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.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
There are two ways of thinking about the effects of human behavior on the environment – one that looks at the end results and points at the need to decrease these effects – this way of thinking leads to us dealing with the symptoms of the desease we created. If we can afford the time we ought to take instead a deeper look at the problem and enter a new path for the economy – one that allows for change – a new true Culture Change – that avoids the polluting industry – the air-polluting self imposed dependence on fossil fuels. We can then build a new economy based on using the free energy supplied to us amply by the sun – this after we did our best first – to decrease the use of energy in all our activities.
The first line of reacting to the problem is represented by those trying to benefit from the commerce in carbon credits. The second line of thinking has brought about Jonathan Rosenthal’s New Economy Coalition that brings together all those that can show that by creating higher energy use efficiency and then supplying the remaining needs from renewable energy sources, the whole economy at large, and their own companies in particular, are clear winners.
From a think tank point of view, two particular geographical areas and the particular groups of Nations in those areas, present special possibilities for study.
One such area are the countries of the Arctic Circle Assembly that meet this week in Reykjavik, Iceland d. The second group of nations are the Small Island entities. what these two groups have in common are new reserves of oil that one ought to work hard to keep from developing them. The difference between the two groups of Nations is in the difference in size and their economies.
Global warming has brought about the melting of ice at the two poles and this “uncovering” of the mineral resources at the Arctic region makes it easier to get to these resources – the question opens thus – would these countries be better off leaving these resources untouched as a reserve for future generations?
SIDS nations are small in land but large in sea territory where reserves of oil and gas have been found. These nations live mainly from tourism and the slightest oil spill presents a non-reversible harm to their white sand beaches. The dilemma they have is in a nut-shell the question about the potential temporary help to their development in the immediate term versus their potential loss of a future. How can one figure policies that help the SIDS decide to leave most of these oil reserves underground?
Tomorrow,Thursday October 15, 2015, in Reykjavik, there will be a chance to hear what the organizers of the Paris2015 Global Conference have in mind. Under the guidance of Iceland’s President H.E. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and with H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco at his side, he will have the convener of COP21 of UNFCCC and the Paris2015 event – Ms. Christiana Figueres, and the host of Paris 2015 – H.E. Francois Hollande, President of France, tell the Arctic Circle Assembly audience, and the whole world, the seriousness of the situation that they are tasked to find a solution for. Later in the program the SIDS will have their chance as well. By going to these two special groupings of Nations, the organizers of Paris 2015 have thus a chance to get a hearing at fora that take the subject out of the mostly unreceptive environment of the UN.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Pope Francis’ Visit to the United States
This coming week, Pope Francis will visit the United States. During this momentous visit, he will address a joint session of Congress on September 24 at 10am, as well as the United Nations General Assembly on September 25 at 8:30am. In addition to visiting Washington D.C. and New York City, he will also visit Philadelphia.
The Pope’s visit is a very important event in support of the encyclical on the environment, “Praised Be: On the Care of Our Common Home” (Laudato Si’), in which Pope Francis highlights issues of “integral ecology,” namely concerns for people and the planet. There are a number of resources on the Forum site fore.yale.edu) to provide you more information on the encyclical.
For the Pope’s schedule, visit:
Many events are being organized throughout the United States in light of the Pope’s visit. For details, please see below.
We encourage you to download a free Pope Francis’ Encyclical Climate Action Kit that Interfaith Power & Light has put together in conjunction with the Catholic Climate Covenant.
You can download it here: fore.yale.edu
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We react here to the New York Times Editorial of August 24, 2015 that seemingly wants us to believe that Putin and the Ayatollahs found religion when they heard that 250,000 Arabs were killed in Syria. Really – why should they care?
Let us suggest that “THE DEAL” has turned the interest of Iran to revive its International Banking if the Sanctions are removed – and that is the real driving force that eventually can bring Putin and the Ayatollahs to the table IN EXCHANGE FOR A SAUDI AND THE OTHER GULF STATES OIL EXPORTERS PROMISE TO REDUCE THEIR EXPORTS OF OIL.
YES – the US and the Europeans are driven by humanitarian concepts – the Russians and the Iranians think of the PRICE OF OIL that hit them hard in their economies. The US and the Europeans enjoyed the lowering of the price of oil – based on the high supply figures and a decreasing demand that resulted from GREEN ACTIVITIES – higher efficiency and alternate sources of energy.
But also these two developing energy topics can only benefit from a higher price for oil. So what the heck – let us help the Syrians and save whatever cultural monuments the Islamic State has not destroyed yet. We know that one way or another – the Christian population of Syria and Iraq is doomed and the Lebanese Maronites strive already decades in Brazil like the Iraqi Jews who spread all over the globe – from the Far East to the Far West. But let the enlightened world deal with the problem – and explain to the Saudis that time has come for them to listen to the global woes and do their part by selling less oil !!!
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
13 May 2015
Iceland: reducing the world’s carbon footprint
Iceland is a global leader in clean energy generation, carbon reduction and green business and Climate Action spoke to Thordur H. Hilmarsson, Director of Foreign Direct Investment at Promote Iceland, to find out how investors and businesses are benefiting and what the country is doing to enable such growth.
Can you tell us a bit about Invest in Iceland?
The central location of Iceland between North America and Europe, the availability of secure and renewable electricity in addition to many other factors such as a pro-business environment and availability of land make Iceland an attractive location for many types of industries. Invest in Iceland is the information and services centre for foreign investors and businesses interested in exploring how this value proposition can be of value to their business.
Can you expand on the data centre opportunities in Iceland and how is this offering cost savings and renewable energy solutions for international companies?
Minimising the carbon footprint of data while reducing cost is a challenge that Nordic Iceland rises to and companies such as BMW are already leveraging on this opportunity. 100 per cent of the electricity on the Icelandic transmission and distribution grid is green, produced harnessing of geothermal resources or the power of Iceland‘s glacial rivers. The electricity is not only renewable but also highly cost competitive and available via long term contracts that ensure predictability in the operations. Because of the cool oceanic climate of Iceland data centers can use ambient cooling year round. Cooling is the largest non-value adding factor in the power consumption so this is important.
Iceland is connected to both North America and Europe with high bandwidth and relatively low latency submarine fiber cables. Both the overseas connection and the backhaul is redundant.
Can you tell us a bit about how Iceland is reducing its GHG emissions and decreases its CO2 exposure?
With 85 per cent of the country‘s primary energy needs met by renewable hydro and geothermal resources, Iceland is a world leader in renewable energy. Iceland‘s energy use per capita is also among the highest in the world as over 80 per cent of all electricity generated is sold to energy intensive industries. Today Iceland has hydroelectric power stations with a total installed capacity of nearly 1986 MW and geothermal power stations with a total installed capacity of 665 MW.
Today almost 90 per cent of Iceland‘s houses and buildings are heated by natural hot water
Utilisation of geothermal resources for space heating started for real in the 1930s but the effort was greatly accelerated by the global oil crisis of the early 1970s. Today almost 90 per cent of Iceland‘s houses and buildings are heated by natural hot water and the geothermal water is also used for melting snow, outdoor swimming pools, greenhouses and fish farming to give some examples.
Renewables for heating in Iceland is already saving 7 per cent of GDP or equivalent 3000 US $ per capita every year this is stated in the latest newsletter published by Geothermal ERA-NET.
The energy situation in Iceland is unique because all electricity is produced using renewable resources and around 90 per cent of space heating in the country is also powered by renewable sources. Opportunities for reducing GHG emissions lie therefore primarily in the transport sector. There are many initiatives ongoing in this sector in Iceland, both when it comes to transport on land and on sea, and the government of Iceland is committed to utilising the opportunity inherent in our energy situation for even further reducing emissions.
In July 2014 Iceland and China entered into a free trade agreement. How will this help boost climate action projects?
This extensive FTA, effective as of July 2014, offers unprecedented opportunities for North American and European companies to gain a foothold in one of the largest markets in the world. This includes material such as polysilicon, produced from silica or quartz powered by Iceland’s renewable energy resources, and used to produce further renewable energy as solar panels. Carbon fibers, used to reduce consumption of fossil fuel by reducing the weight of vehicles or for windmill generating green power, do also fall under the FTA.
Under the terms of the new FTA, there are zero tariffs on the vast majority of products both exported from, and imported to, China. This includes all industrial products exported from China to Iceland—or 99 per cent of the current export market—as well as any Icelandic products under the 7,830 tariff lines, which currently accounts for 82 per cent of the country’s exports to China.
Even a quick glance at EU/US customs duties on products exported to China reveals the immediate benefits enjoyed by companies based in Iceland
Even a quick glance at EU/US customs duties on products exported to China reveals the immediate benefits enjoyed by companies based in Iceland: Carbon fibres and any fabric from these fibres incur 17.5 per cent customs from EU/US exporters, fresh and/or cool fish incurs 10-12 per cent customs, and poultry 20 per cent customs. None of these products would face any tariffs if exported from Iceland.
Iceland has topped the Global Peace Index for the last two consecutive years. How has this helped to boost clean energy investment in the country?
Safety and stability are important factors when investors choose where to locate new facilities. This is especially important for sensitive operations such as data centers and industries that are sensitive for disruption such as energy intensive industries.
At COP21 in Paris this year, governments are due to agree a landmark new global and binding climate deal. What opportunities could this present to Invest in Iceland?
The climate change presents no opportunities as such but increased international awareness of the problem and the importance of active measures to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases does. Both companies and consumers are increasingly aware of the origin of the energy needed to provide the required goods and services. Iceland enjoys the unique situation that all the electricity produced and fed onto the national transmission grid is from renewable resources, hydro, geothermal and wind. This means that regardless of where in Iceland new companies decide to locate, they can only buy renewable energy.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Coming Clean – The blog of Executive Director Michael Brune, The Sierra Club.
July 23, 2015
Obama’s Arctic Error: A Bad Call on Shell
The Obama administration inched a little closer to disaster yesterday when it issued almost-but-not-quite final approval to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer. Because Shell’s capping stack (a critical piece of emergency response equipment) is currently on its way to Portland, Oregon, aboard a damaged icebreaker that requires repairs, the oil company is allowed to drill only part way into the seafloor — stopping short of where the oil is. If and when the capping stack gets to the proposed drilling site, Shell could then reapply for permission to resume drilling the rest of the way.
Last week, I wrote about why letting Shell into the Arctic makes no sense. It’s a case of taking huge risks to get something we don’t need. In fact, not only do we not need that oil and gas — we can’t even afford to use it if we want to meet the urgent imperative to limit climate disruption.
So why has the administration allowed things to go this far? If this were a wedding with a reluctant bridegroom, we’d be listening to the minister clear his throat and gaze out over the congregation. I don’t know. Maybe, even though they know this is a bad idea, they just don’t have the guts to call it off.
But you know what? That’s the wrong analogy. What’s about to happen in the Chukchi Sea is more like a blind date than a shotgun wedding. Even if Shell manages to get its act together with its exploratory drilling this summer, it will still need approval for commercial drilling, and it will be even harder to make a case that such drilling can be done safely. Shell would also need to install hundreds of miles of pipeline, both on the seafloor and dry land. The process could take a decade or more, and every step along the way, we have opportunities to make the case that clean energy is better for our country and our planet. And the longer this drags on, the more obvious it will be that drilling in Arctic waters is an unnecessary invitation to disaster.
When Shell’s damaged ship arrives in Portland, we’ll be there. When Shell cuts corners or takes dangerous risks, we’ll be there. When this or any other administration flirts with selling more oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, we’ll be there, in the courts and on the streets. We’re in this for the long haul, along with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve already joined the growing #ShellNo! movement. We’re in it for the Arctic, for the wildlife, for the Native Alaskans, and for the climate. And we’re in it to win.
We will not rest until President Obama cancels all drilling and future leases and protects the Arctic Ocean.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
De Blasio, After Diverted Flight, Joins Climate Conference at Vatican
By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM – JULY 21, 2015 for the New York Times
VATICAN CITY — Leaders from around the globe, settled in their seats as a Vatican official approached the lectern.
A rare gathering of mayors, beckoned to this holy city by Pope Francis from as far as away as Johannesburg, was about to begin.
One participant, however, was missing: the mayor of New York. Scheduled to arrive in Rome on Tuesday morning for a two-day conference on climate change, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York instead found himself in Milan, thanks to fog that forced a brief diversion of his overnight flight from Kennedy Airport.
The mayor arrived at the Vatican about 80 minutes after his scheduled speaking slot. When he finally did speak there, he was unfazed, delivering an impassioned charge to his fellow mayors to resist “powerful corporate interests” and to aggressively battle climate change.
“Is it not the definition of insanity to propagate corporate policies and consumer habits that hasten the destruction of the earth?” Mr. de Blasio said.
He pledged that his administration would work to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030.
The Vatican event is part of an effort by Francis to focus world leaders on environmental causes, and mayors from across Europe, South America, and the United States were in attendance. The pope had been expected to address the gathering on Tuesday morning, but his appearance was changed to take place in the afternoon — a stroke of good fortune for Mr. de Blasio.
The mayor has taken pains recently to fight his reputation for tardiness, arriving more promptly at events in New York. But the vagaries of international travel can be trickier than a traffic snag on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Mr. de Blasio, who is expected to be in Rome for less than 48 hours, opted for an overnight flight that was scheduled to arrive about two hours before he was due at the Vatican. (Aides to Mr. de Blasio, aware of criticism about his frequent travels, had emphasized last week that his Vatican visit — his fourth European excursion in a year — would be kept short.)
But his plans were foiled by Roman fog, according to an American Airlines spokesman, who said the pilot of the mayor’s flight “elected to divert to Milan as a precaution.” The flight continued on to Rome after about an hour’s delay, once the fog was “burned off by the increasingly warm sun,” the spokesman, Ian Bradley, said.
Mr. de Blasio was not the only person to miss a scheduled slot for speaking. Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston was present but Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro sent an aide in his stead, citing unrest in his home country.
The gathering at the Vatican was prompted in part by a recent papal encyclical warning of the destructive effects of climate change. In his remarks, Mr. de Blasio said the encyclical “burns with urgency,” and he praised the pope, saying he had “awakened people across the globe to the dangers we face as a planet.”
“The encyclical is not a call to arms,” Mr. de Blasio said. “It is a call to sanity.”
Mr. de Blasio is scheduled to attend an official dinner at the Vatican on Tuesday evening and to speak again on Wednesday morning. The mayor is expected to leave for New York on Wednesday afternoon — weather permitting.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Reported by Irith Jawetz from Vienna
July 12. 2015
On Friday, July 10, 2015 – a very timely – at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
Since the Iran talks are being held in Vienna, the panel discussion was very appropriate and although many people have left the City for the Summer, or at least for the weekend, this round table – and the room were full.
I will try to give a somewhat concise reporting of that event.
The event was called: Iran und der Westen nach den Verhandlungen (Iran and the West after the talks).
The participants were:
Dr. Christian Prosl, Austrian Ambassador to Washingtion 2009-2011
Dr. Walter Posch, Institut für Friedenssicherung und Konfliktforschung an der Landesverteidigungsakademie Wien
( Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management, Vienna).
Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist, APA (the Austrian Press Agency) and Wiener Zeitung
The excellent moderator was Dr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Politische Akademie und des AIES, former Austrian Minister for Defense.
Dr. Fasselabend opened the discussion stating that only 99.9% of the talks are completed.
He continued by by displaying historic and current maps of the Region, giving us a broad historic overview of Iran and its influence on the region. He stressed that because of Iran’s geographical location it was and still is a very large regional power and stability in the Middle East without Iran’s cooperation is impossible.
Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist for APA (Austrian Press Agentur) and Wiener Zeitung gave us an inside look from the perspective of the journalists covering the talks.
He recalled that after 17 days, 12-16 hours of work, 600 journalists and at a cost of about $1 million for the stay in Vienna by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation at the famous Imperial Hotel, there is still no deal. There have been many improvements since the beginning of the talks, but still no deal. Mr. Kerry has prolonged his stay yet again and said a deadline will not be a factor as long as an agreement can be achieved. The new deadline to be breached is Monday July 13th.
The three major problems that stand in the way of an agreement are:
1) The sanctions on Iran – the Iranian delegation insists those have to be lifted right away;
2) The UN Arms Embargo that includes conventional weapons;
3) Political readiness by President Obama and Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. Both have to agree to a deal which will be accepted at home.
Dr. Faal said he is an optimist by nature and is still hopeful that an agreement will be reached.
Ambassador Dr. Christian Prosl addressed the matter from the US point of view. He said that for the US the stability of the region and the security of the State of Israel are the main factors and the two problems which the US faces are with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Both countries, though for different reasons, are against any deal with Iran since they do not trust the Iranian regime.
As for the supply of oil, this is not anymore a factor for the US because of the fracking industry. However, the strained relationship between President Obama and the Republican party may be a factor. The Republicans have tried for a long time now to see that President Obama fails, and they may try to fail him also in this endeavor. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech in Congress against the Iran deal, which was prompted by the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boemer, did not help. However Ambassador Prosl said that he cannot imagine that the Republicans will fail the agreement if it is iron clad and the treaty will be safe for the US.
Dr. Posch addressed the matter from the Iranian point of view and concluded that although the problems are being viewed from different perspective, i.e. US, the EU and Iran, the will is there. Regional security, oil supply and human rights in Iran all play a part in the talks. He also was hopeful that a deal will be signed
At the end of the panel presentations, Dr. Fasselabend invited to the podium Dr. Massud Mossaheb, General Secretary of the Austro-Iranian Society in Vienna.
Mr. Mossaheb said that there is mutual mistrust between the West and the Iranian Government.
In spite of the fact that the Iranian nuclear position has not changed in the last 40 years, there is still mistrust. The people of Iran hope for the lifting of the sanctions so they can have a better quality of life. They suffer from high inflation and lack of supplies, especially in medications. Dr. Mossaheb also hopes for a deal to be reached.
As the end, the consensus was that the talks will go on, of course not for ever, but without the threat of an immediate deadline, and an agreement, which will be safe and beneficial for all participants will be reached.
From the US MEDIA – I will add to the above that the personal insistence of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the opinion is that the White House investment in these talks is so high that a failure to obtain an agreement is unthinkable.
The fact that the Iranians see this deep involvement of the Americans has in itself weakened the position of the United States in these negotiations. But then, the Iran Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei – whose position is still strong as he is still blindly followed by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who are in charge of the Nuclear Program – may be using tough talk now just to make sure that his agreeing to an agreement is not viewed as weakness. The Iranian people want an end to the sanctions provided it is not seen as a cave in (the CNN/GPS program of Fareed Zakaria).
The current round, now in its 16-th day, was supposed to conclude on June 30, but was extended until July 7, then July 10 and now July 13. The sides had hoped to seal a deal before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid delays in implementing their promises.
By missing that target, the U.S. and Iran now have to wait for a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama can’t waive sanctions on Iran. Had they reached a deal by Thursday, the review would have been only 30 days.
En route to Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.
Kerry noted that “a few tough things” remain in the way of agreement but added: “We’re getting to some real decisions.”
A senior State Department official also said Sunday that the department will not speculate about the timing of anything during the talks and that key issues remain unresolved.
Iran’s state-run Press TV cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday as calling the U.S. an “excellent example of arrogance.” It reported that Khamenei told university students in Tehran to be “prepared to continue the struggle against arrogant powers.”
His comments suggest Tehran’s distrust of Washington will persist whether a deal gets done or not. Khamenei’s comments also have appeared thus to be a blow to U.S. hopes than agreement will lead to improved relations with the country and possible cooperation against Islamic rebels.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, like Kerry, indicated talks could go either way. “We behaved so skillfully that if talks won’t succeed, the world would accept that Iran is for logic and dialogue and never left the negotiating table … and if we succeed by the grace of God, the world will know that the Iranian nation can resolve its problems through logic,” his website quoted him as saying.
The supreme leader’s comments also come after it was learned Saturday that the Islamic Republic’s spies have been seeking atomic and missile technology in neighboring Germany as recently as last month.
Iran’s illegal activities have continued since talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as rotating member Germany – began with a Joint Plan of Action in 2013, according to German intelligence sources. The JPOA was intended to stop Iran’s work on a nuclear weapon until a comprehensive agreement is reached.
“You would think that with the negotiations, [Iranian] activities would drop,” a German intelligence source said. “Despite the talks to end Iran’s program, Iran did not make an about-turn.”
With a final agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program set for Monday, the intelligence data from Germany raises disturbing questions about the success of the deal.
Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program over the last two years, according to German intelligence sources. Germany is required to report Iran’s illegal procurement activities to the UN.
Iran is unlikely to begin a substantial rollback of its nuclear program until it gets sanctions relief in return.
But then the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers said they will come to Vienna for the signing of the agreement – and the news are that Mr. Sergei Lavrov has said he will be there on Monday.
An Iranian diplomat said that they have a 100 pages document to study and that logistically it cannot be done by Sunday night with parallel meetings going on.