Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
RED HOUSE? Yes. It was the intelligence Putin served Trump – directly and indirectly – that was in big part responsible for his defeating Hillary Clinton. And yes, it was FBI’s help that eventually built that wall. Michael T. Flynn should never have been inside that wall except we really do not know what messages he passed from the Trump campaign as promises to Putin via his Ambassador in Washington. How will the Trump=Putin link impact on Europe? On European States – Trump relations? On the future of Ukraine? On the price of Oil? On the Midle East?
On the Planetary Globe? On Outer Space? On the Future of God? ?????
THE NEWS: Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
On Monday, a former administration official said the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador. As a result, the Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.
To us at SustainabiliTank this is just the tip of the iceberg – we already wrote that Trump himself is susceptible to Russian blackmail as by hacking into US cyberspace they did not have just the pittance of Hillary Clinton and John Podesta info, but the much juicier Trump business and taxation info. Those are real bombs in hiding! Blackmail in the making!
“I am tendering my resignation, honored to have served our nation and the American people in such a distinguished way,” Mr. Flynn wrote.
The White House said in the statement that it was replacing Mr. Flynn with retired Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg Jr. of the Army, a Vietnam War veteran, as acting national security adviser.
Mr. Flynn was an early and ardent supporter of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, and in his resignation he sought to praise the president. “In just three weeks,” Mr. Flynn said, the new president “has reoriented American foreign policy in fundamental ways to restore America’s leadership position in the world.”
But in doing so, he inadvertently illustrated the brevity of his tumultuous run at the National Security Council, and the chaos that has gripped the White House in the first weeks of the Trump administration — and created a sense of uncertainty around the world.
Michael Flynn’s Resignation Letter
Michael T. Flynn, under scrutiny for his communication with Russia, resigned as President Trump’s national security adviser late Monday.
Earlier Monday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters that “the president is evaluating the situation” about Mr. Flynn’s future. By Monday evening, Mr. Flynn’s fortunes were rapidly shifting — his resignation came roughly seven hours after Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, said on MSNBC that Mr. Trump had “full confidence” in the retired general.
And when he did step down, it happened so quickly that his resignation does not appear to have been communicated to National Security Council staff members, two of whom said they learned about it from news reports.
Officials said Mr. Pence had told others in the White House that he believed Mr. Flynn lied to him by saying he had not discussed the topic of sanctions on a call with the Russian ambassador in late December. Even the mere discussion of policy — and the apparent attempt to assuage the concerns of an American adversary before Mr. Trump took office — represented a remarkable breach of protocol.
The F.B.I. had been examining Mr. Flynn’s phone calls as he came under growing questions about his interactions with Russian officials and his management of the National Security Council. The blackmail risk envisioned by the Justice Department would have stemmed directly from Mr. Flynn’s attempt to cover his tracks with his bosses. The Russians knew what had been said on the call; thus, if they wanted Mr. Flynn to do something, they could have threatened to expose the lie if he refused.
The Justice Department’s warning to the White House was first reported on Monday night by The Washington Post.
In addition, the Army has been investigating whether Mr. Flynn received money from the Russian government during a trip he took to Moscow in 2015, according to two defense officials. Such a payment might violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits former military officers from receiving money from a foreign government without consent from Congress. The defense officials said there was no record that Mr. Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, filed the required paperwork for the trip.
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement late Monday that Mr. Flynn’s resignation would not close the question of his contact with Russian officials.
“General Flynn’s decision to step down as national security adviser was all but ordained the day he misled the country about his secret talks with the Russian ambassador,” said Mr. Schiff, noting that the matter is still under investigation by the House committee.
Two other Democratic lawmakers — Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland — called for an immediate briefing by the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the “alarming new disclosures” that Mr. Flynn was a blackmail risk. “We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security,” they said in a statement.
Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the chairman of the House intelligence committee, was supportive of Mr. Flynn until the end. “Washington, D.C., can be a rough town for honorable people, and Flynn — who has always been a soldier, not a politician — deserves America’s gratitude and respect,” Mr. Nunes said in a statement.
The White House had examined a transcript of a wiretapped conversation that Mr. Flynn had with Mr. Kislyak in December, according to administration officials. Mr. Flynn originally told Mr. Pence and others that the call was limited to small talk and holiday pleasantries.
But who was Flynn to talk to the Russian Ambassador? What role did have within the Trump machine? Did Pence send him there or was it his own eagerness to please the incoming Administration before it actually became an Administration? Was he an old time Russian contact? What we used to call a double spy? This clearly can not be washed down by eager-to-please Republicans.
But the conversation, according to officials who saw the transcript of the wiretap, also included a discussion about sanctions imposed on Russia after intelligence agencies determined that President Vladimir V. Putin’s government tried to interfere with the 2016 election on Mr. Trump’s behalf. Still, current and former administration officials familiar with the call said the transcript was ambiguous enough that Mr. Trump could have justified either firing or retaining Mr. Flynn.
Mr. Trump, however, had become increasingly concerned about the continued fallout over Mr. Flynn’s behavior, according to people familiar with his thinking, and told aides that the media storm around Mr. Flynn would damage the president’s image on national security issues.
Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, asked for Mr. Flynn’s resignation — a move that he has been pushing for since Friday, when it became clear that the national security adviser had misled Mr. Pence.
Around 8:20 p.m. Monday, a sullen Mr. Flynn was seen in the Oval Office, just as preparations were being made for the swearing-in of newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. Soon after, Mr. Flynn’s resignation letter started making the rounds.
Administration officials said it was unlikely that Mr. Kellogg would be asked to stay on as Mr. Flynn’s permanent replacement. Mr. Flynn brought Mr. Kellogg into the Trump campaign, according to a former campaign adviser, and the two have remained close. K. T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser who also was brought on by Mr. Flynn, is expected to leave that role, a senior official said.
One person close to the administration, who was not authorized to discuss the personnel moves and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that retired Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward is the leading candidate to replace Mr. Flynn, although Mr. Kellogg and David H. Petraeus are being discussed. It was not clear whether Mr. Petraeus is still expected to appear at the White House this week, as initially discussed by advisers to the president.
Mr. Flynn’s concealment of the call’s content, combined with questions about his management of his agency and reports of a demoralized staff, put him in a precarious position less than a month into Mr. Trump’s presidency.
We at SustainabiliTank believe that under the circumstances – the choice of General Petraeus would be an excellent idea in the manner of Trump – this because it would take away the media attention from Trump and transfer it to Petraeus’ own problems with that woman. Flynn will then be forgotten and left to his past-driven future behaviour.
Vice President Pence can continue his clean right wing persona to allow him a smooth take-over when the Trump balloon eventually implodes.
Few members of Mr. Trump’s team were more skeptical of Mr. Flynn than the vice president, numerous administration officials said. Mr. Pence, who used the false information provided by Mr. Flynn to defend him in a series of television appearances, was incensed at Mr. Flynn’s lack of contrition for repeatedly embarrassing him by withholding the information, according to three administration officials familiar with the situation.
Mr. Flynn and Mr. Pence spoke twice in the past few days about the matter, but administration officials said that rather than fully apologize and accept responsibility, the national security adviser blamed his faulty memory — which irked the typically slow-to-anger Mr. Pence.
The slight was compounded by an episode late last year when Mr. Pence went on television to deny that Mr. Flynn’s son, who had posted conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton on social media, had been given a security clearance by the transition team. The younger Mr. Flynn had, indeed, been given such a clearance, even though his father had told Mr. Pence’s team that he had not.
Officials said classified information did not appear to have been discussed during the conversation between Mr. Flynn and the ambassador, which would have been a crime. The call was captured on a routine wiretap of diplomats’ calls, the officials said.
But current Trump administration officials and former Obama administration officials said that Mr. Flynn did appear to be reassuring the ambassador that Mr. Trump would adopt a more accommodating tone on Russia once in office.
Former and current administration officials said that Mr. Flynn urged Russia not to retaliate against any sanctions because an overreaction would make any future cooperation more complicated. He never explicitly promised sanctions relief, one former official said, but he appeared to leave the impression that it would be possible.
During his 2015 trip to Moscow, Mr. Flynn was paid to attend the anniversary celebration of Russia Today, a television network controlled by the Kremlin. At the banquet, he sat next to Mr. Putin.
Mr. Flynn had notified the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he once led, that he was taking the trip. He received a security briefing from agency officials before he left, which is customary for former top agency officials when they travel overseas.
Still, some senior agency officials were surprised when footage of the banquet appeared on RT, and believed that Mr. Flynn should have been more forthcoming with the agency about the nature of his trip to Russia.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
HOW ABOUT DISALLOWING INVESTMENTS BY ANYONE, OR ANY ENTITY, CONNECTED DIRECTLY TO ANY MEMBER OF THE PRESENT US ADMINISTRATION? CONSIDERING THE WHITE HOUSE BEHAVIOR, PEOPLE OF THE US ADMINISTRATION HAVE MORE AND MORE BECOME A DANGER TO THE WORLD ORDER AND TO PEACE – UNDERMINING IN EFFECT WHAT USED TO BE FRIENDLY GOVERNMENTS. Mr. BONDEVIK COULD LEAD THE WAY.
CNN – International Edition+
Former Norwegian PM held at immigration over Iranian visa
By Kara Fox and Mohammed Al-Saiegh, CNN
February 7, 2017
Former Norwegian PM detained at US airport
(CNN) If you’re the former leader of a European nation, the president of a major human rights organization and the owner of a diplomatic passport, you’re not likely to encounter a long wait at airport immigration.
But on January 31, Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former Prime Minister of Norway, encountered more than just a lengthy queue.
Bondevik told CNN’s “Connect the World” he was interrogated by officials at Washington’s Dulles International Airport because he had an Iranian visa in his diplomatic passport.
“When they found the Iranian visa, where I was in December 2014, they said that there was a … regulation that with such a visa I had to be flagged up,” Bondevik said.
After the former European leader detailed his travel history — he was in Tehran speaking at an anti-extremism conference — Bondevik said he “assumed and presumed that they would let me go immediately.” But instead, Bondevik said he was questioned for over an hour.
“Did they really believe that I presented a problem or threat to the US? I expected they would show more flexibility and wisdom,” he said.
Bondevik said he was held along with migrants from the Middle East and Africa who were also facing additional screening. Although Bondevik was eventually released, he said the atmosphere surrounding President Donald Trump’s travel ban had shaken his core values.
Bondevik told CNN’s Becky Anderson he disagrees with the ban entirely, calling it “a contradiction” to his “view on human dignity.”
“I really dislike that he is treating people from some Muslim countries as a group and not individuals,” he said.
Bondevik, who heads the human rights organization Oslo Center, said the incident speaks to a wider issue of concern brought on by the President’s first actions in office.
It’s not just the ban that’s worrying Bondevik.
“I also must say that I dislike very much his approach to other international leaders — the Prime Minister of Australia, the President of Mexico … and how he is acting in the international community.”
He said many others, including Norway were concerned.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order that banned citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from traveling to America. The ban also suspended the refugee program for four months, and stopped the admission of all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
These are the faces of Trump’s ban
On Friday, the executive order was temporarily halted after a federal judge suspended key parts of the order nationwide. As of Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had denied the US government’s emergency request to resume the ban and had ordered both sides to submit their arguments for or against it before a final ruling.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
SHOCKING OF THE UN-INITIATED? NOW IT IS OFFICIAL – PUTIN PERSONALLY WAS INVOLVED IN CREATING US ELECTION RESULTS. WAS THERE FURTHER COLLUSION WITH THE US RIGHT – IN THE PERSON OF THE HEAD OF THE FBI WHO CHOSE THE TIME WHEN THE PUTIN INTERFERENCE WOULD BEAR MOST FRUIT?
The US intelligence community concluded in a declassified report released Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
The report was the first official, full and public accounting by the US intelligence community of its assessment of Russian hacking activities during the 2016 campaign.
“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report said.
The campaign — which consisted of hacking Democratic groups and individuals, including Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and releasing that information via third-party websites, including WikiLeaks — amounted to what the intelligence report called “a significant escalation” in longtime Russian efforts to undermine “the US-led liberal democratic order.”
Trump earlier Friday downplayed Russia’s role in the election after what he called a “constructive meeting” with top US intelligence officials.
Trump tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.
National Security: Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election and help Trump.
By Greg Miller, The Washington Post, January 6 at 4:49 PM
Russia carried out a comprehensive cybercampaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation that was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released Friday.
The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale, saying that Moscow’s assault represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort” beyond previous election-related espionage.
The campaign was ordered by Putin himself and initially sought primarily to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, “denigrate Secretary Clinton” and harm her electoral prospects. But as the campaign proceeded, Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and repeatedly sought to elevate him by “discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
The document represents an extraordinarily direct and detailed account of a long-standing U.S. adversary’s multi-pronged intervention in a fundamental pillar of American democracy.
Trump emerged from a briefing on the report by the nation’s top intelligence officials Friday seeming to acknowledge for the first time at least the possibility that Russia was behind election-related hacks. But he offered no indication that he was prepared to accept U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help him win.
Report on Russian hacking released after Trump briefing Play Video3:04
U.S. intelligence agencies released a declassified version of their report on Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. election on Jan. 6, just hours after President-elect Donald Trump was briefed by American officials. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Instead, Trump said in a statement issued just minutes after the high-level meeting ended that whatever hacking had occurred, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
Trump’s statement seemed designed to create the impression that this was the view of the intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan, who had met with him.
But weighing whether Russia’s intervention altered the outcome of the 2016 race was beyond the scope of the review that the nation’s spy agencies completed this week. And Clapper testified in a Senate hearing Thursday that U.S. intelligence services “have no way of gauging the impact .?.?. it had on the choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that.”
Trump’s statement came after his first face-to-face encounter with the leaders of intelligence agencies whose work he has repeatedly disparaged. Others who took part in the meeting included FBI Director James B. Comey and National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers.
All four of the spy chiefs have endorsed a classified report that was briefed to Trump and circulated in Washington this week that concludes that Russia used a combination of aggressive hacking, propaganda and “fake news” to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
Trump appeared to acknowledge that hacking of Democratic and Republican computer networks had occurred, but was apparently not prepared to accept the consensus view of U.S. spy services that Russia sought to help him win.
“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the intelligence community,” Trump said. He acknowledged that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber-infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee.”
U.S. intelligence captured Russian officials’ communications celebrating Trump’s victory.
(a Video 2:42 minutes presented}
The Post’s Adam Entous reports that U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted electronic communications, known as “signals intelligence,” in which top Russian officials celebrated the outcome of the U.S. election. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)
The session was seen as an early indicator of whether Trump could reach some sort of accord with U.S. intelligence agencies or is determined to extend his increasingly bitter feud with America’s spies and analysts into his first term.
In an interview with the New York Times before Friday’s briefing, Trump said the focus on Russian hacking “is a political witch hunt.”
In Thursday’s testimony, Clapper appeared to take aim at Trump and the stream of social-media insults he has targeted at the intelligence community over the Russia issue.
“There is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policymakers, to include policymaker number one, should always have for intelligence,” Clapper said. “But I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”
The meeting, which was requested by Trump, comes on the heels of a series of revelations about Russia’s role and motivations in last year’s campaign.
The Post reported in December that the CIA and other agencies had concluded that Russia sought not only to disrupt the election and sow doubt about the legitimacy of American democratic institutions but also to help Trump win.
U.S. intelligence agencies based that determination on an array of interlocking intelligence pieces, including the identification of known “actors” with ties to Russian intelligence services who helped deliver troves of stolen Democratic email files to the WikiLeaks website.
U.S. spy agencies also monitored communications in Moscow after the election that showed that senior officials in the Russian government, including those believed to have had knowledge of the hacking campaign, celebrated Trump’s win and congratulated one another on the outcome.
Trump has rejected intelligence agencies’ unanimous conclusions about Russia, saying it could just as easily have been China or “some guy” in New Jersey.
Trump has seemed to court conflict with U.S. intelligence agencies on several fronts. During his campaign, he vowed to order the CIA to return to the use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation measures widely condemned as torture. Since his surprise victory, Trump has skipped the majority of the daily intelligence briefings made available to him, saying that he has no need for sessions that he finds repetitive.
But the president-elect softened his message on Thursday, saying on Twitter that he is a “big fan” of intelligence, although, as has been his practice, he set off the word “intelligence” in quotes.
The United States’ most senior intelligence officials briefed Trump on Russian hacking during the election campaign just hours after the President-elect doubled down on his dismissal of the threat as an artificial and politically driven controversy, calling it a “witch hunt.”
Trump also tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and continued refusal to accept Moscow’s actions, calling the Friday meeting “constructive” and offering praise for the senior intel officials. He said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.
Trump’s meeting with the intel officials took around 90 minutes at Trump Tower. A Trump spokeswoman said the officials who gave the briefing were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey.
Officials: Hackers aggressively targeting US 02:26
A senior TRUMP transition official described the meeting between Trump and intelligence community officials as “cordial,” not contentious. Trump asked questions and made clear his admiration for intelligence community employees, the official added.
Based on the presentation Friday, which included new information, the TRUMP official insisted that it’s the transition’s view that the hacking was intended to harm Hillary Clinton more than to help Trump. This official pointed to what they were told at the meeting, that the cyberactivity began in late 2015 and early 2016, before it was clear Trump would be the nominee. So, the official asked, how could the hacking be a pro-Trump operation if it began so early on. “This was more an effort to discredit her than anything else,” the Trump official said.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Rex Tillerson to put Exxon nest egg in a trust over conflict of interest concerns
by Jethro Mullen @CNNMoneyInvest January 4, 2017
ExxonMobil and Rex Tillerson have announced their plan to address concerns about the huge nest egg the oil giant has promised to its former CEO.
Tillerson, who Donald Trump has picked as his secretary of state, is due to receive more than 2 million Exxon shares — worth more than $181 million at current prices — over the next decade.
To tackle the ethical and legal problems raised by the massive payout, Exxon said late Tuesday that if Tillerson is confirmed for the job, it plans to put the value of the shares he would have received in an independently managed trust, which won’t be allowed to invest in the oil company.
Tillerson, 64, has also agreed with the State Department to sell the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he owns at the moment, the company said. They’re worth more than $54 million at today’s prices.
Related: Exxon’s Tillerson retiring to prep for Senate confirmation
Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, said the measures appeared to satisfy concerns he had expressed previously about Tillerson’s financial ties to Exxon.
“He should convince President-elect Trump to come up with a similar arrangement to divest his conflicts of interest,” Painter said, comparing Tillerson’s deal to what was done for former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson when he became treasury secretary in 2006.
Tillerson’s arrangement, which Exxon says was drawn up in consultation with federal ethics regulators, involves giving up various payouts and perks, according to the company’s statement.
He’ll no longer be entitled to more than $4.1 million in cash bonuses that he was set to receive over the next three years — or medical, dental and other benefits from Exxon. He retired as the oil company’s CEO on Saturday after working there for more than four decades.
As America’s chief diplomat, Tillerson could have a tremendous impact on Exxon’s business, from negotiations over a climate change treaty and sanctions on Russia to the nuclear deal with Iran and general geopolitical unrest in the Middle East.
Exxon said that if Tillerson returns to work in the oil and gas industry during the 10-year payout period from the trust, he would forfeit the funds.
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“The money would be distributed to one or more charities involved in fighting poverty or disease in the developing world,” the company said. “Neither Tillerson nor ExxonMobil would have any control over the selection of the charities.”
Painter described that part of the plan as “an added benefit” that will make it “highly unlikely” that Tillerson will go back into the oil industry.
“Most public servants have no restrictions on where they can work after government … and we have to worry about them trying to help future employers,” he said, pointing to Treasury Department officials who go back to Wall Street.
Related: The problem with Rex Tillerson’s nine-figure nest egg
Over all, the arrangement would cost Tillerson about $7 million in compensation he would have received, Exxon said.
As with all political appointees who sell assets that may pose conflicts of interest, Tillerson would be allowed to defer any capital gains tax he owes on the more than 600,000 Exxon shares he’s agreed to sell so long as he reinvests the proceeds within 60 days into so-called “permitted property.” That basically means U.S. Treasury securities and diversified mutual funds.
It’s not immediately clear, however, what the tax implications are for Tillerson from Exxon agreeing to set up the trust for the value of the more than 2 million shares he’d otherwise have coming to him over the next 10 years.
— Jeanne Sahadi and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.
Rex Tillerson during the years 2006 to 2016 changed his views on Climate Change from total denial by EXXON to a controlled acceptance of the Paris outcome.
Exxon had a history of funding false scientists – ten moved on to join what seemed to be the winning crowd, but took positions that slow change.
ExxonMobil k nows the global oil industry and understandably will promote it above everything else. This leads to alliances with Saudi Arabia and Putin’s Russia that will turn away the US from the Obama path of disengagement from te dependence on oil as the true path to slow down climate change and the harm the use of fossil fuels causes to the environment.
And besides, Foreign relations of the USA contain many other topics besides the negotiation of oil contracts. What are the visions of Rex Tillerson when he gets of the Oil Barrel?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
WE POST THIS AS WE WONDER IN WHICH SCHOOL OF DIPLOMACY STUDIED ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – WHO SITS ALSO IN THE CHAIR OF HIS FOREIGN MINISTER. HE SEEMINGLY DOES SUCH A BAD JOB UNDER BOTH HATS SO THAT HE IS EVEN BEING CRITICIZED IN PUBLIC BY HIS OWN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER. THIS WOULD BE FUNNY IF NOT INVOLVING NUCLEAR POWERS. TO BRING THIS HOME, A STATEMENT BY A FORMER ISRAELI MINISTER LAST WEEK CAUSED THE RATTLE OF NUKES BY PAKISTAN.
FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW -IT BECOMES IRRELEVANT TO TALK OF CLIMATE CHANGE WHEN THE FRY AND THE BIG ONES – i.e. Messrs. Putin and Trump SEEM BENT TO TELL THE WORLD THAT NUKES ARE THE FUNDAMENT OF SECURITY IN A POST-OBAMA ERA.
Defying U.N., Israel Prepares to Build More Settlements
By PETER BAKER – The New York Times DEC. 26, 2016.
Introducing Photo – Housing construction last week on the outskirts of Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem. CreditJim Hollander/European Press photo Agency
JERUSALEM — Undeterred by a resounding defeat at the United Nations, Israel’s government said Monday that it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and warned nations against further action, declaring that Israel does not “turn the other cheek.”
Just a few days after the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn Israeli settlements, Jerusalem’s municipal government signaled that it would not back down: The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes.
The defiant posture reflected a bristling anger among Israel’s pro-settlement political leaders, who not only blamed the United States for failing to block the Council resolution, but also claimed to have secret intelligence showing that President Obama’s team had orchestrated it. American officials strongly denied the claim, but the sides seem poised for more weeks of conflict until Mr. Obama hands over the presidency to Donald J. Trump.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Security Council countries by curbing diplomatic contacts, recalling envoys, cutting off aid and summoning the American ambassador for a scolding. He canceled a planned visit this week by Ukraine’s prime minister even as he expressed concern on Monday that Mr. Obama was planning more action at the United Nations before his term ends next month.
The Times of Israel:
Deputy FM questions PM’s diplomatic embargoes after UN vote. In apparent jab at Netanyahu for canceling meetings with world leaders, Hotovely says ‘part of diplomacy is explaining our position’
BY RAOUL WOOTLIFF December 27, 2016,
Introducing photo – Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (Elram Mendel)
Raoul Wootliff is The Times of Israel Knesset correspondent.
TZIPI HOTOVELY – Deputy Foreign Minister
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Minister of many other things.
The prime minister defended his retaliation. “Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek,” he said. “This is a responsible, measured and vigorous response, the natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the U.N. is unacceptable to us.”
The Security Council resolution that passed Friday condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation under international law” and an obstacle to peace. The Council approved it 14 to 0, with the United States abstaining instead of using its veto, as it has in the past.
Mr. Trump publicly pressed for a veto of the resolution and has chosen a settlement advocate as his administration’s ambassador to Israel. He turned to Twitter on Monday night to air complaints that the United Nations “is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”
Palestinian leaders made clear that they would use the resolution in international bodies to press their case against Israel. With the imprimatur of a United Nations finding of illegality, they said they would campaign to require that other countries not just label products made in the settlements, but ban them.
“Now we can talk about the boycott of all settlements, the companies that work with them, et cetera, and actually take legal action against them if they continue to work with them,” Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Palestinian news media.
He outlined other steps the Palestinians could now take, using the resolution to press the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders, file lawsuits on behalf of specific Palestinians displaced by settlements and urge the international authorities to determine whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions.
“We are looking to devise a comprehensive vision, and hopefully 2017 will be the year when the Israeli occupation ends,” Mr. Malki said.
Israeli officials said such pronouncements showed that the resolution actually undermined chances for a negotiated settlement because the Palestinians now have less incentive to come to the table. By declaring Israeli settlements illegal, they said, the United Nations essentially took away the one chip that Israel had to trade, meaning land.
“The Palestinians are waging a diplomatic and legal war against Israel. That’s the strategy,” Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said in a phone interview. “Their strategy is not to negotiate an agreement with Israel because a deal is give and take. They want take and take.”
Israel’s settlement project, once a scattering of houses across the so-called Green Line marking the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, has grown substantially over the years. In 2009, the year Mr. Obama took office, 297,000 people lived in West Bank settlements and 193,737 in East Jerusalem. That increased to 386,000 in the West Bank by the end of last year and 208,000 in East Jerusalem by the end of 2014, according to Peace Now, a group that opposes settlements.
Israeli officials note that when Mr. Netanyahu acquiesced to a 10-month settlement freeze sought by Mr. Obama in 2009, the Palestinians still did not agree to negotiate until just before time ran out. But the addition of more than 100,000 settlers during Mr. Obama’s tenure convinced him that it was time to change approach at the United Nations, aides said.
The 618 housing units to be granted building permits in East Jerusalem on Wednesday have been in the works for a while, and the planning committee meeting agenda was set before the United Nations acted. But the committee chairman said he was determined to go forward with units totaling 5,600.
“I won’t get worked up over the U.N. or any other organization that might try to dictate to us what to do in Jerusalem,” Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, the planning committee chairman, told the newspaper Israel Hayom. “I hope that the government and the new administration in the United States will give us momentum to continue.”
Although he did not specify which projects he had in mind, Ir Amim, a private group tracking settlements in East Jerusalem, said he was probably referring to projects in Gilo and Givat Hamatos. Betty Herschman, the group’s director of international relations and advocacy, said it was “defiance demonstrated after Trump’s election, now reinforced by the U.N. resolution.”
Anat Ben Nun, the director of development and external relations for Peace Now, said such construction was problematic. “Netanyahu’s attempt to avenge the U.N.S.C. resolution through approval of plans beyond the Green Line will only harm Israelis and Palestinians by making it more difficult to arrive at a two-state solution,” she said.
Israeli leaders said they had no reason to stop building. The Security Council resolution “was absurd and totally removed from reality,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy for the Yesha Council, which represents West Bank settlers. “Israeli building policies are set in Jerusalem, not New York.”
For the fourth day, Israeli officials accused Mr. Obama’s team of ambushing them at the United Nations. While the White House denied it, Israeli officials pointed to a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his New Zealand counterpart a month before the Council vote discussing a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. New Zealand was a sponsor of Friday’s measure.
Mr. Dermer, the ambassador, said Israel had other, nonpublic information proving the Obama administration’s involvement but provided no evidence and would not elaborate beyond saying it would be provided to Mr. Trump’s team when he takes office.
“They not only did not get up and stop it, they were behind it from the beginning,” Mr. Dermer said. “This is why the prime minister is so angry. We’re going to stand up against it.”
Israeli officials worried that Mr. Kerry would use a coming speech or a conference in France to outline an American peace plan that would be hostile to Israel’s interests. Mr. Kerry’s office had no comment.
The fury of Mr. Netanyahu’s response has generated debate at home. Mitchell Barak, a political consultant, said the political left considered the resolution “an epic foreign policy and diplomatic debacle” by Mr. Netanyahu.
But to his base, the Security Council action confirmed what they believed all along, that Mr. Obama is inherently anti-Israel, and so the prime minister comes across as a champion beset by enemies. “For them,” Mr. Barak said, “Netanyahu emerges from this unscathed, as the lone wolf in a lion’s den of hatred.”
Since the measure was passed, Israel has taken a number of retaliatory steps against the countries that supported its passage, including an official dressing-down of the Security Council members’ ambassadors to Israel on Sunday, Christmas Day.
Netanyahu on Saturday disinvited Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman after Kiev voted in favor of the resolution.
Groysman, who became his country’s first-ever Jewish prime minister earlier this year, was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday for a two-day visit that would have included meetings with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other senior officials.
Netanyahu’s office has denied reports that he nixed a meeting with Theresa May next month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying that no meeting had been set. But the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Tony Kay, told The Times of Israel on Monday there had been plans for a sit-down, though Jerusalem had not told London it planned to cancel the meeting.
Netanyahu has also reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to minmize all working ties with the 12 of countries that voted in favor of the decision with which Israel has diplomatic relations. Foreign ministers from the countries will reportedly no longer be able to meet with Netanyahu or Foreign Ministry officials.
In addition, travel by Israeli ministers to the countries will be kept to a minimum, an official said.
Of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council, 14 voted in favor of Resolution 2334, which demands a halt to all Israeli settlement activity — including in East Jerusalem — with one abstention, that of the US, whose veto would have nixed the measure.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Make Russia great again? Aleppo and a plea from another world
JUAN FRANCISCO LOBO – OpenDemocracy – 24 December 2016
During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey.
A hundred years ago, Ernst Jünger described a peculiar encounter with a frightened British officer in his account of trench warfare, Storm of Steel: “he reached into his pocket, not to pull out a weapon, but a photograph (…). I saw him on it, surrounded by numerous family (…). It was a plea from another world.”
According to conventional wisdom, “war is hell,” as famously sentenced by General Sherman. Hence Jünger’s depiction of the scene as something from another planet. And that is how the world today, more concerned with the holidays and the latest Hollywood blockbuster, is receiving the dire plea for help by multiple civilians caught in the crossfire of the battle for Aleppo. We simply content ourselves with the thought that civilians will always suffer in times of war, for war is hell.
Or is it?
A few days ago, the soon to be replaced Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, gave his last press conference. Referring to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he remarked ominously: “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell”. But surely the Secretary General did not intend merely to describe a regrettable fait accompli, as someone might depict a natural disaster. His closing official words carry a message for the world to actively engage in Aleppo, and particularly to make belligerents stop targeting civilians, for not everything is allowed in war after all. As Michael Walzer has pointed out in his decades-long effort to revive the Just War tradition, we strive to fight wars justly and to uphold rules even in the midst of hell.
But, who is there to listen this plea from another world? Even if the message gets through, what is the attitude of superpowers vis-à-vis any demands that the rules of war be upheld?
I have previously argued that there is a value to American hypocrisy coming from its blatant breach of international humanitarian law during the last decade when torturing its way through to fight the “war on terror.” If as La Rochefoucauld said once, hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the difference between a hypocrite and a cynic lies in the former’s capacity to recognize the existence of rules, only deliberately flouting them, whereas the latter does not even admit the existence of rules. Whereas the day of reckoning eventually comes for the hypocrite, the cynic is forever immune to criticism.
What about Russia?
Has Vladimir Putin’s regime been a hypocrite or a cynic in international relations? We know it has not been an Aliosha Karamazov, a saint, but then, which country has? Has Russia been more of a cynic like Ivan, or a hypocrite like Dimitri Karamazov? The answer is that is has been a bit of both over recent years, behaving as ambiguously as the double-headed eagle in its national coat of arms.
Sometimes Russia has recognized the existence of jus ad bellum and jus in bello conventions and has pledged to uphold them. Indeed, Russia relied on the responsibility to protect doctrine when trying to justify its military advance over Georgia in 2008. In 2013, Russia demonstrated what it could broker in the international arena when stepping in to secure a last-minute deal between Syria and the United States for Al-Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal, absolutely banned under international humanitarian law. Just last Monday morning, on December 19 2016, Russia consented to a Security Council resolution to deploy observers to monitor civilian evacuation procedures in Aleppo.
To be sure, Russia’s use of R2P doctrine in 2008 has been widely condemned as a case of pure hypocrisy; yet, the important thing about the hypocrite is that he acknowledges the existence of rules. Whether he truly respects them or not is something that cannot be ascertained in the present – any more than it can be in the case of the true believer, for that matter.
On the other hand, Russia has of late deployed some alarmingly cynical attitudes in the international arena. During November 2016, Russia announced its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, pragmatically arguing that “during the 14 years of the court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars”. ( This announcement followed an ominous spree of similar withdrawals from the ICC by African states. It also followed the publication of a Report by the ICC containing its preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine, where allegedly war crimes are being committed by Russian and pro-Russian forces.
Although technically Russia never became a party to the Rome Statute – having signed yet never ratified it, and now just exerting its right to make “its intention clear not to become a party to the treaty” pursuant to article 18 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties – still this announcement comes as a strong sign of Russian contempt towards international legal institutions.
Some other worrisome examples of Russian cynicism towards the rule of international law are its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the law passed in 2015 authorizing its constitutional court to overrule decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.
Regarding the armed conflict in Syria, during recent years Russia has systematically vetoed Security Council draft resolutions aimed at solving the crisis in order to protect the interests of Al-Assad, its strongest client in such a strategic region.
Nevertheless, Russia still has the potential to change the course of the Syrian deadlock, as it demonstrated when it brokered the chemical weapons deal in 2013. Moreover, history arguably presents Russia today with a unique opportunity to become the legitimate heir of a genuine humanitarian tradition that the ancient Russian Empire has practiced since the late nineteenth century. Among the main landmarks of this tradition we find the Saint Petersburg Declaration (1868), the humanitarian intervention which prompted the Russian-Turkish War (1877) and Russia’s key role in the discussion of The Hague peace conferences (1899 to 1907), where the Russian diplomat Fiodor Martens promoted a famous clause to protect people in times of war.
During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey to try and find a definitive solution to the Syrian civil war. If Putin wants to “make Russia great again,” he should endeavor to honor that tradition. By doing so at least Russia will more probably err on the side of hypocrisy rather than on that of cynicism, and people who suffer the consequences of war would still have a chance to find solace behind the aegis of international law.
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We visited the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was on a beautiful December 21, 2016 – First Winter Day. Our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day – when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall – this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union – Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.
I decided right there to post about that old event, that closed the era codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that achieved since the 1990s.
We visited today the village of MARSAXLOKK, of La Valetta, Malta, as part of a MSC Splendida cruise of the Western Mediterranean. This was a beautiful December 21, 2016 First Winter Day, and our guide insisted in pointing out the difference from the stormy 1998 day when right after the fall of the Berlin Wall this bay was host to the first post Cold War meeting between the the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union Messrs. Gorbachev and H. W. Bush.
I decided to post about that old event, that closed the era that was codified at Yalta by the 1945 interim settlement between Stalin and Roosevelt with only Churchill sitting in. Today we seem to enter an era that replaces the global peace that came after the cold war with a Putin-Trump concordance that has the potential to destroy everything that was achieved since the 1990s.
I thought that a new meeting at MARSAXLOKK – BETWEEN PUTIN AND TRUMP – could help both of them open eyes to where they want to lead the global community that by now got glued together in a manner that it is impossible to see any of the old super-powers not cooperating, or not making place for China and India as well, or ignoring the future rise of Africa and Brazil. Could it be that we are the first to call for such a meeting? Is it really far-fetched to attribute to the present two gladiators, that will be active on the global stage into the 2017-2020 years, a sense of the need of covering each other’s back when in the midst of the aspiring powers of China, India, other Asians, and some form of a reformulated Europe. All this while basic concepts of Democracy and Human Rights are being shelved, and replaced with power of oligarchies bent on increased personal gains that leave behind hordes of malcontents – the brew of a new undertow of Despicables a la Les Miserables?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
(To be seen a Monument in Bir?ebbu?a commemorating the Malta Summit)
The Malta Summit comprised a meeting between US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, took place on December 2–3, 1989, just a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was actually their second meeting following a meeting that included Ronald Reagan, in New York in December 1988.
During the summit, Bush and Gorbachev would declare an end to the Cold War although whether it was truly such – is a matter of debate. News reports of the time referred to the Malta Summit as the most important since 1945, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed on a post-war plan for Europe at Yalta.
No agreements were signed at the Malta Summit. Its main purpose was to provide the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, with an opportunity to discuss the rapid changes taking place in Europe with the lifting of the Iron Curtain, which had separated the Eastern Bloc from Western Europe for four decades. The summit is viewed by some observers as the official end of the Cold War. At a minimum, it marked the lessening of tensions that were the hallmark of that era and signaled a major turning point in East-West relations. During the summit, President Bush expressed his support for Gorbachev’s perestroika initiative and other reforms in the Communist bloc.
The U.S. delegation:
James Baker, U.S. Secretary of State
Robert Blackwill, then Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council
Jack F. Matlock, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union
Condoleezza Rice, then Director for Soviet and East European Affairs at the National Security Council
Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National Security Adviser
Raymond Seitz, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs
John H. Sununu, White House chief of staff
Margaret Tutwiler, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Spokeswoman of the Department
Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Robert Zoellick, Counselor of the Department of State
Venue: “From Yalta to Malta”, and back.
The meetings took place in the Mediterranean, off the island of Malta. The Soviet delegation used the missile cruiser Slava, while the US delegation had their sleeping quarters aboard USS Belknap. 
The ships were anchored in a roadstead off the coast of Marsaxlokk. Stormy weather and choppy seas resulted in some meetings being cancelled or rescheduled, and gave rise to the moniker the “Seasick Summit” among international media.
In the end, the meetings took place aboard Maxsim Gorkiy, a Soviet cruise ship anchored in the harbor at Marsaxlokk.
The idea of a summit in the open sea is said to have been inspired largely by President Bush’s fascination with World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s habit of meeting foreign leaders on board naval vessels. The choice of Malta as a venue was the subject of considerable pre-summit haggling between the two superpowers. According to Condoleezza Rice:
“… it took a long time to get it arranged, finding a place, a place that would not be ceremonial,
a place where you didn’t have to do a lot of other bilaterals. And fortunately – or unfortunately – they chose Malta, which turned out to be a really horrible place to be in December.
Although the Maltese were wonderful, the weather was really bad.”
The choice of venue was also highly symbolic. The Maltese Islands are strategically located at the geographic centre of the Mediterranean Sea, where east meets west and north meets south. Consequently, Malta has a long history of domination by foreign powers. It served as a British naval base during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and suffered massive destruction during World War II.
Malta declared its neutrality between the two superpowers in 1980, following the closure of British military bases and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Regional Headquarters (CINCAFMED), previously located on Malta.
Neutrality is entrenched in the Constitution of Malta, which provides as follows, at section 1(3):
“Malta is a neutral state actively pursuing peace, security and social progress among all nations by adhering to a policy of non-alignment and refusing to participate in any military alliance.”
On February 2, 1945, as the War in Europe drew to a close, Malta was the venue for the Malta Conference, an equally significant meeting between US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill prior to their Yalta meeting with Joseph Stalin. The Malta Summit of 1989 signalled a reversal of many of the decisions taken at the 1945 Yalta Conference.
Revolutions of 1989
Cold War (1985-1991)
List of Soviet Union–United States summits
New world order (politics)
Jump up^ “An Interview with Dr. Condoleezza Rice (17/12/97)”
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…
Jump up^ articles.latimes.com/1989-12-02/n…
Jump up^ articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-…
Jump up^ www.nytimes.com/1989/12/03/world/…
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
To stop crippling air pollution, Iranians do car-free Tuesdays
By Karin Kloosterman (KarinKloosterman@greenprophet)
Karin Kloosterman interests intersect in the worlds of the environment, technology, activism and Middle East politics. Blogging for some of the most influential media outlets in the “green” world, such as TreeHugger, and The Huffington Post, Karin founded Green Prophet to share the enormous potential of new clean technologies, and environmental awareness emanating from the Middle East region. For tips, advertising and editorial inquiries Karin can be reached at email@example.com
July 4, 2016
Cities in Iran are some of the most polluted in the world. It’s estimated that 27 people a day die in Tehran from the low quality of air.
Mohammad Bakhtiari, 25, from Arak decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and started car-free Tuesdays –- a day when he’s encouraging Iranians to find alternative ways to get around. He told local media, “With air pollution getting worse, I did not like to sit back doing nothing. I thought everybody is responsible for this problem. And I was thinking of a way to involve more people to help with it.”
So he proposed that people go car free on Tuesdays. Residents in Tripoli, Lebanon tried it once a long time ago, but it didn’t stick.
Mohammad wanted the idea to stick. He went with posters and flyers and explained to locals in Arak until the Department of Environment gave its stamp of approval. It’s catching on in all Iranian cities but there are no reports on how many people are actually doing it.
Tuesday was the day picked because it is in the middle of Iranian week when traffic congestion is high and air pollution is at its worst.
The World Bank estimates losses inflicted on Iran’s economy as a result of deaths caused by air pollution at $640 million, which is equal to 5.1 trillion rials or 0.57 percent of GDP. Diseases resulting from air pollution are inflicting losses estimated at $260 million per year or 2.1 trillion rials or 0.23 percent of the GDP on Iran’s economy.
Leaving cars at home can reduce air pollution: The campaign that started this spring is expected to run for 600 weeks. The idea is to get people to use bikes and more public transport.
Mohammad said: “Sixty percent of the people who know there is such a campaign have supported it. Our first step is to tell people that there is such a movement. The second step is to tell them why they should support it.
“The third step is to have incentives for those who join the campaign.
“And the fourth step is to push the government to carry out its responsibilities at a more rapid pace.”
He is now pushing the government for safe bike routes, and more people to start using electric motorbikes. As well as an overhaul of public transport.
Cities in Russia and India, have made a similar pledge to be car free on Tuesdays.
Read more on sustainable Iran:
Iran Looks to Create Biofuel
Iran Inaugurates Its First Solar CSP Plant
Celebrate Spring and Iranian New Year
View other posts by Karin Kloosterman ?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 12th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
12th May 2016
Nord Stream 2: A killer project
NS2, which will pass through Danish waters, is to be operational by 2019
BRUSSELS, EUobserver, 11 MAY, 10:49
By PETRAS AUSTREVICIUS – a Lithuanian MEP in the liberal Alde group.
Scholars of European affairs will one day judge how well EU institutions coped with crises.
However, speaking as an MEP, I must say it is unwise for the European Commission to try to play deaf, dumb and blind to certain serious developments in the real world.
Follow the gas: Russian pipelines are instruments of political pressure.
Drawing attention to one area, it is unwise to pretend that things are normal in the EU-Russia energy business.
The fact is that Russia’s gas pipelines, the little green men that it sent to Ukraine, the money it gives to populist parties in our member states and its anti-EU propaganda are all part of the same programme. The fact is that Russia is exerting great influence to bend, or even break, EU energy law.
One project that lacks principled scrutiny by the EU’s top institutions is the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline.
If it is built, by 2019, it would duplicate existing pipes under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and its implications would be far wider than many people think.
I would like to hear commission president Jean-Claude Juncker take a clear stand on NS2.
But I myself call it a killer project because I believe it is part of a programme to destroy European unity.
If it is built, the EU would become extremely dependent on a single gas supplier – Gazprom, an entity under the full control of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Europe already imports 39 percent of its gas from Russia. After NS2, 80 percent of Russian gas imports would be concentrated in one route. In Germany itself, the share of Russian gas would increase from 40 percent to 60 percent.
Beyond Germany, 12 EU member states depend on Russia for 75 percent or more of their gas. After NS2, the level of their dependence would also go up.
I call it a killer project because it has no commercial purpose, whatever its lobbyists say.
Independent energy experts agree that there is no market logic for investing €20 billion in new Baltic pipelines. Nord Stream I, which is already in operation, uses less than half of its capacity.
NS2 was never about the energy business, it was always energy politics.
It aims to split and destabilise the EU, to harm individual member states and to degrade Ukraine, which would be eliminated as the main Russia-EU gas transit route.
This is why Ukraine and all other central and eastern European countries are against the Russian-German project.
It is obvious who would stand to gain from splitting the EU into gas partners and gas slaves – Russia. It is less obvious why Germany is getting involved.
It is also interesting what Denmark’s official position will be, knowing that NS2 will pass through Danish waters.
NS2 contradicts the European Energy Union – a policy of diversification of energy sources and suppliers.
We need the energy union to guarantee a fair gas price for all and to enable imports from the wider world, for instance via liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.
Some have been built in Spain and in my home country, Lithuania. We have an LNG terminal in the port of Klaipeda and an LNG vessel named Independence. “Independence” is the key word here.
The Juncker commission made big promises on creating a free and secure energy market. It has yet to deliver.
NS2 is a killer project because it shows that Schroederism is back in Europe.
I am talking about the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder’s policy of putting Russian money first. It risks making Germany, one of the most powerful EU states, prone to Russian manipulation.
You hear Schroederism from people in chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet.
You sometimes hear it from the chancellor herself. Merkel recently spoke out in defence of EU energy security, but she also defended the commercial merit of NS2.
There is no such merit. Behind Gazprom, a giant shell firm, there is only Putinism.
There is no easy way to stop NS2. Two big states are building it and the ones who will pay the price are smaller.
Brussels is being squeezed by Moscow and Berlin.
But for all of Russia and Germany’s influence, if NS2 contradicts EU single market law – specifically, the so called third energy package – then Juncker’s commission must call a spade a spade.
Because of the sensitivity of the issue, a group of independent jurists should also provide its own legal analysis of the project. I will be demanding this as a member of the European Parliament.
When strategic decisions are being made, but political courage and EU values are lacking, the law is our last line of defence.
Petras Austrevicius is a Lithuanian MEP in the liberal Alde group
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
from Iulia Trombitcaia Iulia.Trombitcaia at unece.org via lists.iisd.ca
UNECE has just published the third Environmental Performance Reviews of two countries: Georgia and Belarus.
Both reviews cover air, water, waste, biodiversity and the integration of environmental considerations into a wide number of sectors (energy, forestry, transport, tourism, health, etc.).
Both reviews reflect the successes and challenges for these countries in the achievement of MDGs, and we very much hope that the recommendations of the reviews will assist these countries in developing their national agendas for the achievement of SDGs.
The publications can be found here:
3rd Environmental Performance Review of Georgia:
www.unece.org/index.php?id=42309 (in English)
3rd Environmental Performance Review of Belarus:
www.unece.org/index.php?id=41226 (in English and Russian)
Iulia Trombitcaia, UNECE
Ms. Iulia TROMBITCAIA
Environmental Affairs Officer
Environmental Performance Review Programme
UN Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Telephone: 0041-22-917 3332
Telefax: 0041-22-917 06 21
E-mail: iulia.trombitcaia at unece.org
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 9th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Bernie Sanders Accepts An Invitation From The Vatican.
April 8, 201611:20 AM ET
by Asma Khalid
NPR’s Don Gonyea spotted a poster at Bernie Sanders’ Buffalo field office in New York that shows the Pope pointing out “WHAT BERNIE SAID.”
Sanders has often praised Pope Francis for his focus on economic inequality.
Bernie Sanders will be taking a few days off the campaign trail to attend a Vatican conference about social, economic and environmental issues.
The day after a debate in New York next week, Sanders will travel to Rome for the event.
In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sanders said he was “a big, big fan of the pope.”
“He has played an unbelievable role, unbelievable role in injecting a moral consequence into the economy,” Sanders said. “He’s talking about the idolatry of money, the worship of money, the greed that’s out there.”
In a statement from his campaign, Sanders praised the pope for focusing on income inequality — the defining issue of his own presidential campaign.
“Pope Francis has made clear that we must overcome ‘the globalization of indifference’ in order to reduce economic inequalities, stop financial corruption and protect the natural environment. That is our challenge in the United States and in the world,” Sanders said in a statement.
No meeting between Sanders and Pope Francis has been scheduled.
Sanders, who is Jewish, has often praised the current pope. He previously referred to Francis as a “socialist,” in an interview obtained by The Washington Post. “When (Pope Francis) talks about wealth being used to serve people, not as an end in itself, I agree with that,” Sanders said in the interview.
Sanders and Francis often speak about the economy in nearly identical ways. In 2014, the pope took to Twitter with this message: “Inequality is the root of social evil.”
Pope Francis Verified account
? @Pontifex — 28 April 2014
Francis is sometimes described as a “liberal” pope for his views on immigration, income inequality and the death penalty; but, Catholic teaching straddles political affiliation, particularly because of the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.
With his public statements, Francis seems to have emboldened the church’s social justice wing, and Democrats are widely embracing him. Last year, a number of big-city Democratic mayors (Boston’s Marty Walsh and New York’s Bill de Blasio) attended a Vatican conference on climate change.
For Sanders, the trip’s timing is also fortuitous, coming just ahead of the New York and Pennsylvania primaries (April 19 and April 26 respectively).
Both states have sizable Catholic populations — a mix of traditionally Democratic white working class voters and a smaller, but growing, Hispanic community.
The Pew Research Center estimates one-third of people in the New York City metro area identify as Catholic, and similarly, about a quarter (26 percent) in Philadelphia.
Many of those Catholics lean left — 46 percent surveyed by Pew in New York and Pennsylvania identify as Democrats.
For a full breakdown of New York Catholic demographics, you can sift through the data on the Pew website.
LindaWagner • 12 hours ago
As an avowed atheist, it warms my heart to see this Pope becoming involved in issues that matter so much to me. Keep up the good work, Pope Francis. It’s not easy to turn around hundreds of years of entrenched doctrine and it will probably take hundreds more but you sure are moving it along at a faster pace than I ever thought imaginable.
Sobin Tulll LindaWagner • 12 hours ago
As a fellow Atheist I couldn’t agree with you more. There are people in this thread that seem to hold Pope Francis responsible for the entire churches history, which in my opinion is unfair. I see a person that is trying move his massive and stubborn organization in a better direction.
Wait_Wait_Ill_Tell_You Sobin Tulll • 12 hours ago
Mark down another atheist in concurrence.
As far as religious leaders go, Francis is a “God-send.”
THIS POPE IS AMAZING INDEED. He enters now the discussion in further issues:
Francis’ Message Calls on Church to Be Inclusive
By JIM YARDLEY and LAURIE GOODSTEIN
The pope asked priests to welcome single parents, unmarried couples and gay people, lamenting the “severe stress” of modern families.
Francis’ Message Calls on Church to Be Inclusive
By JIM YARDLEY and LAURIE GOODSTEIN – APRIL 8, 2016
ROME — In a broad proclamation on family life, Pope Francis on Friday called for the Roman Catholic Church to be more welcoming and less judgmental, and he seemingly signaled a pastoral path for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive holy communion.
The 256-page document — known as an apostolic exhortation and titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love” — calls for priests to welcome single parents, gay people and unmarried straight couples who are living together.
“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough to simply apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives,” he wrote.
But Francis once again closed the door on same-sex marriage, saying it cannot be seen as the equivalent of heterosexual unions.
The document offers no new rules or marching orders, and from the outset Francis makes plain that no top-down edicts are coming.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances
by Emmanuel Karagiannis
Middle East Quarterly – Spring 2016 (view PDF)
Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances
The exploitation of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean has drawn together hitherto estranged states.
In August 2013, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel signed onto the “EuroAsia Interconnector” project, which would install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable (illustrated above) to connect their power grids and to be a means by which “three nations … [can] enhance their growth and prosperity” and build a “bridge of friendship between our nations.”
The Eastern Mediterranean is changing fast with its estimated 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas reserves (the equivalent of 21 billion barrels of oil) already having an impact on regional patterns of amity and enmity. With Israel and Cyprus well underway to becoming gas exporters, the problematic Israeli-Lebanese and Cypriot-Turkish relationships have been further strained. At the same time, energy cooperation has been the driving force behind the nascent Greek-Cypriot-Israeli partnership, manifested in rapidly growing defense and economic cooperation. Clearly, the development of energy resources and their transportation will have far-reaching geopolitical implications for the Eastern Mediterranean and its nations.
The Strategic Significance of the Gas Reserves
Natural gas is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, currently accounting for 22 percent of total global energy consumption. It is both affordable and more environmentally friendly than other commercially feasible options, resulting in an increasing demand even in an era of dropping oil prices. That demand seems likely to be met in large part by the newly discovered gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Israel has the potential to become an important regional producer of liquefied natural gas. Its Tamar field, with estimated reserves of 9.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf), came online in 2013 while its Leviathan gas field (above), with a potential of 16 tcf, is slated to be ready for production in 2017.
Israel, for one, has the potential to become an important regional producer. Its Tamar field was confirmed to have estimated reserves of 9.7 tcf while its Leviathan gas field has the potential of producing up to 16 tcf.
Meanwhile, in November 2011, U.S.-based Noble Energy announced a major gas discovery south of Cyprus: The Aphrodite field was estimated to contain 7 tcf. In February 2013, a seismic survey south of Crete indicated that rich hydrocarbon resources may soon be found in Greek waters. Most recently, the Italian company Eni announced the discovery of a huge gas field off the coast of Egypt.
For reasons of geographical proximity, these Mediterranean energy resources concern first and foremost the European Union—the world’s third largest energy consumer behind China and the United States. While oil is still the dominant fuel, accounting for 33.8 percent of total EU energy consumption, natural gas comes in second at 23.4 percent. The Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves have three distinct advantages for European governments (and companies) and are thus viewed by them as a strategic priority. First, due to their smaller sizes and populations, the needs of Israel and Cyprus are relatively low and most of their gas could be exported. Second, Eastern Mediterranean gas could partly cover Europe’s energy needs and thereby decrease its dependence on an increasingly volatile Russia. Finally, since both Israel and Cyprus lack the capital and the offshore drilling technology to develop gas reserves on their own, foreign energy companies have identified them as investment opportunities that could generate significant financial returns.
As the Middle East implodes, security of energy supply has become an important policy objective for the EU. Indeed, there is a consensus among European governments that new initiatives are needed to address energy challenges. The EU is already directly involved to some extent in Eastern Mediterranean energy affairs because Greece and Cyprus are member states while Turkey is a candidate for membership and has a customs union with the EU. Although the governments of the EU and Israel are often at odds politically, economic relations between Jerusalem and Brussels are close and multifaceted.
The development of Israeli and Cypriot gas fields could help strengthen Europe’s energy security. Currently, European countries import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from politically unstable countries such as Nigeria and Algeria. But the Eastern Mediterranean could serve as a third gas “corridor” for Europe, alongside Russian gas and the southeast European pipelines for Azeri gas. The Italian Eni company, the British Premier Oil, and the Dutch Oranje-Nassau Energie have clearly shown interest by bidding in the second round of licensing for natural gas exploration in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a sea zone prescribed by the United
Nations over which a state has special rights.
The U.S. administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.
Given the prominence of the Middle East for U.S. energy policy, it is hardly surprising that the gas finds in Israel and Cyprus have drawn Washington’s attention as well. Although the U.S. is likely to become the largest gas producer in the world as a result of increased use of shale gas, the administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies. Within the private sector, the American company, Noble Energy, has played a leading role in the exploration process; it has a 40 percent stake in the Leviathan fields, a 36 percent stake in Tamar, and a 70 percent stake in Aphrodite.
Not surprisingly, these discoveries have attracted Moscow’s interest as well due to a potential, adverse impact on its gas exports to European markets. Russian energy companies, which often act as the Kremlin’s long-arm, are particularly active in the region. In February 2013, for example, Gazprom signed a 20-year deal with the Israeli Levant LNG Marketing Corporation to purchase liquefied natural gas exclusively from the Tamar field. Then in December 2013, the Russian company SoyuzNefteGas signed an agreement with the Assad regime to explore part of Syria’s exclusive economic zone. One month later Putin signed an investment agreement with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to develop gas fields off the Gaza Strip.
Warming Israeli-Greek Relations
Despite past support for the Palestinians, newly-elected Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (left) of the left-wing SYRIZA party, here with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has sought to strengthen ties with the Jewish state. Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean and energy-consuming Europe while Israel is now poised to become a major natural gas producer. Thus, Greece and Israel share significant energy interests.
Energy considerations have a long history of influencing the course of relations between states, and the new gas discoveries are no exception to this rule, affecting Israel’s relations with both Greece and Cyprus.
Greek-Israeli relations have been frosty for decades. The postwar Greek governments typically followed a pro-Arab foreign policy in order to protect the large Greek community in Egypt, secure Arab support on the Cyprus dispute in the United Nations, and maintain access to cheap Arab oil. While there was de facto recognition of the Jewish State in 1949, legal recognition needed to wait until 1990 under the right-wing Mitsotakis government. But the formation of a Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership in the mid-1990s provoked a strong backlash with Athens reverting to its pro-Arab policy.
This policy, too, has changed with the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalk?nma Partisi, AKP) in Turkey since the early 2000s. With Athens alarmed by Ankara’s growing regional assertiveness, and Jerusalem disturbed by the new regime’s fiercely anti-Israel approach, Greek-Israeli relations improved rapidly with the two countries signing a string of agreements in the fields of security, energy, trade, and tourism, and exchanging official visits at the ministerial, presidential, and prime-ministerial levels. In March 2012, the air-naval exercise Noble Dina, involving U.S., Israeli, and Greek forces, was conducted in the Aegean Sea while, a month later, a joint Greek-Israeli air exercise was held in central Greece. Most recently, Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos stated that “[Greek] defense planning should take into account friends and allies who seek defense cooperation in the region. And I clearly mean eastward toward Israel.”
Athens’s new Israel policy has been largely unaffected by the frequent change of governments in recent years. The last three prime ministers before the current one—George Papandreou (2009-11), Loukas Papadimos (2011-12), and Antonis Samaras (2012-15)—all met with Israeli officials and concluded agreements, all the more striking given the political and ideological differences among them: Papandreou is a moderate, left-of-center politician; Papadimos is known as a liberal technocrat, and Samaras, a right-wing politician.
In the wake of the economic crisis that has roiled domestic Greek politics and the austerity measures that the EU has sought to impose on Athens, Greeks took to the polls in January 2015 and brought to power the left-wing SYRIZA (Greek acronym of the Coalition of the Radical Left) party, in coalition with the small, right-wing party, the Independent Greeks. This caused considerable alarm in Jerusalem as many senior SYRIZA officials have strong pro-Palestinian sympathies: European Member of Parliament Sofia Sakorafa, for one, is a self-proclaimed friend of Hamas while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has participated in pro-Palestinian rallies. In late December 2015, the Greek parliament passed a non-binding resolution recommending recognition of “Palestine” as a state.
And yet, the SYRIZA-led government has not distanced itself from Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias identified Turkey as a source of threats while Minister of Defense Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, harbors strong pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli views. In late November 2015, Tsipras visited Israel and, yet again, on January 27, 2016, together with six members of his cabinet when they held a joint meeting with the Israeli government. So it seems likely that the Greek-Israeli partnership will continue.
Athens is seeking bids for an Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe.
Beyond common concerns about Turkey’s intentions, Athens and Jerusalem share significant energy interests. Both countries want to implement the 1982 U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to facilitate the exploration and exploitation of the seabed; and both maintain that the Eastern Mediterranean could be unilaterally developed through its division into exclusive economic zones of 200 nautical miles. In contrast, Ankara has not signed on to UNCLOS and favors a settlement in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean that would take perceived Turkish interests into greater account.
Moreover, Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean, including Israeli fields, and energy-consuming Europe, and Greeks see the country as a hub for bringing Eastern Mediterranean gas to European markets. In March 2014, Athens announced an international tender for a feasibility study of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe via Crete and the mainland. While the proposed pipeline would be rather expensive and pass through disputed waters, Russian intervention in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine has given new momentum to the project as the EU looks for alternative sources of natural gas. The European Commission has included the proposed pipeline in its list of “Projects of Common Interests” that could receive financial support.
If Jerusalem and Nicosia decide to opt for liquefaction of their gas resources, then Greek-owned shipping could also play an important role in transporting liquid gas to the international market. During his visit to Israel in November 2015, Tsipras stated,
One of the main issues in our discussions today was [sic] the opportunities arising in the fields of energy in the Eastern Mediterranean … We are examining ways to cooperate in research, drilling, and the transportation of gas from Israel to Europe.
While energy is not the sole factor contributing to the improvement of bilateral relations, it has certainly played a crucial role in the convergence of Greek and Israeli interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Jerusalem and Nicosia
The development and exploitation of Eastern Mediterranean energy resources have also given a boost to Israeli-Cypriot relations. Despite geographical proximity, the two countries have largely ignored each other for years. For most Israelis, Cyprus is either the site where Holocaust survivors were forcibly interned by the British (1946-49) as they sought refuge in mandatory Palestine or the closest place where couples unable or unwilling to contract a religious marriage in Israel are able to enter into a civil marriage.
For its part, Nicosia traditionally took a pro-Arab line in diplomatic settings that differed little from neighboring Greece; and just like in Greece, the AKP-induced chill in Turkish-Israeli relations had a warming effect on Cypriot-Israeli relations. In March 2011, Israeli president Shimon Peres hosted his Cypriot counterpart, President Demetris Christofias, who reciprocated this hospitality in November. Both sides came to view each other as potential counterbalances to Turkey’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cypriot defense minister Dimitris Iliadis signed an agreement on the “Mutual Protection of Confidential Information” in January 2012 with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, and a month later, Netanyahu paid a visit to Nicosia, the first ever by an Israeli prime minister, to discuss energy and defense cooperation. According to press reports, the Cypriot navy is planning to buy two Israeli-manufactured hi-tech offshore patrol vessels in order to patrol its exclusive economic zone.
The energy dimension of the nascent Israeli-Cypriot relationship is particularly strong. Nicosia has announced plans to build a liquefied natural gas plant in its Vassilikos industrial area to process its gas. Since the current gas finds are not large enough to make this multi-billion dollar project economically viable, Nicosia has suggested to Jerusalem that the two countries pool their gas reserves to form a single producing unit. In 2013, Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis declared:
[W]e feel that through a close collaboration with Israel, we will be able to be a major player in the world energy market, something that might be too hard for each country to achieve individually.
The future of the Israeli-Cypriot partnership will also depend on the export route of the Israeli gas. Jerusalem has examined a number of options for the optimum utilization of its gas fields but probably prefers to export gas westward in order to improve its relations with European countries. From the Israeli perspective, energy cooperation with Greece and Cyprus could build a new web of alliances with the EU that would help Jerusalem to break out of its increasing geopolitical isolation. The Netanyahu government even lobbied on behalf of Greece in Europe and the United States for an economy recovery plan. In late March 2012, during an energy conference in Athens, then Israeli minister of energy Uzi Landau spoke of “an axis of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel and possibly more countries, which will offer an anchor of stability.” In August 2013, the three countries signed an agreement to install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable to connect their power grids—the first of its kind to connect Europe and Asia.
Most recently, in December 2015, a series of trilateral consultations was held in Jerusalem in which a set of issues were taken up and discussed, with energy development topping the list. The parties agreed to further promote trilateral consultations and to meet on a regular basis, beginning with a meeting of their heads of state in Nicosia on January 28, 2016.
Lebanon, Cyprus, and Israel
While revenues from the sale of oil and gas can bring wealth and prosperity to societies, they also have the potential to upset regional balances of power. In the Eastern Mediterranean, where countries have been locked in conflicts over territory for decades, gas discoveries seem likely to increase the stakes. Contested ownership of gas resources has, in fact, destabilized already strained relations between Israel and Lebanon as well as between Turkey and Cyprus.
Although a delimitation agreement between Lebanon and Cyprus was signed in January 2007, the Lebanese parliament has refused to ratify it to date, and Hezbollah declared the agreement
null and void because the Lebanese side that signed it had its official capacity revoked … The sea, like land, is a one hundred percent legitimate Lebanese right, and we shall defend it with all our strength.
When in December 2010, Nicosia signed an agreement with Jerusalem demarcating their maritime borders, Beirut accused both states of violating its maritime rights. The following year, in a televised speech marking the fifth anniversary of Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel, the group’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened Israel with a strike against its energy infrastructure:
We warn Israel against extending its hands to this area and steal[ing] Lebanon’s resources from Lebanese waters … Whoever harms our future oil facilities in Lebanese territorial waters, its own facilities will be targeted.
These are not hollow threats. Hezbollah has the military capacity to attack Israel’s offshore gas platforms should it choose to do so. The 2006 war revealed that its vast arsenal of missiles and rockets includes Chinese-manufactured C-802 anti-ship missiles (range 75 miles) and Zelzal-2 rockets (range 125-250 miles). For its part, the Israeli navy is acquiring at least two 1,200-ton patrol-class vessels, along with additional unmanned aerial vehicles and missile-armed, remote-control gunboats. In this way, Jerusalem seeks to deter possible raids from Lebanon. The protection and exploitation of gas reserves is thus seen by the Israeli leadership as a matter of national security.
Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel
The relationship between Turkey and Cyprus is yet another example of a long-standing conflict with few prospects of imminent resolution, and the AKP’s rise to power has only exacerbated the situation.
Turkey’s strongman, Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdo?an (left), seen here at the World Economic Forum, Davos, in 2009, publicly berating Israel’s then-president Shimon Peres for alleged Israeli misconduct, has managed to alienate—and alarm—Eastern Mediterranean neighbors with frequent outbursts and occasional saberrattling. This has led Cyprus, Israel, and Greece, the area’s potential energy producers and transporters, to seek closer ties that would have been inconceivable a decade ago.
In Erdogan’s increasingly paranoid worldview, the possible economic and diplomatic revival of Cyprus as a result of gas development poses a clear and present danger to Turkish national security. In September 2011, Ankara signed a continental shelf delimitation agreement with the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” and shortly afterward, the Turkish state oil company (TPAO) started its first drilling near the occupied Cypriot city of Famagusta.
While Ankara has invited foreign companies to explore its Mediterranean coast for energy resources, only the Royal Dutch/Shell has thus far expressed interest. In late October 2014, a Turkish research vessel entered the Cypriot EEZ to collect seismic data. Nicosia viewed this as a violation of its sovereign rights, since it had already licensed parts of its EEZ to foreign energy companies.
Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation.
The energy factor has also internationalized the “Cyprus Problem,” creating a new point of friction between Ankara and Jerusalem. The Turkish government did not anticipate the rapid improvement of Israeli-Cypriot relations and fears that the bilateral cooperation will not be limited to the energy sector. Even before this development, Erdo?an had threatened Jerusalem over its gas exploration initiatives, warning that while “Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean…[it] will not be owner of this right.” For its part Jerusalem has not remained passive, requesting Cypriot permission for the use of the Paphos air base by Israeli fighter jets. In early November 2015, the two countries conducted the second Onisilos-Gideon military exercise in the western part of the island.
The internationalization of the “Cyprus Problem” extends well beyond the region. Chinese companies have already bid for gas exploration and liquefaction projects in the Eastern Mediterranean and are negotiating an agreement with the Cypriot government to purchase LNG by 2020. Consequently, Beijing has closely followed the Cyprus peace negotiations.
An Engine for Conflict Resolution?
The Eastern Mediterranean energy boom has helped warm traditionally chilly bilateral relationships between some countries while aggravating already strained relations with others. Can it also become an engine for promoting regional cooperation?
While the last few years have seen a great deal of saberrattling out of Ankara, the likelihood of a military confrontation between Cyprus and Turkey, or Israel and Turkey, seems small. The construction and operation of energy infrastructure (e.g., pipelines, refineries, natural gas plants) is a costly business requiring political stability, and Ankara may not wish to undermine its role as an energy transit state. Indeed, Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation that covered, among other items, the laying of a natural gas pipeline between the two countries. This would allow Turkey to reduce its energy dependence on Russia (relations with which have worsened following the downing of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015) as well as to open up a new market for Israel’s natural gas projects off its coast.
In addition, Ankara has offered to build a “peace pipeline” to transport Cypriot gas to European markets via Turkish territory. Nicosia has not rejected this plan provided there is a resolution to the “Cyprus problem,” including the reunification of the island and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the northern section. This bolsters the argument, advanced by the U.S. State Department among others, that gas profits could contribute to the island’s unification as both Greek and Turkish Cypriots would have major additional incentives to accept a peace deal. It is no coincidence that the special representative for regional energy cooperation for the newly-established State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources is based in the U.S. embassy in Nicosia.
This optimism is rooted in the long-held, liberal view of international relations positing that economic benefits resulting from energy transportation can help resolve political conflicts. Yet if history offers any guide, an economic boom attending hydrocarbons exports can just as often lead to ethnocentrism and economic nationalism as to goodwill and shared prosperity. The production of large quantities of oil and natural gas in the North Sea, for example, has strengthened Scottish nationalism and may eventually lead to Scotland’s secession from the United Kingdom. Likewise, the Clinton administration’s promotion of a “peace pipeline” to carry Azerbaijani oil through the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to the Turkish market failed because Armenia did not wish to make the necessary territorial concessions to Azerbaijan. Then again, in 2004, Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili floated the construction of a Russian-Georgian oil pipeline through the breakaway republic of Abkhazia to facilitate a solution to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, only to be rebuffed by both Russia and Abkhazia. The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline had the same fate in 2009 when the Indian government announced its decision not to participate in the project for security reasons.
Evidently, such pipelines have failed to materialize because states were neither willing to surrender territory nor comfortable depending on hostile neighbors in return for possible economic benefits. Those who envisage the prospect of a “peace pipeline” positively affecting the current negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots for the resolution of the “Cyprus Problem” may find themselves seriously disappointed.
The new substantial gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean are rapidly transforming regional orientations. Energy interests have brought Israel closer than ever diplomatically to Cyprus and Greece and have played an important role in the apparent thaw in Israeli-Turkish relations. At the same time, energy has generated new tensions between producing countries and countries that feel excluded from the regional natural gas development opportunities. Relations between Turkey and Cyprus as well as between Israel and Lebanon, poor at best, have come under further strain.
U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region.
Undoubtedly, U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region. However, this will only be possible if there is a resolution to the ownership issue that can accelerate the pace of private investment in the regional gas industry.
Without a region-wide legal agreement, energy companies may not be able to secure the necessary funding to develop and implement gas projects. Washington, which enjoys good relations with all Eastern Mediterranean countries, could act as a broker in hosting multilateral regional talks to defuse tensions and promote mutual understanding between countries in the region.
Emmanuel Karagiannis is senior lecturer at the department of defense studies, King’s College, London, and author of Political Islam in Central Asia (Routledge, 2010) and Energy and Security in the Caucasus (Routledge, 2002).
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
ARCTIC CIRCLE GREENLAND FORUM
MAY 17-19 IN NUUK, GREENLAND
The Arctic Circle Greenland Forum is less than three months away. A draft program is now available.
The Forum is being organized in cooperation with the Government of Greenland — Naalakkersuisut — and will focus on the empowerment of indigenous peoples across the Arctic, economic progress, investment, and business development.
The Forum will include sessions on tourism, transport — shipping and airlines, natural resource industries, as well as fisheries and living resources.
Other sessions will be devoted to health and well-being, research and innovation, and benefit agreements for local communities.
Special discussions will be on Arctic investment structures and representatives from Asia and Europe will present their views on the Arctic.
We have difficulties with the way this Forum is intended. It seems that though justified as a Forum of Greenland and the Arctic for the people of the Arctic – in many ways the Forum misses that if larger scope issues like global warming are forgotten or pushed under the bear-skin rug – the outside business interest will simply wipe out the meager local populations and the gains they hope for will not go to them. We suggest a return to the Reykjavik, Iceland Arctic Circle Forum as the multi-faceted focal point for a rather slow but sustainable development of this last undeveloped region of the globe – that to be honest – becomes accessible only now thanks to effects of global warming. Those are very dangerous effects – and have to be viewed with the larger scope in mind.
PROGRAM DRAFT – More details and speakers will be published in the coming weeks.
MAY 17-19, 2016
TUESDAY, MAY 17
Location: Katuaq – Culturehouse
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR THE PEOPLES OF THE ARCTIC
THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES ACROSS THE ARCTIC
Location: Katuaq – Greenland Culturehouse
WEDNESDAY, MAY 18
Location: Katuaq – Culturehouse
THE FUTURE OF ARCTIC BUSINESS: TOURISM
THE FUTURE OF ARCTIC BUSINESS: TRANSPORT – SHIPPING AND AIRLINES
THE FUTURE OF ARCTIC BUSINESS: NATURAL RESOURCES – INDUSTRIES
THE FUTURE OF ARCTIC BUSINESS: FISHERIES – LIVING RESOURCES
INVOLVEMENT OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES – IMPACT BENEFIT AGREEMENTS
LOOKING AT THE ARCTIC FROM THE OUTSIDE – THE VIEW FROM ASIA AND EUROPE
ARCTIC INVESTMENT STRUCTURES
Location: Katuaq – Greenland Culturehouse
THURSDAY, MAY 19
Location: Katuaq – Culturehouse
HEALTH AND MENTAL WELL-BEING IN THE ARCTIC
TRAVELING TO ILIMMARFIK, UNIVERSITY OF GREENLAND
SIDE EVENT: RESEARCH AND INNOVATION, BY AND FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE ARCTIC
Location: University of Greenland, Ilimmarfik
•13:15-14:30 PRECONDITIONS FOR INNOVATION IN THE ARCTIC
•15:00-15:15 COFFEE BREAK
•15:15-16:30 ROLE OF ARCTIC UNIVERSITIES IN DEVELOPING REGIONS
•16:30-17:30 RECEPTION AT ILIMMARFIK
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Above the entrance to 21 Zerubabel Street in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv – next door to the Rabbi Shabzi Synagogue and the warning – a dog in the courtyard – it says – in Hebrew:Sun light is very bleak to someone who does not find sense in his life. Next tomit in English is written: “There is no Fear in Love.”
The Israeli papers that are still not owned by an Israeli government related American individual – The HAARETZ and the Yedioth Aharonot – are now full with hints at internal culture wars started by an uneducated Culture Minister – Ms. Miri Regev who contended that even uneducated people can be educated. That is not my topic here – for those interested please read The New York Times article of today – “Israel, Mired in Ideological Battles, Fights on Cultural Fronts” – By STEVEN ERLANGER January 29, 2016. We are here rather interested in what the rather officialpro-government papers say – The MAARIV and The ISRAEL HAYOM say.
A main report comes from the meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus between Israel’s Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu and His counterparts from Greece and Cyprus titled as the “Mediterranean Alliance.” As I just arrived here from Vienna I am quite familiar with the Merkel & Faymann problems with Greece and Turkey and the simple facts that the EU in ordr to survive tends now to shed Greece and trade it for higher reliance on Turkey. What I sense thus is the contemplation of the Israeli government to look as well for new allies in its troubled corner of thev World.
Then, no misunderstanding here – President Obama just declared for all to hear that Putin is corrupt and Mr. Putin reacted by asking for evidence. No problem on this front – the UK obliged and declared Putin involved in the execution of a financial competitor – mafia style. This sort of language was not heard even in the days of President Regan’s attacks on the Soviet “Evil Empire.”
Obama looks at the mess in Western Asia he inherited from G.W. Bush who really turned all local devils there lose by taking off the lids that kept a modicum of order as left by the British and French colonial powers. G.W. continued the reliance on the Saudis that came down from Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thus became partial to an evolving Sunni Shia rift with an ever increasing Iranian threat to the US oil supplies from the Middle East. Obviously, US interests did not match in all of this the European effort to build their own power bloc and the difficulties the EU put before Turkey’s attemp to join in the Union. Russia had its own problems with the EU and when life for the US and the EU became difficultbin the Arab region – they jumped in and used the occasion to move on the Ukraine as well.
So what now?
My suggestion based on an acknowledged very superficial reading of the real news – is: By necessity there are now two new potential NEUTRAL Centers in a renewed COLD WAR scenario.
Oman is the Neutral space between the Saudis and Iran – to be cherished by the US.
The small group of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel – a new buffer zone between the EU & Turkey alliance and the Sunni Arab Golf and the US – with Syria and Iraq the actual battle-field that will churn the Arab World until it reorganizes the remaining waste-lands. Russia has gained a footing via the Shiia Muslims and the US will see to limit this by making it more profitable to Iran to play the US in exchange for diminished role to the Saudis. It is all in the new world cards.
And what about the Arab North African States? Will they fall into the hands of extreme Sunnis as preached by Saudi Wahhabism – the source of what has moved to the creation of the new Islamic powder keg? I do not think this is possible in North Africa – simply because there are no Shiia elements there that justify to the Sunnis such an effort. Will there be another neutral zone in the North African region in the Cold War arena? This makes sense eventually.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Why Putin Loves Trump
Ivan Krastev — January 12, 2016
Sofia, Bulgaria — “VLADIMIR VLADIMIROVICH, is war coming?”
The question is asked in the first frame of “Myroporyadok” (“World Order”), a manifesto-style documentary aired in the last days of December on Russian state television. And in the following two-plus hours, President Vladimir V. Putin, aided by diplomats, policy analysts, conspiracy theorists and retired foreign statesmen, attempts to provide an answer.
Though the Russian leader resists sounding the alarm, the audience is nonetheless convinced that if nothing changes in the coming months, the Big War could be imminent. And the Kremlin isn’t doing much to dissuade them: Days after the film’s airing, its new national security strategy, which declares NATO and the United States as fundamental threats to Russia’s future, was unveiled.
“Myroporyadok” is a powerful expression of the Kremlin’s present state of mind. It views the world as a place on the edge of collapse, chaotic and dangerous, where international institutions are ineffective, held hostage to the West’s ambitions and delusions. Nuclear weapons represent the sole guarantee of a country’s sovereignty, and sovereignty is demonstrated by a willingness and capacity to resist Washington’s hegemonic agenda.
The film’s story line focuses repeatedly on NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, the West’s misuse of a United Nations no-fly zone in Libya and the West’s insistent meddling in the domestic politics of post-Soviet states. This is all done to prove the film’s central point: that the West may carry on about values and principles, but all of that masks a realpolitik aimed at world domination.
Some of the accusations have merit: The United States certainly bears considerable responsibility for the catastrophe in the Middle East. Some are patently false: Not every popular revolt in the world is a covert C.I.A. operation. But all of them carry more than a whiff of exaggeration. America, after all, is neither as powerful nor as malevolent as the Kremlin supposes.
The central contradiction in Moscow’s view of American foreign policy is its failure to reconcile its insistence that America is a declining power with the tendency to explain everything that happens in the world as resulting from American foreign policy actions. Is Washington failing in its effort to bring stability to the Middle East? Or is keeping the region unstable the real objective of White House strategy? Improbably, Moscow believes in both.
More important, the film is a challenge to the widely accepted view of Mr. Putin as a coldblooded realist, a cynic who believes in nothing but power and spends his days poring over maps and checking his bank statements. In “Myroporyadok,” we find Mr. Putin the angry moralist who, similar to European populists and third-world radicals, experiences the world through the lens of humiliation and exclusion. As Mr. Putin’s close adviser, Vladislav Surkov, once wrote: “We still look like those guys from the working part of town suddenly finding ourselves in the business district. And they’ll swindle us for sure if we keep stumbling backward and dropping our jaws.”
Such exclusion fuels distrust and the tendency to view the world as a family drama structured around love, hate and betrayal. It is this sensitivity, rather than 19th-century realpolitik, that explains most of Moscow’s policies in recent years.
Russian-Turkish relations are a case in point. Rather than adhering to any foreign-policy realism, the Kremlin seems to have adopted a policy of Great Power sentimentality. Until two months ago, Ankara was Russia’s strategic ally in its struggle for a multipolar world. Turkey had been a brother-in-resentment, the only NATO member that refused to join in sanctions against Moscow after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Ankara occupied a central place in Moscow’s energy diplomacy.
But it was enough for a Turkish missile to hit a Russian plane on the Syrian border, and suddenly the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not a friend anymore, but a traitor who was “aiding terrorists,” Mr. Putin said, sounding personally offended.
At the heart of Russian foreign policy sentimentalism is a tendency to view relationships between states as relations between leaders. It is this highly personalized view of the world that helps explain why Mr. Putin, the man who seeks to defeat America, is such an enthusiastic supporter of Donald J. Trump, the “brilliant and talented leader” who promises to make America great again.
Mr. Putin’s predilection for Mr. Trump has nothing to do with the Kremlin’s traditional preference for Republicans. It also can’t be explained by the fact that had Mr. Putin — a physically sound, aging, gun-loving and anti-gay conservative — been an American citizen, he would have fit the profile of a Trump supporter. Nor is it a function of tactical considerations: that the nutty billionaire would divide America and make it look ridiculous.
Rather, Mr. Putin’s puzzling enthusiasm for Mr. Trump is rooted in the fact that they both live in a soap-opera world run by emotions rather than interests. Perhaps Mr. Putin trusts Mr. Trump because the American businessman reminds him of the only true friend the Russian president has had among world leaders, the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In “Myroporyadok,” there is a lot of discussion about new rules and institutions, about Yalta and about the United Nations. But its message is clear: In a world where hypocrisy holds sway, only angry outsiders can be trusted.
Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. He writes also for The New York Times.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Today I had the good fortune to be present at a debate between Professor Franz Cede – former Austrian Ambassador to the Russian Federation and now with the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES), and Russia’s Ambassador to Austria H.E. Dmitrij Liubinskij (Dmitry Lubensky) – in diplomatic service since 1989.
The discussants had agreed beforehand to touch on most topics of contention between the European Union and the Russian Federation – the Ukraine, Syria, Iran, the EU-Russia relations. Being a good diplomat Ambassador Lubensky proposed the official answers as per the the Russian Federation government: Autonomy for the Donbas region as part of an Ukrainian Federation; There was no recent annexation of the Krim this was rather the redress of the annexation that Under Mr. Chruschtschow he gave the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine; about his rule; Russia does not bsck Assad to keep him in Power, only the Syrian people can decide what to do; the Iran deal showed the strength of diplmcy and discussions. Econoic relatios with Iran go on already a long time – he was told – also Germany and Austria. He knows this from his many contacts.
On EU and Russia relations he said that since te 90s there exists the concept of integration of the European Union and the Eurasian Union.
This last item is my reason for writing this up.
My belief is in – rather then using valuable time to discuss ongoing problems for which hardened positions already exist – I would rather start a debate that is intended to create rapprochement by bringing up first – reasonable potential future problems. In today’s case Russia and the West – I would rather start with depicting a situation where China becomes the real danger for Russia – the danger from the East.
The reality is that the Russian Federation is rather a large State but small in the number of its people.
Looking at a future world partitioned between blocks of one billion people plus (each) – neither Russia, nor the EU could make it without supporting each other. The Eurasian Union is only a half backed idea – a much better idea would be a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok – incorporating the EU and the Russian Federation. In such a Union Russia could find its security much easier then tackling the West in those proposed four areas.
At the end of the meeting I discussed this idea of using potential future problems to help cure present on-going problems,
and it seemed to me that even the Russian Ambassador did not shy away from this idea.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Convening from 19-23 October 2015, the Bonn Climate Change Conference was the last in a series of meetings under the UNFCCC in preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21), scheduled to take place in November-December 2015, in Paris, France.
In their scenario note ADP.2015.7.InformalNote), ADP Co-Chairs Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) and Daniel Reifsnyder (US) identified the objective of the session as intensifying the pace of text-based negotiations among Parties, with a view to preparing the draft Paris climate package for presentation at the opening of COP 21.
At the end of the week-long meeting, Parties issued two non-papers, one containing draft agreement text and draft decision text related to the agreement (workstream 1 of ADP’s mandate) and the other containing draft decision text related to pre-2020 ambition (workstream 2).
The full and best reporting of what went on in Bonn can be found at: mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#search…
Summary of the Bonn Climate Change Conference, 19-23 October 2015, Bonn, Germany.
Going over the Summary it becomes clear – if it was not before – that there will be no UN document ready for the Paris meeting and that UN bickering will continue – be assured that some Arab State will find space to bash Israel. All what the UN can do is to bring the problem to the public’s attention, and it is left to the public to push their governments to make a commitment, that is in those countries where a public opinion counts.
Paris COP 21 of the UNFCCC will not be a wash. This thanks to the fact that over 150 countries have already presented their commitments to act on Climate Change. Take for instance the US where by now commitments from companies that are joining the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, bringing the total number of US companies that have signed onto the pledge to 81. Together, these companies have operations in all 50 US states, employ over nine million people, represent more than US$3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over US$5 trillion.
And yes, in the EU, Japan, Brazil there are similarly industry commitments – pushed by the public. In China and India as well, the public pushes for government action on pollution of any kind and this includes a better understanding of Climate Change disasters.
In a more general way see the The International Energy Agency’s evaluation of the situation:
The IEA’s “Energy and Climate Change: World Energy Outlook” tells us that full implementation of the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by mid-October would decouple power sector emissions from electricity demand but would still lead to an average global temperature increase of around 2.7°C, which falls short of the declared “major course correction necessary” to stay below an average global temperature rise of 2°C.
The Outlook Special Briefing for COP21′ analyzes INDCs submitted by more than 150 countries, accounting for close to 90% of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and assesses in particular their energy sector-related impacts.
According to the briefing, given that energy production and use account for two-thirds of global GHG emissions, “actions in the energy sector can make or break efforts to achieve the world’s agreed climate goal” of staying below a 2°C temperature rise.
The briefing examines what the energy sector will look like globally in 2030 if all INDCs are fully implemented, and whether this will place the energy sector on a path consistent with the 2°C goal.
If implemented, the INDCs will lead to an improvement of global energy intensity at a rate almost three times faster than the rate since 2000. Emissions will either plateau or decline by 2030 in countries accounting for more than half of global economic activity at present. Of new electricity generation through 2030, 70% will be low-carbon.
The IEA estimates that the full implementation of the INDCs will require US$13.5 trillion in investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies through 2030.
And excerpted from a bright blogger for Huffington Post (UK):
Over the past three decades annual climate talks under the United Nations banner have become part of the Zeitgeist of a large movement. They draw government officials, think tanks, civil society, journalists and the occasional hipsters into negotiations over which ride trillions of dollars and our future well-being on Earth.
Expect a lot of drama at the next instalment, taking place in Paris in late November – early December.
Heads of state will make grandiose pronouncements.
Negotiators from 190 countries will huddle, whisper, argue over words for days and bargain in stuffy rooms in a style that would make bazaar traders proud.
Civil society will push for strong outcomes, prod for more climate finance, demonstrate occasionally (a welcome activity in Paris), express anger followed by frustration before going home let down again.
The press and the public will turn an inattentive, occasional eye to the 45,000 people gathered in Paris, then turn their attention away.
The private sector, two-thirds of global GDP and employment, will be largely absent (it is not formally represented in the negotiations) and mostly ignore the whole thing.
At the end, governments will cobble together a weak agreement to set emission reduction targets. Some will declare a major win, others will accurately note that we need to do much, much more. Then everyone will go home in time for the Christmas holidays and most of COP21, as the Paris UN gathering is known, will be forgotten.
Deeply buried in this cacophony are two emerging themes with the potential to significantly impact the private sector.
National Low Carbon Business Plans
A Paris climate agreement, no matter how wobbly, will involve more than 150 countries publishing mini business plans for their economy describing what each will do to help limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. In typical UN jargon, these low-carbon business plans are known as INDCs, short for “intended nationally determined contribution.”
The INDCs are the driving force of COP21 and will become the development pathway for all countries. Weak and general at first, they will become stronger and more detailed over time.
Two major consequences will follow.
First, multi-trillion dollar investment opportunities for the private sector will be clearly delineated, while others, far from where the country is heading, should be avoided.
For example, India’s business plan shows it wants to increase its clean energy generation capacity from 36 GW today to a whopping 320 GW by 2030. Similarly, China wants an extra 775 GW of renewables by 2030, on top of its existing 425 GW, the US wants to add an extra 179 GW and the EU another 380 GW.
Taken together, that’s double the world’s current renewable energy installed capacity (excluding hydropower) in investment potential, all of which comes with strong institutional support now that it is anchored in an INDC.
Second, the breadth of these INDCs means that within a few years, all finance will be climate finance; and all bonds will be green bonds.
We already know the commitments in Paris are nowhere near enough: The US, Europe, and China alone use up the world’s entire carbon budget by 2030. Therefore it’s reasonable to expect that they will get tougher, tighter and more precise with time because countries will be under increasing pressure to deliver, as climate change hits all of us harder and harder.
Post-2020 (the INDCs will most probably be reviewed in five year cycles), there is therefore likely to be a “wall of shame” hitting anyone who invests in non-INDC compatible, non-climate friendly technologies. In fact perhaps we will see “black bonds” emerge, highlighting investments that are increasingly unacceptable and at risk of being stranded because of their high emissions.
INDCs will make green investments even more mainstream than they are today and ensure that dirty investments are avoided on a long-term scale.
Loss and Damage
“Loss and damage,” another major theme in Paris, could have enormous financial consequences.
“Loss and damage” refers to the need to account for the impact of climate change, for example on a small island nation losing territory because of sea level rise. An element of climate negotiations for several years, its significance could be enormous for insurance companies, reinsurers, financial analysts and the markets.
Governments will continue to argue whether loss and damage is a euphemism for liability and compensation. Richer nations will end up ensuring that the answer is vague, and that therefore they can’t be held liable and won’t have to pay compensation.
However, the door is likely to be kept open for clever lawyers to use the “loss and damage” aspects of a climate change agreement to launch claims against companies: Victims of climate change will aggressively try to go after corporate polluters for compensation, particularly the likes of Exxon, Shell and BP who have known about climate change for decades but either buried the evidence or ignored it to accumulate profits at the expense of our collective health and well-being.
The results of these claims could be shocking for many. The Dutch proved earlier this year that climate liability lawsuits can stand up in courts.
The business and the financial world will be markedly absent from Paris, but should closely monitor the evolution of INDCs and of “loss and damage” in Paris. These could upend how they currently do business.
From the above, we conclude that COP 21 of the UNFCCC in Paris will have picked up from where COP 15 of Copenhagen left the Climate Change issue. Copenhagen was where the Kyoto stillborn Protocol was buried by Obama bringing for the first time the Chinese on board, now it will be the Obama-Xi alliance that will bring most true Nations on board. And let us not forget Pope Francis and the ethics of “we are the creation’s wardens.” This resonates very well with much of the public and helps the businesses that will move green.
We will not go to the opening of the Paris meeting, but will be there for the end – this so me can evaluate the outcome which promises to have practical value.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Today at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik we had a session on International Shipping – a Global Challenge and a Challenge to the Arctic. The session was then followed by a break-out session – “Perspectives For Reducing Harmful Emissions From International Shipping in the Arctic and Beyond.”
The sessions were organized by Ing. Christoph Wolff of the European Climate Foundation of the Hague. and The Breakout panel included among others Laura Strickler who advocates the ban on heavy fuel oil in shipping and Bernice Notenboom – a Dutch Canadian that is a Climate Journalist and documentary maker that is now investigating the impact of the shipping industry.
The problem is that the fuel used for shipping is the resid at the refinery -it is the heavy and dirtiest cut in petroleum refining. It has all the metal compounds and when it burns it CREATES ALSO VERY MUCH BLACK CARBON THAT COVERS WITH BLACK THE ARCTIC FORMERLY WHITE ICE. THIS THEN ABSORBS MORE THE SUN AND INCREASES THE RATE OF THE MELTING OF THE ICE.
The International Maritime Organization has managed to turn this subject into a taboo – just don’t talk about it.
These cheap refinery resids obviously are a boon to the shippers and a curse to us all – but are not part of the negotiations on climate change.
Acid rain did focus our attention on the Sulfur content of fuels and scrubbers had to be promised by 2020 – but that is all.
Ports like Rotterdam are starting to legislate on pollution from ships – but the subject is still in its infancy – but did not even reach the UN. The obvious problems being the the particulates or carbon black, the sulfur compounds, the nitrogen oxides
and the obvious CO2.
We learned that the 17 largest ships cause more carbon black cover of the Arctic ice then all the world’s cars. How come that for years we are focused on the automotive industry but never looked into the deeds of the shipping industry? How come?
Further on, from these presentations and from the presentations of Russia relating to the Northern Sea Route, we also learned that the largest numbers of ships are registered under flags of convenience that happen to be members of the SIDS and AOSIS – or those small Island States that stand to lose most from global warming/climate change. Now that is something one must also look into. How come?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The movie starts in 1956 – in those past World War II days – in the 1950s and 1960s when technology advances that occurred during the war years were turned to other uses and peace was predicted as coming with a United Nations Organization.
The hero of the movie turned to exploration of the Antarctica. The poles were rather unknown areas and maping out the Antarctic continent was a clear target – so was starting scientific work at the poles using vehicles and ships derived from the war effort and a newly freed sense of adventurism. The movie does not try to depict history – it rather goes the route of explaining the drive to understand our planet by going to areas unknown.
At the Arctic Circle Assembly we keep being told that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic – thus by understanding processes of the Arctic and of the Antarctica, does help us understand what happens in our own parts of the world and this year it is President Hollande who undertook to help us manage our own world by hosting the PARIS2015 Conference whose symbol is in the shape of a falling drop of water of green and yellow sun color with the ubiquitous Eiffel tower in the center.
Luc Jacquet the originator of the movie, at hand for the showing, as part of the French delegation to the Arctic Circle Assembly, did stress that it is only 60 years since we turned from exploration to the clear need of management of the poles.
President Hollande said that thinking that the disappearance of Arctic ice makes it easier to reach out for the minerals, oil and gas, that are now under the ice cover, is a benefit to us is something positive is untrue – this because economics cannot be based on environmental disasters.
THe run-up to the Paris2015 meeting has already produced over 150 single country commitments for action – this is 150 out of the 193 member states of the UN, but as we know this covers already 85% of the fossil carbon emissions. Hollande did not call for a 100% coverage but seems to be content to go ahead and work with the committed and get them to improve their commitments so we can reach the goal of a global warming that is not higher then 2 degrees Celsius – a goal we are still from ith the present commitments. Ms. Christiana Figueres t, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) hat was supposed to be in Reykjavik as well, did not come. We would have liked to hear from her further details about the 150 plus that did make those commitments so far – and what is even more interesting – who are those 40 members of the UN that made no commitments yet. Are they indeed part of our planet?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 16th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Iceland has achieved the use of renewable energy for 100% in its electricity generation – this from geothermal and hydropower. Its needs for heating energy are answered from geothermal sources. So, it needs older fashion energy – diesel and gasoline mainly for transport and emergency generators.
Its main use of electricity is in the Reykjavik urban area in the south-east area and in the west – at the ALCOA aluminum smelters.
We heard clearly that energy should not be viewed as a goal for itself but only in context of energy use because we are indeed interested in the services made possible with energy. But then there is no way not to think of the Arctic as potential new supplier of oil and gas to the world and that was the gist of this pre-Arctic Circle Assembly meeting at the Reykjavik University.
The excellent range of speakers included Charlie Ebinger of Brookings on technology and geopolitics evaluation, William Moomaw of Tufts on the reality of Environment costs, and Christine Russell from Harvard on the impact media has on what these other speakers dealt with. This besides the Icelanders own contributions on the topic of electricity.
It was indeed all fine except that I missed the basic introduction that ought to have been that the main security comes from what I like to state – the NEGA-WATT or the energy that was saved – the energy efficiency that should be the first letter in energy studies rather then starting with the cost of energy and the impact of this cost on energy use. If you start with efficiency and try then to fill the remaining needs from renewable sources – then we have the chance to get energy security.
In our opinion it is this that can distance us from the perceived need to take actions driven by issues we call energy security.
In this respect it was enlightening how Ms. Russell said PERCEPTION IS REALITY and she remarked as well that we do not talk of energy security but stress in reality ENERGY INSECURITY… The way the media presents these topics leads then to very slanted actions and that is our real difficulty with the energy base that may lead to environmental disasters like the wastelands left behind in what used to be the Canadian tar sands industry.
Let us see how the subject of Energy Security will fare out in the main Arctic Circle Assembly meetings this week.
This in particular that pleas will be heard from he organizers of Paris2015 – Ms. Figueres and President Hollande.