappy with the outlook(s) of Euro-Atlantic institutions on their respective states or the way(s) that their rule has been portrayed in the Western press. They have also isolated specific elements in Vladimir Putin’s leadership which they deem rather akin to their brand(s) of neoconservatism. These are, namely, Russia’s leader-centred and strong government, the promotion of national and Christian values, and the safeguarding of ‘naturally ascribed’ gender-roles.

Especially in the light of a multipolar international system, one might contend that the neoconservative, ideological, core in parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and/or FIDESZ has remained intact despite the, apparent, foreign policy readjustment towards Moscow.
What next? Skopje amidst political polarization and fears of ethnic radicalization

In addition to the decline of popular confidence, the government in Skopje may also have to face the challenge of resurgent ethnic radicalization. During the last couple of weeks, a militant group, allegedly consisting of ethnic Albanians, became active in the northern town of Kumanovo. The apparent resurgence of militant Albanian ethno-nationalism triggered a series of conspiracy theories.

Pro-government circles have hinted at the involvement of ‘foreign decision-making centres’ who are not particularly content with the bilateral cooperation between Russia and FYR Macedonia. In the other end of the spectrum, opposition circles have suspected the government of engineering the Kumanovo troubles in an attempt to play the card of ‘national unity’ as a last resort. A third assumption that has not been examined to an adequate extent is the possibility of a peculiar, yet amorphous, blend between Albanian ethno-nationalism and elements of Islamic fundamentalism along the lines of the ‘Chechen precedent’.

Russia, on its part, has been quick to point the finger for both the Kumanovo incidents and the anti-government mobilization at the West. The US and the EU have been accused of orchestrating one more ‘Maidan-style’ coup with the aim to destabilize the government and obstruct cooperation with Russia in energy issues.

Russia Today and other pro-Kremlin media outlets dedicated considerable time to the coverage of pro-government demonstrations where Russian flags also featured among the crowd. Quite a few Western political analysts have expressed the wishful thinking that Nikola Gruevski may be forced to resign under popular pressure and be replaced by a coalition government with a Euro-Atlantic orientation.

Setting regional geopolitics aside, Nikola Gruevski’s opening to Russia reveals an additional pathology of Post-communist politics. Even back at the time when parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and FIDESZ had adjusted their foreign policy more firmly towards the West, their political activity and decision-making had been shaped by local adaptations of the neoconservative narrative. Within the context of their political development, such parties replaced their admiration for certain aspects of American neoconservatism with the endorsement of selected elements found in Vladimir Putin’s semi-authoritarianism while their (neoconservative) ideological core remained intact.

Apart from nominally right-wing parties, centre-left statesmen in the region have also detected, albeit more subtly, some ‘positive’ aspects in Vladimir Putin’s pattern of governance (e.g. the Bulgarian Socialist Party/BSP and Slovakia’s SMER). Therefore, in order to grasp such chameleonic mutations more adequately, one should also pay close attention to political culture among post-Communist parties in Central and Southeast Europe and its evolution.

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Dr Vassilis Petsinis is a Visiting Researcher at the Herder Institute (Marburg, Germany). His main areas of specialization are European Politics and Ethnopolitics with a regional focus on Central and Southeast Europe. His academia.edu profile can be found here.

WE SUGGEST TO THINK ALSO THROUGH THE ELECTION RESULTS IN THE UK WHEN READING ABOVE ARTICLE – THIS SO THAT THE MAKINGS OF A EUROPEAN UNION ARE CONSIDERED WHEN LOOKING AT CENTRIPETAL MOVEMENTS LIKE THOSE APPEARING IN CENTRAL AND SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE.
ALSO, PLEASE DP NOT FORGET THE GREECE/MACEDONIA NAME DISPUTE AND EUROPE’S INCAPABILITY TO TELL THE GREEKS OFF IN THIS MATTER. WHAT A SHAME!

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Macedonia

Related Articles: The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward – Heather Grabbe -the same source.


The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward.

Heather Grabbe 13 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of a captured state machinery – by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance. This will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance.

For nearly two decades, Macedonia has been a pressure cooker of public anger at corruption, deteriorating governance and chronic unemployment. Now the valve has blown. This year, union-organised strikes were followed by student protests against flawed education reforms. Then the opposition party released recordings of conversations that exposed government wire-tapping of more than 20,000 citizens. Quickly dubbed “bombs”, these recordings were released over the last three months by the main opposition party leader at press conferences. On them appear the voices of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, senior officials, journalists, judges and security officials conspiring in electoral and judicial fraud, and organising systemic corruption. On the latest, released on 4 May, the prime minister discusses with interior ministry officials a cover-up of the murder in June 2011 by one of his bodyguards of 21-year old Martin Neshkovski, a student who supported the ruling party.

These revelations have led to a new wave of protests, led by grassroots networks of civil society rather than the opposition party. The young activists have become more radical in their demands under sustained attacks by riot police and government infiltrators, who provoked the protestors for five nights in a row. Last Friday, they pledged to come back to demand the resignation of the prime minister. Then the population awoke on Saturday morning to news of what the government called a “terrorist attack” in an ethnically mixed neighbourhood in Kumanovo, a town near the Serbia/Kosovo border. The results were the deaths of police officers and arrests of alleged terrorists. The government-controlled media called for unquestioning support for the government, and labelled as a traitor anyone who disputed the official interpretation of events. What is going on? Is this a security crisis or a consolidation of power by the ruling party in the face of mounting opposition?

High stakes – but for security or politics?

The shootings in Kumanovo have woken up the rest of the world because they are reminiscent of the security crisis fifteen years ago, when ethnic Albanians took to the hills with their guns to demand rights, representation and jobs. The country narrowly escaped a full-blown civil war thanks to the Ohrid Agreement, which gave the Albanians greater political and economic inclusion, including quotas for public-sector jobs and parliamentary seats.

It was NATO and the EU that took responsibility for Macedonia’s security in 2001, with Javier Solana, as EU High Representative for Foreign Policy at the time, and George Robertson, then NATO Secretary-General, as the main negotiators at Ohrid. But the current crisis is not primarily driven by ethnic tensions. The security framing by the government obscures a much deeper crisis in the body politic, and a looming one for the economy.

After 24 years of independence, Macedonia’s model is crumbling. The ruling party has held onto power by controlling the state and media, and borrowing on international markets to keep the economy going. This has undermined the country’s fragile democracy – despite the promises made at Ohrid, which are still not fully implemented – and failed to build rule of law and a sustainable economy. Prime Minister Gruevski won power nearly a decade ago on promises of clean government and economic development. But he then perfected the system of clientelism and state capture begun by Branko Crvenkovski, his predecessor as opposition leader and prime minister, and later president. Gruevski has used snap elections twice to keep his party in power, and his leadership has become increasingly coercive. The wiretap recordings have confirmed that his VMRO-DPMNE party has captured all vital areas of the economy and established complete control over media, even imprisoning critical journalists. Macedonia’s ranking has fallen from 36 to 136 in the freedom of media index produced by Reporters Without Borders.

The government dispensed with parliamentary debate at the end of 2013. Faced with a short deadline to approve the next loan to pay pensions before the Christmas and New Year holidays, they forcibly expelled the opposition and media from the parliament during a debate over the state budget rather than find an agreement.

The public is scared. More than half of Macedonians believe they cannot freely express their opinions. A staggering 81 percent believe that fear of consequences for them and their families prevent them and others from speaking out. Their political fears are heightened by their economic vulnerability.

The chronic economic malaise underlying acute political crisis.

The Macedonian economy appears to be financially stable. The government nurtures an image of business promoter and responsible borrower. Until recently, it was the region’s poster child for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. European banks were happy to earn good returns on Macedonian state bonds. Macedonia’s average GDP growth of 3% in the last three years is the highest in the region, completing this picture of prosperity.

But the economy is not sustainable. The government has used debt financing to invest in grandiose infrastructure projects, including the flagship “Skopje 2014” project, which erected statues and faux-classical buildings in the capital at a cost of over 600 million euro. Between 2008 and 2014, Macedonia’s public debt quadrupled, rising from 23% of GDP in 2008 to around 46% in 2014. Debt is projected to reach the 60% ceiling prescribed by the international financial institutions by 2019. The state budget increased by a third over the same period (from roughly 2 to 3 billion euro). Inflows of foreign direct investment averaged only 2.8% of GDP per year between 2009 and 2014, low even by regional standards.

Life for citizens has become more precarious. Around a third of the workforce is unemployed, the second highest rate in Europe after Kosovo. Without the heavy borrowing, the fragile economy could not sustain more than 300,000 pensioners, who rely on the state budget for half of their needs. Nor could it afford to pay the huge number of state employees. The last official number was 140,000 in 2008, and latest estimates range from 200,000 to 255,000. The total number of people employed in Macedonia is 700,000 – meaning that the state employs nearly a third of the workforce. No wonder people are leaving to seek better prospects abroad. A census has been postponed by the government, but Gallup estimates that more than 300,000 people have left the country. According to Deutsche Welle, most of the 120,000 Macedonians who acquired Bulgarian passports have already emigrated to the EU or elsewhere. Macedonia seems to have more registered voters (at 1,780,128) than residents.

VMRO-DPMNE has kept its hold on power in this unhappy state by resorting to strident nationalism and intimidation of its opponents, increasing the divisions in a multi-ethnic country. Ethnic Macedonians are understandably aggrieved by the lack of a solution to the dispute with Greece over the country’s name, which already blocked entry to NATO – and Gruevski has adroitly used the issue to rally nationalism in support of the government. Meanwhile, the ethnic Albanian political parties have been co-opted by their share in the spoils of mis-governance, even though their people remain even more alienated and poorer than the rest of the population.

The divisions are deepening right across society. Three-quarters of ethnic Albanians still firmly believe in EU and NATO accession as the way to a better future, but by now over 62 percent of other Macedonians think badly of joining the EU. Three-quarters of the ruling party’s supporters see the name dispute with Greece as the key reason for Macedonia’s now bleak EU accession prospects; but only 20% of opposition supporters agree. The biggest divide is between rich and poor, especially along party lines. The poor are undoubtedly getting poorer: resources available to the poorest fifth of citizens fell by 38% between 2008 and 2012. But business profits have grown by almost two and a half times since the year 2000. Nearly 80% of all Macedonians believe it is unfair that employment in state institutions and general prosperity is based on political party membership.
The way forward: a unity government with EU and NATO support

Macedonia is once again becoming a security threat on the EU’s borders. But this time it’s different: a non-partisan civic movement has taken to the streets for the first time to change the country. There is a real opportunity to use this energy to build democracy and a market economy in this multi-ethnic state.

No party is doing well in Macedonia: the secret recordings have lost the government all credibility, but the public has little faith in the leaders of the opposition and ethnic Albanian parties either. The immediate solution lies in collective action first by all those who have created the problem.

Now that three of the prime minister’s key allies have tendered their resignations, Macedonia should turn again to the solution that averted the civil war in 2001: a unity government composed of the four main parties. To foster the necessary compromises and offer a fresh start. it would not include the current prime minister, public prosecutor or speaker of the parliament – but opposition parties must be involved in open and credible oversight of the intelligence agencies, and take responsibility for the discredited interior ministry.

The most promising scenario is a government of national unity that lasts for 12-18 months, to prepare the country for free and fair elections, and create an independent commission to investigate all the events since the opposition was violently ejected from the parliament in 2013. And it should agree on a common negotiating platform on the name dispute with Greece. Macedonia’s newly reinvigorated civil society should also contribute to the work of the parliamentary commissions and monitor the new government’s progress in restoring the accountability of public institutions. The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of the captured state machinery, by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance.

As so often in the Balkans, such a scenario will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance. The default position among EU foreign ministers is to expect sovereign countries to sort out their own political problems through democratic institutions. But after a decade of unconsolidated democracy and state capture, Macedonia does not possess those institutions. Therefore, other levers of influence are needed. NATO could offer a tangible incentive to all parties by offering a possibility to re-open membership talks. EU accession negotiations are far off because so much time has been lost on necessary reforms, but the enlargement process is vital to offer hope, especially to the ethnic Albanians, and guidance to reformers who are seeking to take back captured parts of the state. The support of EU institutions, member-states and banks is vital for the country’s macroeconomic stability. Neighbouring governments could also exert more pressure, as their own security is at stake. Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov was the first to request Gruevski to step down.

The EU can no longer afford to indulge a model of governance in Macedonia that has been far more aggressive in its authoritarian zeal than nearby Montenegro or Turkey. The European People’s Party has a particular responsibility to get involved, having accepted and protected VMRO-DPMNE as a sister party for all these years. Now it must act to uphold the standards of democracy on which it was founded, by putting pressure on VMRO-DPMNE to relinquish its grip on power and join a unity government. The time to move is now, as the costs of inaction will continue to rise.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The THIRD ANNUAL ARCTIC CIRCLE ASSEMBLY
OCTOBER 16 – 18, 2015
REYKJAVÍK, ICELAND

PRESIDENT OF FRANCE – WILL ATTEND THE ASSEMBLY and Deliver an Opening Speech linked to the Climate Negotiations at COP 21.

At a meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris on April 17th, the President of France, François Hollande, accepted an invitation from President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to deliver an opening speech at the October Assembly. The attendance by President Hollande is linked to the upcoming climate negotiations COP21 in Paris in December and the relevance of the Arctic to those negotiations.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING – And Offered to host a special CHINA SESSION at the Assembly.

President of China XI Jinping has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson endorsed China’s participation in the Arctic Circle Assembly and declared his decision that China will host a special Plenary Session at the October Assembly in Reykjavík.


CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL – suggested a special plenary GERMANY and the ARCTIC SESSION at the Assembly.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced her support for the Arctic Circle and its importance as a venue to present the involvement of Germany in the future of the Arctic. Consequently, the program of the October Assembly in Reykjavík will include a special Plenary Session on Germany and the Arctic.

More Assembly news in the coming weeks.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  kurtbayer.wordpress.com/2015/04/…

Kurt Bayer’s Commentary
April 28, 2015 · —

Form Beats Substance: Media as the Dismal Estate!

The international media rejoice in the fact that Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has removed finance minister Varoufakis from his role as the main negotiator with the EU authorities about the completion of the second bail-out program, which should release another 7.2 bill € to the Greek government.

During the past two months, much more attention was given to Varoufakis’ outfits, his mode of transport, his style, his eccentricities than to the substance of the Greek negotiating position. Admittedly, Varoufakis’ personal style must have been infuriating to his ECOFIN colleagues whom he lectured on how wrong their anti-crisis economic policy was.

True, his interventions were longer on generalities than on detail, because in order to argue that Eurozone policy had failed, detailed program assessments were not necessary: the fact that Eurozone output is still below its pre-crisis Peak (-24% for Greece), unemployment more than one third higher (25% for Greece), the combined debt Ratio 15 percentage points higher (now nearly 180% for Greece) should – in a rational discussion atmosphere – suffice to make a point. However, Varoufakis massively misjudged the Eurozone ministers’ readiness to engage in a constructive, very principled dialogue about the direction of Eurozone economic policy with a tiny Eurozone Country which had massively underperformed for decades, and needed help. While such a discussion would be more than called for, Varoufakis’ presumption that the dismal Greek case was the moment and opportunity to do this, was wrong: his ministerial colleagues would not have this, period!

What is truly disappointing to the outside observer is the fact that both traditional and electronic media talked more about the “pop-economist”, about his motorcycle, his upturned collar, the shouting matches and his enervating style than about substance.


Repeated reports that the Greeks did not produce any program changes, notwithstanding the fact that a few weeks ago Greece produced a 26-page paper describing their program, that Greece refused to engage in “structural reforms” and do “their homework”, dominated media reports. And this is not only true of superficial tabloids, but also of the Financial Times, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, The Guardian, BBC, CNN, ORF, ZDF – and so on.

Not one of the mainstream papers or media reported on the conflicts in substance between the new Greek government and the Eurozone Ministers.

Rather, the gist of the stories was “that the Greeks refused to deliver”. Very little mentioning of the fact that the disfunctionalities of the Greek economy and society were not the responsibility of the new government, but rather that of the previous government parties – which the populace had removed from government in the last election.

No mentioning that the new government is serious about tax collection, broadening the tax base, fighting corruption – in contrast to the previous governments when they had been under the watch of the infamous “Troika”.

No mentioning of the fact that the new government program puts first emphasis on (admittedly under-defined) growth strategies, instead of crippling the economy even further.

It seems that the European Mainstream media are so enthralled with the morals-based disciplinary arguments of the Eurozone Finance Ministers and heads of State (“old Agreements must be honored no matter what”) that they forget that democratic elections are the backbone of Europe, that the miserysation of large swaths of Greek population warrants rethinking of the strategy, that support from the Greek population for the anyhow very difficult recovery of the Greek economy, is crucial for the viability of an agreed program, and for the survival of the Eurozone. What is needed is to bring the Greek government to its feet.

To get the new Greek government thrown out, in order to bring the old Mainstream parties back, cannot be the consideration for driving finance ministers’ negotiations with the difficult Greeks, or can it?

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By same author – Related:

An Open Letter to the Eurogroup Meeting on Feb. 11, 2015

The Greek Crisis as a Lesson for the Eurozone – In “Crisis Response”

Laokoon and the Serpents – In “Crisis Response”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Energy union attacked for continued reliance on gas supplies.
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News, The Parliament Magazine.

One of team Juncker’s flagship policy strategies, plans for the implementation of an energy union were finally unveiled last week. In its official communication, the commission explains, “our vision is of an energy union where member states see that they depend on each other to deliver secure energy to their citizens, based on true solidarity and trust”.

“Our vision is of an integrated continent-wide energy system where energy flows freely across borders, based on competition and the best possible use of resources, and with effective regulation of energy markets at EU level where necessary”, the document adds.

More importantly, one of the central aims of the energy union is to promote more effective EU-wide climate change policy and “secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy”. This is especially significant ahead of the UN Paris climate summit that will take place next December.

Late last year, the commission set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, and increasing energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27 per cent.

Yet the energy efficiency target is not binding at national or EU level, and the renewables target is only binding at EU level. It is unclear how this will play into the new energy union plans, but the commission seems to have ignored any criticisms, referring to these targets in its communication as “ambitious”.

Moreover, “producing oil and gas from unconventional sources in Europe such as shale gas is an option, provided that issues of public acceptance and environmental impact are adequately addressed”.

The commission’s apparent commitment to “public acceptance” is interesting, as it was previously reported that during the course of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations, the EU planned to make provisions to import US gas and oil acquired through fracking.

“When the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”

There are also plans to “explore the full potential of liquefied natural gas, including as a back-up in crisis situations when insufficient gas is coming into Europe through the existing pipeline system”.

The commission also stresses, “to reach our goal, we have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels”.

Additionally, the energy union is meant to serve as a political tool, with the Brussels executive hoping to diversify its gas and energy suppliers in order to reduce Russian president Vladimir Putin’s negotiating power in times of conflict.

According to the document, “when the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”. Unfortunately, team Juncker fails to specify what the “right” conditions are, nor what “reframing” the relationship would actually consist of.

The communication warns, “to ensure the diversification in gas supplies, work on the southern gas corridor must be intensified to enable central Asian countries to export their gas to Europe. In northern Europe, the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers is greatly enhancing supply security. This example should be followed in central and eastern Europe, and in the Mediterranean area, where a Mediterranean gas hub is in the making”.

This may seem like an ideal solution considering the situation in Ukraine seems unlikely to reach a peaceful conclusion any time soon. But the countries the commission plans to work with are hardly dream allies.

These include Azerbaijan, which human rights watch has condemned for its “poor record on freedom of expression” and “arrests and intimidation of opposition political activists” and Turkmenistan, which the organization called “one of the world’s most repressive countries”.

Unsurprisingly, last week’s announcement was met with a lukewarm response on the part of environmental organizations, with Juncker’s team accused of contradicting itself.

Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly said, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing with this plan. The commission says the EU should move away from fossil fuels but it also wants to chase after new gas supplies and doesn’t rule out coal”.

Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe added, “we keep hearing repetitions of gas, gas, gas. But at the same time Europe has promised to cut emissions by up to 95 per cent by 2050 – it is saying one thing and doing another”.

And Roland Joebstl, European environmental bureau policy officer on energy and climate change, commented, “tackling climate change and the issue of energy security means that the 2030 targets and related policies must be revised upwards instead of spending political capital on looking for more fossil fuel suppliers”.

But not everyone was as critical of the energy union proposals, with representatives from the climate action network saying, “the commission’s move today will kick off a wave of pledges from countries over the course of the year – all of which will add up to the first collective signal that the world is moving out of fossil fuels and embracing the renewable energy era”.

MEPs were equally divided over the announcements.

Brussels’ energy union strategy is due to be discussed at this week’s council meeting.
 www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art…

About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine

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Challenges ahead for EU energy union implementation, warn MEPs
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News. The Parliament Magazine.

The European parliament has cautiously welcomed commission vice-president Maroš Šef?ovi?’s energy union plans.

MEPs were quick to react after the commission outlined plans for an energy union last week.

Martin Schulz, president of the parliament, was broadly supportive, saying, “the energy union is needed to reinforce the EU’s stance ahead of the December Paris climate conference”, adding that “current events highlight the urgency for the EU to increase energy security”.


Jerzy Buzek, chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, commented, “an internal energy market with an excellent level of interconnection and without isolated ‘energy islands’ will enable us to help each other, guaranteeing energy supply to all regions”.

The former parliament president noted that “stable, sustainable, affordable and competitive energy is a challenge which no EU member state is capable of meeting by itself”.

He also stressed that “developments in relations with Russia might have been an impulse for us to shift up a gear in our energy considerations, but altering the EU’s relations with Russia or any other party is not one of the energy union’s goals”.

Representatives from the S&D group also appeared quite happy with the commission’s energy union plans. The Socialists’ spokesperson on climate and environment, Matthias Groote, said, “the paper on the energy union represents a first step towards a sustainable, decarbonised economy in Europe”.

Dan Nica, the group’s spokesperson on energy, praised them as “a good balance between the geostrategic need to reduce our energy dependency on expensive imports and the fair demand from families and industries to reduce the price of energy”.


Meanwhile, the Liberals were especially vocal on the proposal’s foreign policy aspects. ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt highlighted that “an ambitious energy union will not only create jobs, growth and tackle climate change, it will also hit Putin where it hurts most”.

He added, “Europe can no longer afford its addiction to imported fossil fuels from Russia and the Middle East. Our dependence on external energy resources has affected our ability to conduct an independent foreign policy. It is time for a European energy union with teeth”.

And the group’s environment, public health and food safety committee coordinator Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy warned, “the true test of the energy union will be overcoming the current fragmentation of energy policy into 28 different systems and reaping the full benefits of a common European approach”.

Morgen Helveg Petersen, a vice-chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, underlined that “investors will only put their money in the many projects of the energy union if the associated regulatory framework is put in place, environmental legislation is predictable and competition policy is sound. The biggest barrier is regulatory uncertainty – we need to fix that”.

Yet not everyone was impressed with the energy union plans. Marek Gróbarczyk, ECR group spokesperson on energy, called on council president Donald Tusk to “stick to the promises that he made – to build a real, coherent energy union including ‘gas solidarity’, rehabilitation of coal and substantial diversification”.

In his view, “these proposals are disappointing because I fear they offer a virtual energy union that is not adequate to meet our growing challenges”.

“If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence” – Claude Turmes

Over on the left, MEPs were equally cynical.

Greens/EFA energy spokesperson Claude Turmes criticised the commission’s proposals as “a missed opportunity for outlining a path to a real energy transition in Europe. The overarching focus is on finding new supply routes for gas and reviving nuclear power, rather than trying to wean us off our damaging dependence on unreliable energy exporters. If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence”.

Greens/EFA vice-chair Bas Eickhout pointed out that the proposed strategy “will not create the energy system we need to stop climate warming greenhouse gases and limit the increase in global temperatures to below two degrees, which is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change”.

GUE/NGL group member Josu Juaristi was also wary of the commission’s announcements, explaining that, “in some member states investment in renewables is almost disappearing. Very little account is taken of citizens or local government. What happens is that the big energy companies’ control over our citizens is strengthened.

“We need to avoid a situation where the EU just leaves its ideas for renewable energy on paper – as we see happening at the moment”, he concluded.

The energy union is due to be discussed at this week’s council summit.
 www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art…

About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine.

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Something else relevant to this topic - SustainabiliTank.info feels important to include here – is the upcoming acquisition of a Russian energy concern – LI Energy – headed by oligarch Mikhail Fridman – of the German RWE Dea company and all its global oil and gas production assets for a neat 5 billion Euro.

The Germans seem to think it is OK but the British are of a different opinion because RWE Dea owns a large North Sea production area which in case of further sanctions against Russia because of Mr. Putin’s involvement in the Ukraine, might cause a stoppage of production from those wells and leading to loss in employment and danger to the environment. Passing the ownership of Energy assets of Europe to Russian hands in light of the EU Energy plans of decreasing dependence on the Russians – might just be the wrong signal to the seriousness of an EU Energy Policy plan in general and the position German business takes on the larger European interests.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Tauscht Europa jetzt seine Juden gegen Muslime aus?


Die neue Judenhetze in Europa richtet sich gegen unsere zentralen Werte, gegen aufgeklärtes Denken und Liberalität.

Kurt Kotrschal

“Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 24.02.2015

Ein Prediger in Saudiarabien verkündet, dass die Erde stillstehe. Bei uns werden massenweise Bücher verschenkt, die per manipulativer Vermischung von Islam und Wissenschaft im Stil des Kreationismus nachweisen wollen, dass Charles Darwin falschlag. So etwa „Der Evolutionsschwindel“ des türkischen Schriftstellers Adnan Oktar.
Schrullig, könnte man da einfach nur meinen. Jetzt das „Presse“-ePaper inklusive iPad Air 2 sichern!

Aber der Islamische Staat tötet im Namen seines Islam massenhaft „Ungläubige“, und besagter Autor leugnet nicht nur die Evolution, sondern auch den Holocaust. Munter verbreitet er bekannte jüdisch-freimaurerische Weltverschwörungstheorien gegen den Islam. Und natürlich inszenierte der US-Geheimdienst CIA 9/11 selbst, um einen Anlassfall für einen Kreuzzug des Westens gegen den Islam zu haben. Leider werden solche lächerlichen Ideen weltweit von vielen Muslimen geglaubt – auch in Europa.

Der Kern jeder modernen liberal-aufgeklärten und demokratischen Staatlichkeit ist die Trennung von Glauben und Wissen, von Religion und Staat. Dies ist aber dem Islam systemfremd. Mittlerweile ist er zwar Teil Europas, viele Muslime sind aber noch immer nicht angekommen, weil sie die europäischen Grundprinzipien weder verstehen noch akzeptieren wollen. Mit ein wenig Integration ist es nicht getan, zumal 70 Prozent der heimischen Imame diese ablehnen und torpedieren. Um wirklich anzukommen, muss der Islam sich letztlich selbst aufklären.

Europaweit glaubt eine seltsame Allianz zwischen einem islamischen und einem rechtsradikalen Bodensatz an die jüdische Weltverschwörung. Dass die Hetze gegen Juden da wieder in Schwung kommt, braucht uns daher nicht zu wundern.

Der Exodus aus Frankreich ist nur die Spitze des Eisbergs. Antisemitische Beschimpfungen und Schmierereien sind in Europa längst wieder „Normalität“, auch in Österreich. Die Schwelle zur physischen Gewalt sinkt beständig. Satte europäische Bürger schauen irritiert(?) weg – so wie damals, als Juden in Wien per Zahnbürste die Straßen putzen durften. Und ach so humanistische Linke skandieren auf ihren Demos gegen Israel antisemitische Parolen, schweigen aber zum neuen Megaskandal.

Angesichts der langen Geschichte der Pogrome wäre jede Begründung für den Schutz jüdischer Mitbürger eine zu viel. Dennoch: Juden waren und sind maßgebliche Träger der europäischen Kultur, der Wissenschaften und Künste. Beim Islam muss man sehr weit zurückgehen, um Ähnliches behaupten zu können.

Wien etwa verlor mit der Vertreibung und Vernichtung der Juden das kulturelle und wirtschaftliche Rückgrat, die Universität ihr großartiges wissenschaftliches Profil, wohl eine der nachhaltigsten Verwüstungen durch die Nazi-Herrschaft. Das mag nach Semitophilie klingen, ist aber im Kontrast zum mangelnden kulturell-wissenschaftlichen Beitrag des Islam zur europäischen Bürgergesellschaft schlicht eine Tatsachenfeststellung.

Die neue Hetze gegen die Juden in Europa richtet sich gegen unsere zentralen Werte, gegen aufgeklärtes Denken und Liberalität. Sie ist ein alarmierendes Symptom für ein Europa auf Talfahrt.Ob wir alle Charlie sein wollen, bleibe dahingestellt, angesichts der Skepsis gegenüber dem Ausleben von Meinungsfreiheit mittels Beleidigung. Aber es ist hoch an der Zeit, dass wir endlich alle Juden sind. Je sui Juif. Ganz ohne Wenn und Aber.

Kurt Kotrschal ist Zoologe an der Uni Wien und Leiter der Konrad-Lorenz-Forschungsstelle in Grünau.

E-Mails an:  debatte at diepresse.com
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Kurt Kotrschal is an Austrian intellectual, professor at the Vienna University – product of the State of Salzburg where he studied with an Erwin-Schrödinger fellowship and followed up with a year at the University of Colorado in Denver – his topic was the evolution of fish and the development of nervous systems.

We found in our e-mails that Kurt Kotrschal participated in 2012 in a discussion we attended – a Karl-Renner-Institut backed event.

ERÖFFNUNG DER LESEFESTWOCHE

Montag, 19. November 2012, 20.00 Uhr

Ort
Österreichische Postsparkasse, Großer Kassensaal
Georg Coch-Platz 2, 1010 Wien

Begrüßung
GERALD SCHANTIN, Präsident des Hauptverbands des Österreichischen Buchhandels
CLAUDIA SCHMIED, Bundesministerin für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur
SYBILLE STRAUBINGER, Gemeinderätin der Stadt Wien

Podiumsdiskussion zu Richard Sennett: “ZUSAMMENARBEIT. Was unsere Gesellschaft zusammenhält.”
ALFRED GUSENBAUER, Bundeskanzler a.D., Professor am IGLP in Harvard
KURT KOTRSCHAL, Biologe und Verhaltensforscher
KONRAD PAUL LIESSMANN, Philosoph
ANTONELLA MEI-POCHTLER, Senior Partner & Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

Moderation: CORINNA MILBORN

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

As received from Lady Rabbi Judith Hauptman of the Ohel Ayalah community on New York City.

subject: Purim of levity or gravity?

Dear Ohel Ayalah community,

P U R I M P A R T Y for 20s/30s
Join us on Tues Mar 3, the night before Purim, at P E O P L E Lounge, 163 Allen St., 6:30 to 8:30 pm. First drink FREE for filling out a one-page survey. Special guest: Sarah Rosen, author of Kosher Porn, will sign and sell copies of her hilarious new “graphic” book. Want to know what kosher porn is? Show up and find out. The book costs $14, cash or check only. Directions: Take the F train to Second Ave, get out at the front of the train, and walk south on Allen St. for 2 mins.

P U R I M, in a serious vein: The Scroll of Esther (the Megillah) will be read in synagogues on Wed night, March 4. One suggested (fun) venue is: JTS, 3080 Broadway, at 122 St. Time: 7 pm.

Purim is the one Jewish holiday of pure levity. The message of the Megillah, however, is both light-hearted and serious. In today’s world, we are still dealing with some who would like Jews to disappear. To keep you looking at the bright side of Purim, seeing the Megillah partly as a domestic farce, I am copying below comments by Adele Berlin, the highly regarded Bible scholar (also a friend of mine!), author of the JPS commentary on the Scroll of Esther.


After Vashti refuses to show her beauty to the visiting dignitaries, the courtiers say to the king, “For the queen’s behavior will make all wives scorn their husbands, as they reflect that King Ahasuerus himself ordered Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come (Esther 1:17, JPS translation [slightly emended]).”


Berlin writes: The advisors are not worried that Vashti’s examples will provoke other Persian subjects to disobey the king; they are afraid that all the Persian women will scorn their husbands. . . . The advisors are trying to ward off a sexual strike by Persian women (a theme found in Greek literature of the Persian period, in Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata). They are as concerned about themselves as they are about the king (p13).

The danger that Memucan (one of the advisors) sees in Vashti’s refusal is preposterous. How will it provoke a rebellion by all the wives in the empire against their husbands? The burlesque of the great Persian empire, drowning in luxury, wine, courtiers, and incompetent management, reaches one of its high points here, with a touch of male sexual anxiety added for good measure (p17).

So read the rest of the Megillah in a communal setting on Wed night, Mar 4, or by yourself. Laugh but also cry. Here is a link to an online version of Megillat Esther: www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt3301….. You will need to click to get from one chapter to the next.

Please note: Passover is around the corner. Will be sending more information in a few weeks. Seder reservations open on Sunday, March 15. First night seder for all Ages, Fri April 3; Second night seder for 20s/30s, Saturday night, April 4.

Questions or comments? Write to me at  Judith at ohelayalah.org.

Happy Purim,
Judith Hauptman

Rabbi and Founder, Ohel Ayalah

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Posted in Archives, Austria, Canada, Denmark, European Union, France, Iran, Israel, New York, Reporting from Washington DC

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The eighth part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Ad-Hoc Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP – Ad-Hoc Durban Platform) will be held from 8-13 February 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.

From:  unfccc.int/meetings/geneva_feb_20…

Negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the conference is the first conference of several meetings in preparation for the Paris Climate Change Conference that will be held in France in December. The Paris Conference is mandated to adopt “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties.” The agreement will be implemented from 2020 onwards.

The body tasked with developing the Paris Agreement is the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). In Geneva, the ADP will hold the eighth part of its second session (ADP 2-8).

Updated as of 7 February
pdf-icon Overview schedule (110 kB)
pdf-icon Schedule of the contact group work (168 kB)
In Focus: Meetings of the ADP

Scenario note by the Co-Chairs on the eighth part of the second session of the ADP
 CADP at unfccc.int

The Cochairs are: Mr. Ahmed Djoghlaf and Mr. Daniel Reifsnyder and Ms. Yang Liu as the Rapporteur of the ADP, to serve until the conclusion of the ADP session to be held in conjunction with COP 21 in 2015.

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IISD RS @ UNFCCC ADP 2.8 | 8-13 February 2015 | Geneva …
www.iisd.ca/climate/adp/adp2-8

IISD Reporting Services, through its Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), will cover the Geneva Climate Change Conference – February 2015, from 8 to 13 February 2015 …

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ECO is a daily newsletter published by a group of NGOs active at UN Conferences – not as a reporting service like the ENB of the IISD that is backed financially by several Western governments, but rather as an outlet of several opinionated Civil Society groupings.

We post here the e-mail we received from ECO as posted at the opening of ADP 2.8


Managing the bumps on the Road to Paris.

The dust from COP20 has (barely) settled and now with just 10 months left before COP21 in Paris, Parties need to come together on the way forward to the 2015 agreement.

In Geneva, Parties will start from where they left off the draft negotiating text that is annexed to the Lima Call for Climate Action decision of COP 20 of the UNFCCC. The current draft has many options on most issues, some of them highly divergent.

There are several key issues that need to be grappled with if we are to get a robust and ambitious post-2020 agreement in December. One of the most difficult is coming to a shared understanding of CBDR&RC (differentiation). This is at the heart of many of the divergent areas, and the differences were just papered over with the last-minute compromise of language in Lima.
ECO believes that the earlier Parties attempt to move towards a common understanding on this issue, the easier it will become for the negotiations to make progress towards an ambitious outcome.


The need for a clear and transparent review mechanism within the Paris agreement is another issue. Even though there was no agreement in Lima to conduct a review of the first round of INDCs, an institutionalised review mechanism that not only assesses progress, but also enables countries to plug the ambition gap, is key to the environmental integrity of the agreement.

Civil society needs to be an active participant within this review and it should be conducted in earnest, and in 5-year intervals. The UNFCCC has in the past seen many reviews that only point to the problem without enabling solutions. The review mechanism within the 2015 agreement needs to be different: it should enable and equip countries to bridge the gap between what science requires and what is being put on the table by each country.


This week, Parties should work to narrow down the options in the current text and clarify ideas they had presented earlier in order to produce an acceptable legal negotiating text by the end of the session. As parties start discussing Section C of the draft negotiating text today, here are some suggestions.

First, the agreement should state an obvious fact which even ECO’s uncle and aunt would understand: the lower the level of mitigation ambition, the higher will be the adaptation needs, and the loss and damage from climate change impacts and the associated costs thereof, which will require much higher support to vulnerable countries and people who have not caused climate change. A good basis for addressing this continuum of mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage in Paragraph 4 of the current text. In today’s thematic session, Parties should support this language, and make further efforts to operationalise it.

ECO believes the phase out of fossil fuel emissions and phase in of 100% renewable energy as early as 2050 should be the long-tern goal of 2015 agreement. Language reflecting this option should be added to the text coming out of Geneva. The text should also note that achievement of this goal rests on up ramping mitigation ambition within the pre-2020 period, as well as countries putting ambitious INDCs on the table in Paris. Such timely action will not only reduce costs in the longer run, but can ensure that climate impacts are curtailed early on.

While these bumps collectively might appear daunting, they can be overcome through a mix of political will and good faith negotiating. People, businesses, and local authorities across the world are already showing the way; ECO calls on Parties here in Geneva to do the same.

Pathway to zero: Career coaches assert that in order to be successful, you need to have a clear goal for what you want to achieve, then develop a pathway to get you there.

Today’s negotiations on the long term goal of the Paris agreement are, therefore, critical to help define our ultimate objective. That is: to reduce carbon emissions to zero and achieve a 100% renewable-powered world by 2050.


To have a likely chance to remain within the maximum 2°C warming threshold, the IPCC has provided us with a carbon budget of 1000 gigatonnes (CO2eq). That’s it. It’s all we can spend until we achieve the magic zero by 2050. If current trends continue, we’ll have spent a full third of it by 2020.


A growing number of companies, have endorsed staying within this carbon budget, recognising that the benefits of action far outweigh the costs of climate impacts. Unilever’s CEO is just one of many calling for zero emissions by 2050.


The good news is that economics, as well as climate considerations, are already defining the end of the fossil era. China’s 2014 decline in coal use shows that with political determination and strong targets and measures, the world’s highest emitting country can peak their coal use well before 2020.

The Economist recently reported that Saudi Arabia’s profligate energy consumption means that “the country may have no oil to export by 2030” ? a real spur for domestic innovation and diversification.

Clean energy is already the low cost option. In Jamaica, the price of solar power is the same as that of wholesale fossil-fuelled power and in Nicaragua, electricity from wind is half as expensive as power from traditional sources. Renewables are rapidly becoming cheaper all over the world, making the 100% renewable goal ever more attractive, and the decline of fossil fuels an ever-clearer reality.


And back here in Geneva, much of what needs to be in the text for today is already there. A few changes to C3.1 Option b, so that it requires global GHG emissions to fall by 70% (not 50%) and to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, gets us to where we need to be. Adding a reminder that we need to transform the energy system so that we have “100% sustainable and renewable energy that meets the needs of all” seems like a goal to endorse.


As Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, put it: going for zero emissions by 2050 “will drive innovation, grow jobs, build prosperity and secure a better world. Why would we wait any longer to do that?”

Human rights protections for all:

As you, dear negotiators, tackle Section C of the elements paper today, ECO urges you to think not just about numbers and principles, but about people. There should be unifying language in the general, operational section of the draft agreement text that recognises the human dimensions of climate change. We suggest:

“Parties shall, in all climate change-related actions, respect, protect, promote and fulfill human rights for all”.

240 organisations endorsed this language in a submission to the ADP co-chairs yesterday. It’s also what each of the 76 independent experts of the UN Human Rights Council recommended in a joint statement to the UNFCCC Parties during COP20.

Looks familiar, right? Yes, yes, it’s a lot like what’s in the shared vision of the Cancun Agreements. Since Cancun, however, we have noticed that this reference hasn’t done the job of ensuring that rights are adequately considered in climate policies. This language in Section C will help ensure that these principles apply to all pillars of the Convention.

Today is the day to make sure it lives on in Paris!

Why, you ask? Well, we can’t escape the fact that climate change has human consequences. The lives and livelihoods of literally billions of people are riding on what comes out of this process, and this language is relevant to every element of the negotiating text.

It’s also nothing new. Parties already have human rights obligations. This language, as in the Cancun Agreement’s shared vision, helps spell that out in the context of climate change. And it helps make sure that Parties are looking out for their own people. No matter what delegation or constituency you represent, you care about your people. ECO knows you do. After all, you are a person too.

So as we kick off this week of negotiations, ECO and 240 organisations call on you to make sure Section C ensures that Parties respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights for all. That shouldn’t be controversial, so just go do it!



When neutrality undermines Integrity:

When ECO thinks of Switzerland we think of skiing, watches, neutrality, delicious chocolate and of course, the Environmental Integrity Group.

ECO appreciates that Switzerland negotiates as part of a group with the stated priority of “environmental integrity”, but we wonder about Switzerland’s own integrity when it comes to its domestic emissions and commitments?

During the Multilateral Assessment in Lima, Switzerland became very evasive when asked why it would not opt for a conditional target of negative 30% emission reductions by 2020. Perhaps it’s because the country, to date, has merely achieved stabilisation of its absolute emissions. Switzerland offers population growth as a cheesy excuse for this lack of ambition. However, there is much more that Switzerland can do—like instituting policies to switch its population off of high-emitting oil heating systems, reducing per capita car ownership, addressing the startling fact that that average Swiss citizen racks up double the annual air miles of people in neighbouring countries.

ECO hopes that Switzerland will admit it has been off piste when it comes to climate ambition, and demonstrate its integrity by delivering on its 2014 United Nations Climate Summit announcement that it will become carbon neutral.

Minister Doris Leuthard, who made that commitment in New York last September, is in a perfect position to deliver on it. How could she not be when she’s responsible for Switzerland’s policies on climate, energy, transportation (including aviation), forestry, environment, spatial planning and (tele)communication. It’s exactly these sectors that need to change for Switzerland to make an ambitious effort in its INDC submission. ECO also seriously hopes the rumor that Switzerland intends to use carbon markets rather than striving for ambitious emission reductions at home is false. How would this fulfill a vision of carbon neutrality?

To top it off, Switzerland’s move in Lima to avoid talking about the next steps for climate finance makes it even harder to see how Switzerland can claim to be a champion of environmental integrity. ECO calls on Switzerland to check its watch and realise how late in the day it is for climate action. On this issue, being neutral isn’t a virtue – rather, it’s time for bold action.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Jeff Huffines <jeffery.huffines@civicus.org>
as per: International Cooperative Alliance and Commons Cluster of the UN MG

Subject: A WORKSHOP on Powerful and Innovative Approaches for Financing Development

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2015 1:15 – 2:45 pm UN HQ NYC – Room 1

TeleConference 712 432 1500 Access Code 972978#

For those without a UN Pass – TO GET ACCESS TO THE UN – RSVP  COMMONACTIONUN at gmail.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The so called Islamic State has shown that there is no limit to their subhuman nature. It is first for all God Fearing Muslims to act against them – and also for all Europeans that remember what happens if you accept something like the Holocaust – to rally behind decent Muslims and help them exterminate this 21st Century insanity that came into our living rooms via the sensationalism loving corporate mass media.

King Abdullah II has done the right thing terminating by hanging the life-license of convicted mass-murderers. The IS leaders that managed her wanted her release in exchange of a Jordanian pilot whom they burned alive five weeks ago and released only now a video showing that act thinking that this will frighten us to submit some more to them. Weak minded people of the West might indeed equivocate and wait uselessly for a sign from the oil-sellers that taking serious steps against this menace is allowed.

The Jordanian pilot was shot down over the city of Rakka – the capital of their Islamic State located in what used to be called Syria – on Christmas day 2014 – in an American led bombing action. The immediate reaction called for now is for Jordan to obliterate the city of sin – Rakka – and for Europe to applaud such an action. Just remember that in 1942 the US refused to save innocent people by refusing to bomb the railways leading to the extermination camps. We did not forget and the Arabs are called not to forget now that burning pilot.

Further, and we do not feel this is unrelated – we call for Europe to unite under an Angela Merkel – Merkel Plan for a strong European Union – by starting with a plan to deal with the insolvency of the Greek State by seriously reducing their debt that was instigated by irresponsible capitalism pushing money on folks they knew had no economy that would ever return those funds.

It is rather a United Europe that could back States like Jordan – to do the right thing in the face of the 21st century scourge.

Next, we need a Green Economy to repair the devastation caused by the income-inequality fossil fuel economy over the last 40 years. Justice requires the wealthy to voluntarily adopt a Maximum Income to help repay their debts to society that came from taking money from people and treasuries and transferring it to oil exporters that then used it to fuel this pseudo-Islamic fury.

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Muslim Outrage Against Islamic State after Killing of Jordanian Pilot – Liz Sly and Hugh Naylor

Declarations of outrage swept the Middle East on Wednesday as the spectacle of an Arab pilot being burned alive in a cage triggered some of the harshest reactions yet. The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat headlined its coverage: “Barbarity,” while Iyad Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the killing as an affront to Islam. “Most of the people executed by [the Islamic State] have been foreigners, but this time it was an Arab Muslim man,” said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst ba sed in Amman.
However, Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on ISIS who advises the Iraqi government, said, “The Islamic State has gained more from this than it has lost.” In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State broadcast video of the pilot’s death on giant video screens as crowds shouted, “God is Great.” (Washington Post)

See also Muslim Clerics Denounce Burning Alive of Pilot as Un-Islamic – Sami Aboudi and Suleiman Al-Khalidi

The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Egypt’s top Muslim authority, said the killers themselves deserved to be “killed, crucified or to have their limbs amputated.” In Qatar, the International Association of Muslim Scholars, headed by Youssef al-Qaradawi and linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, called the burning of t he pilot a criminal act. (Reuters)

So what now?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 4th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Conference: “CLIMATE CHANGE – AMERICA’S STANCE BEFORE THE PARIS SUMMIT.”
February 18. 2015 – at the FRENCH CONSULATE IN NEW YORK

A Conversation with Justin Gillis – Reporter for The New York Times
and
Jeff Nesbit – Executive Director of Climate Nexus,

The conversation will be moderated by Michael Shank – Director of Media Strategy for Climate Nexus

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Consulate General of France
934 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10021 (btw. 74th and 75th Streets)
Check-in will begin at 6:15 pm, and the conference will start at 6:45 pm sharp.


Please RSVP to:   Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in France, Future Events, New York

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Can Bolivia Chart a Sustainable Path Away From Capitalism?
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 on Truthout – By Chris Williams and Marcela Olivera, Truthout | News Analysis

FOR THE FU:: ARTICLE PLEASE GO TO:  truth-out.org/news/item/28778-can…

I will post here some excerpts of this very interesting and long article – this with my thinking of the latest changes in Greece
and wondering if rhetoric is true change and how can Greece fare in a capitalist world with management outside its borders but vested interests residing also in the country it
self. Will there be a Greek Pachamama in Europe’s future? Will the Tsipris Greece be the Morales of an ALBA Charge of anti-capitalist rhetoric in Europe?

Bolivia offers a case study on the impact of climate change, people’s resistance to exploitation and racist oppression, and the potential for genuine change from below.


The number of conflicts over natural resource extraction and refining, road building and pipeline construction, and forest and water use have all steadily grown under Morales.

Ruthless extraction of Bolivia’s bountiful natural resources has concentrated the natural and social wealth of the country in a small group at the top of society, and exposed Bolivians to an extreme degree of imperial intrigue and attempted subjugation.

In stark contrast to monoculture farming, several hundred different varieties of potato are grown in the Bolivian Andes, as a resilient subsistence food by 200,000 small-scale farmers.

With the melting of the Andean mountains ice and climate change farmers no longer know how community can grow food because “it now rains at all different times, and it’s drier for longer. This place did not used to be as hot as it is now.”

Higher average temperatures will lead to an increase in evaporation, causing soils to dry out. In turn, drier soils will increase erosion and loss of topsoil, an effect that will be compounded by two other effects of a warmer climate.

But for all of Morales’ rhetorical championing of “buen vivir,” Gudynas believes that the MAS government instead operates more along the lines of a new form of Keynesian neoliberalism, or what he calls “neo-extractivismo.”

And despite a change in official rhetoric, and some welcome redistribution of wealth, Morales’ policies are practically the same as his predecessors’ with respect to natural resource extraction.

“We have lost an opportunity for something based on our self-organization and self-management.”

“The people do not decide; the government decides. Despite the constitution guaranteeing rights for indigenous people and Mother Earth, those policies are not implemented; they are just words.”

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As through so much of its history, the small Andean nation of Bolivia sits at the center of a whirlwind of political, social and climatological questions. Arguably, no other country thus far in the 21st century raises the question of an “exit strategy” from neoliberal capitalism more concretely, and with greater possibility and hope, than Bolivia. That hope is expressed specifically in the ruling party, MAS, or Movement Toward Socialism. The country’s leader, former coca farmer and union organizer Evo Morales – South America’s first indigenous leader since pre-colonial times – was overwhelmingly elected to his third term of office in 2014. Morales has broadly popularized the Quechua term pachamama, which denotes a full commitment to ecological sustainability, and public hopes remain high that he’ll guide the country toward realizing that principle.

Bolivia has seen impressive and consistent economic growth since Morales’ first election victory in 2006, including the establishment of government programs to alleviate poverty and attain the social equity goals promised in his campaign. However, this growth has primarily rested on an expanded and intensified exploitation of the country’s natural resources, principally from fossil fuel production, mining, and the growth of large-scale, mono-crop agriculture and manufacturing.

This economic growth has also created what the Bolivian non-governmental organization CEDLA (Centro de Estudios Para el Desarrollo Laboral y Agrario) calls the rise of a new bourgeoisie comprised of Santa Cruz agriculture producers, traders from the west of the country and small mining producers. The Bolivian government also believes that a new class is emerging, and will become Bolivia’s new dominant group. Carlos Arce, researcher from CEDLA, says in an article in the Bolivian press:

A new type of entrepreneur has emerged from the popular classes. These emerging strata are mostly traders and are also present in the cooperative sectors, especially in mining. This new type of entrepreneur saves more and has a more austere mentality, in the classical Weberian sense. Within the state, representatives of this strata interface with middle-class intellectuals and other sectors of society, seeking to build alliances with small urban and rural producers that respond to the prerogatives of the market.

The so-called “plural economy” institutionalized by the government recognizes the state, communitarian, private and cooperative forms of economic organization. It also puts the state in direct control of the plans for economic development. In other words, the Bolivian people are the owners of the natural resources, but it is the state that administers and industrializes these natural resources.

In Arce’s view, the government exalts this new “emerging bourgeoisie.” The government’s program of a plural economy “facilitates the alliance of these market-driven sectors with key sectors of international capital. This opens the door to transnational corporations and makes permanent their presence.”

In December 2014, the Financial Times reported on the rise of a new indigenous bourgeoisie in El Alto, less constrained by older cultural ties of thrift, and striving for greater wealth, more ostentatious luxury buildings and opulent traditional clothing.

On the other hand, while many journalists and analysts have focused on the accomplishments of the Morales’ government, few have looked at the state of the labor force, unions and labor conditions. Research by local organizations shows that finding secure employment has become very difficult. According to the Bolivian Labor Ministry’s own data just 30 percent of the labor force in Bolivia has a secure and formal job, with almost 70 percent working in the informal sector. These workers have no employment security, which makes people more dependent on welfare protections and programs that have become more elaborate and extensive in recent years.

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Bolivia’s geography is very diverse: The verdant and tropical Amazonian lowlands give way to the austere beauty of the highlands and snow-capped peaks of the Andes that ring the capital, La Paz. Bolivian elevations range from 130 to 6,000 meters above sea level dividing the country into three distinct geographical areas: the high plateau, the Andean valleys and the eastern lowlands.

Given all of these factors, Bolivia offers a case study on the impact of climate change, people’s resistance to exploitation and racist oppression, and the potential for genuine change from below.

Much of that resistance was formed in response to centuries of relentless extraction of the country’s minerals, semi-precious and precious metals, and guano. Following the privatization of Bolivia’s public airline, train system and electric utility, in 1999, the government sold the water and sanitation system of Cochabamba to a transnational consortium. Over the following five months, mass demonstrations and violent confrontations with the police and military forced the government to cancel the contract and keep the water supply in public hands. This popular struggle for public control of water became recognized worldwide as the Cochabamba Water War.

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Marcela Olivera

Marcela Olivera is a water commons organizer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. After graduating from the Catholic University in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Marcela worked for four years in Cochabamba as the key international liaison for the Coalition for the Defense of Water and Life, the organization that fought and defeated water privatization in Bolivia. Since 2004, she has been developing and consolidating an inter-American citizens’ network on water justice named Red VIDA.
Chris Williams

Chris Williams is an environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chairman of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University in the department of chemistry and physical science. His writings have appeared in Z Magazine, Green Left Weekly, Alternet, CommonDreams, ClimateandCapitalism.com, Counterpunch, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Truthout, Socialist Worker and ZNet. He reported from Fukushima and was a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas. He recently was awarded a Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We find it astonishing how not even the Alternate Media sees the whole picture. The Glenn Greenwald following article is surely a great further contribution to his efforts to open hidden content – but even he missed a more up-to date point – the fact that January 27, 2015 happens to be the date much of Europe commemorates the freeing 70 years ago, January 27, 1945, of the Auschwitz death camp by the Russian Army. Simply put – even at the UN – January 27 is HMD – Holocaust Memorial Day while quite a few Muslim/Islamic States are effectively Holocaust deniers something outlawed in civilized States. I am just not sure where the Saudis present and past stand on this issue.

Many European leaders will be at Auschwitz that day but Putin will not be there. Oh well – he just was not invited by the Poles! Now come the news that President Obama will be in Ryadh! Ryadh of all places? A town where Jews are not allowed even as tourists – in 2015?

We did not condemn President Obama for not going to the Paris reunion of Heads of State after the ISIS/AQAP attacks on that Jewish supermarket and Charlie Hebdo. We felt that he was right to let the Europeans deal with this by themselves – rather then make a token appearance – but Auschwitz is just another matter. It was the US that took on the responsibility to save Europe from itself, and at that time the World at large as well. And that is something that calls for the US participation at highest level at this 70th commemoration that happens to be when the World is threatened again – and this time by Islamic fanatics – and don’t forget it – that started out in Saudi Arabia – and the White House and Congress choices seem all wrong.
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So far we read that Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck, France President Francois Hollande, King Willem-Alexander of the Niederlands and Queen Maxima, Crown Princess Viktoria of Schweden, and Crown Prince Haakon von Norway are among the Heads of State that are going to Auschwitz for the January 27, 2015 memorial. Then the announcement that President Obama and Vice-President Biden go to Ryadh. President Obama even shortened his all-important trip to India to pass on the way back through Ryadh. This seemingly detours now also President Hollande and Prime Minister Cameron who seemingly will switch from going to Auschwitz and go to Ryadh instead. Oh well – this smells of oil. Today this means that the new Saudi King will be asked to reciprocate by continuing the policy of cheap oil that hurts mainly Iran and Russia while being a boon to short-sighted industrial economies.

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It seems like somebody had an after-thought in the White House – and voila:

The White House – Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
January 17, 2015
President Obama Announces Presidential Delegation to Attend the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Oswicim, Poland, to attend the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 2015.

The Honorable Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Department of Treasury, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation:

The Honorable Stephen D. Mull, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Poland, Department of State

The Honorable Crystal Nix-Hines, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Department of State

The Honorable David Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Department of State

Dr. Charles A. Kupchan, Senior Director for European Affairs, National Security Council

Mr. Nicholas Dean, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, Department of State

Ms. Aviva Sufian, Special Envoy for U.S. Holocaust Survivor Services, Department of Health and Human Services

Mr. Israel Arbeiter, Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivor

Mrs. Irene Weiss, Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivor

Mr. David Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

————

But this is a Jewish delegation headed by the White House Jewish appointee – this is not the political delegation that the hour demands. Why is the trip to the family of the Tyrant King more important to President Obama and then – seemingly also Congress – did not yet think of sending someone to the Auschwitz Memorial?

————

Another e-mail we just got is from Antony Beevor of the Guardian
–  www.theguardian.com/commentisfree…he tells us that Putin does not go to the Auschwitz Memorial because the Poles did not invite him – and this is a terrible mistake of the Europeans – to let the Poles take such a stand.

The note starts: “Why Vladimir Putin should be at the Auschwitz memorial ceremony.
We should forget neither the Soviet Union’s role in liberating the camps nor its antisemitic blind spots.”

It continues: “On 27 January 1945 a reconnaissance patrol from the Soviet 107th Rifle Division emerged from the snow-laden forest 70km west of Kraków. The soldiers were mounted on shaggy ponies, their submachine guns slung across their backs. In front of them stood Auschwitz-Birkenau, the grimmest symbol of modern history. Officers gazed around in disbelief, then called in medical teams to care for the 3,000 sick prisoners left behind.

It is a great shame that Vladimir Putin, having not been invited, won’t be present at a memorial ceremony next week to mark the 70th anniversary – at the very least, it would have reminded the world that the advance of Stalin’s Red Army forced the SS to abandon the extermination camps in the east. And yet the muted row over the Russian president’s absence is a reminder that this particular chapter in Russia’s second world war history was, and remains, full of contradictions.

. The first death camp to be liberated by the Red Army was Majdanek just outside Lublin, in July 1944. The novelist and war correspondent Vasily Grossman was on the spot with the 8th Guards Army, which had defended Stalingrad, but an order came down that he was not to cover the story. The job was given instead to Konstantin Simonov, a favourite of the regime, who managed to avoid mentioning that any of the victims in Majdanek were Jewish. Grossman, despite warnings from his friend Ilya Ehrenburg, had been slow to believe that antisemitism could exist within the Soviet hierarchy during the death struggle with Nazism. But in 1943 he had noticed that any reference to Jewish suffering was being cut from his articles. He wrote to complain to Aleksandr Shcherbakov, the chief of the Red Army political department. Shcherbakov replied: “The soldiers want to hear about [Russian military hero of the Napoleonic era] Suvorov, but you quote [German 19th-century poet] Heine”. Grossman joined Ehrenburg on the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee to chronicle Nazi crimes, unaware of how dangerous this might prove to be. Several of their colleagues were murdered by the secret police.

Certain truths about the Shoah could never be published in the Sovet Union. When Grossman wrote about the extermination camp of Treblinka, he could not reveal that the auxiliary guards were mostly Ukrainian. Collaboration with the enemy was a taboo subject since it undermined the rhetoric of the Great Patriotic War.


As the end of the war approached, controls became even stricter. Auschwitz may have been liberated at the end of January 1945, but no details were released until the final victory in May. The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee soon found that its work was in direct opposition to the party instruction: “Do not divide the dead!” Jews were not to be seen as a special category of suffering. They were to be described only as citizens of the USSR and Poland. Thus in a way Stalin was the first Holocaust denier, even if his antisemitism was not quite the same as that of the Nazis. It was probably based more on a xenophobic suspicion of international connections than on racial hatred.

Soviet propaganda, while designating those killed at Auschwitz in collectively anonymous terms as “victims of fascism”, also portrayed the extermination camp as the ultimate capitalist factory, where the workers were murdered when no longer useful.

And there was a further twist away from the truth. The Stalinists emphasised how many Poles had died there to distract attention from their own crimes against the Polish people, both following the Red Army’s unprovoked invasion in 1939 under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and its brutal occupation from 1944. They portrayed Auschwitz as the place of martyrdom for the Polish nation. By talking only of the Polish Catholics who had died there, they hoped that the Poles might focus any anger at their bitter fate entirely against Germany and not against the Soviet Union.

Few Poles were taken in during those postwar years of Soviet oppression. And now Putin’s ill-disguised attempts to reassert Russian control over Ukraine have of course reminded the Polish people all too clearly of what Soviet “liberation” meant for them in 1945. It is not therefore surprising that we should be seeing a certain amount of diplomatic shadow-boxing in the background, while both sides insist everything is normal.

The Kremlin is pretending not to have been snubbed by the fact that President Putin has not been asked to the commemoration event; meanwhile, the Polish government insists it was not issuing formal invitations. The Auschwitz international committee, which includes a Russian representative, was simply asking each government who would be representing them.

Putin made a speech at Auschwitz 10 years ago on the 60th anniversary, and no doubt he will again proclaim in Moscow on 9 May – Russia’s Victory Day – that the Red Army’s defeat of “the fascist beast” saved Europe from Nazi slavery. {and we think he is right to claim that but this is obviously only a half truth as the Soviets did in effect exchange one slavery for another.}

But those countries, especially Poland and the Baltic states, that experienced the ensuing 40 years of Communist dictatorship glance nervously now east once more.

Russia, obsessed for centuries by a fear of encirclement and surprise attack, has always felt justified in dominating its “near abroad”. It was Stalin’s shock at Hitler’s invasion in 1941, and his consequent determination to create a defensive cordon, that led to the cold war. Putin, fortunately, is a very pale imitation of his hero.

• Antony Beevor’s next book, Ardennes – 1944: Hitler’s Last Gamble, is out in May 2015.

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AND THE VIEW FROM THE ALTERNATE MEDIA THAT GOT US INTERESTED IN THIS – WHY INDEED DID PRESIDENT OBAMA AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS NOT CHOSE TO GO TO OSWIECIM (Auschwitz-Birkenau) AND ARE GOING TO RYADH INSTEAD? This being written after reading next story:


Glenn Greenwald | Compare and Contrast: Obama’s Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chavez

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 24 January 2015

Greenwald writes: “The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch.”

Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela four times from 1998 through 2012 and was admired and supported by a large majority of that country’s citizens, largely due to his policies that helped the poor. King Abdullah was the dictator and tyrant who ran one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch. My Intercept colleague Murtaza Hussain has an excellent article about this whole spectacle, along with a real obituary, here.

I just want to focus on one aspect: a comparison of the statements President Obama issued about the 2013 death of President Chávez and the one he issued today about the Saudi ruler. Here’s the entire Obama statement about Chávez (h/t Sami Khan):

Statement covering the reaction from President Obama regarding the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (photo: The Guardian)

Statement covering the reaction from President Obama regarding the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (photo: The Guardian)

One obvious difference between the two leaders was that Chávez was elected and Abdullah was not. Another is that Chávez used the nation’s oil resources to attempt to improve the lives of the nation’s most improverished while Abdullah used his to further enrich Saudi oligarchs and western elites. Another is that the severity of Abdullah’s human rights abuses and militarism makes Chávez look in comparison like Gandhi.

But when it comes to western political and media discourse, the only difference that matters is that Chávez was a U.S. adversary while Abdullah was a loyal U.S. ally – which, by itself for purposes of the U.S. and British media, converts the former into an evil villainous monster and the latter into a beloved symbol of peace, reform and progress. As but one of countless examples: last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron – literally the best and most reliable friend to world dictators after Tony Blair – stood in Parliament after being questioned by British MP George Galloway and said: “there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway]”; last night, the very same David Cameron pronounced himself “deeply saddened” and said the Saudi King would be remembered for his “commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”

That’s why there is nobody outside of American cable news, DC think tanks, and the self-loving Oxbridge clique in London which does anything but scoff with scorn and dark amusement when the US and UK prance around as defenders of freedom and democracy. Only in those circles of tribalism, jingoism and propaganda is such tripe taken at all seriously.

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And Some of the Comments:

+37 # wrknight 2015-01-24 10:53
Democracy has never been a factor in determining whether a nation and its ruler are allies or enemies of the U.S.. All that matters is whether or not the ruler of that country allows U.S. Corporations to exploit their resources and/or their people.

Witness the fact that the U.S. has engineered the overthrow of numerous democratically elected presidents, while simultaneously supporting numerous ruthless dictators. The difference? The “allies” opened their markets to U.S. Corporate exploitation while the “enemies” put constraints on U.S. Corporations, nationalized U.S. Corporate assets or closed their markets entirely.

The pattern is consistent throughout U.S. history, is easily verified, and clearly tells who really dictates U.S. foreign policy.

+17 # reiverpacific 2015-01-24 11:22

So when has the US EVER NOT supported or imposed upon other nations trying to establish Democracy, a feudalist, regressive, violent or right-wing death-squad-enf orced regime, before but figuratively starting with Mossadegu’s Iran in 1953, Arbenz’s Guatemala in 1954 and almost annually since, most recently supporting the Oligarchy-drive n removal of Zelaya in Honduras, whilst high-handedly proclaiming it’s superiority, democracy and exceptionalism worldwide (for exceptionalism, substitute “‘Cause we can and if you don’t like it, we’ll do it to you too”, or “selective self-definition”).

I’m glad that Greenwald brought this up but unfortunately, the US owner-media will probably just ignore it all. In this case though, I can’t imagine even the average American somnambulistic infotainment-in formed citizen shedding any tears for this “Sheik of Arabee” leader of the oppressive Wahabist interpreters of much-abused Islam, whilst “Chop-chop square” continues as #1 public entertainment in Riyadh.

Very disappointing from Obama: I’d have expected it from Dimwits/Cheney after these revolting photos of Shrub the dumbest holding hands with the Royal Petroleum-pumpe rs, wielding a scimitar but being a lifelong incurious, clueless pinhead about the world in general.

None of them were fit to wipe Chavez’s boots!
This is proof, if any were needed, that much of International Diplomacy is forked-tongue bullshit and hypocrisy.
Good job Mr. Greenwald!

+2 # cordleycoit 2015-01-24 11:50

One has to be careful licking depots boots, Blood carries a price on the boot licker’s health. Mr. Chavez was not blameless as a leader. Of course the king shed rivers of blood to appease religious bigots men women it didn’t matter. Obama gets to supplicate to the late butcher.

+5 # Guy 2015-01-24 12:21
Nauseating is the most accurate wording for this behavior in the West .I can’t believe what I am seeing .A severe case of blindness has affected the Western view of reality.

+4 # Anonymot 2015-01-24 12:25
Well observed. Thanks.

What everyone has forgotten or never knew was how and why Abdulazis and his family became so rich. They were not poor, ever. Then came who? Richard Nixon! Wha?

After his successful re-election in 11/1973 Nixon owed a great debt to Texas oilmen who had financed his campaign. They wanted an oil pipeline from Alaska. I remember it as in the State Of The Union address, Jan. 1973 that Nixon promised to get the pipeline approved. Using the usual fear tactics he pointed out that oil prices had gone from $3 to $12 per barrel. “We cannot let OPEC have this Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.” Nixon said.

Well, the Arabs looked at each other, Abdulaziz included. They were smart like desert foxes. We didn’t realize we were a Sword of Damocles, they said – or something like that – and that was the end of cheap oil. Nixon had just given them the arms to destroy the West and they have used them ever since.

You won’t find this documented anywhere, not even in Wikipedia. I just happened to put several disparate things together when I was sitting on a veranda on the Kenya coast and said, “Whoa!!”

It was one of those great “unintended consequences” that our brilliant politicians make, like the little Vietnam War or the little topple Saddam incursion or the Arab Spring regime changes. The Ukraine, Venezuela, Putin, and China are waiting to be played out.

-9 # daruten1 2015-01-24 12:27

Why is it necessary to evaluate every ruler and country through the lenses of our own experiences and values? Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences. Who is he to tell other countries that they do not measure up to the Western world’s values? The world is a complicated place and diplomacy is but one instrument of getting along with people and countries whose views differ from our values and who are difficult. The trick in life is getting along with people whether you agree or disagree with them. Obama has shown intelligence and emotional intelligence in this instance.

+1 # reiverpacific 2015-01-24 12:58
Quoting daruten1:

Why is it necessary to evaluate every ruler and country through the lenses of our own experiences and values? Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences. Who is he to tell other countries that they do not measure up to the Western world’s values? The world is a complicated place and diplomacy is but one instrument of getting along with people and countries whose views differ from our values and who are difficult. The trick in life is getting along with people whether you agree or disagree with them. Obama has shown intelligence and emotional intelligence in this instance.

“Mr Greenwald is ethnocentric, judgmental and unable to perceive where other cultures are coming from given their past historical cultures and experiences.”
Au contraiare, it’s his job as an investigative and world-respected reporter, who has had his own share of Imperialist persecution and fingers pointed at him, to comment on what he perceives as inter-cultural hypocrisy!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Taormina has 10,000 people. They live mainly from tourism that lasts from Easter to October. Below the mountains on which sits Taormina there is now the community of Giardini Naxos. Our guide on New Year’s eve – 2015 kept saying that she was born in Taormina and for 25 years she is a tourist guide – she has never seen snow here. MAMA MIA! THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING!

Mesina is to the North with its 300,00 people – only 3 km. from Italy’s boot. Towards the south there is Catania with its 500,000 people and then Siracusa, Palermo has 1 million people of the 5 million people of all of Sicily.

3 seas surround the Sicily triangle – Mare Ionium which was right there in front of us, with Mare Africano to the Sout-West and Mare Tireneum to the North-West. The three capes at the three points of this triangle – Capo Lilibeo, Capo Pelaio, Capo Passero form the Sicilan Trinacria that makes up the Island’s flag.

I am in the tour-bus – Mama Mia!- See the Greek Theater covered snow!

The Etna grew in stages from the sea – it had 4 active craters – and a new one – now 3-4 years which is very active. There are new side outlets – so now we have five craters – sometimes they have a white flag and sometimes a black flag – when there is ash – it is dark.

There is a difference between seismic movements of earth quakes, and volcanic movements.

Giardini was a citrus orchard. We are 52 in the tour bus. Next to us is a lemon orchard – snow covered – our guide takes a look and says MAMA MIA – What will it be? Lemons covered with snow? We are going now South – towards the South Side of Etna. The sky shows a few blue spots. Etna is not very large or destructive – it is generous spewing out in its ash productive soil.

We are not afraid when Etna erupts – we have learned from experience, she says. It happens often. The Etna Roso is a high quality wine produced on the elements rich soil. 20-30 meter wide streams of lava precede an eruption that can then last hours or years.
It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world with 350 side craters and 1,190 km2 – the biggest in Europe. its top is at 3,350 m. In 1928 there was an eruption that sent lava 150 km to the sea coast. Settlement communities are only up to 200m heights. The Italians say – “Cosi Vole Dio” and “Como Vene Vene” the equivalent of their neighbors to the south that say InshAllah!

Etna is a “She” – like a big Mama with little mountains next to her – her children. The lava deposits the granite that comes probably from 50,000 m. depth. It is beyond the Earth crust. We see black strips among the snow cover – these are 2 day olds – that happened the night before we came to the island. The lava reached Catania 8 times – in 1669 there was a big one with 8 streams of lava that reached the sea and wiped out the city. A stream of lava burns everything to hundreds of meters depth.
The present day Catania is thus only 300 years old – post 1669. Catania had a long history but much of it was destroyed in that eruption.

Even the old Domo is gone and a new one was built instead – with a black elephant obelisk in front of it – the elephant carved out of the black lava stone – this as a memory to the 1669 disaster.

Our guide says – every volcano has different composition – or a different personality. The Sicilians call her Seniora Etna.

Now our bus crosses the border into the Etna Park. On Road Etna – the Burning – and I see a poster that shows the natural fireworks in context of the Silvester – or the New Year celebration that will go on tonight. There are expected lots of Tarantela and you get a croissant following the big dinner. They love the Insalata de Mare and an eventual panetone made with sheep ricota. The Italians do not eat soups – she said. Family dinners are set up with contributed food by the members – then dancing in the piazza.

The Etna – she is on the edge where the African and Euro-Asian plates meet. The line includes also the Vesuvio, the Stromboli, the Pelerin and the Santorini. Quakes happen in a degasification process. Scientists measure the CO2 and the S (sulphur) content of the gases. They go up to 2000-3000 m. but not to the top. We get to Nikoloso at 700 m, pass the Ai-Pina settlement. Are told Mama Mia – there is snow! it was possible to ski at 2,800 m. but the last two years was no snow – now it will be great. We stop for 10 minutes at about 1,000m. and are told that we cannot continue because the bus is not equipped with snow tires. We wonder – so why did they not provide a bus with snow tires – with all that Mama Mia?

She points out the Goethe Road – the oldest road of Etna – it is 12 km long. We pass pines and chestnuts – Mama Mia – this snow!
We have foxes no deers she says – yes wild pigs, hares, rabbits. It seems we reached the farthest she is ready to take us.
She tells us the last explosion of Etna was just yesterday at 6pm and lasted 2 hours – December 29th – and you see from the distance the black stripe of lava in the white cover of snow.

Our guide decreed a 10 minutes stop for us to enjoy the snow like the Italians in front of us. Some entrepreneur even stood there selling snow-slides. Where did he get them crossed my mind? Then she asks us what we want to do. Four people – fed up – said let us go back to our Giardini/Naxos. I smelled rat – we came all that way so the bus driver and guide have a short day of work? I told the guide that the program of the day said we get back at 6 PM – not 2 PM. She said we will get back the money for the wine we dd not drink. Then she made some phone calls and said “she will improvise.” We ended up going south to Catania – the kind of trip for which I never would have booked an organized tour – and as our guide might have felt guilty of something – she never stopped talking. I heard a lot of things I read in the Wikipedia, but there were also some pearls. Our free time in Catania I spent at the fish-market and surrounding streets.

We learned that the Italians conquered Sicily in 1806 and since then the locals switched to speak Italian from their original Sicilian language that was heavily influenced by Arabic. The generous Italians allowed for Sicilian to be defined as an Italian dialect that is still spoken by villagers. The interesting thing about Sicilian is that it did not recognize a future tense – they have only a present and history which is what we call past. So, in the Sicilian mentality you can not project or program things. Now, this is a nice explanation of what we experienced that day. Her improvisation was already to be considered progress.
The Sicilian lives for the “now” – “we have cultural difficulties thinking about tomorrow or the future” – she said.

Sicilia lived from agriculture and mainly from exports of fruit trees. They adapted to many new trees – like the kivi, cherries, small apples. Tourism is being promoted now. Unemployment in Sicily is at 40% and is first in Italy in poverty. Taxation is at 52%. There is an ongoing change of population. The young leave to find a better life elsewhere and new immigrants arrive from North Africa. Many have vehicles and can work in hotels. Herself, from October to April has no work in tourism so she has a second position in the lemon industry.

At first she told us something about Catania and said she will take us to a favorite restaurant of fish – I thought this was good for business, but I was wrong – she never took us there – she just let us lose in Catania after walking us to see the lava-sculpted black elephant obelisk placed in front of the rebuilt cathedral. In 1868 8 streams of lava descended from Etna obliterated Catania on their way to the sea. 20,000 people drowned and the city had to be rebuilt from scratch. The Islamic influenced city was gone – a European style city built instead. They got now wide streets that replaced the old Greek and Renaissance architecture. Nevertheless, I still saw an Egyptian monument and the fish market was markedly in Islamic style.
We were told that Palermo still has 300 Mosques and Siracuse was influenced by the Normands.

We learned about the benefactor of the city – the Holy Agate – who cut off her breasts and is now remembered in February with a big procession like in Sevilla. The coffee shops carry little cakes, covered with white glaze and a black cherry on top – the Agate breasts – a must for you to try. Also, don’t forget the a la Norma backed dish made of thick macaroni, aubergine, melanzani and ricotta cheeses. It is delicious – I had it a couple of days later in Taormina. We also learned of a big yellow – lemon like fruit that its pulp is cut up and added to salads. She bought one to take home.

So, we walked around for a couple of hours by ourselves and with the return of the bus we started our trip back north along the shore line. We saw the Cyclopes Coast of the Odyssey and got to walk up at Aci Castello the stairs to a castle in order to take in the views. At the bottom there was a monument to Giancinta Pezanna. It had an Orpheus alike baso-relief on its stand.
I asked our guide who she was but she did not know. Back home I googled and discovered she was an amazing woman. She was the European “Actress of Emancipationism” (1841–1919) and her monument was there because she retired to Aci Castello and is buried there.

We still make a stop at the Gole Alcantara Park where there is a cannion and a creek – a nice environmental site, and eventually reach the hotel at 6 pm and I go to my room to prepare for the New Year’s dinner and party I did organize myself as no help was available from the local organizer for the PRIMA tours of Vienna.

Let me put this mildly – I felt cheated by the tour agency – but let me say immediately that the whole experience was great because I met some very nice people in Giardini-Naxos and Taormina. All this by myself – thus wondering who needed those PRIMA people?

I bought the 30.12.2014 – 03.01.2015 trip from Joe24Reisen of Vienna according to a paper advertisement of www.joe24.at I paid 519 Euro plus 89 Euro for a December 31st excursion to Aetna, Gambino & Castiglione. Joe24 was just the marketer and the trip was by PRIMA REISEN www.primareisen.com of Friedrichstrasse 10, 1060 Vienna.

When we arrived at the Catania airport a Mr.Dario Solzano received us and gave to each of us a prepared envelope “Tuto Bene” that contained a sheet with his phone numbers – at the “Marliestour Sicil Travel” office and his Handy number – two cards for restaurants – a restaurant in Naxos and one in Taormina – told us that for the New Year reservations for festive events were all expensive and booked well in advance – mind you – the restaurant in Naxos that he gave us that card – a really nice restaurant – but it turned out that on new Year’s eve they were going to be closed, and the one in Taormina would not be accessible from our location in Giardini-Naxos. He also said he will pass by the hotels for further advice – this turning out really just an effort to market excursions.

On this occasion, at my hotel, I pulled out my little note with weather forecasts and showed him – that for Wednesday the 31st the predictions were the worst – at that stage it said only clouds and winds and the lowest temperatures – this while for Friday it said Sunny and a 10 degrees F higher temperatures. I suggested he switch the trips so that Etna should be on Friday while Syracuse on Wednesday – this surely without premonition that there will be this snow coming in on Tuesday night. He said it would be too much work to switch the people. “Too much work he said.” I pulled out from the Syracuse trip preferring to use the nice day for Taormina.

That was the last I saw him until by chance – I bumped into his office near the sea-shore on Friday. During Holidays the public transportation is practically non-existent and a round-trip between Giardini-Naxos and Taormina is 50 Euro. His idea of tourism was to advise us to take cabs – this while other organizations had local guides that worked with them and a bus to get along as well. He also told us about “Presepe Vivente” – a Christmas display with some 50 real people – even a real baby – that we could still have seen on Thursday – New Year’s Day at the outskirts at Trappitello – but again – no transportation.
So, let me just say that this PRIMA was not even third class. Further – that miserable Mama Mia guided tour that cost me 89 Euro, could be bought at all hotels – even the most expensive one in Taormina – the 5 star San Domenico – for 45 Euro.

Having said this, let me now proceed to put in some very good words for very good people and why I hope to return to this area – surely – not with a fake PRIMA:

First – Rosario of the ROYAL Ristorante and more, Via Lungomare Schiso 34, Giardini Naxos, the New Year’s Eve dinner and party location I found just by trying to get a place to operate my computer as it did not interact with the WiFi at my hotel.
The food, ambiance, the all-Italian crowd – except me – his mother who seeing me as the lonely outsider – came over and gave me a kiss. Great people – others said hallo and we wished itch other AUGURI – a great place I hope to see again someday.

The desk people at the San Domenico hotel in Taormina in a building that was once part of a church castle – that were very helpful indeed.

And the people at the Libreria Mondadori (Libreventi Taormina -the bookstore on the main street) the daughter of the lady that runs the store – a journalist by the name Antonella Ferrara – wrote a booklet “Taormina Cult” – an aid to culture seeking people that came and some of them lived for a while at least in this most beautiful town. The booklet has a self guided tour for people that want to look up these places. Among those that had homes in Taormina – D.H. Lawrence, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde, Otto Gleng and many more that stayed at hotels. Then a must is the visit to the old Greek Theater that has as stage back drop no less then Seniora Etna. I could have spent many more days just walking up and down those streets and steps – with neat discoveries wherever you look. This summer in August 2015 the Antic Theater will host “The trilogy of Seville” as the “Euro-Mediterraneo” Festival – the three operas – “Carmen” by Bizet, “Don Giovani” by Mozart and “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” by Rossini. I take a bet – it will be sold out.

Back at the sea-shore of Giardini-Naxos I spent half a day at the archeology museum of Naxos – the first Greek colony in Sicilia.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Lessons from Lima, Prospects for Paris: What Future for Climate Change?
The view, on reflection, from United Nations Headquarters, New York City.

For SustainabiliTank by George Baumgarten, United Nations Correspondent, January 18, 2015.

The United Nations Climate Conference in Lima, Peru {(known as “COP-20” (of the UNFCCC)} produced an outcome which could at least be called “hopeful”. But it really just foreshadows the real show: the forthcoming ultimate Conference, to be held in Paris, this coming December. And the Lima outcome was itself largely upstaged by the announcement — just a month earlier — of an historic bilateral agreement, between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China.

The Lima Conference was the latest in a string of annual such conferences, dating back to the one held in Berlin in 1995. These annual conclaves have plodded along now for two tortured decades, as the greenhouse gas emissions just go on, the industrial smokestacks go on belching, and the conferee politicians–slowly, deliberately, ploddingly, and tortuously–go on endlessly talking.

The most interesting product of the Lima conference was one of Hope: Perhaps—just perhaps—an agreement could be crafted, at or before Paris, to achieve the critical emissions reductions.
Charles Frank, writing for a bulletin of the Brookings Institution, notes that Chinese greenhouse gas emissions have been rising at a rate of 10% per year, with the country’s galloping rate of industrialization. Therefore, the Chinese Agreement with the U.S. — while a breakthrough — reflects a “weak” commitment, on the part of the Chinese. But his Brookings colleague Joshua Meltzer regards even this weak commitment as a plus. That China has agreed to any target at all, he sees as a “…significant step for climate change diplomacy.”

The U.S.-China Climate Accord, which overshadowed the results of the Lima conference, dealt with the thorny — and, in the U.S., controversial – issue of carbon emissions. It was the very first agreement by which China agreed on targets for the reduction of such emissions – in fact – to stop the growth of such emissions by 2030. This agreement was the product of nine long months of negotiations, and—it was hoped—would become a catalyst for a world emissions agreement at Paris next December.

By the Agreement, the U.S. undertakes to emit 26-28% less carbon by 2025 than it did in 2005. And China promised to stop increasing its carbon emissions by 2030. Commenting on this Agreement, President Obama told his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, that he wanted to take the U.S.-China relationship “to a new level.”

In the official press release giving the text of the Agreement, the very first paragraph says, succinctly and directly: “The seriousness of the challenge calls upon the two sides to work constructively together for the common good.” And they acknowledged “…the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”

Thus – to summarize – the following paragraph states the two aforementioned goals: The U.S. commits to an “economy-wide target” of reducing its emissions by 26-28% of 2005 levels, by 2025. And China, for its part, undertakes to reduce its CO2 emissions, after their peaking no later than 2030, and to make efforts to peak early.

The Agreement also proposes that “The United States and China hope that by announcing these targets now, they can inject momentum into the global climate negotiations.” It further notes that “The global scientific community has made clear that human activity is already changing the world’s climate system.” To follow up – the agreement provides for the creation of a U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG).


Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s address, delivered on Tuesday, December 9, 2014, made very clear one of his primary hopes: “There is still a chance to stay within the internationally-agreed ceiling of less than 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise”. In short, concise, successive statements, he asserted:

“All countries must be part of the solution. All of society must be engaged.”

“This is not a time for tinkering—it is a time for transformation,” and

“The momentum for action is building.”

The Conference’s “Lima Call for Climate Action” made clear that there is still a long way to go toward the Paris Conference of next December, but it did state without elaborating that “governments have left with a far clearer vision of what the draft Paris agreement will look like…”

Among the other results were pledges that for the first time took the new “Green Climate Fund” (GCF) past the initial $10 billion budget. And “new levels of transparency” on the part of industrialized nations were said to have been achieved. This was also reflected in the “increased visibility” of National Adaptation Plans (NAP’s). New instruments were announced with regard to forests, the provision of technology to developing countries, and the role of women, which was said to be “key to the response to climate change.”

A particular initiative was established for Education and Awareness Training, so that far greater numbers of persons, worldwide, can be made aware and conscious of the challenges faced by humanity. Peru and France also announced a joint “Lima-Paris Action Agenda”, to point the way to next year’s final, climatic Conference.

The U.N.’s official response to the Lima outcome, released by the office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, congratulated the Conference, and noted that its actions “pave the way for the adoption of a universal and meaningful agreement in 2015.” He applauded the finalization of an “institutional architecture for a mechanism on loss and damage.”
The Secretary-General also called “… on all parties, especially the major economies, to submit their ambitious national commitments well in advance of Paris.”

While the COP-20 Conference can point to some [long-overdue] accomplishments, this is clearly a situation of having “still very far to go, and a [relatively] short time to do so.” And an awful lot of scientists of all sorts – not to mention the diplomats and politicians – can expect to be kept very busy this year.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We re-post this because we bow to Freedom of Speech and realize that this posting actually shows that Greenwald’s position here is a


We re-post this because we do believe in freedom of the press but we do not believe in one’s calling out FIRE when such a call can do harm. Greenwald’s position here is a give-away to a total misunderstanding – some sacred cows – like fight against budding Antisemitism – are sacred indeed.

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France Arrests a Comedian for His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West’s ‘Free Speech’ Celebration

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

14 January 2015

orty-eight hours after hosting a massive march under the banner of free expression, France opened a criminal investigation of a controversial French comedian for a Facebook post he wrote about the Charlie Hebdo attack, and then this morning, arrested him for that post on charges of “defending terrorism.” The comedian, Dieudonné (above), previously sought elective office in France on what he called an “anti-Zionist” platform, has had his show banned by numerous government officials in cities throughout France, and has been criminally prosecuted several times before for expressing ideas banned in that country.

The apparently criminal viewpoint he posted on Facebook declared: “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly.” Investigators concluded that this was intended to mock the “Je Suis Charlie” slogan and express support for the perpetrator of the Paris supermarket killings (whose last name was “Coulibaly”). Expressing that opinion is evidently a crime in the Republic of Liberté, which prides itself on a line of 20th Century intellectuals – from Sartre and Genet to Foucault and Derrida – whose hallmark was leaving no orthodoxy or convention unmolested, no matter how sacred.

Since that glorious “free speech” march, France has reportedly opened 54 criminal cases for “condoning terrorism.” AP reported this morning that “France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and glorifying terrorism.”

As pernicious as this arrest and related “crackdown” on some speech obviously is, it provides a critical value: namely, it underscores the utter scam that was this week’s celebration of free speech in the west. The day before the Charlie Hebdo attack, I coincidentally documented the multiple cases in the west – including in the U.S. – where Muslims have been prosecuted and even imprisoned for their political speech. Vanishingly few of this week’s bold free expression mavens have ever uttered a peep of protest about any of those cases – either before the Charlie Hebdo attack or since. That’s because “free speech,” in the hands of many westerners, actually means: it is vital that the ideas I like be protected, and the right to offend groups I dislike be cherished; anything else is fair game.

It is certainly true that many of Dieudonné’s views and statements are noxious, although he and his supporters insist that they are “satire” and all in good humor. In that regard, the controversy they provoke is similar to the now-much-beloved Charlie Hebdo cartoons (one French leftist insists the cartoonists were mocking rather than adopting racism and bigotry, but Olivier Cyran, a former writer at the magazine who resigned in 2001, wrote a powerful 2013 letter with ample documentation condemning Charlie Hebdo for descending in the post-9/11 era into full-scale, obsessive anti-Muslim bigotry).

Despite the obvious threat to free speech posed by this arrest, it is inconceivable that any mainstream western media figures would start tweeting “#JeSuisDieudonné” or would upload photographs of themselves performing his ugly Nazi-evoking arm gesture in “solidarity” with his free speech rights. That’s true even if he were murdered for his ideas rather than “merely” arrested and prosecuted for them. That’s because last week’s celebration of the Hebdo cartoonists (well beyond mourning their horrifically unjust murders) was at least as much about approval for their anti-Muslim messages as it was about the free speech rights that were invoked in their support – at least as much.

The vast bulk of the stirring “free speech” tributes over the last week have been little more than an attempt to protect and venerate speech that degrades disfavored groups while rendering off-limits speech that does the same to favored groups, all deceitfully masquerading as lofty principles of liberty. In response to my article containing anti-Jewish cartoons on Monday – which I posted to demonstrate the utter selectivity and inauthenticity of this newfound adoration of offensive speech – I was subjected to endless contortions justifying why anti-Muslim speech is perfectly great and noble while anti-Jewish speech is hideously offensive and evil (the most frequently invoked distinction – “Jews are a race/ethnicity while Muslims aren’t” – would come as a huge surprise to the world’s Asian, black, Latino and white Jews, as well as to those who identify as “Muslim” as part of their cultural identity even though they don’t pray five times a day). As always: it’s free speech if it involves ideas I like or attacks groups I dislike, but it’s something different when I’m the one who is offended.

Think about the “defending terrorism” criminal offense for which Dieudonné has been arrested. Should it really be a criminal offense – causing someone to be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned – to say something along these lines: western countries like France have been bringing violence for so long to Muslims in their countries that I now believe it’s justifiable to bring violence to France as a means of making them stop? If you want “terrorism defenses” like that to be criminally prosecuted (as opposed to societally shunned), how about those who justify, cheer for and glorify the invasion and destruction of Iraq, with its “Shock and Awe” slogan signifying an intent to terrorize the civilian population into submission and its monstrous tactics in Fallujah? Or how about the psychotic calls from a Fox News host, when discussing Muslims radicals, to “kill them ALL.” Why is one view permissible and the other criminally barred – other than because the force of law is being used to control political discourse and one form of terrorism (violence in the Muslim world) is done by, rather than to, the west?

For those interested, my comprehensive argument against all “hate speech” laws and other attempts to exploit the law to police political discourse is here. That essay, notably, was written to denounce a proposal by a French minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, to force Twitter to work with the French government to delete tweets which officials like this minister (and future unknown ministers) deem “hateful.” France is about as legitimate a symbol of free expression as Charlie Hebdo, which fired one of its writers in 2009 for a single supposedly anti-Semitic sentence in the midst of publishing an orgy of anti-Muslim (not just anti-Islam) content. This week’s celebration of France – and the gaggle of tyrannical leaders who joined it – had little to do with free speech and much to do with suppressing ideas they dislike while venerating ideas they prefer.

Perhaps the most intellectually corrupted figure in this regard is, unsurprisingly, France’s most celebrated (and easily the world’s most overrated) public intellectual, the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. He demands criminal suppression of anything smacking of anti-Jewish views (he called for Dieudonné’s shows to be banned (“I don’t understand why anyone even sees the need for debate”) and supported the 2009 firing of the Charlie Hebdo writer for a speech offense against Jews), while shamelessly parading around all last week as the Churchillian champion of free expression when it comes to anti-Muslim cartoons.

But that, inevitably, is precisely the goal, and the effect, of laws that criminalize certain ideas and those who support such laws: to codify a system where the views they like are sanctified and the groups to which they belong protected. The views and groups they most dislike – and only them – are fair game for oppression and degradation.

The arrest of this French comedian so soon after the epic Paris free speech march underscores this point more powerfully than anything I could have written about the selectivity and fraud of this week’s “free speech” parade. It also shows – yet again – why those who want to criminalize the ideas they most dislike are at least as dangerous and tyrannical as the ideas they target: at least.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The killings – at the offices of a satirical newspaper in Paris – execution style – were done by three hooded individuals – two of them brothers.


BREAKING NEWS: French police have published the names and photographs of two suspects wanted in Wednesday’s terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

In a statement posted on its website, French national police ask for information on the whereabouts of two suspects: They are brothers – Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, warning that both are potentially armed and dangerous.

The gunmen who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris asked for people by name before killing them, according to a doctor who helped the wounded and spoke with survivors.

Dr. Gerald Kierzek said the gunmen divided the men from the women before opening fire. The shooting was not a random spray of bullets, he said, but more of a precision execution.

A dozen people died in the attack. Authorities are searching for the three suspects.

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AIC (The American Iranian Council) Statement on the Charlie Hebdo Terrorist Attack:

On Wednesday, January 7, 2015, three heavily armed men staged a sophisticated attack on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. The paper is known for its provocative content on Islam, including satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, something the religion prohibits. The attack was almost certainly a response to this content, as assailants were heard screaming “We have avenged the prophet,” and “Allahu Akbar.”

Speaking live on television, French President Francois Hollande said it was “a terrorist attack without a doubt.” All indications point toward an act of terrorism indeed. While it is not yet certain which individuals or group(s) are responsible for the attack, police officials named three suspects, and the Associated Press quoted one official who said they were linked to a Yemeni terrorist network. Al Qaeda is most active in Yemen.

The American Iranian Council stands with the French people, stands up for the rights and protections of free speech, and unequivocally condemns the gruesome violence conducted in the name of Islam. This horrific and sad event is another reminder that the entire civilized world needs to work together to stem the tide of radical Islamist violence wherever it exists.

At times like this tragic moment, it is particularly crucial that we remind ourselves that there is nothing more urgent in today’s chaotic world than the task of promoting better international understanding, dialogue and mutual respect towards world peace and development. The AIC is proud to have pioneered such a task in US-Iran relations and sustained it for over 25 years.

We continue to believe that the US and Iran face common enemies in terrorism, from Al Qaeda and the Taliban to ISIS and other similar groups, and must work together to eradicate it. Wednesday’s tragic event is yet another reminder of the need for these two countries to think more strategically about the imperative of reaching a mutually gainful deal on the Iranian nuclear dispute towards better relations.

-The American Iranian Council

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As Reported by a US Press Release:
Security Council Press Statement on terrorist attack on French newspaper

The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack against the headquarters of French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, France, on 7 January 2015, causing numerous deaths among journalists, media professionals and associated personnel as well as of two policemen.

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this intolerable terrorist act targeting journalists and a newspaper.

The members of the Security Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the Government of France.

The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.

7 January

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 29th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Pope Francis’s Edict on Climate Change Will Anger Deniers and US Churches

By John Vidal, Guardian UK, 28 December 14

Pontiff hopes to inspire action at next year’s UN meeting in Paris in December after visits to Philippines and New York

He has been called the “superman pope”, and it would be hard to deny that Pope Francis has had a good December. Cited by President Barack Obama as a key player in the thawing relations between the US and Cuba, the Argentinian pontiff followed that by lecturing his cardinals on the need to clean up Vatican politics. But can Francis achieve a feat that has so far eluded secular powers and inspire decisive action on climate change?

It looks as if he will give it a go. In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions.

The reason for such frenetic activity, says Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, is the pope’s wish to directly influence next year’s crucial UN climate meeting in Paris, when countries will try to conclude 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce emissions.

“Our academics supported the pope’s initiative to influence next year’s crucial decisions,” Sorondo told Cafod, the Catholic development agency, at a meeting in London. “The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion.”

Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated in 2012 by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners.

According to Vatican insiders, Francis will meet other faith leaders and lobby politicians at the general assembly in New York in September, when countries will sign up to new anti-poverty and environmental goals.

In recent months, the pope has argued for a radical new financial and economic system to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation. In October he told a meeting of Latin American and Asian landless peasants and other social movements: “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.

“The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.

“The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,” he said.

In Lima last month, bishops from every continent expressed their frustration with the stalled climate talks and, for the first time, urged rich countries to act.

Sorondo, a fellow Argentinian who is known to be close to Pope Francis, said: “Just as humanity confronted revolutionary change in the 19th century at the time of industrialisation, today we have changed the natural environment so much. If current trends continue, the century will witness unprecedented climate change and destruction of the ecosystem with tragic consequences.”

According to Neil Thorns, head of advocacy at Cafod, said: “The anticipation around Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical is unprecedented. We have seen thousands of our supporters commit to making sure their MPs know climate change is affecting the poorest communities.”

However, Francis’s environmental radicalism is likely to attract resistance from Vatican conservatives and in rightwing church circles, particularly in the US – where Catholic climate sceptics also include John Boehner, Republican leader of the House of Representatives and Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate.

Cardinal George Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney who has been placed in charge of the Vatican’s budget, is a climate change sceptic who has been criticised for claiming that global warming has ceased and that if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were doubled, then “plants would love it”.

Dan Misleh, director of the Catholic climate covenant, said: “There will always be 5-10% of people who will take offence. They are very vocal and have political clout. This encyclical will threaten some people and bring joy to others. The arguments are around economics and science rather than morality.

“A papal encyclical is rare. It is among the highest levels of a pope’s authority. It will be 50 to 60 pages long; it’s a big deal. But there is a contingent of Catholics here who say he should not be getting involved in political issues, that he is outside his expertise.”

Francis will also be opposed by the powerful US evangelical movement, said Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the conservative Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion.

“The pope should back off,” he said. “The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science. It follows that the policies the Vatican is promoting are incorrect. Our position reflects the views of millions of evangelical Christians in the US.”

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+12 # Dust 2014-12-28 16:47
“has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion” and “misled on the science”.

Bwahahahahaaa!!!!!!

How is it possible for a group that prides itself on lack of education and a complete dismissal of any science it does not like get to claim with a straight face that it knows anything about science itself?

Calvin Beisner should cite his “science” or shut up and stick to his extremely narrow interpretation of his selected religious texts.

Besides – the US is not a Christian nation, the Pope is not an evangelical, so on what possible authority does Calvin feel justified in telling the Pope to “back off”??

0 # NOMINAE 2014-12-28 23:22
Quoting Dust:

“has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion” and “misled on the science”.

Bwahahahahaaa!!!!!!

How is it possible for a group that prides itself on lack of education and a complete dismissal of any science it does not like get to claim with a straight face that it knows anything about science itself? …

It is possible (but still hilariously unconvincing) under the aegis of the same arrogance of ignorance that impels and propels all manner of these moronic statements…….

pure, unadulterated, high-octane HUBRIS.

Nothing more is required or demanded in this time of virulent and vapid anti-intellectu alism, and the accompanying anti-science, or faux science that sells this bilge-water propaganda to the masses.

These statements are not designed to convince the leading edge of the intellectual Bell Curve. They are, as ever, aimed at the bulging center of the “average masses”.

…At the “Thugs” who are eventually to be installed and elevated above the intellectual class ala the Third Reich, Suharto, the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, ad infinitum – in short, an approach with a solidly proven track record enthusiasticall y and efficiently embraced by any and all Fascistic Systems, or Fascist Wannabes, in the world to date.

+5 # Dust 2014-12-28 20:09
After a wee bit of reading… Calvin Beisner is a freight train of crazy.

+7 # Activista 2014-12-28 21:20
Pope – especially in South America – has huge influence -
he is very influential on social issues – he does not have to have Phd. in climatology to see the effects of global warming -
I am agnostic – thank you Francis -

0 # Thebigkate 2014-12-28 23:50
Are we lucky, or what, to have such an enlightened pope? Now–if he would only get his act together on women in the church and the necessity of legal abortion!

0 # Regina 2014-12-28 23:51
There is reason to believe that Francis would not have sentenced Galileo to house arrest, nor called science apostasy. He uses logic where logic belongs, instead of insisting on dogma where dogma does not belong.

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

The Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change is glad to inform you on updates of news and stories around Climate Science&Policy.

What really happened in Lima? Climate Science & Policy: news, stories and updates.

[CENTRO EURO-MEDITERRANEO PER I CAMBIAMENTI CLIMATICI - CMCC -
un Consorzio di istituti di ricerca e università italiane che punta
ad approfondire le conoscenze scientifiche nel campo della variabilità climatica.]

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A different view on COP 20
Carlo Carraro comments the outcomes of the COP20 in this post taken from his blog: “The emphasis on emission reductions somehow obscures the real issue at the core of the COP 20 negotiations (that will be at the core of COP 21 as well)”.
 www.cmcc.it/article/a-different-v…

Climate talks: what was agreed in Lima
As expected, the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties in Lima wrapped up with a compromise text, a road map pushing for 2015 deal in Paris
 www.cmcc.it/article/lima-climate-…

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Many comments on the outcome of the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) recently held in Lima have already been circulated. Most commentators focus on the broad consensus to adopt national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Some of them highlights the important benefits of reaching such broad consensus, even though not yet on ambitious mitigation targets. Others complain about the distance between existing commitments and the mitigation effort needed to maintain future temperature increase below the 2°C degree target. All of them agree on the crucial role of COP 21 in Paris to reach a final agreement on both ambitious Individually Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and on an effective verification system to compare these mitigation efforts.

This emphasis on emission reductions somehow obscures the real issue at the core of the COP 20 negotiations (that will be at the core of COP 21 as well), namely the difficulty of agreeing on the resources that must be devoted to achieve mitigation targets, on their distribution across different world regions, on the mechanisms to fund the huge investments that will be necessary for both mitigation and adaptation.

The discussion in Lima was centered on the Green Climate Fund, established in Copenhagen in 2009, but the debate was more on distributional issues (how much will developing countries receive and how much will they contribute) rather than on efficiency issues (how best can the fund be used).

The Green Climate Fund
While there have been some murmurings of the need to focus on technology development, technology transfer and capacity building, the climate finance debate has been overtaken by the Green Climate Fund. How much should be given? Should quantitative limits be set? Should there be a legally binding system? Since there was so much focus on the Fund, it is encouraging to see that the first real milestone in this process – USD 10.2 billion pledged by the end of 2014 – has been achieved. Further, since 50% of the Green Climate Fund is to be allocated to adaptation measures, the prominence of adaptation in the COP 20 agenda should be welcomed. Specifically, the promise that a “loss and damage” scheme would be introduced to help poorer countries cope with the financial implications of a warming planet. Despite these steps forward, the funding required to decarbonize the global economy by 2050, address adaptation and meet the rising cost of loss and damage caused by extreme weather events, will be in the region of trillions of dollars over the upcoming decades. As such, the Green Climate Fund, even when it will hopefully reach the USD 100 billions in 2020, will be far from covering both the required investments in adaptation to deal with the impacts of ongoing climate change, particularly in developing countries, and the costs to support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Policy signals:

One of government’s main roles in enabling climate finance is to send a clear, consistent, long-term signal to investors that there is a safe market for low-carbon technologies. There is a great deal of aversion to be overcome in this respect. Currently, low-carbon technologies are perceived to come only at a short to medium term trade off with economic growth.

This misconception (built into many model assessments) is based on the assumption that economies are perfectly efficient. As a result, any climate change policy is expected to lead to short and medium term costs. However, in reality, many such policies, particularly technology policies, in fact reduce market failures and the rigidities that lead to inefficient allocation of resources.

This understanding was woefully overlooked at COP20. Indeed, the very fact that governments spent so much time publicly quibbling over what to implement is signal enough to the private sector that investments in low-carbon technologies may not be supported by a sound policy environment (e.g. by a tax internalizing carbon externalities).

Some nations even went to say that private sector needs to be the driving force behind the transition. While developments in private sector do anticipate policy, their success is often dependent on a fertile policy environment.

As such, Brazil strongly cautioned against too strong a reliance on the private sector.

Even Australia was able to recognize the need to motivate businesses.

Kick-starting innovation:

There are two channels that governments can exploit to provide these policy signals.

First, government needs to stimulate innovation. Innovation is key to a low-carbon future. OECD projections of population growth indicate that population will increase from 7 billion people (2010) to more than 9 billion people (2050). With this, global GDP will nearly quadruple, requiring 80% more energy. To sustain this growth, energy must be mostly generated in a carbon neutral or low carbon manner.

At COP20, countries were asked to support all low-carbon technologies and not pick winners. Even so, each country demonstrated its aversions to specific technologies, notably nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS).The main way to incentivize innovation in low-carbon technologies is to put a price on carbon.

Carbon pricing is one of the strongest signals that governments can send to say they are serious about low-carbon. Not only does this provide a way – if effectively implemented – of progressively moving away from fossil fuel energy, it also provides financial benefits. Lobbying and sideline action abounded with pressure to develop carbon pricing mechanisms. Like the drop of water on stone, this is making an impact nation by nation. However, no concrete progress came forth from COP20 on this, even though important signals came from the UN Summit in New York last September and much more will emerge in 2015 in preparation to COP 21.

Investing:

Second, governments need to look to how and when they invest in low-carbon solutions. No public sector actors are yet fully successful in setting regulation, incentives, co-investment, risk-sharing instruments or other policy measures. Most developed countries firmly opposed internationally accountable commitments to climate finance.

Switzerland notably refused legally binding aims. Part of the unanimous aversion to strong investment is the fear that policies would require prolonged public sector support for low-carbon technologies. This assumption ignores the fact that government only needs to promote low-carbon innovation for a limited time. Just long enough to kick-start the low-carbon pathway. Once the technology is rolling along this path, the economy will be locked-in to low-carbon and there is no need for further regulatory intervention.

Another investment deterrent is the presumed high-cost, low-return nature of low-carbon energy. However, the higher upfront costs in low-carbon technologies are offset by avoiding the operating and financing costs that characterize fossil fuel energy. And by the increasing benefits of reducing GHG emissions and therefore the concrete, very costly, negative impacts of climate change on our economies.

The Lima Legacy:

COP20 concluded with a document that called for an “ambitious agreement” in 2015 that considers the “differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” of each nation. This common-but-differentiated-responsibilities approach has characterized climate change talks since 1992. It reflects the strong divide and attribution of responsibility that still exists between poor and rich nations. Meek language asking countries merely to go beyond their “current undertaking” on climate action does not instill you with confidence that any of the INDCs that will be announced over the first quarter of 2015 will be sufficient to keep the globe within the 2°C limit.

Perhaps, there is hope in the fact that some of the desired measures indicated above can be developed without the need for international agreements.

Even so, at the moment, none of these issues that will really make a difference in the effective deployment and use of climate finance have been seriously addressed by COP 20.

Much of this is unsurprising. Asking 194 countries to find consensus on the many issues implicated in climate change – not only climate finance – is, as UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres puts it, “very, very challenging”. Therefore, the resulting “range of key decisions agreed and action-agendas launched, including how to better scale up and finance adaptation” should be welcomed. However, as ever, we cannot let complacency take root and must maximize the pressure for the forthcoming INDCs to be meaningful and verifiable commitments.

Overall COP 20 in Lima was consistent with expectations. Together with other important events (the UN Climate Summit in New York, the EU Policy Framework on Energy and Climate, the US-China deal, etc.) it contributed to pave the way for an important agreement in Paris. The idea of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions was already circulated and debated months ago. It became concrete in Lima and this is a very positive change, crucial to achieve a large participation to the Paris agreement. Now it’s time to go back to climate finance and to agree not only on the size of additional resources to be devoted to climate mitigation and adaptation, but rather on the policy signals to redirect the huge amount of resources devoted every year to energy infrastructures, buildings, city development and transports towards a low carbon transition path.

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Almost two days later than scheduled, the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru, closed on Sunday, December 14th adopting a set of 32 documents aimed at progressing towards the definition of the new deal to be agreed at the COP21 in Paris next year.

Central element of the Lima deal are the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) which include in one term both developed and developing countries’ plans to fight climate change from 2020 on. All Parties are, indeed, invited to communicate them to the UNFCCC well in advance of the COP21 (the not mandatory deadline remains March 31, 2015). In addition, Lima made progress in elaborating the elements for a draft negotiating text that has been included as an Annex to the document and that would be the base for the future negotiating draft text to be released by May 2015.

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Major outcomes of the deal can be summarized as follows:

– common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances: developed and developing countries have both to act to cut their carbon emissions but considering their different financial and infrastructural capacities;

– Greenhouses gas plans: the document reiterates its invitation to all Parties to communicate their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) by the end of March 2015 in order to facilitate clarity, transparency and understanding. The information provided may include quantifiable information such as time frames and / or periods for implementation, scope and coverage, planning processes, assumptions and methodological approaches including those for estimating and accounting for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.?INDCs will be published on the UNFCCC website by the UN climate change secretariat which will prepare by 1 November 2015 a synthesis report on the overall climate effect of the INDCs communicated by Parties;

– Loss and Damage: a “loss and damage” mechanism was established to protect developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effect of climate change in order to receive economic compensations;

– Climate finance: the document urges developed countries to provide and mobilize enhanced financial support to developing countries for ambitious mitigation and adaptation actions. Donations to a Green Climate Fund, launched to help poor countries cut their GHG emissions and adapt to climate change, have already surpassed the $10bn.

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For more information:

The full text of the deal

The summary of key outcomes provided by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Overview of decisions adopted at COP20 and CMP10

The infographics realized by the Italian Climate Network, a synthesis of the Parties’ different positions

Events
IAERE Third Annual Conference

Adaptation Climate Change Impacts Climate Change Risks Climate Projections Energy Efficiency ETS – Emission trading scheme Extreme events Forestry management GHG – Greenhouse gases Hydrogeological Risk International negotiations IPCC Land use Mediterranean Area

Mitigation National policies Public opinion Rio+20 Sustainable development UN Climate Change Conference – COP

Related content:

COP20, a positive step forward or a skirmish before the real battle?

A different view on Lima COP 20

From Lima to Paris 2015: challenges on the road to 2°C

Climate talks: what was agreed in Lima

Safe navigation in the Mediterranean sea

Research papers:
RP0233 – High resolution climate scenarios on Mediterranean test case areas for the hydro-climate integrated system
RP0232 – The Passive Use Value of the Mediterranean Forest
RP0231 – Loss & Damage: a Critical Discourse Analysis
RP0230 – Performance evaluation of integrated system to model the climate change impacts on hydro-geological hazard
RP0229 – The stability and effectiveness of climate coalitions:
A comparative analysis of multiple integrated assessment models


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Via Augusto Imperatore 16, 73100 Lecce, Italy
Tel. +39 0832 288650 Fax +39 0832 277603 Email:  info at cmcc.it

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

From the IISD Reporting Services that help the UN manage its information flow to Conference participants.

Lima Climate Change Conference – December 2014
1-12 December 2014 | Lima, Peru

 www.iisd.ca/climate/cop20/

The Lima Climate Change Conference convened from 1-14 December 2014, in Lima, Peru. It included the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 10). Three subsidiary bodies (SBs) also met: the 41st sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 41) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 41), and the seventh part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 2-7).

The Lima Climate Change Conference brought together over 11,000 participants, including approximately 6,300 government officials, 4,000 representatives from UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations, and 900 members of the media.

Negotiations in Lima focused on outcomes under the ADP necessary to advance towards an agreement in Paris at COP 21 in 2015, including elaboration of the information, and process, required for submission of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) as early as possible in 2015 and progress on elements of a draft negotiating text. Following lengthy negotiations on a draft decision for advancing the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, COP 20 adopted the ‘Lima Call for Climate Action,’ which sets in motion the negotiations in the coming year towards a 2015 agreement, the process for submitting and reviewing INDCs, and enhancing pre-2020 ambition.

Parties also adopted 19 decisions, 17 under the COP and two under the CMP that, inter alia: help operationalize the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage; establish the Lima work programme on gender; and adopt the Lima Declaration on Education and Awareness Raising. The Lima Climate Change Conference was able to lay the groundwork for Paris next year, by capturing progress made in elaborating the elements of a draft negotiating text for the 2015 agreement and adopting a decision on INDCs, including their scope, upfront information, and steps to be taken by the Secretariat after their submission.

The Summary and Analysis of this meeting is now available in PDF format

at  www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb12619… and in HTML format at
 www.iisd.ca/vol12/enb12619e.html

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A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE LIMA CLIMATE CONFERENCE

“Brick by brick my citizens, brick by brick.”
– Attributed to Roman Emperor Hadrian

Arriving in Peru, delegates were welcomed by a decidedly positive spirit. As COP 20/CMP 10 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal observed in his opening speech, prior to the Lima Conference, the world had received a number of “good signals” from the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, the initial resource mobilization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), “historic” announcements by several major greenhouse gas emitting countries, including the EU, the US and China, as well as momentum generated from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. This spirit of “unprecedented optimism and achievement,” as described by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, was expected to help advance work on a number of key deliverables intended to provide what ADP Co-Chair Kishan Kumarsingh referred to as a “solid foundation” upon which to build a new agreement to be adopted in Paris.

In October, in an address to the ADP, Pulgar-Vidal indicated the outcomes he expected in Lima, including: a clear, structured and substantive text on the elements of the new agreement; defining the information to be submitted in 2015 as part of parties’ intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs); and a concrete plan for the pre-2020 period, including actions to ensure compliance with existing obligations, and the implementation of policy options with the greatest mitigation potential. He also emphasized the importance of confidence and trust in the process, as well as among parties. As many have learned from previous climate change meetings, no foundation for the future can be built without confidence and trust.

This brief analysis will assess to what extent these outcomes expected from Lima have been delivered, the implications of the ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’ for the negotiations towards the new climate agreement, and whether the Lima Conference succeeded in laying a solid foundation for constructing an ambitious global climate agreement in Paris, under which each country is able to find a “room.”

LAYING BRICKS

A fervent facilitator and an invisible enabler, the Peruvian Presidency spared no effort in ensuring that time during the Lima Conference was managed effectively. With most formal negotiating sessions scarcely going over the 6:00 pm mark and the Subsidiary Bodies concluding their work unprecedentedly early, delegates were able to roll up their sleeves and get down to work on the building blocks for the new agreement, the draft decision text on INDCs, and enhanced pre-2020 climate action.

Over six days, parties exchanged views on the Co-Chairs’ non-paper containing the elements for a draft negotiating text and made various proposals, which were all reflected in a revised document published on the UNFCCC website early in the morning on Monday, 8 December, by which time the text had swollen from 23 to 33 pages. Some worried that a proliferation of options, while indicating that the negotiating process is clearly party-driven, did not add to the draft negotiating text’s clarity and structure, and could complicate future work.

In the end, delegates agreed to annex this text to the COP decision on further advancing the Durban Platform with a disclaimer contained in a footnote stating that the elements for a draft negotiating text reflect “work in progress” and “neither indicate convergence on the proposals presented, nor do they preclude new proposals from emerging in the course of negotiations in 2015.” This disclaimer addressed concerns raised by many developing countries that annexing the elements text to the COP decision might preempt the legal form, structure or content of the Paris agreement and were therefore against “formalizing” any language that could potentially exclude some options from consideration in 2015, while locking in others. Limited substantive progress on the elements will no doubt put pressure on ADP negotiators meeting in Geneva in February 2015, which is expected to deliver a draft negotiating text for parties’ consideration later in the year.

MOVING WALLS IN A “DIVIDED” HOUSE

Discussions on elements for a draft negotiating text and on the draft decision advancing the Durban Platform were both underpinned by a number of broad political issues. These included differentiation, the role of the Convention and its principles and provisions in the future agreement, and the issue of legal parity between mitigation and adaptation, on the one hand, and mitigation and financial and other means of support, on the other. Many delegates pointed out that on those issues the ADP had a distinctly “divided house”?to the point that some felt trust among parties dissipating.

The question of how differentiation will be reflected in the Paris agreement permeated the ADP negotiations. For example, most developing countries, in particular the LMDCs, maintained that there should be differentiation, both in the 2015 agreement and the INDCs, in accordance with parties’ obligations under the Convention, and reflecting the principles of CBDR and equity. On the other side, the US advocated differentiation in accordance with CBDR and respective capabilities in line with varying national circumstances. The LMDCs also strongly opposed the formulation “parties in a position to do so” in relation to providing support to developing countries for the preparation and implementation of their INDCs, and to providing additional resources to the GCF, the GEF, the Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Fund, arguing that such language disrupted Convention-based bifurcation, effectively dismantling the wall between Annex I and non-Annex I parties.

A related issue, namely that of legal parity between different components of the 2015 agreement, was also the subject of heated debate. Developing countries repeatedly cautioned against a “mitigation-centric” approach to INDCs, and urged for a balanced reflection of adaptation and means of implementation, with provision of finance taking the center stage. Of particular importance to AOSIS and the LDCs was that loss and damage be reflected as a separate element of the future agreement not only in the elements text, but also in the decision on the ADP.

Parties’ inability to reach consensus led to the adoption of a three-pronged approach, including continued negotiations under the ADP, ministerial consultations, and consultations by the COP President. After the Presidency’s consultations with negotiating groups that continued late into Saturday night?many hours after the Conference was supposed to conclude at 6:00 pm on Friday, the ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’ was concluded. This outcome document, arguably, shifts the wall of differentiation. Although the work of the ADP “shall be under the Convention and guided by its principles” and the new agreement “shall address in a balanced manner” not only mitigation, but also adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, and transparency of action and support, the ADP’s commitment to reaching an ambitious agreement in 2015 is nevertheless described as reflecting CBDR and respective capabilities “in light of different national circumstances.” This formulation appears to open the door to a subjective interpretation of differentiation. Some also wondered if it modifies the interpretation of CBDR as reflecting historical responsibility, even if it avoids using the controversial terms “dynamic” or “evolving.” On the issue of parity, however, the final text provides some assurances to developing countries by giving adaptation a more prominent role in the future agreement and parties’ INDCs, as well as, and in relation to, provision of support.

The Lima Call for Climate Action also refers to the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage in the preamble. Following the adoption of the decision by the COP, Tuvalu, for the LDCs, made a statement requesting that it be recorded in the report of the meeting. He stressed that the preambular text on the Warsaw International Mechanism, in conjunction with “inter alia” in the operative paragraph listing INDCs components, is, in the LDCs’ understanding, a “clear intention” that the new agreement will “properly, effectively and progressively” address loss and damage. While legally redundant, such declarations reaffirm parties’ positions and interpretations of agreed text, maintaining their relevance and visibility.

During the negotiations, an additional concern expressed by developing countries, similar to the one raised in relation to the elements text, was that a COP 20 decision on advancing the Durban Platform could be prejudicial to the outcome in Paris. In this regard, the Lima Call for Climate Action explicitly states that the INDCs-related arrangements specified in it “are without prejudice to the legal nature and content” of parties’ INDCs, or to the content of the future agreement.

TEARING DOWN THE WALL?

COP 20 was generally expected to help strengthen INDCs as a core component of the new agreement by clarifying their scope and specifying information required to facilitate their clarity, transparency and understanding. However, parties were also divided on their expectations for the text on INDCs, relating to information-related requirements, scope and communication. While the Lima Conference fulfilled these expectations to some extent, many parties and observers felt the decision has important shortcomings.

The Lima Call for Climate Action succeeds in delivering on a mandate from Warsaw to identify the “information that parties will provide when putting forward their contributions,” by referring to quantifiable information, time frames, coverage, methodological assumptions, and a subjective evaluation of fairness and ambitiousness. However, by stating that INDCs “may include, as appropriate, inter alia,” these various aspects, the text fails to set a minimum level of common types of information to be communicated by all parties, thus significantly weakening the prospects of comparability across, and a meaningful aggregation of, contributions.

A major area of divergence of views related to the scope of INDCs. This debate centered on the interpretation of the Warsaw decision, which states that INDCs should be aimed “at achieving the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2.” Developed countries interpreted this as referring to mitigation being the only component of INDCs, while developing countries insisted on the need to include adaptation and means of implementation as well, with developing countries providing information on their means of implementation needs and developed countries providing information on their financial contributions, as a precondition of enhanced action by developing countries. As a compromise between these two views, the Lima Call for Climate Action invites parties to “consider including” an adaptation component in their INDCs, which reflects broad agreement that adaptation action requires strengthening alongside mitigation. Parties were also able to agree on recognizing the special circumstances of LDCs and SIDS by allowing them to present “strategies, plans and actions” for low-emission development. Meanwhile, all other countries are implicitly expected to do something more. This latter aspect is yet another example of built-in flexibility, which translates into a lack of a clear requirement for parties to prepare a strong, quantitative mitigation component in their INDCs. Furthermore, in relation to the scope of INDCs, parties were unable to agree on any language on finance or other means of implementation, which left developing countries disappointed. Issues related to finance, therefore, remain a fundamental area for further trust building in 2015.

Another issue on which parties disagreed was how INDCs would be communicated and what their possible ex ante consideration or review might look like. Many developing countries insisted that Lima should only focus on the process of communication. Some delegations, including the US, preferred a “consultative” process or period. Others, such as the EU and AOSIS, demanded a strong review that would assess the aggregate effect of INDCs against the latest climate science and what is deemed necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. Considered by some the weakest link of the Lima outcome, the decision text simply requests that the Secretariat publish the communicated INDCs on the UNFCCC website and prepare, by 1 November 2015, a synthesis report on their aggregate effect. This translates into an absence of any kind of ex ante review of individual contributions in 2015. Further, it also leaves parties with less than a month for possible upward adjustment prior to COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. Resulting from strong opposition by some, such as the LMDCs, to a review of their INDCs, this outcome left many disappointed. Some disenchanted observers, however, felt that, irrespective of its content, the decision would not have strong implications for global climate action, suggesting that the major factors driving the level of ambition of national contributions are in any event external to the UNFCCC process.

RAISING THE CEILING

With regard to enhancing pre-2020 ambition (ADP workstream 2), the technical expert meetings (TEMs) emerged as an area where countries could find a common cause. Relating to the key question of how to carry work forward under workstream 2 beyond Paris, there was broad agreement that the TEMs, which have created a technical and less political space for discussions around scaling up implementation and which allow for “bringing down the brick wall of the UNFCCC” by engaging non-state actors, would be the proper vehicle. The Lima outcome sets out a clear process for building on the TEMs’ experience by providing guidance on their purpose, organization and follow-up, and seeking to further engage key institutions and mechanisms under the Convention. Views still diverged, however, on how to ensure the implementation of the Bali Action Plan, in particular with regard to the provision of means of implementation to developing countries, and enhancing mitigation efforts by all parties under the Convention. As a result, the final text does not include a proposed ‘Accelerated Implementation Mechanism’ to assess progress made in these areas?an idea originating in the conviction of developing countries that developed countries’ leadership pre-2020, which currently remains insufficient, will be essential for both addressing climate change and ensuring a successful 2015 agreement.

Discussions under the COP on long-term finance, which developing countries wanted to result in further assurances?such as quantitative milestones?on scaling up of climate finance by developed countries to US$100 billion annually by 2020, and beyond, were also disappointing to developing countries. Yet, an undeniable success was the initial resource mobilization of the GCF, which reached its target of US$10 billion, collecting a total of US$10.2 billion in pledges by the end of the Lima Conference from both Annex I and non-Annex I countries. While developed countries considered it a show of commitment and something they should be recognized for, developing countries felt GCF capitalization, together with the first biennial ministerial dialogue on climate finance organized during the second week as well as biennial submissions by developed countries on scaling up climate finance, were still insufficient. Some suggested that before celebrating the GCF pledges, they would first need to see how and whether they would translate into resources for the Fund.

The first session of the multilateral assessment of developed countries’ mitigation targets, organized as part of SBI 41, reflected a similar divergence in views. Annex I countries celebrated the event for “going beyond simple reporting,” and increasing transparency and building trust, while some developing countries felt the process required further strengthening in the form of a clear “follow-up,” such as substantive conclusions for the SBI’s consideration. Notwithstanding these differences and given the positive “Lima Spirit” characterized by an open exchange of views and transparency that persisted throughout the conference, these developments may have succeeded in “raising the ceiling” of pre-2020 ambition, and thus rebuilding some of the confidence and trust for the tough year ahead.

ENABLING CONSTRUCTION

Many expected that momentum created by the political events of the previous months would contribute to an atmosphere of trust in Lima. These events included the GCF initial capitalization, the EU’s announcement of its 2030 mitigation target and, in particular, the bilateral announcements by the US and China, on their respective mitigation targets for 2025 and 2030, as well as by the US and India, on expanded cooperation on climate change, including on phasing down HFCs. However, it soon became evident that too little time had passed for these external political events and high-level signals of change to translate into cardinal shifts in negotiating positions. Yet, some found discernible indications of a more immediate impact. For example, how CBDR and respective capabilities are defined in the Lima Call for Climate Action decision “in light of different national circumstances,” is a near-verbatim citation from the November joint announcement by the US and China. It remains to be seen if the ADP session in February will see further shifts in negotiating positions when parties have had the time to reflect on these events.

In spite of parties arriving in Peru with different expectations and widely diverging views, at the end most felt that, in the words of the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, the Lima Conference managed to strike a “delicate balance between very difficult issues” and laid “a solid foundation” for work towards Paris.

But did it really? The two key outcomes from Lima, the decision on Advancing the Durban Platform and its annex containing elements for a draft negotiating text, may have served to move the process forward and create a shared feeling of achievement and confidence in the process. However, given that key political issues, including differentiation and finance, remain unresolved, many parties are unwilling to declare the Lima outcome an absolute success.

The year of 2015 will be one that defines the true significance of the Lima Climate Conference. Many wonder if the positive “Lima Spirit” can continue in the run-up to Paris. But perhaps more importantly, the question may be if the Lima outcome can enable the construction in Paris of a “house” where all parties can coexist, while keeping in mind that in this process there is one party that does not negotiate?nature.

This analysis, taken from the summary issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin ©  enb at iisd.org, is written and edited by Beate Antonich, Rishikesh Bhandry, Elena Kosolapova, Ph.D., Mari Luomi, Ph.D., Anna Schulz, and Mihaela Secrieru. The Digital Editor is Kiara Worth. The Editor is Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. . The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <kimo@iisd.org>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Commission (DG-ENV and DG-CLIMATE), the Government of Switzerland (the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)), and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. General Support for the Bulletin during 2014 is provided by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies – IGES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Specific funding for coverage of this session has been provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the EC (DG-CLIMA). Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Wallonia, Québec, and the International Organization of La Francophonie/Institute for Sustainable Development of La Francophonie (IOF/IFDD). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at , +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022 USA

———————————————————————
Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI
Vice President, Reporting Services and United Nations Liaison
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) — United Nations Office
300 E 56th St. Apt. 11D – New York, NY 10022 USA

Direct Line: +1 973 273 5860 – Plaxo public business card: kimogoree.myplaxo.com

Email:  kimo at iisd.org

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXPLOSIVE DRAWBACK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SCIENCE FRICTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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