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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 28th, 2018
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Why the lingering dispute between Denmark and Canada over a high Arctic island is so important.

ANALYSIS: The long-running dispute over an island halfway between Nunavut and Greenland is a reminder that sovereignty matters.

By Martin Breum -May 27, 2018

Not many people ever get to this island, which is a real pity. This tiny, nondescript, icy and basically useless piece of real estate far up in the Kennedy Channel between northwestern Greenland and Ellesmere Island in the far north of Canada is one of the only pieces of territory still disputed by two Arctic nations.

Canada claims that this rocky, uninhabited piece of rock is 100 percent Canadian. Denmark says that every inch of it is part of Greenland and that the entirety therefore belongs to the Danish Kingdom. I cannot imagine many purposes for which Hans Island, or Tartupaluk in Greenlandic, would be useful for a government at all. It is extremely remote, provides no shelter, no decent landing for any vessels. No oil and gas reserves are known to hide in its vicinity, no mineral deposits in its core. It is ice-encapsulated and dangerously windswept most of the year. Perhaps in a distant ice-free future a bit of high Arctic marine traffic might pass by, but it would still most likely have no reason to dwell here.

But, of course, as a political phenomena Hans Island is extremely provoking. It bears testimony to just how easily even the lowliest, most desolate piece of territory may still excite otherwise friendly, democratic, NATO-embedded nations and make them unable to reach any semblance of an agreement even after 45 years of negotiations. The Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelsen this week told the media that a diplomatic task force will now seek a solution, but he did not specify why this force is more likely to succeed than previous attempts.

[Denmark, Canada agree to settle Hans Island dispute]

Hans Island, all 1.3 square kilometers of it, is worth keeping in mind for several reasons.

For one, so that we may reflect more deeply over our own ways when we come across calls for increased sovereignty in Scotland, Greenland, Nunavut, the Faroe Islands, Catalonia or elsewhere. These are deep-rooted sentiments that one cannot meet only with simplistic counter-arguments.

Hans Island also reminds us of our own potential tenacity when we look forward to the diplomatic negotiations over who owns which parts of the seabed under the Arctic Ocean. Here a lot more is at stake and in this instance Canada and Denmark will not be the only contenders. Russia has also filed a claim. Russia has done so peacefully, according to U.N. procedures and not aggressively wide — but nevertheless a claim that overlaps the even more ambitious Danish-Greenlandic claim and most likely also the upcoming Canadian claim that was delayed only so that Canada could also claim the North Pole.

Two flagpoles
I landed on top of Hans Island in an Air Greenland helicopter 168 meters above sea level in blasting sunshine and with a spectacular view of the Kennedy Channel high up in the Nares Strait. Snowy Canadian mountain peaks were easily visible some 18 kilometers to the west and their Greenlandic counterparts just as easily visible to the East. Hans Island lies precisely in the middle of the channel. It was named after Hans Hendrik, one of the Greenlandic assistants on the 1871 so-called North Polar Expedition, led by C. F. Hall. Our helicopter, a large, red Sikorsky S-61, arrived from the north as part of the support for a team of Swiss climate scientists, artist and a business leader touring north Greenland on a private, unofficial visit; an initiative to boost Switzerland’s presence in the Arctic and its contributions as a new observer-member of the Arctic Council.

No flags fly on Hans Island any longer, but the two flagpoles are still there, some 10 meters apart. The island is not divided in two; both countries claim the entire island, but the Canadian flagpole stands towards Nunavut, the Danish one towards Greenland.

The Danish flagpole is white and in wood, with a broken white cord and very evidently between jobs. The Canadian flagpole is metallic, constructed in three pieces, only the lowest still standing, the two other rusty and dismantled on the ground. The Canadian flag was metallic, too. A red, broken and haggard piece of red metal, the last part of the flag, is still screwed onto one of the dismantled parts of the pole. The rest of the flag has probably been secured for posterity.

In 2005 the two claimants to Hans Island, the government in Ottawa and that in Copenhagen, formerly agreed to stop all national posturing on the island, hence the absence of flags. Only smaller signs of patriotic chest-thumping are still here: On a brick pillar about 1.5 meters high, next to the Danish flagpole, the names of visiting Danish naval ships can still be read on small metallic placards. Danish soldiers used to come here to replenish wind-torn Danish flags. Tradition was that they would leave a bottle of Danish booze as a gesture to their Canadian counterparts, who would then retaliate with Canadian booze when possible. All very cozy until it was not so cozy anymore.

The Canadian — unofficial — story of the escalation goes that in the early part of this century the Danish navy began popping by more frequently. The Danes acknowledge no such change of attitude. Then, in 2005, Canada’s minister of defense, Bill Graham, paid a visit.

The Canadian flag was hoisted, and a inukshuk — a traditional stone-structure once used as a way-points by Inuit travelers from Canada — was built. Bill Graham also had the Danish flag on Hans Island carefully downed, folded, shipped back to Ottawa and officially handed over to Her Majesty, Queen Margrethe II’s representatives at the Danish Embassy.

Legend in Denmark has it that this flag was delivered neatly folded in a cardboard box from a local bakery in Ottawa. It was badly shredded by several years of Arctic storms on Hans Island. I know, since I saw it later on a wall in the office of an official in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He had had it framed, probably as a reminder of how unresolved sovereignty can potentially lead to bad trouble. The same man later became one of the lead authors of the famous Ilulissat Declaration from 2008 in which the five states around the Arctic Ocean, including Canada and Denmark, Russia, Norway and the U.S. vowed to solve all issues of sovereignty in the central Arctic Ocean by peaceful, U.N.-sanctioned rules. This declaration, which celebrates its 10th anniversary these days, was provoked by the Russian planting of the Russian flag at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean where sovereignty is still disputed – precisely at the North Pole – the year before.

Still unresolved
In 2005, the Danes were not amused by Bill Graham’s visit or the downing of the Danish flag. A Danish naval ship was dispatched towards Hans Island and for a brief moment things looked unsavory. Nobody really knew what the Danish marines would do when, or if, they reached Hans Island, inaccessible as it often is because of ice and bad weather.

Then of course, common sense took sway. The foreign ministers of the two nations, Per Stig Møller from Denmark and Pierre Pettigrew of Canada, both of whom where in New York anyway, met and quickly agreed to stop all further foolishness at Hans Island, hence today’s absence of flags. The Danish navy was called back and the ministers agreed that no more posturing would henceforth take place. They also declared their common desire to soon find a lasting solution.

The problem is that this was 13 years ago and that nothing has since changed except the decaying flagpoles. In 2008, a joint Automated Weather Station was installed between the flagpoles, but as far as sovereignty is concerned, there has been no news for more than a decade. In 2012, Canada and Denmark agreed on the exact border in the waters between Canada and Greenland all the way to the shores of Hans Island, but the island itself remains as disputed as ever.

Inuit land
To some in Canada and Greenland much of the ice, land, water, inlets, islands, polynyas, fish, mammals and fowl in the part of the Arctic that includes Hans Island shouldn’t even be considered as something to which the governments may lay claim.

To those who support this line of argument, this is ancestral land, inhabited by Inuit for millennia without much attention being paid to legal title. And in the great open water not far south of Hans Island something is stirring.

The so-called North Water Polynya, or Pikialasorsuaq, is home to very rich hunting; whales, polar bears, walrus, seals and waterfowl congregate here in astonishing numbers, and a joint commission of Inuit from Nunavut in Canada and from Greenland has recently suggested that this phenomenal polynya — water that never freezes over — should be governed by the Inuit themselves, regardless that the governments of Canada and Denmark each hold sovereignty over parts of it. The Pikislasorsuaq Commission, established by the Inuit Circumpolar Council in 2014, does not concern itself with Hans Island at all, but it takes little imagining for the rest of us to extend potential inuit governance over Pikialasorsuaq to Hans Island. In 2015 a suggestion was indeed made to hand over power over Hans Island to the Inuit of both Canada and Greenland, not by the Inuit themselves, but by two prominent Arctic experts, professor Michael Byers from the University of British Columbia and associate professor Michael Böss of the University of Aarhus, Denmark.

When we landed on Hans Island last Saturday, the mechanic on the Sikorsky, Søren Lund, born in Greenland and of Inuit descend, was very happy to have his picture taken on the island. Like me, he also brought a small piece of the island with him home. He would have liked to also wave the Greenlandic flag, just to make a subtle point, but he held back, not wanting to create any trouble for the Swiss guests or Air Greenland, his employer. Flags of any sort on Hans Island may cause turbulence. When tourists from a Danish cruise vessel landed on the island in 2010 and Facebook showed them planting the Danish and Greenlandic flags, the head of Denmark’s Arctic Command had to act. He urgently called his Canadian counterpart and made sure that there was no room for misinterpretation: The flags were not officially Danish and did not represent any hostile act whatsoever. It seems the situation remains volatile.

Personally, as a happy greeting to all future visitors, I left my business card on the island, tucked behind one of the old placards with names of ships on it. I hope no one who might find it takes offense.

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The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by “ArcticToday” which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary (at) arctictoday.com.

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This lingering dispute is just a tiny taste of what will go on with the USA, Russia, China joining the fight about territory and resources of the high Arctic region.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 2nd, 2018
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Ultimate Blowback Universe, a Planet Boiling With Unintended Consequence.

By Tom Engelhardt in TomDispatch of 01 March 2018


The Ultimate Blowback Universe
A Planet Boiling With Unintended Consequences.

ou want to see “blowback” in action? That’s easy enough. All you need is a vague sense of how Google Search works. Then type into it phrases like “warmest years,” “rising sea levels,” “melting ice,” “lengthening wildfire season,” or “future climate refugees,” and you’ll find yourself immersed in the grimmest of blowback universes. It’s a world which should give that CIA term of tradecraft a meaning even the Agency never imagined for it.

But before I put you on this blowback planet of ours and introduce you to the blowback president presiding over it, I want to take a moment to remember Mr. Blowback himself.

And what a guy he was! Here’s how he described himself in the last piece he wrote for TomDispatch just months before his death in November 2010: “My own role these past 20 years has been that of Cassandra, whom the gods gave the gift of foreseeing the future, but also cursed because no one believed her.”

He wasn’t being immodest. He had, in many ways, seen the shape of things to come for what he never hesitated to call “the American empire,” including — in that 2010 piece — its decline. As he wrote then, “Thirty-five years from now, America’s official century of being top dog (1945-2045) will have come to an end; its time may, in fact, be running out right now. We are likely to begin to look ever more like a giant version of England at the end of its imperial run, as we come face to face with, if not necessarily to terms with, our aging infrastructure, declining international clout, and sagging economy.”

You know how — if you’re of a certain age at least — there are those moments when you go back to the books that truly mattered to you, the ones that somehow prepared you, as best anyone can be prepared, for the years to come. One I return to regularly is his. I’m talking about Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.

The man who wrote that was Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA consultant and eminent scholar of modern Asian history, who would in that work characterize himself in his former life as a “spear-carrier for empire.”

Blowback was published in 2000 to next to no notice. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, it became a bestseller. There was so much to learn from it, starting with the very definition of blowback, a word he brought out of the secret world for the rest of us to consider. “The term ‘blowback,’ which officials of the Central Intelligence Agency first invented for their own internal use,” he wrote, “refers to the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people. What the daily press reports as the malign acts of ‘terrorists’ or ‘drug lords’ or ‘rogue states’ or ‘illegal arms merchants’ often turn out to be blowback from earlier American operations.”

And if “unintended consequences” isn’t a supremely appropriate title under which to write the misbegotten history of the years that followed 9/11 in the era of the self-proclaimed “sole superpower” or, as American politicians love to say, “the indispensable nation,” what is? Of course, in the best blowback fashion, al-Qaeda’s attacks of that day hit this country like literal bolts from the blue — even the top officials of George W. Bush’s administration were stunned as they scurried for cover. Of all Americans, they at least should have been better prepared, given the warning offered to the president only weeks earlier by that blowback center of operations, the CIA. (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” was the title of the presidential daily brief of August 6, 2001.)

Osama bin Laden would prove to be the poster boy of blowback. His organization, al-Qaeda, would be nurtured into existence by an all-American urge to give the Soviet Union its own Vietnam, what its leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, would later call its “bleeding wound,” and to do so in, of all places, Afghanistan. In October 2001, 12 years after the Red Army limped out of that country in defeat and a decade after the Soviet Union imploded, in part thanks to that very wound, Washington would launch a “Global War on Terror.” It would be the Bush administration’s response to al-Qaeda’s supposedly inexplicable attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The Taliban’s Afghanistan would be its first target and so would begin America’s second Afghan War, a conflict now almost 17 years old with no end in sight. Yet in our American world, remarkably few connections are ever made between the present war and that blowback moment against the Soviets nearly 40 years ago. (Were he alive, Chalmers Johnson, who never ceased to make such connections, would have been grimly amused.)

Giving Imperial Overstretch New Meaning

Talk about the endless ramifications of blowback. It was bin Laden’s genius — for a mere $400,000 to $500,000 — to goad Washington into spending trillions of dollars across significant parts of the Islamic world fighting conflict after conflict, all of which only seemed to create yet more rubble, terror outfits, and refugees (who, in turn, have helped fuel yet more right-wing populist movements from Europe to Donald Trump’s America). Tell me it’s not a blowback world!

As it happened, bin Laden’s 2001 attacks brought official Washington not to its knees but to its deepest post-Cold War conviction: that the world was its oyster; that, for the first time in history, a single great power potentially had it all, a shot at everything, starting with Afghanistan, followed by Iraq, then much of the rest of the Middle East, and sooner or later the whole planet. In a post-Soviet world in which America’s leaders felt the deepest sense of triumphalism, the 9/11 attacks seemed like the ultimate insult. Who would dream of doing such a thing to the greatest power of all of time?

In an act of pure wizardry, bin Laden drew out of Bush, Cheney, and company their deepest geopolitical fantasies about the ability of that all-powerful country and, in particular, “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world,” the U.S. military, to dominate any situation on Earth. The early months of 2003, when they were preparing to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, may have been their ultimate hubristic moment, in which imagining anything other than success of a historic sort, not just in that country but far beyond it, was inconceivable.

Until then, never — except in Hollywood movies when the bad guy rubbed his hands with glee and cackled that the world was his — had any power truly dreamed of taking it all, of ruling, or at least directing, the planet itself. Even for a globalizing great power without rivals and wealthy almost beyond compare that would prove the ultimate in conceptual overstretch. Looking back, it’s easy enough to see that almost 17 years of ceaseless war and conflict across the Greater Middle East, Africa, and even parts of Asia, of massive destruction, of multiplying failed states, of burgeoning terror outfits, and of blowback of every sort, have given the old phrase, “biting off more than you can chew,” new geopolitical meaning.

Washington created what was, in effect, a never-ending blowback machine. In those years, while the distant wars went on and on (and terrors of every imaginable sort grew in this country), the United States was transformed in a remarkable, if not yet fully graspable, fashion. The national security state now reigns supreme in Washington; generals (or retired generals) are perched (however precariously) atop key parts of the civilian government; a right-wing populist, who rose to power in part on the fear of immigrants, refugees, and Islamic extremists, has his giant golden letters emblazoned on the White House (and a hotel just down Pennsylvania Avenue that no diplomat or lobbyist with any sense would dare not patronize); the police have been militarized; borders have been further fortified; spy drones have been dispatched to American skies; and the surveillance of the citizenry and its communications have been made the order of the day. Meanwhile, the latest disturbed teen, armed with a military-style AR-15 semi-automatic, has just perpetrated another in a growing list of slaughters in American schools. In response, the president, Republican politicians, and the National Rifle Association have all plugged the arming of teachers and administrators, as well as the “hardening” of schools (including the use of surveillance systems and other militarized methods of “defense”), and so have given phrases like “citadel of learning” or “bastion of education” new meaning. In these same years, various unnamed terrors and the weaponization of the most psychically distraught parts of the citizenry under the rubric of the Second Amendment and the sponsorship of the NRA, the Republican Party, and most recently Donald Trump have transformed this country into something like an armed camp.

It seems, in other words, that in setting out to take the world, in some surprising fashion this country both terrorized and conquered itself. For that, Osama bin Laden should certainly be congratulated but so should George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and all their neoconservative pals, not to speak of David Petraeus, James Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, and a host of other generals of America’s losing wars.

Think of it this way: at what looked like the height of American power, Washington managed to give imperial overstretch a historically new meaning. Even on a planet without other great power rivals, a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East, no less the full-scale garrisoning and policing of significant parts of the rest of the globe proved far too much for the sole superpower, no matter how technologically advanced its military or powerful and transnational its economy. As it turned out, that urge to take everything would prove the perfect launching pad for this country’s decline.

Someday (if there is such a day), this record will prove a goldmine for historians of imperial power and blowback. And yet all of this, even the fate of this country, should be considered relatively minor matters, given the ultimate blowback to come.

Humanity Nailed to a Cross of Coal

There was, in fact, another kind of blowback underway and the American empire was clearly a player in it, too, even a major one, but hardly the only one. Every place using fossil fuels was involved. This form of blowback threatens not just the decline of a single great imperial power but of humanity itself, of the very environment that nurtured generation after generation of us over these thousands of years. By definition, that makes it the worst form of blowback imaginable.

What I have in mind, of course, is climate change or global warming. In a way, you could think of it as the story of another kind of superpower and how it launched the decline of us all. On a planetary scale, the giant corporations (and national fuel companies) that make up global Big Energy have long been on the hunt for every imaginable reserve of fossil fuels and for ways to control and exploit them. The oil, natural gas, and coal such outfits extracted fueled industrial society, still-spreading car cultures, and consumerism as we know it.

Over most of the years such companies were powering human development, the men who ran them and their employees had no idea that the greenhouse gasses released by the burning of fossil fuels were heating the atmosphere and the planet’s waters in potentially disastrous ways. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, like scientists elsewhere, those employed by ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, had become aware of the phenomenon (as would those of other energy companies). That meant the men who ran Exxon and other major firms recognized in advance of most of the rest of us just what kind of blowback the long-term burning of oil, natural gas, and coal was going to deliver: a planet ever less fit for human habitation.

They just didn’t think those of us in the non-scientific community should know about it and so, by the 1990s, they were already doing their damnedest to hide it from us. However, when scientists not in their employ started to publicize the new reality in a significant way, as the heads of some of the most influential and wealthiest corporations on Earth they began to invest striking sums in the fostering of a universe of think tanks, lobbyists, and politicians devoted to what became known as climate-change denial. Between 1998 and 2014, for instance, Exxon would pump $30 million into just such think tanks and similar groups, while donating $1.87 million directly to congressional climate-change deniers.

It doesn’t take a lot of thought to realize that, from its inception, this was the functional definition of the worst crime in history. In the name of record profits and the comfortable life (as well as corporate sustainability in an unendingly fossil-fuelized world), their CEOs had no hesitation about potentially dooming the human future to a hell on Earth of rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and ever more extreme weather; they gave, that is, a new, all-encompassing meaning to the term genocide. They were prepared, if necessary, to take out the human species.

But I suspect even they couldn’t have imagined quite how successful they would be when it came to bringing the sole superpower of the post-9/11 world on board. In a sense, the two leading forms of blowback of the twenty-first century — the imperial and fossil-fuelized ones — came to be focused in a single figure. After all, it’s hard to imagine the rise to power of Donald Trump in a world in which the Bush administration had decided not to invade either Afghanistan or Iraq but to treat its “Global War on Terror” as a localized set of police actions against one international criminal and his scattered group of followers.

As it happened, one form of blowback from the disastrous wars that were meant to create the basis for a Pax Americana planet helped to produce the conditions and fears at home that put Donald Trump in the White House.

Or put another way, in the face of the evidence produced by essentially every knowledgeable scientist on Earth, on a planet already feeling the early and increasingly extreme results of a warming atmosphere, millions of Americans elected a man who claimed it was all a “hoax,” who was unabashedly dedicated above anything else (except perhaps his “big, fat, beautiful wall” on the Mexican border) to a fossil-fuelized American planet, and who insisted that he would run an administration that would make this country “energy dominant” again. They elected, in other words, a representative of the very set of lobbyists, climate deniers, and politicians who had, in essence, been created by Big Energy. Or put another way, they voted for a man who pledged to bring back the dying American coal industry and was prepared to green-light oil and natural gas pipelines of whatever sort, open the nation’s coastal waters to drilling, and lift restrictions of every kind on energy companies, while impeding the development of alternative sources of energy and other attempts to mitigate climate change. As the ultimate President Blowback, Donald Trump promptly filled every last faintly relevant post in his administration with climate-change deniers and allies of Big Energy, while abandoning the Paris climate accord.

In other words, President Donald Trump has dedicated himself to nailing humanity to a cross of coal.

Where’s Chalmers Johnson now that we really need him?

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. His next book, A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books), will be published in May.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

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[Note for TomDispatch readers: Just another of my small reminders as 2018 becomes the year from hell. At our donation page, you can, as ever, find a set of outstanding books on that very hell ready to be signed and personalized in return for a donation of at least $100 to this website ($125 if you live outside the United States). Among them are historian Alfred McCoy’s hit Dispatch Book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power; John Feffer’s dystopian thriller, Splinterlands; Rebecca Gordon’s American Nuremberg; and my own Shadow Government. Check out our donation page for the details and keep in mind that this website relies on your never-ending generosity to stay afloat in rough seas.

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Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. His next book, A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books), will be published in May.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 14th, 2018
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The School will take place at St Hilda’s College, Oxford and will address key elements of the new economy transformation, exploring the cutting edge methods and policy applications in ecological economics, with a particular focus on Green Economy for Countries, Cities and Regions: Ecosystems, Economy, Policy. With a clear sustainable development focus, it will draw on the expertise of a range of disciplines: economics, ecology, physics, environmental sciences, finance, politics, international relations, sociology, psychology, complex systems theory, etc. to address the current challenges: climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, water shortages, social cohesion and achieving sustainability.

The course will be composed of theoretical and applied modules and will address the key elements of the environment-economy interaction: the foundations of ecological economics, methodological approaches, finance for the green economy, ecological conflicts, the story of REDD, economic instruments, regulation, environmental taxes, environmentally extended input-output analysis, multiple criteria methods, as well as renewable energy, regenerative cities, ecosystem service and case studies from around the world.

The Summer School will feature interactive simulation games.

Our lecturers will include the leaders in the field of ecological economics: Dr Joachim Spangenberg (SERI Germany), Prof. Juan Martinez-Alier (Autonomous University of Barcelona), Dr Stanislav Shmelev (Environment Europe Ltd), Prof. Robert Ayres (INSEAD), Dr Stefan Speck (European Environment Agency), Ambassador Kevin Conrad (Coalition for Rainforest Nations), Prof. Dave Elliott (The Open University), Prof. Herbert Girardet (The Club of Rome), Prof. Irina Shmeleva (Institute of Sustainable Development Strategies).

The course is designed for multiple points of entry and could be helpfulfor PhD students, government experts, representatives of international organizations and business. The course will give participants an opportunity to explore key methodologies for ecological-economic analysis and to apply these to various case studies. Oxford and SummerWinter Schools in Ecological Economics organized by Environment Europe attracted participants from over 52 countries, including Canada, USA, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, UK, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Bosnia, Latvia, Ghana, Nigeria, Jordan, Sri Lanka, China, India, Taiwan, and Australia, including UNEP, UNDP, IUCN, OECD, ILO, DEFRA staff, NGOs, academia and business, including Shell and Deloitte.

In case we receive United Nations, European Commission or other funding for the School, there could be limited opportunities for scholarships for young talented academics and participants from the developing world.
We are looking forward to welcoming you to Oxford.

With best regards,


Dr Stanislav E. Shmelev
Director, Environment Europe Ltd, Oxford, UK
Environment Europe Limited is incorporated in the United Kingdom under the Companies Act 2006 as a private company, Reg. 9328647

Tel: +44(0) 7729 733366
E-mail:  director at environmenteurope.org

Dear Colleagues,
Environment Europe is pleased to announce that there are still places available at the Oxford Spring School in Ecological Economics will take place 02 – 08 April 2018. Please apply before the deadline of 01 March 2018.
 environmenteurope.org/education/1…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2018
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Saudi firm wins deal for Chilean solar-wind project.

Unit of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy has been awarded contract for project to power nearly 250,000 homes.

arabianbBUSINESS — aB by staff writer

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), part of Saudi-based Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, has been awarded a 540 GWh hybrid solar-wind project in Chile.

The company said in a statement that the project will power nearly a quarter of a million homes with clean energy for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This is Abdul Latif Jameel Energy’s first hybrid solar-wind project and will see a combination of photovoltaic and wind energy technologies deliver clean energy.

The project is located between the Central and Northern part of Chile, and will generate enough energy to power around 223,973 households and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 221,400 tons of CO2 per year once operational.

Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, chairman and CEO of Abdul Latif Jameel, said: “Powering nearly a quarter of a million homes with clean energy for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, shows why renewable energy is becoming more and more attractive.

“Saudi Arabia has already identified wind power an important future energy source, such with the Domat al-Jandal project in al-Jouf Province, and made it a central a pillar of the National Renewable Energy Program.

“Wind power is the natural step in our growing portfolio in the renewable energy sector, and we are looking at the potential of more locations for wind energy projects.”

Abdul Latif Jameel has also recently announced it will power more than 120,000 homes in Jordan, agreed the sale of the one of the largest photovoltaic projects in Latin America, secured a deal for Lilyvale Solar Farm that will power 45,000 homes in Australia, and launched Almar Water Solutions.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 26th, 2018
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Cape Town is set to become the first major world city to run out of water
Day Zero, when the taps run dry, is just around the corner.

E.A. CRUNDEN
JAN 25, 2018

South Africa’s second-largest city is set to become the first major world hub to exhaust its water supply, once its reservoirs dry up in mid-to-late April. At least 4 million people will run out of water when that happens.

Residents of Cape Town are facing an increasingly dire situation: in less than three months, they will need to stand in line to receive individual allotments of water. At present, those living in the city have been asked to limit themselves to 87 liters of water per day, or 23 gallons. On February 1, that number will drop to 50 liters (13 gallons). For context, the average American uses around 100 gallons of water per day — more than seven times what Capetonians will be asked to use.

Plans for “Day Zero” — the day when taps will run dry — are even more strict, with each person limited to 6.6 gallons of water. Police and other officials will be on hand to direct crowds and contain anticipated protests and backlash. For many in Cape Town, the logistics could grow impossibly complicated, with officials expecting insufficient water for toilets, and some residents — including the very young, elderly, and disabled — unable to physically wait in line before carting gallons of water back to their homes.

That stark reality has been met with a range of reactions.

“Until the end of last year, even until Cape Town water restrictions were at ‘Level 5,’ people in general were calm,” said Shravya Reddy, a climate change adviser at Pegasys Consulting, who is based in Cape Town. Reddy told ThinkProgress that it wasn’t until this month, when the alert level reached Level 6, that many Capetonians actively began to worry.

“I think the idea of leaving one’s home, standing in line, and carrying buckets for the 25 liter quota — the associated concerns about law and order at such collection points and overall logistical challenges of this proposed system — has now sparked some real panic,” she said.

Cape Town’s crisis is years in the making. An enduring drought brought on by three years of below-average rainfall is a major underlying factor, but years of unprecedented growth coupled with a breakdown in city planning have exacerbated the problem. Adherence to city advisories has also gone unheeded; only 39 percent of Capetonians complied with water restrictions in January, forcing officials to shift Day Zero predictions from April 21 to April 12. If that trend continues, taps could run dry even sooner.

Official restrictions have spurred outrage across the city. Moratoriums on water usage have led some to recycle toilet water, while others have opted for shorter hair in order to cope with one-and-a-half-minute shower recommendations. Restrictions on lawn watering and refilling swimming pools have been especially challenging for Cape Town’s large tourism industry.

Concern has led Capetonians to invest in large 25-liter plastic jugs of water along with a number of other water management devices. All come with their own environmental implications, but for residents, they’re rapidly becoming a necessary last-ditch resort.

Cape Town’s problems aren’t unique. The Brazilian city of São Paulo came close to the same fate three years ago, when its 20 million residents grappled with daily water shut-offs in response to rapidly shrinking reservoirs. Strict measures and water brought on by the El Niño climate phenomenon ultimately helped the drought, but São Paulo remains an at-risk city. Others could see the same fate: experts have expressed concern about major global hubs like Tokyo and London, as well as U.S. cities like Miami.

While climate change has played a significant role in Cape Town’s problems, a lack of preparation on the part of city officials has also drawn the ire of local residents. Warnings about water scarcity go back more than a decade, but residents say the local government failed to take action.

Whatever factors are to blame for the crisis, it’s pretty clear who will disproportionately bear the brunt of Day Zero.

“For the past seven years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the volumes of tourists visiting Cape Town,” a resident named Yves wrote in an open letter to IOL, a South African publication. “A large number of hotels have been built. What about the housing projects for underprivileged communities?”

Reddy agrees, telling ThinkProgress those already flush with cash will largely be able to escape the crisis.

“No matter what the circumstances, people with higher income levels will fare better when water is cut off,” she said. “[They have the] ability to buy more new clothes as a response to laundry reduction, ordering takeout food as a response to less cooking and dishwashing, leaving the city for long stretches of time to escape elsewhere. People from under-resourced and low-income communities already are at a disadvantage from lack of access to adequate information — since much of what’s trickling out is through online communications — and lack of disposable income to buy stocks of drinking water in advance.”

For many disadvantaged communities, water rationing is already a way of life. In a series of tweets on Wednesday, one South African argued that Cape Town’s residents are experiencing something the rest of the country is already very familiar with.

“I used to wash my face, wash my armpits, brush my teeth and wash my hands with a single cup of water […]. I used to watch my grandfather stand in front of the house every morning to [do] exactly the same,” Mail & Guardian columnist Khaya Dlanga wrote. “It’s not amazing that one can use little water for so much. What amazed me when I went to the city was how much water was used. It was shocking to me.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 25th, 2018
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

25 January 2018
5 countries driving the energy revolution.

Africa, Asia, Europe, Worldwide, Finance, Sustainable Energy, Tech. & Innovation, Sustainable Innovation Forum, Sustainable Investment Forum.

25 January 2018
5 countries driving the energy revolution

? Africa, Asia, Europe, Worldwide, Finance, Sustainable Energy, Tech. & Innovation, Sustainable Innovation Forum, Sustainable Investment Forum

With the world going through the biggest energy transformation since the industrial revolution, there are well-known and hidden heroes leading the way during this paradigm shift.

Renewable energy comprises a fundamental of the global energy landscape transformation. More than 170 countries have established national renewable energy targets and more than 150 countries worldwide have formulated policies to catalyse clean energy investment.

Which countries hold the ‘leader in renewable energy’ title, though? It depends on the perspective. Some countries are considered leaders after having incorporated a high share of renewable energy sources to their energy mix. Some lead in clean energy investment, and others in technological progress contribution.

Here are five countries which have helped lead the way in this field.

FOR OVERALL ACHIEVEMENTS CHINA is the CHAMPION:

China is unanimously considered a global leader in investment in clean energy technologies. Not only is the country the largest investor in domestic renewable energy projects, but for the past few years it has become a global leader in clean energy technologies, including battery storage applications and electric vehicles.

Despite the fact that the country is still heavily reliant on coal, renewable energy sources have gained an increasing share of China’s energy mix. In 2016, China added 77GW of solar and 149GW of wind power. It is forecast that China’s share in global renewable energy deployment between 2017 and 2022 will account for 42 percent for solar, 35 percent for hydro and 40 percent for wind.

At the same time, in 2017 foreign investment in large-scale overseas clean energy projects exceeded $44 billion, backed by really strong institutional, financial and business structures to support its domestic and overseas ambitions.

On top of domestic and overseas investment in renewable energy, China has fostered a strong manufacturing industry to drive this development and translate climate change mitigation policies into significant domestic economic development. Currently, Chinese solar manufacturers account for approximately 60 percent of global solar cell production. This means that domestic policies play a crucial role in the worldwide renewable energy development and further decrease costs.

DENMARK – FOR PIONEERING WIND ENERGY and overall EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP:

Denmark is a pioneer country in the development of wind energy worldwide. In 2017, wind energy broke yet another record in the country and supplied 43 percent of its entire electricity needs. Out of all OECD countries, Denmark has had the highest per capita wind energy production for more than 15 years.

The country has set very ambitious climate policies, aiming to source more than 50 percent of its energy needs from renewable energies by 2030 and become 100 percent fossil-fuel free by 2050. However, renewable energy growth rates indicate that the targets will be met significantly earlier. Current forecasts project that in 2020 renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and biomass will be sufficient to supply more than 80 percent of the country’s electricity demand.

In 2017, the World Bank declared Denmark as the world leader in green energy according to its Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) tool. On a scale from 1-100, Denmark scored 86 points in energy efficiency and 94 points in renewable energy.

Most importantly, along with the wide domestic wind energy diffusion, the country has developed one of the strongest wind technology development hubs stimulating international growth. In its latest global report, the Global Wind Council reported that Denmark’s push accounts for 40 percent of global wind power penetration levels. In 2015, the export of energy technology accounted for 11 percent of the country’s total export goods, placing Denmark the number 1 country in the EU in terms of energy technology exports.

Denmark hosted the first ever experimental offshore wind power plant as a demonstration project 25 years ago, triggering the development of a technology which has now grown beyond expectations.

KENYA AND INDIA FOR DIFFERENT FORMS OF SOLAR ENERGY:

Kenya is one of the aforementioned hidden heroes of renewable energy. The country has an estimated 70 percent connectivity rate to electricity, with the government aiming for universal access by 2020. For the past few years, Kenya has created a vibrant market for off-grid solar, creating a demonstrable successful business case which showcases the advantages solar energy offers not only for carbon emissions mitigation but also for energy access substituting expensive, isolated diesel generators.

Kenya is Africa’s leading market for off-grid solar installations. The efforts have been supported by multiple international development institutions, including the World Bank, the German development agency GIZ and the African Development Bank (AfDB). Ever since the launch of Kenya’s national policy to secure electricity access to its rural parts, solar mini-grids have provided electricity to more than 30 percent of those who were living in remote locations.

The initiative and the support has helped create a hub of start-ups and energy innovators including energy companies specialising in the development of mini-grids, as well as other innovative appliances for mobile charging, cooking, and lighting. For example, the solar lantern market grew by over 200 percent between 2009 and 2013, with more than 1,500 small and medium retailers now selling them.

One of the most popular products is the pay-as-you-go business model, with locals offering a deposit to contribute to the development of the mini-grid and reassuring project developers that there will be demand.

Due to the success of the World Bank’s ‘Lighting Africa’ off-grid lighting programme, similar initiatives have seen significant growth in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Tanzania now known as the ‘pico-solar’ sector.

India is a rapidly growing economy which accommodating a 1.34 billion growing population- a figure slightly smaller than China. Energy will be crucial in the fulfilment of the country’s development ambition and future energy demand is projected to account for 25 percent of global energy demand. In other words, what happens in India will affect the trajectory of the global energy economy.

Luckily, India seems determined to cover a wide share of this energy demand with clean energies. Although coal still accounts for 70 percent of the country’s energy mix, India aims to raise renewable energy capacity from current 58GW to 175GW by 2022. IEA is optimistic that within the coming years, renewable energy capacity will more than double indeed surpassing the accumulated expansion within the EU for the first time.

India’s adoption of auctions has given birth to the most competitive renewables market in the world. Due to increased energy demand, power project developers have embarked on a race to compete for the lower auction price contributing to crucial cost reductions. In 2016, it received bids to provide 10 times as much power as tendered.

This response made the government reduce its coal ambitions and increase the share of renewables. As a result of cost benefits, one state after the other are decommissioning coal-fired power plants and are planning solar and wind projects instead.

In addition, India’s plans to launch a national floating solar power programme- a world’s first, aiming to add at least 10 GW over the next three years is expected to boost the next generation of solar technology.

Editor’s extra pick: Iceland

Iceland is mostly known for the breath-taking natural scenery. This abundant natural beauty, though, does not only offer aesthetic advantages to its proud citizens and adventurous visitors but it also allows the country to hold one of the highest records of renewable energy penetration to the national energy mix and the highest among European countries.

Currently, geothermal, hydro and wind power provide 100 percent of Iceland’s electricity needs. Almost 75 percent is supplied by hydro and the rest from geothermal energy. Nevertheless, more than 90 percent of its demand for hot water and heat are provided with an extensive district heating system powered mainly through geothermal energy. In 2016, Iceland impressively sourced 76 percent of its total energy needs with renewable energy to support its 300,000 population- a powerful example illustrating the potency of the energy revolution.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2018
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Norway’s government goes green, keeps Lofoten free of oil drilling.
Coalition government expands to include the Liberal Party.
That gave a greener political platform.
By Thomas Nilsen

The Independent Barents Observer,
January 14, 2018.

Controversies about possible opening the waters outside Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja in northern is put on halt. The areas will remain off-limits, the three parties in the new, but still minority, government announced on Sunday.

Oil companies have been eager to drill, but opposition is strong, arguing the values of the important fisheries and tourism in the area.

According to WWF, the water off Lofoten is breeding area for 70 percent of all fish caught in Norwegian waters in the north.

Estimates by the Ministry of Oil and Energy claims Lofoten to hold 1,3 billion barrels of oil equivalent. The industry says the value of the oil could represent as much as $65 billion.

Politically, Norway’s government goes from being blue-blue to become blue-green. “The [political] platform paves the way for how we can manage to create a sustainable welfare society and a safer Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at a press conference. She represents the Conservative Party that has been in power together with the Progress Party since 2013.

It is not yet clear which possible minister posts the Liberal Party will get in the broadened government.

Additional to pushing the oil industry away from the pristine waters near Lofoten archipelago, no drilling will either take place near Jan Mayen in the Norwegian Sea or near the ice-edge in the northern Barents Sea, the agreed political platform reads:

14.01.2018 – Høyres kommunikasjonsavdeling TwitterFacebook
Les den nye regjeringsplattformen her

-Vårt felles mål er at Norge skal være et land med muligheter for alle. Plattformen tar utgangspunkt i hvordan vi skal klare å skape et bærekraftig velferdssamfunn og et tryggere Norge, sier statsminister Erna Solberg under en pressekonferanse søndag ettermiddag.

Godt samarbeid
-Etter nesten to uker med forhandlinger om ny regjeringsplattform er partiene nå kommet til enighet.
Jeg er glad for det gode samarbeidet som nå tegner seg. Det har vært intensivt og hardt arbeid de to siste ukene. Vi har spilt hverandre gode og funnet løsninger sammen. Det har vært politikk på sitt beste, sier Solberg.

Seks hovedutfordringer
Gjennom samtalene har Høyre, Fremskrittspartiet og Venstre oppsummert hvilke seks utfordringer som må løses for at Norge også i fremtiden skal være verdens beste land å bo i.

Vi skal omstille norsk økonomi for å skape vekst, nye arbeidsplasser og sikre flere ben å stå på.
Oppfylle Norges klimaforpliktelser
Skape et inkluderende arbeidsliv
Sikre gode og bærekraftige velferdsordninger
Redusere fattigdom og utenforskap
Gjennomføre et integreringsløft
Det vil også være viktig å arbeide for å skape et tryggere Norge. Vi må styrke samfunnssikkerheten. Norge skal fortsatt være et land som bidrar til å løse globale utfordringer.

Bred borgerlig plattform
For Høyre er det viktig å bygge et bredt borgerlig samarbeid. Dette er ikke en flertallsregjering, men vi bygger nå en bredere borgerlig plattform.

-Jeløya-plattformen bygger videre på de mange enighetene våre partier har stått sammen om de siste årene. KrF har valgt å ikke bli en del av den nye regjeringen. Likevel bygger vi på enighetene fra Nydalen og i Stortinget, utdyper Solberg.

I mange land ser vi et mer polarisert politisk landskap, og at partier vegrer seg for å ta ansvar. Det vi nå gjør er å finne felles løsninger som er bra for Norge og bra for folk.
Det gir et godt grunnlag for arbeidet fremover.

-Vi inviterer Stortinget til samarbeid om å skape et bærekraftig velferdssamfunn, sier Erna Solberg avslutningsvis.

Plattformen i korte trekk:
Skape flere jobber:

Det må bli lettere å skape nye arbeidsplasser og mer lønnsomt å investere i norske bedrifter. Norge trenger flere ben å stå på økonomisk, derfor må vi skape nye jobber i flere næringer. Vårt nye arbeidsliv må være grønt, smart og nyskapende.

En H/Frp/V-regjering vil blant annet:

Fortsette å redusere skattenivået.
Øke bunnfradraget og rabatten for arbeidende kapital i formueskatten.
Legg til rette for ansattes medeierskap ved å Styrke den generelle ordningen for gunstig kjøp og tildeling av aksjer og opsjoner i egen bedrift.
Evaluere skattefunnordningen og vurdere forbedringer.
Fortsette å redusere næringslivet kostnader ved å forenkle rapportering, lover og regler. Målet er reduserte kostnader på 10 mrd. kroner i perioden 2017-2021.
Vurdere hvordan staten kan bidra til at lønnsomme prosjekter har tilgang til kapital, herunder vurdere ordninger knyttet til såkornfond/presåkornfond.
Videreutvikle Katapult-ordningen for å stimulere til mer og raskere innovasjon, samt utvikling og deling av kompetanse.
Legge til rette for testfasiliteter for utvikling og bruk av ny teknologi i alle næringer.
Arbeide for å utvikle havnæringene.
Styrke Norge som sjømatnasjon og sikre god markedsadgang for norske produkter.
Utvikle norsk næringsliv gjennom satsing på klimateknologi som kan være lønnsom over tid.
Legge til rette for lønnsom produksjon av olje og gass, blant annet gjennom forutsigbare rammevilkår.
Kvalifisere flere for jobb:

Det må skapes flere jobber og flere må kvalifiseres for jobbene. Et velfungerende arbeidsmarked er avgjørende for at hver enkelt skal kunne realisere sine drømmer og ambisjoner. Det må alltid lønne seg å jobbe. Flere må stå i arbeid lenger, og flere må inkluderes i arbeidslivet. Vårt arbeidsliv må også ha rom for mennesker med utenlands-klingende navn. For dem som ikke går til jobb, men ruller på jobb og for de som har hatt en krevende periode i livet sitt, og dermed fått hull i CV-en. Vi inviterer offentlig og privat sektor til en inkluderingsdugnad. Vi skal utvikle og forbedre velferdstjenestene slik at vi sikrer små forskjeller og den sosiale tilliten i samfunnet.

En H/Frp/V-regjering vil blant annet:

Iverksette en kompetansereform for at ingen skal gå ut på dato.
Styrke innsatsen mot langtidsledighet og ungdomsledighet **Videreføre og styrke effektive ordninger som lønnstilskudd og arbeidstrening i ordinære virksomheter for å hjelpe flere inn i arbeidslivet.
Ta initiativ til en inkluderingsdugnad for å få flere inn i arbeidslivet
Sette mål om at minst 5 prosent av nyansatte i staten skal være personer med nedsatt funksjonsevne eller ”hull i CV-en”.
Sørge for raskere og bedre helsehjelp, særlig innenfor psykisk helse.
Styrke samarbeidet med sosiale entreprenører, frivillige og andre aktører som kan bidra til at flere kommer i arbeid og aktivitet.
Tidlig innsats i skolen:

Kunnskap er grunnlaget for demokrati, verdiskaping og velferd. Barnehage og skole skal gi barna trygge rammer og bygge opp nødvendige ferdigheter til å realisere sine evner og ambisjoner. Regjeringen vil prioritere tidlig innsats i skolen for å sikre at de som sliter skal få hjelp tidlig, og mener at hver enkelt elev må gis kunnskap og ferdigheter til å gripe de muligheter fremtidens arbeidsliv byr på.

En H/Frp/V-regjering vil blant annet:

Prioritere tidlig innsats fra 1. til 4. klasse og ha som mål at ingen elever skal gå ut av grunnskolen uten å ha lært å lese, skrive og regne skikkelig.
Innføre plikt for skoler for å gi ekstra oppfølging til elever som strever med lesing, skriving og regning.
Ha mål om å gi alle skoler tilgang til lærerspesialister vedå gi 3 000 lærere mulighet til å bli lærerspesialister i skolen innen fem år
Ha som mål at alle lærere skal ha fordypning i fagene de underviser i. s
Sikre flere voksenpersoner i barnehagen gjennom en ansvarlig bemanningsnorm, og øke andeler pedagoger.
Styrke språkopplæringen i barnehagene.
Videreføre likebehandlingen av offentlige og private barnehager.
Skaffe flere lærlingeplasser, blant annet gjennom å bedre de økonomiske ordningene, stille klare krav til det offentlige om å ta inn lærlinger og jobbe sammen med fylkeskommuner og arbeidslivet.
Pasientens helsetjeneste:

Høyres ambisjon er å skape pasientens helsetjeneste. Hver enkelt pasient skal oppleve respekt og åpenhet i møte med helsetjenesten og slippe unødvendig ventetid. Ingen beslutninger skal tas om pasienten, uten pasienten. Det er et offentlig ansvar å sikre gode helse- og omsorgstjenester til alle. Høyre vil sørge for et godt samarbeid med ulike private aktører som bidrar til innovasjon, mangfold, kvalitet og valgfrihet i tjenestetilbudet. Helsekøene skal fortsatt reduseres. Tilbudet til de mest utsatte, særlig innen rus og psykisk helse, samt syke eldre må fortsatt styrkes.

En H/Frp/V-regjering vil blant annet:

Forbedre og modernisere fastlegeordningen, for å sikre god legedekning i hele landet.
Gi tilskudd til netto tilvekst av plasser i sykehjem og omsorgsboliger.
Innføre flere pakkeforløp for å sikre raskere og bedre helsehjelp, herunder for hjerneslag, smertebehandling, utmattelses, muskel- og skjelettlidelser, rus, psykisk helsevern og for ”kreftpasienter hjem”.
Utvide fritt behandlingsvalg til nye områder.
Gjennomføre en rusreform for å sikre et bedre tilbud til rusavhengige, der ansvaret for samfunnets reaksjon på bruk og besittelse av illegale rusmidler til egen bruk overføres fra justissektoren til helsesektoren.
Legge frem en opptrappingsplan for barn og unges psykiske helse.
Styrke tilbudet om habilitering og rehabilitering, slik at flere kan få hjelp til å mestre hverdag og jobb.
Målrettet innsats mot fattigdom:

Høyres mål er et samfunn med små forskjeller og muligheter for alle. Vi vil målrette innsatsen for å bekjempe fattigdom, spesielt blant barnefamilier. De viktigste virkemidlene vil være en inkluderingsdugnad for å få flest mulig i arbeid og et løft for psykisk helse og rusomsorg.

Videreføre redusert foreldrebetaling og gratis kjernetid i barnehage for barn av foreldre med lav inntekt.
Innføre ordninger med redusert foreldrebetaling og gratis halvdagsplass i SFO, tilsvarende ordningene i barnehage, for barn av foreldre med lav inntekt.
Tilby gratis barnehage til alle barn i integreringsmottak.
Legge til rette for at flere kan eie sin egen bolig, for eksempel ved i større grad å ta i bruk leie- til-eie-modellen i hele landet.
Arbeide for at alle barn og unge får delta på fritids- og kulturaktiviteter.
Styrke bostøtten for barnefamilier.
Gjøre det mer lønnsomt å jobbe, spesielt for personer med lave inntekter, blant annet ved å senke skatten på inntekt.
Forsvar og beredskap:

Statens viktigste oppgave er å sørge for innbyggerne trygghet og sikkerhet. Regjeringen mener at norsk sikkerhet best ivaretas gjennom internasjonalt samarbeid, forpliktende allianser, økt handel og dialog med flest mulig land. Stortingsforlikene om Langtidsplanen for Forsvaret (LTP) og Landmaktsproposisjonen danner grunnlaget for politikken på området.

En H/Frp/V-regjering vil blant annet:

Fortsette med en reell styrking av Forsvaret og sikre balanse mellom oppgaver, struktur og økonomi. I tråd med enigheten fra NATO-toppmøtet i Cardiff har regjeringen som mål å øke forsvarsbudsjettene i retning av å nå toprosentsmålet på sikt.
Opprettholde Norges NATO-forpliktelser, og sikre fortsatt norsk innflytelse i NATO gjennom aktiv deltakelse i politiske og militære fora.
Norge skal ta sitt internasjonale ansvar og støtte internasjonalt samarbeid blant annet gjennom NATO, EØS og FN.
Arbeide for å nå målet om 2 politifolk per 1000 innbygger i løpet av perioden.
Åpne for punktbevæpning på spesielt sårbare steder etter politifaglige vurderinger.
Fullføre beredskapssenteret på Taraldrud innen planlagt tid, i tråd med reguleringsplanen i samarbeid med lokalmiljøet og naboer.
Distriktspolitikk:

Regjeringen vil legge til rette for sterke, levende lokalsamfunn i hele landet.
Dette krever først og frem en politikk som fremmer verdiskapning og vekst, som gir flere trygge arbeidsplasser. Regjeringens politikk for å fremme kunnskap, innovasjon og næringsutvikling vil gi grundere og bedrifter i hele landet nye muligheter for vekst og utvikling.

Lokalsamfunn og deres folkevalgte skal få større frihet til å forme sin egen hverdag og samfunnsutvikling. Regjeringen vil blant annet;

Beholde ordningen med regionalt differensiert arbeidsgiveravgift der bedrifter i distriktene betaler en lavere avgift for sine ansatte.
Gi kommuner og fylker større myndighet og lokalt handlingsrom i arealpolitikken.
Gi kommuner og fylker utvidet forvaltningsansvar i verneområder.
Fortsette arbeidet med å forenkle utmarksforvaltningen gjennom samordning og digitalisering.
Revidere statlige planretningslinjer for strandsonen med sikte på mer differensiert forvaltning i spredt bebygde strøk, slik at det blir større lokal handlefrihet samtidig som man ivaretar rekreasjonsmuligheter og vernet av kulturlandskap.
Overføre oppgaver, makt og ansvar fra statlige myndigheter til lokale folkevalgte
Kommunereformen skal fortsette, og regionreformen skal gjennomføres
Arbeidet med lokalisering av statlige arbeidsplasser i hele landet skal fortsette, for å bidra til sterke arbeidsmarked og kompetansemiljø også utenfor de store byene.
Grønnere Norge:

Norge må omstille seg slik at vi når våre klimaforpliktelser og tar vare på naturen. Det må satses på ny grønn teknologi, forurenser må betale og vi må utvikle markeder for nullutslippsløsninger.

En H/Frp/V-regjering vil blant annet:

Kutte norske klimautslipp med 40 prosent i ikke-kvotepliktig sektor i samarbeid med EU. Innfasing av ny teknologi, teknologiutvikging og CO2-prising vil være hovedvirkemidler for å oppnå dette målet.
Videreføre arbeidet med CO2-fond for næringslivet.
Forsterke og profesjonalisere innsatsen mot marin forsøpling, ved blant annet å øke støtten til ulike former for oppryddingstiltak.
Legge til rette for samfunnsøkonomisk lønnsom produksjon av fornybar energi i Norge.
Legge til grunn at nye personbiler og lette varebiler skal være nullutslippskjøretøy i 2025.
Fortsette utbyggingen av effektive løsninger for kollektivtransport, gange og sykkel i byområdene gjennom etableringen av byvekstavtaler og belønningsordninger i tråd med NTP.

—————-

Norway will ban oil drilling until at least 2021 in the ecologically sensitive Arctic waters off Lofoten, Vesterålen, and Senja, Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced January 14.

The new coalition government platform also protects territory near Jan Mayen, a volcanic island in the Arctic Ocean, and near the ice edge in the Barents Sea, the Barents Observer reports.

The Lofoten region is a breeding ground for 70% of the fish caught in the country’s northern region, according to WWF. Norway’s Ministry of Oil and Energy believes Lofoten holds 1.3 billion barrels of oil or equivalent, a resource the fossil industry values at US$65 billion.

“This is a big win for both people and planet,” said Silje Lundberg, head of Naturvernforbundet/Friends of the Earth Norway. “For years, the majority of the Norwegian people have been against oil drilling in these pristine areas, a majority that hasn’t been reflected in Parliament. Since 2001 we’ve fought off big oil six times—and we’ve won every single time.”

With public resistance on the rise, “I don’t think we’ll ever see an oil rig in operation outside the Lofoten Islands ever again,” Lundberg added.

“Politically, Norway’s government goes from being blue-blue to become blue-green,” the Observer states, as governing coalition negotiations continue. Solberg’s Conservatives have led Norway since 2013 with support from the right-wing populist Progress Party. But with its combined seat count reduced in parliamentary elections last September 11, the coalition—which still holds a minority of the 169 seats in the country’s Storting—reached out to the centrist Liberals. for an additional nine seats.

The three parties’ evolving political platform also extends tax exemptions for electric vehicles for as long as the government remains in office, in a country where half of all cars sold last year were hybrid or fully electric, and aims to decarbonize public transit by 2025.

“The platform paves the way for how we can manage to create a sustainable welfare society and a safer Norway,” Solberg told media Sunday.

The Lofoten Islands recently lent their name to a major international declaration, led by Oil Change International, in which more than 220 organizations from 55 countries affirm the “urgent responsibility and moral obligation of wealthy fossil fuel producers to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development and to manage the decline of existing production.”

The declaration states that “a global transition to a low-carbon future is already well under way.” That means “continued expansion of oil, coal, and gas is only serving to hinder the inevitable transition, while at the same time exacerbating conflicts, fueling corruption, threatening biodiversity, clean water and air, and infringing on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and vulnerable communities.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 9th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Bill McKibben on Hurricanes and Wildfires: “We Have Never Had Anything Like Them.”

RSN – Writing for “godot” – 08 September 2017

In the Caribbean, at least 10 people have died as the historic Category 5 Hurricane Irma barrels across the Atlantic Ocean and toward the U.S. coast. Hurricane Irma is the most powerful storm ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean. On Barbuda, 90 percent of all structures were destroyed. The prime minister, Gaston Browne, has declared Barbuda is “practically uninhabitable.” This comes as Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., is beginning to rebuild from Hurricane Harvey, one of the most powerful hurricanes in U.S. history. Wide swaths of the Pacific Northwest are also on fire, as uncontrollable wildfires burn hundreds of thousands of acres across Oregon, Montana and Washington state. For more on climate change and extreme weather, we’re joined by Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, from his home in Vermont. He’s the author of several books, including “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: In the Caribbean, at least 10 people have died as the historic Category 5 Hurricane Irma barrels across the Atlantic Ocean and towards the U.S. coast. Hurricane Irma is the most powerful storm ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean. On Wednesday, eight people died on the Island of Saint Martin, one person died on Anguilla, and a 2-year-old child died on Barbuda. Barbuda and Saint Martin were devastated by the 185-mile-an-hour winds. On Barbuda, 90 percent of all structures were destroyed. The prime minister, Gaston Browne, has declared Barbuda is “practically uninhabitable,” and warns the entire island may need to be evacuated as another storm approaches.

PRIME MINISTER GASTON BROWNE: You know that we are threatened now potentially by yet another storm, Hurricane Jose.

ABS INTERVIEWER: Jose, right.

PRIME MINISTER GASTON BROWNE: And if that is the case, and it’s coming our way, then, clearly, we will have to evacuate the residents of Barbuda.

AMY GOODMAN: In Puerto Rico, more than a million people have lost power, as authorities warn some areas could be without electricity for up to six months, partly because the island’s electrical infrastructure has gone neglected due to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

The death toll from Hurricane Irma is expected to rise in the coming days as the storm moves toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti, then on to the U.S. southern coast in Florida. More than 100,000 people have been told to evacuate their homes in Miami-Dade County, as Irma is predicted to be one of the worst storms to ever hit Miami.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: All this comes as the Trump administration, and the state of Florida, continues to deny the existence of climate change. In 2015, Florida Governor Rick Scott banned agencies from using the term “climate change.” On Wednesday, President Trump traveled to Mandan, North Dakota, and celebrated his decision to pull out of the landmark 2015 climate deal, while speaking outside an oil refinery.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In order to protect American industry and workers, we withdrew the United States from the job-killing Paris climate accord. Job killer. People have no idea. Many people have no idea how bad that was. And right here in North Dakota, the Dakota Access pipeline is finally open for business. … I also did Keystone. You know about Keystone, another one, big one. Big. First couple of days in office, those two. Forty-eight thousand jobs. Tremendous, tremendous thing. I think environmentally better. I really believe that. Environmentally better.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump was speaking in Mandan, the North Dakota town where hundreds of Native Americans and their allies have been jailed and strip-searched during the months-long resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline.

All this comes as Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country, is beginning to rebuild from Hurricane Harvey, one of the most powerful hurricanes in U.S. history. The death toll has now risen to 70 people. And while Houston, the Petro Metro, was underwater, wide swaths of the Pacific Northwest continue to be on fire as uncontrollable wildfires burn hundreds of thousands of acres across Oregon, Montana and Washington state. Well over a thousand more people have died in historic flooding in South Asia, as well as parts of Africa, in recent weeks. A third of Bangladesh is underwater.

For more on climate change, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Harvey and the extreme weather sweeping the globe, we’re joined by Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, from his home in Vermont, author of a number of books, including Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Bill, welcome back to Democracy Now! As Irma—

BILL McKIBBEN: Hello, Amy. Hello, Nermeen.

AMY GOODMAN: As Irma is barreling through the Caribbean, and at least 10 people have been killed, as Houston is digging out from being underwater, President Trump was in Mandan, North Dakota, celebrating that he pulled out of the Paris climate accord and greenlighted the Dakota Access pipeline and Keystone XL. Your response?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, I was interested to hear President Trump saying people had no idea how bad it was, the Paris climate accord. I have a feeling that’s a phrase that a lot of Houstonians have been using in the last week, and a lot of people in the Caribbean today, and what people will be saying up and down the southeast coast of the United States and over in Washington and Oregon. People who aren’t in the middle of these disasters have no idea how bad they are. In fact, really, Americans can’t have any idea how bad they are, because we’ve never had anything quite like them. I mean, Harvey, in Houston, which we’re on the edge of forgetting about as Irma pulls into the Southeast, Harvey was the largest rainstorm event in U.S. history—51 inches of rain in some places. That’s the kind of storm that’s only possible now that we’ve remarkably affected the climate.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Bill McKibben, can you also talk about — I mean, last week saw virtually unprecedented floods across South Asia, as Bangladesh is one-third submerged underwater. Talk about how this has affected—these kinds of events have affected South Asia, other parts of the developing world and small island developing states.

BILL McKIBBEN: Look, the way that water moves around the planet is now dramatically different. And the places that are going to feel it most often and worst and hardest are the poorest and most vulnerable places on the planet, a list that begins with Bangladesh and with the low-lying island states.

If you want one physical fact to understand the century we’re now in, it’s that warm air holds more water vapor than cold. And so we have the possibility for storms that are of a different magnitude and scale than we have seen before. The extra warmth in the atmosphere does all kinds of other things, too.

So, right now, in the High Plains of the U.S., in North Dakota and Montana, in the biggest wheat-growing belt of the country, we’ve got what scientists are describing as a flash drought. It’s been so hot and so arid that in the course of a month or two without rain and with that heavy evaporation, farm fields have just dried up. Many farmers have nothing to harvest. That’s what’s helping trigger this ridiculous spate of wildfires across the Western United States, a fire so big yesterday that it managed to jump the Columbia River from Oregon into Washington. People in Oregon and Washington are reporting ash fall from the forest fires on a scale comparable to that what happened when Mount St. Helens erupted. You know, California had the largest—last week, the largest wildfire in Los Angeles history, which really isn’t a big surprise, because it’s been the hottest year in California history. So, from Nepal—

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, we’re going break and come back to this discussion. Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, speaking to us from Vermont, as we talk about extreme weather events, from South Asia, where more than 1,200 people have died, to the fires of the Northwest to the hurricanes Irma and Harvey, Jose not far behind. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: Acoustic guitar cover by Pauk Si, a Burmese musician. We will later be talking about whether a genocide is being committed against the Rohingya by the Burmese military. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we continue our conversation with 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. Let’s turn back to President Trump speaking in Mandan, North Dakota, on Wednesday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to take a moment to send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Texas and Louisiana, who have truly suffered through a catastrophic hurricane, one of the worst hurricanes in our country’s history. And guess what. We have another one coming. … The one that’s coming now, Irma, they’re saying, is largest one in recorded history in the Atlantic Ocean, coming out of the Atlantic, which gets big ones. … I also want to tell the people of North Dakota and the Western states, who are feeling the pain of the devastating drought, that we are with you 100 percent. One hundred percent. … I just said to the governor, “I didn’t know you had droughts this far north.” Guess what. You have them. But we’re working hard on it, and it’ll disappear. It’ll all go away.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Trump speaking in Mandan, North Dakota, as he also talked about pulling out of the Paris climate accord and greenlighting the Dakota Access pipeline, as well as the Keystone XL. Bill McKibben, Houston, the Petro Metro, home to so many of U.S. oil refineries, some of the largest in the country, like the ExxonMobil facility in Baytown, the second-largest refinery in the country, the effects of the pollution there now, the EPA providing waivers during the hurricane for these refineries, as they close down, to emit even more toxins than they already do, and the people living on the fenceline of these refineries, so often poor communities of color. Can you talk about the disparate effects? While everyone talks about, you know, these hurricanes affecting everyone, rich and poor, equally, in fact, it is not the case, ultimately, who is most affected. And with the $8 billion now that Congress has just approved to start to help to deal with the recovery in Houston, the question is: Where will that money go? Who will be helped in rebuilding? Will this money be going to refineries? And what does the whole fossil fuel industry have to do with the kind of severe weather we’re experiencing now around the world?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, so, first of all, you know, as usual, poorest people and most vulnerable people get hit first. Frontline communities in South Texas are a perfect example. Places like Port Arthur, that were just absolutely trashed by Harvey, are difficult places to live in, at best, in the best of times, because of the incredible daily pollution that comes from the fossil fuel industry.

What makes Houston so interesting, as you point out, is that it’s sort of the nerve center of the world hydrocarbon industry. It means that—and I think this is unlikely, but it means that if Houstonians really received a wake-up call from Harvey, more than most places in the world, their rebuilding could help the whole planet. If they seize the moment to say, “We’re going to start getting off oil, and we’re going to start reorienting our industries toward renewable energy,” it would make a huge difference. And it’s not a, you know, impossible ideal. Last week, while all this was going on, Denmark announced that it had sold off its last remaining oil company and was going to use the cash to build more wind turbines. They’re looking where the future is going.

We, of course, are looking backwards. And no better example of that than Trump in North Dakota, the obscene party about the Dakota Access pipeline, as archaic and dangerous a piece of technology as we’ve seen in this nation in a long time, coupled with his absurd promise that he’s going to make the drought disappear in North Dakota. Look, the unreason that stems straight from the fossil fuel industry and its inability to deal with the fact that its business model has to change, that’s what’s at the bottom of an enormous amount of what we see around us right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, where the climate movement is now, speaking out and connecting these issues, like your group, 350.org?

BILL McKIBBEN: So, the two important—I think we’re basically in an endgame now. And the two points that we’re trying to make, and will make over and over and over again all over the world, with increasing success in most places except the United States, are, one, we got to have it all, in terms of renewable energy. We have to go to 100 percent renewable energy, and we have to do it fast. That’s why Senator Sanders has introduced that bill at a national level, along with Senator Merkley. That’s why dozens of cities, from Atlanta to Salt Lake to San Diego, have adopted 100 percent renewable policies.

Along with that all, we also have to say nothing. We have to say there will be no more fossil fuel infrastructure development. And that’s why we’re fighting so hard every single pipeline, every single new coal mine. For the moment, of course, Trump is ascendant with the fossil fuel industry. They’re getting their wishes in this country. But like many things that Trump touches, I think that this is a last gasp. People will come to associate, are coming to associate, the insanity of going full speed ahead into this greenhouse future with the most reckless and crazy president that we’ve ever had.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, I want to thank you for being with us, co-founder of 350.org. A number of his books out, including the last one, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 9th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We decided this pearl of writing must be read by everyone.

From CNN’s FAREED GLOBAL BRIEFING AND THE WASHINGTON POST – SEPTEMBER 9, 2017.


What Baseball and Steroids Can Tell Us About Hurricanes.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and now Jose have inevitably raised questions about the connection between climate change and extreme weather. And on increasing storm strength, at least, “the science is fairly conclusive,” write Michael E. Mann, Thomas C. Peterson and Susan Joy Hassol for the Scientific American.

“Whether or not we see more tropical storms (a matter of continuing research by the scientific community), we know that the strongest storms are getting stronger, with roughly eight meters per second increase in wind speed per degree Celsius of warming. And so it is not likely to be a coincidence that almost all of the strongest hurricanes on record (as measured by sustained wind speeds) for the globe, the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere, the Pacific, and now, with Irma, in the open Atlantic, have occurred over the past two years,” they write.

“As recently as a decade ago, climate scientists had a motto that ‘you can’t attribute any single extreme event to global warming.’

“By the time politicians and journalists started repeating that line, however, the science had moved on, so that we now can attribute individual events in a probabilistic sense. For example, if a baseball player on steroids is hitting 20 percent more home runs, we can’t attribute a particular home run to steroids. But we can say steroids made it 20 percent more likely to have occurred. For some of the physical processes discussed here, one can view increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as steroids for the storms.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 12th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

6 Trump US Administration Climate Claims Exposed As Total Nonsense By Federal Report.

There’s actually no “tremendous disagreement” among federal climate scientists that humans are to blame for accelerated global warming.

By Hayley Miller of Huffington Post – August 12, 2017. (GREEN – 08/11/2017)

There’s little doubt: The climate is changing, human activity is accelerating the process, and the U.S. is already feeling its effects, according to an expansive climate report that dozens of government scientists drafted.

The nonprofit Internet Archive first uploaded the 543-page report, which is awaiting the Trump administration’s approval, in January. But the third-order draft of the Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report only garnered mainstream attention after The New York Times published it inside an article Monday.

The National Academy of Sciences has already endorsed the draft report, but many scientists ? including some of the paper’s authors ? have expressed concern that Trump officials might rewrite or suppress the findings.

Trump once famously called climate change a Chinese “hoax,” and he’s filled his administration with several other skeptics, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Despite this report (and piles of evidence from previously published studies), Trump administration officials have continued to push a narrative that claims scientists are unsure whether human activity has significantly increased the rate of global warming in recent years.

Here are six statements the Trump team has made about climate change that have no basis in reality, as evidenced by the federal climate science report:

President Donald Trump:

“I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming, and it’s going to start to cool at some point.” (September 2015)

What the science actually shows: The science is clear that man-made global warming is not only real, but also one of the greatest threats that humanity faces.

People have released so much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere that the planet will continue to warm for at least the next 100 years ? even if carbon emissions caused by human activity immediately cease.

From the federal report:

The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related, weather extremes, as well as the warmest years on record for the globe. …

Global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond. Even if humans immediately ceased emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, existing levels would commit the world to at least an additional 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit over this century relative to today. …

The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of greenhouse (heat trapping) gases emitted globally and the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to those emissions. …

Longer-term climate records indicate that average temperatures in recent decades over much of the world have been much higher than at any time in the past 1700 years or more.
Trump again:

“Record low temperatures and massive amounts of snow. Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING?” (February 2015)

What the science actually shows: There may be some outlier days, but overall, climate change has caused extremely cold days to become warmer and it’s increased the frequency of “extreme heat events,” according to the latest report.

Also, research has consistently debunked the claim that “massive amounts of snow” suggest global warming isn’t occurring. In fact, heavier precipitation is the result of evaporating ocean water caused by global warming, the research shows. This phenomena could explain “snowmageddon”-type extreme snow events.

From the report:

Extremely cold days have become warmer since the early 1900s, and extremely warm days have become warmer since the early 1960s. In recent decades, extreme cold waves have become less common while extreme heat waves have become more common. …

The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation and extreme heat events are increasing in most regions of the world. These trends are consistent with expected physical responses to a warming climate and with climate model studies, although models tend to underestimate the observed trends. The frequency and intensity of such extreme events will very likely continue to rise in the future. …

The increase in extreme weather that accompany global climate change are having significant, direct effects on the United States and the global economy and society.

Scott Pruitt, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency

“Measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do. And there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the climate change.” (March 2017)

What the science actually shows: There’s virtually zero disagreement among federal climate scientists that human activity is not only a factor, but also the “dominant cause” driving the relatively recent and dramatic acceleration of global warming. This finding is repeated throughout the report.

From the report:

Human activities are now the dominant cause of the observed changes in climate. …

The global climate continues to change rapidly compared to the pace of the natural changes in climate that have occurred throughout Earth’s history. …

Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for the observed climate changes in the industrial era. There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate.


Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior:

Glaciers in Montana started melting “right after the end of the Ice Age” and it’s been “a consistent melt.” (June 2017)

What the science actually shows: Scientists have already debunked Zinke’s claim that Glacier National Park’s namesake feature has been melting consistently since “right after the end of the Ice Age.” Glaciers have generally retreated since about 1850, the end of the Little Ice Age, but global warming has caused the rate of retreat to increase in recent decades.

The draft report further suggests that man-made global warming is accelerating the melting of mountain glaciers, snow cover and sea ice worldwide.

From the report:

Observations continue to show that Arctic sea ice extent and thickness, Northern Hemisphere snow cover, and the volume of mountain glaciers and continental ice sheets are all decreasing. In many cases, evidence suggests that the net loss of mass from the global cryosphere is accelerating. …

The annually averaged ice mass from global reference glaciers has decreased every year since 1984, and the rate of global glacier melt is accelerating. This mountain glacier melt is contributing to sea level rise and will continue to contribute through the 21st Century.
Zinke again:

“The evidence strongly suggests that humans have had an influence on higher CO2. However, the evidence is equally as strong that there are other factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, that have a greater influence.” (August 2014)

What the science actually suggests: As we should all know by now, carbon emissions released by human activity are the “dominant cause” of accelerated global warming. Ocean temperatures are rising, but that’s because humans are emitting more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

From the report:

The world’s oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat caused by greenhouse warming since the mid 20th Century, making them warmer and altering global and regional circulation patterns and climate feedbacks. Surface oceans have warmed by about 0.45°F (0.25°C) globally since the 1970s. …

The world’s oceans are currently absorbing more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere annually from human activities, making them more acidic with potential detrimental impacts to marine ecosystems. The rate of acidification is unparalleled in at least the past 66 million years.

Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy

“Most likely the primary control knob [for the temperature of the Earth and for climate] is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.” (June 2017)

What the science actually shows: Like Zinke, Perry downplayed humans’ role in global warming and blamed “ocean waters” instead. Perry also appeared to suggest that the environment is responsible for changes in the environment, which is somewhat challenging to make sense of.

It’s possible he was referring to previously natural variability, such as El Niño and La Niña, though the draft report found such phenomena have “limited influences” on long-term climate change. Some studies have suggested man-made global warming may “greatly increase the frequency of very strong” El Niño or La Niña events.

From the report:

Since the industrial era, human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and other greenhouse gases now overwhelm the influence of natural drivers on the external forcing of the Earth’s climate… For this reason, projections of changes in Earth’s climate over this century and beyond focus primarily on its response to emissions of greenhouse gases, particulates, and other radiatively-active species from human activities. …

Natural variability, including El Niño events and other recurring patterns of ocean?atmosphere interactions, have important, but limited influences on global and regional climate over timescales ranging from months to decades.
Read the full draft of the climate report here.

For further information included in this article:

 www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dona…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

2 August 2017
A tiny Greek island to become the first energy independent island in the Mediterranean

? Europe, Finance, Smart Cities, Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Innovation Forum, Sustainable Investment Forum

Tilos, a small island in the Cyclades complex in the Aegean Sea, is on set to become the first energy independent island in the Mediterranean by solely relying in renewables.

The initiative under the name TILOS comes by a collaboration of the University of Anglia (UEA) and the University of Applied Sciences in Piraeus, engaging 15 participating enterprises and institutes from seven European countries.

The project’s main goal is to demonstrate the potential of off-grid hybrid mini grids comprised of solar and wind power.

TILOS was launched in February 2015 receiving funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme and is planned to last four years, with its total budget reaching €15m.

So far, TILOS has received €11m from Horizon 2020, €3m from the industry and €1m from private investment.

Konstantinos Chalvatzis, Senior Lecturer in Business and Climate Change at UEA’s Norwich Business School said: “The island’s population is only around 200 in the winter but rises to more than 1,500 in the summer when the tourists arrive”.

He added: “Energy supply is a major issue, with frequent black-outs and power surges. But while its remote location makes traditional ways of providing power so challenging, it also makes Tilos ideal for our pioneering work”.

The project executives underlie the importance of the project in the context of the non-interconnected islands’ electricity regime, which mostly constitutes of expensive and often unreliable oil-fired isolated diesel generators.

Dr. Chalvatzis said: “Most Greek and other Mediterranean islands also depend on unreliable, oil-based electricity, so our goal is to roll the model out to them, as well as to small islands across Europe and beyond”.

The proposed energy solution will comprise 700kW of wind power, 500kW of solar power combined with high? temperature NaNiCl battery storage, residential hot water storage and demand-side management (DSM), all coordinated under a sophisticated energy management system.

Dr Chalvatzis commented: “The uniqueness is not in the way we generate the electricity but in the way we’ve developed the technology to make it cost-effective, reliable and completely green” adding: “For example, normal batteries will last around five years and are filled with non-recyclable chemicals, but ours have a much lengthier lifespan and are completely recyclable”.

Two years into its four-year schedule, TILOS has already received two EU Sustainable Energy Awards, namely the Energy Island Award and the Citizen’s Award- the latter underlying the importance of the public acceptance of renewable energy projects.

Dr Chalvatzis stated: “Tilos is ahead of its time – the islanders welcome new ideas and were open to our initiative”.

“As a result, we now have a blueprint for generating sustainable energy in a profitable and scalable way, so the benefits can be felt across the world, whether that’s other islands, faraway communities or even by providing clean and efficient energy for refugee camps or remote hospitals. This technology could truly change people’s lives”.

RELATED ARTICLES:
— World’s first island micro-grid created in Australia
— First US offshore wind farm powers island
–Rising sea levels force Pacific islanders to evacuate

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 10th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

CLIMATE – THE NEW YORK TIMES


• “The cost of electric cars is falling much faster than expected, based in part on a plunge in battery prices and aggressive policies in China and Europe.”


When Will Electric Cars Go Mainstream? It May Be Sooner Than You Think.

By BRAD PLUMER, JULY 8, 2017

The Photo: A Volkswagen e-Golf electric car being charged in Dresden, Germany, in March.

Volkswagen and Tesla each have plans to produce more than 1 million electric vehicles per year by 2025. Credit Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters


As the world’s automakers place larger bets on electric vehicle technology, many industry analysts are debating a key question: How quickly can plug-in cars become mainstream?

The conventional view holds that electric cars will remain a niche product for many years, plagued by high sticker prices and heavily dependent on government subsidies.

But a growing number of analysts now argue that this pessimism is becoming outdated. A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research group, suggests that the price of plug-in cars is falling much faster than expected, spurred by cheaper batteries and aggressive policies promoting zero-emission vehicles in China and Europe.

Between 2025 and 2030, the group predicts, plug-in vehicles will become cost competitive with traditional petroleum-powered cars, even without subsidies and even before taking fuel savings into account. Once that happens, mass adoption should quickly follow.

“Our forecast doesn’t hinge on countries adopting stringent new fuel standards or climate policies,” said Colin McKerracher, the head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “It’s an economic analysis, looking at what happens when the upfront cost of electric vehicles reaches parity. That’s when the real shift occurs.”

If that prediction pans out, it will have enormous consequences for the auto industry, oil markets and the world’s efforts to slow global warming.

A Boost From Batteries

Last year, plug-in vehicles made up less than 1 percent of new passenger vehicle sales worldwide, held back by high upfront costs. The Chevrolet Bolt, produced by General Motors, sells for about $37,500 before federal tax breaks. With gasoline prices hovering around $2 per gallon, relatively few consumers seem interested.

But there are signs of a shift. Tesla and Volkswagen each have plans to produce more than a million electric vehicles per year by 2025. On Wednesday, Volvo announced that it would phase out the traditional combustion engine and that all of its new models starting in 2019 would be either hybrids or entirely battery-powered.

Skeptics argue that these moves are mostly marginal. Exxon Mobil, which is studying the threat that electric cars could pose to its business model, still expects that plug-in vehicle sales will grow slowly, to just 10 percent of new sales in the United States by 2040, with little impact on global oil use. The federal Energy Information Administration projects a similarly sluggish uptick.

The Bloomberg forecast is far more aggressive, projecting that plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles will make up 54 percent of new light-duty sales globally by 2040, outselling their combustion engine counterparts.

The reason? Batteries. Since 2010, the average cost of lithium-ion battery packs has plunged by two-thirds, to around $300 per kilowatt-hour. The Bloomberg report sees that falling to $73 by 2030, without any significant technological breakthroughs, as companies like Tesla increase battery production in massive factories, optimize the design of battery packs and improve chemistries.

For the next decade, the report notes, electric cars will remain reliant on government incentives and sales mandates in places like Europe, China and California. But as automakers introduce a greater variety of models and lower costs, electric cars will reach a point where they can stand on their own.

Still, this outcome is hardly guaranteed. Governments could scale back their incentives before plug-in vehicles become fully competitive — many states are already beginning to tax electric cars. Battery manufacturers could face material shortages or production problems that hinder their ability to slash costs. And an unforeseen technology failure, such as widespread battery fires, could halt progress.

“But we tried to be fairly conservative in our estimate of where battery prices are going,” Mr. McKerracher said, “and we don’t see barriers to electric vehicles’ becoming cost competitive very soon.”

Other experts caution that falling battery costs are not the only factor in determining whether electric cars become widespread. Sam Ori, the executive director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, noted, “People don’t buy cars based solely on the price tag.”

Consumers may remain wary of vehicles with limited range that can take hours to charge. Even though researchers have shown that battery-electric vehicles have sufficient range for many people’s daily commuting habits, consumer psychology is still difficult to predict. The report does not, for instance, expect electric vehicles to catch on widely in the pickup-truck market.

Charging infrastructure is another potential barrier. Although cities are starting to build thousands of public charging stations — and Tesla is working on reducing the time it takes to power a depleted battery — it still takes longer to charge an electric vehicle than it does to refuel a conventional car at the pump.

Many owners charge their cars overnight in their garages, but that is much harder for people living in cities who park their cars on the street.

As a result, the Bloomberg report warns that plug-in vehicles may have a difficult time making inroads in dense urban areas and that infrastructure bottlenecks may slow the growth of electric vehicles after 2040.

Another potential hurdle may be the automakers themselves. While most manufacturers are introducing plug-in models in the United States to comply with stricter fuel-economy standards, they do not always market them aggressively, said Chelsea Sexton, an auto industry consultant who worked on General Motors’ electric vehicle program in the 1990s.

Car dealerships also remain reluctant to display and sell electric models, which often require less maintenance and are less profitable for their service departments. Surveys have found that salespeople are often unprepared to pitch the cars.

“We’ve seen a lot of announcements about electric vehicles, but that doesn’t matter much if automakers are just building these cars for compliance and are unenthusiastic about actually marketing them,” Ms. Sexton said.

Raw economics may help overcome such barriers, Mr. McKerracher said. He pointed to Norway, where heavy taxes on petroleum-powered vehicles and generous subsidies for electric vehicles have created price parity between the two. As a result, plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars in Norway now make up 37 percent of all new sales, up from 6 percent in 2013.

Fighting Climate Change

If Bloomberg’s forecast proves correct, it could have sweeping implications for oil markets. The report projects that a sharp rise in electric vehicles would displace eight million barrels of transportation fuel each day. (The world currently consumes around 98 million barrels per day.)

A number of oil companies are now grappling with the prospect of an eventual peak in global demand, with billions of dollars in investments at stake in getting the timing right.

Mass adoption of electric cars could also prove a key strategy in fighting climate change — provided the vehicles are increasingly powered by low-carbon electricity rather than coal. The International Energy Agency has estimated that electric vehicles would have to account for at least 40 percent of passenger vehicle sales by 2040 for the world to have a chance of meeting the climate goals outlined in the Paris agreement, keeping total global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Yet the Bloomberg report also shows how much further countries would need to go to cut transportation emissions.

Even with a sharp rise in electric vehicles, the world would still have more traditional petroleum-powered passenger vehicles on the road in 2040 than it does today, and it will take many years to retire existing fleets. And other modes of transportation, like heavy-duty trucking and aviation, will remain stubbornly difficult to electrify without drastic advances in battery technology.

Which means it is still too soon to write an obituary for the internal combustion engine.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 24th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Race to Solar-Power Africa
By Bill McKibben, The New Yorker

27 June 17

American startups are competing to bring electricity to communities that remain off the grid.

he cacao-farming community of Daban, in Ghana, is seven degrees north of the equator, and it’s always hot. In May, I met with several elders there to talk about the electricity that had come to the town a few months earlier, when an American startup installed a solar microgrid nearby. Daban could now safely store the vaccine for yellow fever; residents could charge their cell phones at home rather than walking to a bigger town to do it. As we talked, one of the old men handed me a small plastic bag of water, the kind street venders sell across West Africa—you just bite off a corner and drink. The water was ice-cold and refreshing, but it took me an embarrassingly long moment to understand the pleasure with which he offered it: cold water was now available in this hot place. There was enough power to run a couple of refrigerators, and so coldness was, for the first time, a possibility.
I’d come to Daban to learn about the boom in solar power in sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of cell phones in the region has made it possible for residents to pay daily or weekly bills using mobile money, and now the hope is that, just as cell phones bypassed the network of telephone lines, solar panels will enable many rural consumers to bypass the electric grid. From Ghana, I travelled to Ivory Coast, and then to Tanzania, and along the way I encountered a variety of new solar ventures, most of them American-led. Some, such as Ghana’s Black Star Energy, which had electrified Daban, install solar microgrids, small-scale versions of the giant grid Americans are familiar with. Others, such as Off-Grid Electric, in Tanzania and Ivory Coast, market home-based solar systems that run on a panel installed on each individual house. These home-based systems can’t produce enough current for a fridge, but they can supply each home with a few lights, a mobile-phone charger, and, if the household can afford it, a small, super-efficient flat-screen TV.

In another farming town, in Ivory Coast, I talked to a man named Abou Traoré, who put his television out in a courtyard most nights, so that neighbors could come by to watch. He said that they tuned in for soccer matches—the village tilts Liverpool, but has a large pocket of Manchester United supporters. What else did he watch? Traoré considered. “I like the National Geographic channel,” he replied—that is, the broadcast arm of the institution that became famous showing Westerners pictures of remote parts of Africa.

There are about as many people living without electricity today as there were when Thomas Edison lit his first light bulb. More than half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe and the Americas are almost fully electrified, and Asia is quickly catching up, but the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady. A World Bank report, released in May, predicted that, given current trends, there could still be half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa without power by 2040. Even those with electricity can’t rely on it: the report noted that in Tanzania power outages were so common in 2013 that they cost businesses fifteen per cent of their annual sales. Ghanaians call their flickering power dum/sor, or “off/on.” Vivian Tsadzi, a businesswoman who lives not far from the Akosombo Dam, which provides about a third of the nation’s power, said that most of the time “it’s dum dum dum dum.” The dam’s head of hydropower generation, Kwesi Amoako, who retired last year, told me that he is proud of the structure, which created the world’s largest man-made lake. But there isn’t an easy way to increase the country’s hydropower capacity, and drought, caused by climate change, has made the system inconsistent, meaning that Ghana will have to look elsewhere for electricity. “I’ve always had the feeling that one of the main thrusts should be domestic solar,” Amoako said. “And I think we should put the off-grid stuff first, because the consumer wants it so badly.”

Electrifying Africa is one of the largest development challenges on earth. Until recently, most people assumed that the continent would electrify in the same manner as the rest of the globe. “The belief was, you’d eventually build the U.S. grid here,” Xavier Helgesen, the American co-founder and C.E.O. of Off-Grid Electric, told me. “But the U.S. is the richest country on earth, and it wasn’t fully electrified until the nineteen-forties, and that was in an era of cheap copper for wires, cheap timber for poles, cheap coal, and cheap capital. None of that is so cheap anymore, at least not over here.”

Solar electricity, on the other hand, has become inexpensive, in part because the price of solar panels has fallen at the same time that the efficiency of light bulbs and appliances has dramatically increased. In 2009, a single compact fluorescent bulb and a lead-acid battery cost about forty dollars; now, using L.E.D. bulbs and lithium-ion batteries, you can get four times as much light for the same price. In 2009, a radio, a mobile-phone charger, and a solar system big enough to provide four hours of light and television a day would have cost a Kenyan a thousand dollars; now it’s three hundred and fifty dollars.

President Trump has derided renewable energy as “really just an expensive way of making the tree huggers feel good about themselves.” But many Western entrepreneurs see solar power in Africa as a chance to reach a large market and make a substantial profit. This is a nascent industry, which, at the moment, represents a small percentage of the electrification in the region, and is mostly in rural areas. There’s plenty of uncertainty about its future, and no guarantee that it will spread at the pace of cell phones. Still, in the past eighteen months, these businesses have brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of consumers—many of them in places that the grid failed to reach, despite a hundred-year head start. Funding, much of it from private investors based in Silicon Valley or Europe, is flowing into this sector—more than two hundred million dollars in venture capital last year, up from nineteen million in 2013—and companies are rapidly expanding their operations with the new money. M-Kopa, an American startup that launched in Kenya, in 2011, now has half a million pay-as-you-go solar customers; d.light, a competitor with offices in California, Kenya, China, and India, says that it is adding eight hundred new households a day. Nicole Poindexter, the founder and C.E.O. of Black Star, told me that every million dollars the company raises in venture capital delivers power to seven thousand people. She expects Black Star to be profitable within the next three years.

Like many of the American entrepreneurs I met in Africa, Poindexter has a background in finance. A graduate of Harvard Business School, she worked as a derivatives trader before leading business development at Opower, a software platform for utilities customers that was acquired by Oracle last year. (Unlike many of these entrepreneurs, who tend to skew white and male, Poindexter is African-American.) She decided to start the company in 2015, after she began to learn about energy poverty. She recalled watching TV coverage of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. “There was a lot of coughing in the background, and I was thinking, That’s someone with Ebola,” she said. “But it wasn’t. It was from the smoke in the room from the fire.” Last year, in the Ghanaian community of Kofihuikrom, one of the first towns that Black Star served, the company erected twenty-two solar panels. Today, the local clinic no longer has to deliver babies by flashlight. The town chief, Nana Kwaku Appiah, said that he was so excited that he initially left his lights on inside all night. “Our relatives from the city used to not come here to visit,” he said. “Now they do.”

When I visited the Tanzanian headquarters of Off-Grid Electric, in the city of Arusha, the atmosphere was reminiscent of Palo Alto or Mountain View, with standing desks and glassed-in conference rooms for impromptu meetings. Erick Donasian, the company’s head of service in Tanzania, grew up in a powerless house three miles from the office and joined the company in 2013; he said that, along with his enthusiasm for the company’s goals, one attraction of working there is that it is far less formal than many Tanzanian businesses, where “you have to tuck your shirt in, which I hate the most.” Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley influence was clearest in the T-shirt Helgesen wore. It read “Make something people want,” and sported the logo for Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s most famous incubator, where Helgesen’s wife had recently developed a bartering app.

Helgesen, who is thirty-eight years old and lanky, with hair that he regularly brushes out of his eyes, grew up in Silver Bay, Minnesota, a small town on the shore of Lake Superior. At fourteen, he came up with the idea of leasing the municipal mini-golf course for a summer, and tripled revenues by offering season passes and putting on special promotions for visiting hockey teams. As a sophomore at Notre Dame, in 1999, he set up a Web site that posted the college’s freshman register online, so that, as he put it, “you’d actually know who that cute girl you saw in anthro class was.” Helgesen started similar sites at other colleges, but, he told me, “I wasn’t as good a programmer as Zuckerberg. Even if I’d gotten it completely right, it would have been more Friendster than Facebook.” His first major company, Better World Books, founded in 2002, took the model of charity used-book drives and moved it online. It’s now one of the biggest sellers of used books on Amazon, and has helped raise twenty-five million dollars for literacy organizations, including Books for Africa.

Helgesen made his first trip to Tanzania in 2006, to visit recipients of Better World’s funding and to go on safari. “I was staying at a fancy lodge near Kilimanjaro, and I remember thinking, How do things really work around here?” Helgesen said. He paid a local man to take him to the nearest village. “I was peppering him with questions: ‘Do young people go to the city?’ ‘How much does coffee sell for?’ ” The experience, he said, “flipped my mind-set from ‘People in Africa are poor and they need our help and our donated books’ to ‘This is what an emerging economy looks like. This is young people, this is entrepreneurialism, this is where growth will be.’ ” During a second trip to Africa, he went scuba diving in Lake Malawi (“to see the cichlid fish, which keep their babies in their mouths”), and was invited to dinner by his scuba instructor. “It was a decent-sized town, maybe twenty thousand people, but absolutely no electricity,” Helgesen said. “It was all narrow alleys—they were bustling, but they were pitch-black.”

In 2010, Helgesen won a Skoll Scholarship to Oxford, for M.B.A. students seeking “entrepreneurial solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges,” and spent the year researching the renewables market. He found two like-minded business partners, and, in 2012, they set up shop in Arusha. At first, they planned to build solar microgrids to power cell-phone towers and sell the excess electricity to locals, but, Helgesen said, “it became clear that that was a pretty expensive way to go.” So they visited customers in their homes to ask them what they wanted. “Those conversations were the smartest thing we ever did,” Helgesen said. “I remember this one customer, she had a baby, and she would keep the kerosene lamp on low all night, as a night-light. It was costing thirty dollars a month in kerosene. And I was, like, Wow, for thirty dollars a month I could do a lot better.”

Helgesen decided to “start with the customer, and the price point they could pay, and build the business behind that.” Matt Schiller, the thirty-two-year-old vice-president of business operations, said that, in some ways, it is an easy sell. “If we talk to a hundred customers, not one says, ‘I’d rather have kerosene,’ ” he told me. “Not one says, ‘I’d like the warm glow of the kerosene lights.’ In fact, when we were designing the L.E.D.s, we focus-grouped lights. And the engineers assumed they’d want a warmer light, because that’s what they were used to. But, no, they picked the bluest, hardest light you can imagine. That’s modernity. That’s clean.”

There were solar panels in sub-Saharan Africa before companies like Off-Grid arrived, but customers generally had to pay for them up front, a forbidding prospect for many. “Cost is important to the customer at the bottom, but risk is even more important,” Helgesen told me. “A bad decision when you’re that poor can mean your kids don’t eat or go to school, which is why people tend to be conservative. And which is why kerosene was winning. There was no risk. You could buy it a tiny bit at a time.”

Off-Grid, like several of its competitors, finances the panels, so that people can pay the same small monthly amounts they were paying for kerosene. Customers in Tanzania put down about thirteen dollars to buy Off-Grid’s cheapest starter kit: a panel, a battery, a few L.E.D. lights, a phone charger, and a radio. Then they pay about eight dollars a month for three years, after which they own the products outright. The most popular system adds a few more lights and a flat-screen TV, for a higher down payment and about twice the monthly price. Customers pay their bill by phone; if they don’t pay, the system stops working, and after a while it is repossessed. That scenario, it turns out, is uncommon: less than two per cent of the loans in Tanzania have gone bad.

Despite Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley vibe, it faces challenges unfamiliar to software companies. Aidan Leonard, Off-Grid’s Arusha-based general counsel, told me that the company “requires a lot of people walking around selling things and installing things and fixing things. There’s a lot of hardware—someone’s got a physical box in their house, and a panel on the roof, and they have to pay for it on a monthly basis.” Poindexter, of Black Star, put the problem more bluntly. “We’re a utility company,” she told me, and utilities are a difficult business.

In America, utilities are burdened with infrastructure, such as the endless poles and wires that come down in storms. Off-Grid doesn’t have to worry about poles, and the wires only run a few feet, from panel to battery to appliance. Still, the company is working with technology that is brand-new and needs to be made cheaply in order to be affordable. When solar energy first came to Africa, it was expensive and unreliable. Arne Jacobson, a professor of environmental-resources engineering at Humboldt State University, in California, is a couple of decades older than most of the entrepreneurs I met in Africa. He got his doctorate studying the first generation of home solar in Kenya, in the late nineteen-nineties. “In Kenya, I was trying to understand the quality of the panels that had started to flood the market,” he said. Much of the technology had “big troubles. Chinese panels, panels from the U.K., all this low-quality junk coming in. Later, L.E.D.s that failed in hours or days instead of lasting thousands of hours, as they should. People’s first experiences were often really bad.”

Jacobson has spent his career in renewable energy; he helped build the world’s first street-legal hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle, in 1998. He now runs Humboldt’s Schatz Energy Research Center. (“You want to know why a lot of early solar research happened in Humboldt?” he asked me. “Because there were a lot of back-to-the-land types here, and they had cash because they were growing dope.”) After seeing the unpredictability of solar technology, he created, in 2007, what he calls a “de facto consumer-protection bureau for this nascent industry.” The program, Lighting Global, which is run under the umbrella of the World Bank Group, tests and certifies panels, bulbs, and appliances to make sure that they work as promised. Jacobson credits this innovation with making investors more willing to put their money into companies such as Off-Grid, which has now raised more than fifty-five million dollars. His main testing lab is in Shenzhen, China, near most of the solar-panel manufacturers. He also has facilities in Nairobi, New Delhi, and Addis Ababa, and some of the work is still done in the basement of his building at Humboldt, where there’s an “integrating sphere” for measuring light output from a bulb, and a machine that switches radios on and off to see if they’ll eventually break.

Because many of Off-Grid’s potential customers have experience with bad products, or know someone who has, the company takes extra steps to build trust with its clients. After an Off-Grid installer shows up on his motorbike, he opens the product carton with great solemnity; in an Ivorian village, I watched along with seventeen neighbors, who nodded as the young man held up each component, one by one. He then climbed onto the roof of the house, nailed on a solar panel about the size of a placemat, and used a crowbar to lift up the corrugated-tin roof to run the wire inside. He screwed the battery box to the cement-block wall and walked the customer through the process of switching lights on and off several times, something the man had never done before. The company also offers a service guarantee: as long as customers are making their payments, they can call a number on the box and a repairman will arrive within three days. These LightRiders, as the company calls them, are trained to trouble-shoot small problems. They travel by motorcycle, and if they can’t make repairs easily they replace the system with a new one and haul the old unit back to headquarters.

This sales-and-installation system presents some engineering challenges. When the company expanded into Ivory Coast, last year, it had to redesign its packaging to fit on the smaller motorcycles used there. It also runs into problems coördinating coverage across a vast area where most houses don’t have conventional addresses. “We had to build our own internal software to make it possible,” Kim Schreiber, who runs Off-Grid’s marketing operations in Africa, said. “We optimize, via G.P.S. coördinates, the best routes for our riders to take. The LightRider turns on his phone every morning, and he has a list of his tasks for the day, so he knows what parts to take with him.”

Solar companies also contend with the complexity of the mobile-payment systems. In Ghana, where many customers don’t use mobile money, Poindexter’s Black Star team instead sells scratch cards from kiosks, which give customers a code they need to enter on their meter box to top up their account. Off-Grid delivers these codes over the phone, but the company still needs a call center, manned by fifteen people, to help customers with the mechanics of paying. Nena Sanderson, who runs Off-Grid’s Tanzanian operation, showed me the steps entailed in paying a bill through a ubiquitous mobile-money system called M-Pesa. There are ten screens, and the process ends with the input of a sixteen-digit code. “And I have a smartphone,” she said. “Now, imagine a feature phone, and imagine you may not know how to read, and the screen is a lot smaller, and it’s probably scratched up. Mobile money is a great enabler, but it’s not frictionless.” One of Off-Grid’s competitors, PEGAfrica, has printed the whole sequence on a wristband, which it gives to customers.

Because one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of solar power in the region is the lack of available cash, many of these companies are essentially banks as well as utilities, providing loans to customers who may have no credit history. That can make it hard to figure out what to charge people. “What you see in this space is at least eight to ten decent-sized pay-as-you-go solar companies, all trying to parse through what the actual end price to the customer really is,” Peter Bladin, who spent many years in leadership roles at Microsoft and now invests in several of these firms, told me. Bladin first started studying distributed solar—solar electricity produced near where it is used—in Bangladesh, where the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus used his Grameen microcredit network to finance and distribute panels and batteries. Lacking that established financial architecture, companies in sub-Saharan Africa are constantly experimenting with different plans: Off-Grid began by offering ten-year leases, but found that customers wanted to own their systems more quickly, and so the payments are now spread out over three years. PEGAfrica customers buy their system in twelve months, but the company gives them hospitalization insurance as a bonus. Black Star is a true utility: the customers in the communities where it builds microgrids will always pay bills, but the charges start at only two dollars a month. (The business model depends on customers steadily increasing the amount of energy they buy, as they move from powering televisions to powering small businesses.) Companies like Burro—a Ghanaian outfit launched by Whit Alexander, the Seattle entrepreneur who founded Cranium games—sell lamps and chargers and panels outright, saving customers credit fees but limiting the number of people who can afford the products.

This uncertainty about the most practical financial model reflects the fact that in sub-Saharan Africa there is a great deal of economic diversity, both between countries and within them. One morning, I found myself walking down a line of houses in the Arushan suburb of Morombo. At the first house, a two-room cinder-block structure with a broken piece of mirror on one wall, a woman talked with me as we sat on the floor. The home represented a big step up for her, she said—she and her husband had rented a place for years, until they were able to buy this plot of land and build this house. She had a solar lantern the size of a hockey puck in her courtyard, soaking up rays. (Aid groups have distributed more than a million of these little lamps across the continent.) She assured me that she planned to get a larger solar system soon, but, for many of Africa’s poorest people, buying a lantern is the only possible step toward electrification.

Next door, a twenty-six-year-old student named Nehemiah Klimba shared a more solidly built house with his mother. It had a corrugated-iron roof on a truss that let hot air escape, and we sat on a sofa. Klimba said that, as soon as he finished paying off the windows, he was going to electrify. He and his mother were already spending fifteen dollars a month on kerosene and another four dollars charging their cell phones at a local store, so they knew they’d be able to afford the twenty dollars a month for a solar system with a TV.

One door down was the fanciest house I’d seen in weeks. It belonged to a soldier who worked as a U.N. peacekeeper, and the floors were made of polished stone. There was an Off-Grid solar system on the roof, but it was providing only backup power. The owner had paid a hefty fee to connect to the local electric grid, so he faced none of the limitations of a battery replenished by the sun. In his living room, he had a huge TV and speakers; a stainless-steel Samsung refrigerator gleamed in the kitchen.

“This is how the solar revolution happens—one hot sales meeting at a time,” Off-Grid’s Kim Schreiber whispered to me as we watched one of the company’s salesmen, an Ivorian named Seko Serge Lewis, at work. We were visiting the village of Grand Zattry with Off-Grid’s Ivory Coast sales director, Max-Marc Fossouo. A couple of dogs tussled nearby; a motorbike rolled past with six people on board. In the courtyard next to us, a woman was doing the day’s laundry in a bucket with a washboard. Her husband listened to the sales pitch from Lewis, who was showing him pictures on his cell phone of other customers in the village.

“That’s to build up trust,” Fossouo said. He’d been providing a play-by-play throughout the hour-long sales call. “This customer is on a big fence,” he said. “He’s stuck in the trust place. And I’m pretty sure the decision-maker is over there washing the clothes anyway.” Fossouo was born in Cameroon and went to school in Paris. In his twenties, he spent seven summers in the U.S., selling books for Southwestern Publishing, a Nashville-based titan of door-to-door marketing. (Rick Perry is another company alum; so is Kenneth Starr.) “I did L.A. for years,” he told me. “ ‘Hi, my name is Max. I’m a crazy college student from France, and I’m helping families with their kids’ education. I’ve been talking to your neighbors A, B, and C, and I’d like to talk to you. Do you have a place where I can come in and sit down?’ ” All selling, he said, is the same: “It starts with a person understanding they have a problem. Someone might live in the dark but not understand that it’s a problem. So you have to show them. And then you have to create a sense of urgency to spend the money to solve the problem now.”

The man turned down Lewis’s pitch. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to make the monthly payments in the lean stretch before the next cacao harvest. “That’s crap,” Fossouo whispered, pointing again to the man’s wife. “He loves this woman, he can move the world for her.” When we went to the next house, Fossouo took over. This prospect was a farmer and schoolteacher, and they talked in his classroom, which had a few low desks with shards of slate on top. Fossouo had the man catalogue everything that he was spending on energy: money for kerosene, flashlight batteries, even the gas for the scooter that he borrowed when he needed to charge his phone. Then Fossouo showed him what he had to offer: a radio and four lights, each with a dimmer switch. “Where would you put the lamp?” he asked. “In front of the door? Of course! And the big light in the middle of the room, so when you have a party everyone could see. Now, tell me, if you went to the market to buy all of this, how much would it cost?” Fossouo tried angle after angle. “You have to think big here,” he said. “When I talked to your chief, he said, ‘Don’t think small.’ If your kid could see the news on TV, he might say, ‘I, too, could be President.’ ”

“This is great,” the man said. “I know you’re trying to help us. I just don’t have the money. Life is hard, things are expensive. Sometimes we’re hungry.”

Fossouo nodded. “What if I gave you a way to pay for it?” he asked. “So the dollar wouldn’t even come from your pocket? If you get a system, people will pay you to charge their phones. Or, if you had a TV, you could charge people to come watch the football games.”

“I couldn’t charge a person for coming in to watch a game,” the man said. “We’re all one big family. If someone is wealthy enough to have a TV, everyone is welcome to it.”

The hour ended without a sale, but Fossouo wasn’t worried. “It takes two or three approaches on average,” he said. “You always have to leave the person in a good place, where he loves you stopping by. This guy wants to finish building his house right now—his house is heavy on him—but it won’t be long.” As we talked, the first prospect came over, asking for a leaflet and a phone number. His wife, he said, was very interested.

The arrival of electricity is hard for today’s Westerners to imagine. Light means differences in sleeping and eating patterns and an increased sense of safety. I talked with one Tanzanian near Arusha who had traded in a kerosene lamp for five Off-Grid bulbs, including a security light outside his door that went on automatically when it got dark. “Crime is here,” he said, “but also dangerous animals. Especially snakes. So it’s good to have lights.” Everywhere I went, I met parents who said that their children could study at night. “You can feel the effects with their grades now at school,” one Ivorian father said. Several town chiefs told me that they hoped to get classroom computers, and one planned to mechanize the well so that townspeople would no longer need to pump water by hand. Farmers in West Africa were getting daily weather reports from Farmerline, a Ghanaian information service that uses G.P.S. to customize the forecasts. “If a farmer puts fertilizer on the field and then it rains, he loses the fertilizer—it washes away,” Alloysius Attah, a young Ghanaian entrepreneur who co-founded the service, told me. “And the farmers say they can’t tell the rain anymore. My auntie could read the clouds, the birds flying by, but the usual rainfall pattern has shifted.”

“Our killer app is definitely the television,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. “If the twenty-four-inch is out of stock, lots of people won’t buy.” Wandering through newly electrified towns, I saw teen-agers watching action movies. Black Star’s Poindexter told me, “There was a kid in town that I liked, Samuel, and when I came back after the power was turned on his arm was in a cast. He’d watched a karate show on TV, and he and his friends were playing it, and he broke his arm. I was horrified—I was, like, society is not prepared for this. And then I remembered that I did the same thing after I watched ‘Popeye’ as a kid. I ran right into the hedge and had to get twenty stitches. That’s kids and TV.”

In Daban, after I asked what the most popular program was, everyone began laughing and nodding. “ ‘Kumkum’!” people shouted. “Kumkum Bhagya,” an Indian soap opera set in a marriage hall and loosely based on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” airs every night from seven-thirty to eight-thirty, during which time village life comes to a standstill. “All the chiefs have advocated for everyone to watch, because it’s about how relationships are built,” the local chief, Nana Oti Awere, said. Of course, the changes brought about by electrification will affect local communities in unpredictable ways that will play out over many years. One mother I spoke to explained that the TV “keeps the children at home at night, instead of roaming around.” The Ivorian farmer who told me about the effects on his children’s grades went on to say, “In the old time, you had to go outside and talk. Now my neighbor has his TV, I have my TV, and we stay inside.”

A decade ago, most experts would have predicted that foreign aid, rather than venture capital, would play a central role in bringing power to sub-Saharan Africa. Off-Grid Electric has been funded by sources including Tesla and Paul Allen’s venture fund, Vulcan. Allen, one of the world’s richest men, is worth twenty billion dollars, or roughly half of the G.D.P. of Tanzania, a country of almost fifty-four million people. Should he be able to make yet more money off the electrification of African huts? There’s more than a whiff of colonialism about the rush of Westerners and Western money into Africa. As Attah, the young Ghanaian who helped found Farmerline, put it, “There are a lot of Ivy Leaguers coming to Africa to say, ‘I can solve this problem, snap, snap, snap.’ They’re doing good work, but little investment goes to community leaders who are doing the same work on the ground.”

The Westerners I spoke to, though they pledged to hire more local executives, didn’t think that the drive to help was incompatible with the desire to make money. As Poindexter put it, “There is a level of responsibility that I feel, and that I think any appropriate investor needs to have, about extraction versus contribution. I am not willing to be an extractive capitalist here, but I think that capitalism has an extremely important role to play in these communities.” Helgesen—who, despite his occasional oblivious tech-dudishness, spends most of his time in very remote places trying to provide power—is unapologetic about his company’s funding sources. Billionaires, he says, have the capital to make companies grow fast enough to matter. “Paul Allen didn’t invest because he thought it was the easiest way to make more money,” Helgesen said. “I got an awful lot of ‘no’s along the way from people who wanted easier money.” In any event, it’s not clear that other sources of funding are available, at least from the U.S.: Trump, pulling out of the Paris climate accord earlier this month, said that the country would not meet its pledge to help poor nations develop renewable energy, dismissing the plan as “yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund—nice name.”

Even when aid agencies are well funded, they haven’t always delivered. Over the last decade, a strong critique of aid, ranging from William Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” to Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid,” has laid much of the blame for Africa’s continued underdevelopment on the weaknesses of sweeping programs planned from afar. Still, aid agencies and global-development banks have a useful role to play in the energy transition. It will be years before it makes financial sense for solar companies to expand to the most remote and challenging regions of the continent. As new companies launch, they will need an infusion of what Helgesen calls “ultra-high-risk capital.” Private investors will supply it, he says, “but they want forty per cent of your company in return, which makes it hard to raise capital later on, because you’ve already sold off such a big chunk.” Some aid agencies have funded private ventures in the early stages, to help them get off the ground or reach new geographic areas. U.S.A.I.D. gave Off-Grid five million dollars toward its early costs, and, over the past few years, a Dutch development agency has given the company several hundred thousand euros as it has extended into the impoverished lakes region of Tanzania, where it otherwise wouldn’t have been profitable to go. Currency risks pose another problem: Poindexter told me that when she builds a Ghanaian microgrid she has invested in an asset with a twenty-year life span in a country where inflation is highly unpredictable. “We just had an election in the U.S. with huge consequences for policy,” she said. “But over here every election is potentially like that.” And, like anywhere in the world, national governments can make things easier by establishing clear policies. Rwanda’s leaders, for instance, specified the regions in which the rapidly developing country planned to extend its grid, thereby delineating where solar would be needed most.

“African leaders used to think solar was being pushed on them,” Clare Sierawski, who works on renewable energy with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in Accra, said. “But now they all want solar. It’s a confluence of things. Mostly, it’s getting cheaper. And governments were tuned in to it by the Paris accord.” Ananth Chikkatur, who runs a U.S.A.I.D. project in the city, had just returned from taking thirteen high-ranking Ghanaians on a trip to study solar power in California. “Renewable energy should not be considered an alternative technology,” he said. “It’s becoming a conventional technology now.” Rwanda is not the only nation expanding its grid, and many countries are turning to large solar farms to generate power. Burkina Faso, for instance, has plans for solar arrays across its desert regions.

Distributed generation, however, is especially essential in rural areas, and it is growing fast—maybe, according to some observers, too fast. The investor Peter Bladin told me that the push for quick returns on investment could lead some companies to try to “squeeze more out of poor households” and warned about “mission drift, trying to make money off the backs of the poor in a dubious way.” Earlier this year, three principals from the impact-investment firm Ceniarth, which had put money into Off-Grid and similar companies, said that it was backing out of the industry for the time being. In an open letter, they wrote that the hype of venture capitalists and the lack of government regulation “puts consumers at risk and places a great deal of responsibility on vendors to self-police.” The gush of money, they cautioned, “may be too much, too fast for a sector that still has not fully solved core business model issues and may struggle under the high growth expectations and misaligned incentives of many venture capitalists.” Helgesen, unsurprisingly, disagreed with their analysis of investor over-exuberance. “It’s like looking at a Palm Pilot and saying, ‘This is not so great,’ ” he said. “Or even an iPhone 1. The iPhone 1 was a necessary step to the iPhone 7. People who have raised real money have not raised it on the premise that we’ll be selling the same stuff in ten years.” But he wasn’t waiting for the technology to mature. “We have to think about the future, and we have to sell something people want today,” he said.

Most customers I met had little interest in the fact that their power came from the sun, or that it was environmentally friendly. Since these communities weren’t using power previously, their solar panels fight climate change only in the sense that they decrease pressure to build power plants that consume fossil fuel. But some observers hope that the experience in Africa—which today has more off-the-grid solar homes than the U.S.—could help drive transformation elsewhere. Already, a few dozen American cities have pledged to become one-hundred-per-cent renewable. (Pittsburgh did so the day after Trump held up its theoretically beleaguered citizens as a reason for leaving the climate accord.) The U.S. has already sunk a fortune into building its electric grid, and it may seem far-fetched to think that users will disconnect from it entirely. But, as Helgesen told me, “As batteries get better, it’s going to be a lot more realistic for people to stop depending on their utility.” He thinks that, in an ideal world, technological change could lead to cultural change. “The average American has no concept of electrical constraint,” he said. “If we accept some modest restrictions on our power availability, we can go off-grid very quickly.”

For many people in the countries I visited, solar power is creating a new hope: for electric fans. When I was there, Off-Grid Electric was expanding from the relatively cool highlands around Mt. Kilimanjaro to the scorching, humid lowlands of West Africa, and in every village we visited the message was the same: The TV is great, the light bulb is great, but can I please have a fan? Many homes are poorly ventilated; windows are expensive, and can attract burglars. Fans, however, draw a comparatively large amount of current, threatening to quickly drain the battery that a solar panel has spent the day filling. And, unlike light bulbs or televisions, fans have moving parts that easily break. “Our customers tend to make heavy use of their equipment,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. Still, she promised one village after another that fans were coming soon.

Shea Hughes, Off-Grid’s product manager, is one of the employees charged with delivering on that promise. Hughes told me that he hopes to someday make Off-Grid’s product powerful enough to perform industrial tasks: pumping water for irrigation, milling cacao, and so on. “I’m confident solar is capable of doing that,” he said. “You just add more panels and you get to the power requirements you need. And as the price drops, well . . . ” He had recently been to a consumer-electronics fair in China. “I was amazed to see the prices,” he said.

For the moment, though, a workable fan would be nice. “We’d always thought a fan would take too much power for the current systems we’re selling,” Hughes said. “But the people in Ivory Coast were so insistent that we went back and looked at it.” Because of the emerging market for super-efficient appliances, in the U.S. and elsewhere, some manufacturers had a product that, as long as you kept it set to medium, drew only eight and a half watts. (The standard incandescent light bulb that hung in American hallways for generations drew sixty.) “We’ve told the manufacturer to eliminate the high-speed option,” Hughes said. “Now medium is high. And in our tests people are satisfied with the air speed. But they say the battery tends to run out at 3 or 4 A.M., and they typically sleep till 6 A.M. So it’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From the New York Times, June 1, 2017:

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, suggested Mr. Trump did not understand the mechanics of the treaty. “Not everything written in international agreements is fake news,” he said.
Major players still hope to sway Mr. Trump’s decision. Here’s what other countries might do if the U.S. pulls out.


.* China’s premier, Li Keqiang, met with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany, before heading to Brussels for a Europe-China summit today. China may see President Trump’s antagonistic behavior in Europe last week as an opportunity.
President Trump’s criticism of German trade policy has set off alarm bells in parts of the American South. He is popular there, but German companies are important employers.
Meanwhile, China’s economic might is increasingly apparent in Europe, its top trade partner. Consider how China’s wealthy are turning to European clinics for medical treatment. Or the German engineer who moved to China, where he received a grant for artificial intelligence research six times larger than what he might have gotten in Europe.

From The Washington Post – Today’s WorldView

BY ISHAAN THAROOR June 1, 2017


If Trump quits the Paris climate accord, he will lead the U.S. into the wilderness

After months of speculation, it might finally be happening: President Trump appears ready to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. If he does, he will place Washington at odds with virtually the entire international community.

Despite the excited tone of Trump’s tweet (and reports suggesting that he had made up his mind), the matter seemed far from settled at the time of writing. The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are supposedly urging Trump to stick with the Paris agreement. A host of big companies have urged Trump to reconsider withdrawing. On Wednesday, the shareholders of ExxonMobil, Tillerson’s former company, voted by a wide margin for a resolution they say will compel the oil giant to stick to the goal of transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Many analysts also point to how clean energy is fueling job growth: There are already twice as many solar jobs as there are coal jobs in the United States.

Their opponents include White House chief adviser Stephen K. Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, a climate skeptic who has already set about dismantling Obama-era regulations on the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Trump seems inclined toward the Bannon and Pruitt position, which has some — though not unanimous — support from the Republican Party. (Only in the United States, of course, is the question of climate change subject to partisan debate.)

Championed by the Obama administration, the Paris agreement created, for the first time, a single framework for developed and developing countries to work together and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The New York Times has a helpful primer on what the landmark accord entailed:

“Under the Paris agreement, every country submitted an individual plan to tackle its greenhouse gas emissions and then agreed to meet regularly to review their progress and prod each other to ratchet up their efforts as the years went by,” explained the Times. “Unlike its predecessor treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris deal was intended to be nonbinding, so that countries could tailor their climate plans to their domestic situations and alter them as circumstances changed. There are no penalties for falling short of declared targets. The hope was that, through peer pressure and diplomacy, these policies would be strengthened over time.”

If the United States withdraws from the accord, it would find itself in farcically lonely company. The pact was signed by 195 countries, with only Nicaragua and Syria bowing out.

In coastal, low-lying Nicaragua’s case, leaders refused to sign because the pact didn’t go far enough. “Nicaragua’s lead envoy explained to reporters that the country would not support the agreed-upon plan as it hinged on voluntary pledges and would not punish those who failed to meet them,” wrote my colleague Adam Taylor.

As for Syria, the country “was effectively an international pariah when the Paris accord was first signed, making Damascus’s involvement at the least impractical,” wrote Taylor. Numerous officials in President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are the subject of international sanctions that limit their movement, and the ongoing, devastating war in the country means the Syrian government isn’t paying much attention to limiting its emissions.

The implications of a U.S. withdrawal, though, are profound and far-reaching.

“A U.S. withdrawal would remove the world’s second-largest emitter and nearly 18 percent of the globe’s present day emissions from the agreement, presenting a severe challenge to its structure and raising questions about whether it will weaken the commitments of other nations,” wrote Washington Post environment reporter Chris Mooney.

Some climate experts actually suggest that, given Trump’s steady dismantling of environmental protections, it’s better for the United States to leave the pact altogether than to undermine it from within.

“The success of Paris largely relies on its pledge and review process to create political pressure, and drive low-carbon investments,” wrote Luke Kemp, an environmental policy expert at Australian National University. “A great power that willfully misses its target could provide political cover for other laggards and weaken the soft power of process.”

But given the importance of U.S. investment in clean energy, as well as the huge effect U.S. emissions have on the environment, experts warn that the international community’s efforts to limit global warming to about 2 degrees Celsius may founder without U.S. compliance. The effects would be felt by vulnerable communities all around the world.

If Trump goes ahead and pulls the United States out, it would be “a decision made for domestic political purposes that puts the livelihood and lives of millions of people in developing countries at risk,” said Trevor Houser, a former climate negotiator for the Obama administration, to Vox’s Jim Tankersley. “This is a craven, symbolic political move without any direct benefits for the constituents he’s targeting.”

Although the Paris agreement is nonbinding, it may take three to four years to formally withdraw. Trump could expedite the process by quitting the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed by President George H.W. Bush and ratified by the Senate in the early 1990s, which laid the foundation for the Paris accord. “But that is a more radical move, which would further withdraw the United States from all international climate change negotiations,” wrote Mooney.

And that’s the other effect of a withdrawal: the disappearance of U.S. leadership on a fundamental issue affecting the future of the planet. Already, other countries are taking the mantle once donned by Obama. Ahead of a Friday meeting between European Union leaders and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Beijing and Brussels issued a joint statement saying they were “determined to forge ahead” with measures to “lead the energy transition.” The statement, seen by the Financial Times, also stressed a point seemingly lost on the Trump administration: “Tackling climate change and reforming our energy systems are significant drivers of job creation, investment opportunities and economic growth.”

At a time when the world focuses its efforts to reckon with global warming, Trump may really leave the United States out in the cold.

• Another crucial argument around climate action in the age of Trump: The emergence of a global low-carbon economy may not require the full endorsement of a federal government or nation-state, but actors below that level. I’ve written in the past on how real work around combating emissions is being carried out by cities and regional governments, as well as by corporations themselves. The latter form a crucial constituency that may be unmoved by Trump’s “America First” posturing, writes U.S. climatologist Benjamin Sanderson in The Washington Post:

“Businesses (oil companies included) are well aware that the carbon economy is coming and their shareholders are increasingly demanding long-term investment strategies that allow those companies to profit in a low-carbon future. One can make the argument that the greatest casualty from U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord will be the United States itself. By sidelining mitigation investment, and leaving companies to act alone, U.S. companies are placed at a disadvantage while China races to establish itself as the world leader in clean technology.”

We, at SustainabiliTank.info believe that it is better for the world to pass the times of the Trump Presidency of the US with the non-participation of the US at Climate Change meetings.
Having them there would onnly impede progress by the wise world. So, rather then chasing after the Trump presence – invite them to leave and continue on President Obama’s path.

For Joe Biden see:  twitter.com/JoeBiden/status/8700…

For Mit Romney see:  twitter.com/MittRomney/status/87…


EU and China strengthen climate ties to counter US retreat
Tighter alliance comes as US prepares to announce decision on Paris accord withdrawal

China and the EU have forged a green alliance to combat climate change and counteract any retreat from international action by Donald Trump

 www.ft.com/content/585f1946-45e2…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Thousands to march in defFence of science

By ALEKSANDRA ERIKSSON, THE EUOBSERVER

BRUSSELS, April 21, 2017

Thousands of people in hundreds of places worldwide will take to the streets in support for science on Earth Day, taking place this year on Saturday (22 April), in an event underlining the difficult relationship between science and politics.

The idea of a global March of Science developed shortly after the inauguration of US president Donald Trump in January, amid fears that his term would be marked by disregard for facts and research.

.
Some 517 rallies have been registered so far, with the main one taking place in Washington.

But Calum MacKichan, a Scotsman who organises the march in Brussels, said the goal was much broader than just an anti-Trump protest.

“We want to celebrate science and the role it plays in everyday lives, protect facts and promote dialogue between the scientific community and the public,” MacKichan said at a press event on Thursday (20 April).

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a Belgian professor who is the former vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Bas Eickhout, a Dutch MEP for the Green group, were also present at the gathering.

They said there was need for scientists to play a wider role in public life, also on this side of the Atlantic.


Van Ypersele welcomed that Earth Day’s theme this year is climate literacy, and said scientists should be in broader dialogue with both the public and politicians.


Eickhout, who trained as a chemist and worked as a climate change researcher at the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, said he entered politics “out of frustration that politicians made so little with science”.


“We are pointing fingers at Trump, but we should also point them at ourselves,” he added.


Politicians are dependent on research if they are to make good decisions, but many scientists are afraid of actively providing information to politicians, Eickhout said.

“They fear it makes them into lobbyists. But I don’t think it’s lobbying what you are doing, it’s about informing decision-makers throughout the legislative process,” he said.

This would help to strengthen EU policies, he said.

The European Commission, since 2001, has been conducting impact assessments for all major legislative proposals, covering the potential economic, social and environmental benefits and costs of each proposed policy.

But Eickhout said the assessments were not as objective as one would think. Rather, impact assessments usually portray the commission’s preferred scenario as the best option.

“If I was the commission, I would do the same, so I don’t blame them for this. But I blame them for claiming that the assessments are neutral, when they in fact are designed to fit the political interests of those that commanded them,” Eickhout said.


Trump’s actions could seem like a golden opportunity for green parties, but Eickhout wasn’t so sure.

“If you really want to get policies off the ground you need a broader political basis. I fear that in Europe, climate sceptics, who had a sleeping existence, are now waking up again. They see Trump’s election as an opportunity,” the Dutch MEP said.

The new US president has said the concept of global warming was made by the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing less competitive.

Van Ypersele said, however, that Trump has also shown signs he believed in climate change.

In 2009, Trump had signed a full-page advertisement in The New York Times calling for “meaningful and effective measures to combat climate change”, just before president Barack Obama departed for the climate summit in Copenhagen.

His organisation has also used the term “global warming and its effects” when applying for a permit to build protection against coastal erosion for his golf course in Ireland.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


If Trump’s Nominee Scott Pruitt Is Confirmed, ‘EPA Would Stand for Every Polluter’s Ally’

By Elliott Negin, EcoWatch
04 January 17


Nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives lie to Donald Trump’s claim that he is serious about protecting the public from pollution. While the president-elect has waffled on climate change, he has been unequivocal about toxics.

“Clean air is vitally important,” Trump declared during a Nov. 22, 2016 interview with The New York Times. “Clean water,” he added, “crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.” And when he announced Pruitt’s nomination in early December, Trump vowed that the attorney general would “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe.”

Putting aside the fact that the EPA has not forsaken that mission, Pruitt’s track record indicates that he would do the exact opposite. Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter’s Ally.

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Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry,’ to Head EPA ow.ly/sGrC306X0Cr @GreenpeaceAustP @Green_Europe 1:40 PM – 9 Dec 2016

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Trump Picks ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry’ to Head EPA
Donald Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and…  ecowatch.com 33 33 Retweets 17 17 likes

Since he took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2010, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to block key safeguards limiting power plant pollution, most notably the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which limits sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which curb mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other emissions.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are primary ingredients of soot and smog pollution, which cause a number of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and aggravated asthma, as well as cardiovascular disease and premature death. Mercury and other toxic pollutants covered by MATS have been linked to heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Some 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, alone. That’s one out of every 12 people.

The potential benefits of the Cross-State Rule and MATS are considerable. Taken together, they are projected to prevent 18,000 to 46,000 premature deaths across the country and save $150 billion to $380 billion in health care costs annually. In Pruitt’s home state, the two regulations would avert as many as 720 premature deaths and save as much as $5.9 billion per year.

Pruitt also has sued the EPA to prevent the agency from implementing a rule that would reduce the amount of ground-level ozone or smog, which the American Lung Association says is the most widespread pollutant nationwide and one of the most dangerous. Produced when sunlight heats nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide from power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, ozone pollution has been linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is particularly harmful for the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and people already suffering from asthma or another respiratory disease.

No matter. In October 2015, Pruitt joined with four other states to challenge the new ozone rule in court, despite the fact that earlier that month, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the state could meet the new EPA limits.

Pruitt also has targeted clean water safeguards. In July 2015, he sued the EPA over the Clean Water Rule, which the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had just issued to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. The rule was in response to two Supreme Court decisions—in 2001and in 2006—that called into question whether the federal government had the authority to protect smaller streams, wetlands and other water bodies that flow into drinking water supplies. From a scientific perspective, it’s a no-brainer. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained in a statement: “For the lakes and rivers we love to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them have to be clean, too.”

Pruitt doesn’t see it that way. In a March 2015 column he co-wrote with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for The Hill, Pruitt called the Clean Water Rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.” Pruitt and Rand maintain that states should be responsible for protecting the environment within their respective borders, not the federal government. Never mind that air and water pollution do not honor political boundaries and state legislatures are all too often dominated by corporate interests.

Besides Pruitt’s disdain for air and water safeguards, he is no fan of federal efforts to address climate change, which he falsely insists is an open scientific question. Pruitt, who has received generous contributions from fossil fuel interests, is not only party to a pending lawsuit against the EPA over its Clean Power Plan to curb electricity sector carbon emissions, he also attempted unsuccessfully to overturn the agency’s science-based “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, a cornerstone of the EPA’s climate work.

Public health advocates are rightly horrified at the prospect of Pruitt running the EPA. The response from Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was typical.

“The EPA plays an absolutely vital role in enforcing long-standing policies that protect the health and safety of Americans, based on the best available science,” Kimmell said in a press statement. “Pruitt has a clear record of hostility to the EPA’s mission, and he is a completely inappropriate choice to lead it. … It’s this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

With a $1 million grant, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs jumpstarts solar-electricity small-vessels transportation in Tunisia for the benefit of the Middle East and North Africa.

UNDESA – 01-JANUARY 2017

Project for solar-powered vessels receives $1 million UN Energy Grant

A partnership working to promote solar-powered electric vessels in Tunisia and in the Middle East and North Africa was awarded the one million US dollars 2016 Energy Grant from UN DESA on 14 December 2016. The project “Solar Fueled Electric Maritime Mobility” by SINTEF, an independent non-profit research institute based in Norway, seeks to demonstrate the feasibility and the social, economic and environmental benefits of solar-fueled electric boat transport in Tunisia and the wider region.

SINTEF is implementing this demonstration project with the National Agency for Energy Conservation of Tunisia.

SINTEF will use the grant to develop technology for a traditional ferry or other vessel with a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain and to construct an electric charging point. It will help also support data collection and analysis. Selection of the vessel in Tunisia to be used for the demonstration will be decided in the first phase of the project.

The project aims to generate the data and evidence needed to replicate sustainable transport in the region. It seeks to demonstrate the benefits of low cost electric vessels as key transport between coastal cities in the region, with a view to encouraging other stakeholders to implement such transport on a larger scale. This would in turn benefit in particular the low and middle income parts of the population. The project will also contribute to the avoidance of transport related greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and it will help to prevent and reduce marine pollution.

Furthermore, the project will conduct capacity development workshops for Tunisian and other regional stakeholders, the preparation of a Tunisian Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) to be submitted to the UNFCCC portal, as well as public outreach activities to spread knowledge of this low-cost, sustainable transport solution.

SINTEF has extensive expertise in solar and wind energy, energy regulation and storage, grid integration of renewable energy, maritime transport and maritime technologies.

“The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. It also has significant public health impacts,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the award ceremony. “The answer is not less transport – it is sustainable transport.
We need transport systems that are environmentally friendly, efficient, affordable, and accessible,” he said.

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson said the “Powering the Future We Want” programme is a “creative initiative that promotes and funds innovative activities related to sustainable energy – an issue that goes to the heart of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” He added, “it is vital to our efforts to move towards a sustainable future that we establish transport systems that are smart, clean, affordable, and powered by clean energy.”

Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo expressed deep gratitude to all of the finalists, the China Energy Fund Committee, the High-level Steering Committee and the Advisory Council of the Grant. “This Energy Grant is an excellent example of global partnership. Working together, we can make a difference. Today’s award bears vivid testimony to that success,” he said.

“We firmly believe that energy belongs to all of us, today and tomorrow. And each and every one of us has the duty to use energy sparingly, wisely and responsibly. By partnering with UN DESA in making this grant possible, the China Energy Fund Committee is sending out a most sincere message of collaboration and partnership to work together finding solutions for energy security by achieving energy sustainability for the entire humanity,” said Dr. Patrick Ho, Secretary-General of the China Energy Fund Committee.

The “Powering the Future We Want” initiative

The UN-DESA Energy Grant is a capacity building initiative launched and managed by UN DESA, in collaboration with the China Energy Fund Committee, a Hong Kong based NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC. Titled “Powering the Future We Want”, this initiative offers a grant in the amount of one million US dollars to fund capacity development activities in energy for sustainable development. The grant is awarded to an individual, institution or partnership based on past and current achievements in leadership and innovative practices in advancing energy for sustainable development. The 2016 cycle of the grant had as focus “Energy for Sustainable Transport”.

In 2016, the UN DESA Energy Grant received over 150 applications. The winner has been selected through a rigorous review and objective assessment of these applications, undertaken in multiple stages, guided by an Advisory Council and a High-level Steering Committee. A grant will be awarded annually from 2015 until 2019.

The eight finalists of the 2016 Grant Cycle, in alphabetical order: Ms. Fiza Farhan; GerWeiss Motors Corporation; KPIT Technologies Limited; Medellin Mayor’s Office- Mobility and Transit Department; Motor Development International SA (MDI SA); South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE); SINTEF; SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.

Winner of the US$1 million 2016 UN-DESA Energy Grant: SINTEF
The $1 million come from a China/Hong Kong based NGO.

For more information: UN-DESA Energy Grant.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 2nd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Green Prophet. Sustainable News for the Middle East.

This article base on news from Australia.

Sundrop Farms grows tomatoes with seawater.

Posted on January 2, 2017 by Karin Kloosterman in Green Tech and Gadgets.

Saltwater greenhouses can save the Middle East and humanity from drought and climate change. Three cheers to Sundrop Farms in Australia for pioneering saltwater greenhouses in Australia: they are now harvesting tomatoes for a leading grocery store called Coles. And Sundrop is producing what they say is a “better product, better for the people, better for the planet –– all year round.”

Sundrop Farms is using hydroponics, a method of growing plants on a treated water medium, without soil. It’s an extremely efficient way for growing plants, and it’s now becoming a leading choice for growing food in difficult climates, in urban centers or in areas where water is poor and lacking. In China for instance where the soil is contaminated with cadmium and lead, people are very eager to buy organic food grown hydroponically.

Sundrop says it’s the first farming system of its kind to have reached commercial scale. The 65-hectare facility was made possible with an investment of 200 million Australian dollars ($148 million) which paid for a desalination plant, greenhouses and other installations needed to grow the tomatoes.

It’s a bet worth betting as we see the rise in agricultural crops in Australia and the world.

The Sundrop greenhouses are powered by sunlight, using 23,000 mirrors that reflect rays toward the top of a 127-meter high receiver tower that turns the sun into electricity.

This power is used to pump seawater from 5km away. Beyond producing tomatoes, the facility also produces 1 million liters of fresh water every single day.


Sundrop Farms CEO Philipp Saumweber, a former investment banker, says the agriculture model as “innovative” in that it harnesses only seawater and sunlight.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Climate talks: ‘Save us’ from global warming, US urged.

By Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent

BBC Science & Environment
19 November 2016

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama told the conference that climate change was not a hoax
The next head of the UN global climate talks has appealed for the US to “save” Pacific islands from the impacts of global warming.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said that the islands needed the US now as much as they did during World War Two.

He was speaking as global climate talks in Marrakech came to an end.

Mr Bainimarama said that climate change was not a hoax, as US President-elect Donald Trump has claimed.

Mr Trump has promised to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement and scrap all payments for UN global warming projects.

But as he accepted the role of president of the Conference of the Parties for the year ahead, the Fijian leader took the opportunity to call on to the next US president to step away from his scepticism.
“I again appeal to the President-elect of the US Donald Trump to show leadership on this issue by abandoning his position that man-made climate change is a hoax,” said Mr Bainimarama.
“On the contrary, the global scientific consensus is that it is very real and we must act more decisively to avoid catastrophe.”


He also made a direct call to the American people to come to their aid in the face of rising seas, driven by global warming.
“We in the Pacific, in common with the whole world, look to America for the leadership and engagement and assistance on climate change just as we looked to America in the dark days of World War Two.
“I say to the American people, you came to save us then, and it is time for you to help save us now.”
After two weeks of talks here in Marrakech, participants arrived at a consensus on the next steps forward for the landmark climate treaty.

This gathering saw the opening of CMA1, the Conference of the Parties meeting as the signatories of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rises.
CMA1 will be the formal UN body that will run, manage and set the rules for the operation of the Paris treaty.


UK joins the club

The number of countries who have ratified the agreement jumped above 100 with the UK joining during the last few days of the conference.
“Delegates in Marrakech made crucial progress in building the foundation to support the Paris agreement, which went into force just days before COP22,” said Paula Caballero from the World Resources Institute.

“Most importantly, negotiators agreed to finalise the rules of the Paris Agreement by 2018 and developed a clear roadmap to meet that deadline.”

US secretary of state John Kerry gave an impassioned speech in Marrakech, his last climate conference while in office

The participants also agreed the Marrakech Proclamation, a statement re-affirming the intentions of all 197 signatories to the Paris deal.

Seen as show of unity on the issue in the light a possible US withdrawal, countries stated they would live up to their promises to reduce emissions. The proclamation also called on all states to increase their carbon cutting ambitions, urgently.

Some of the poorest nations in the world announced that they were moving towards 100% green energy at this meeting.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum said that the 47 member countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Yemen, would achieve this goal between 2030 and 2050. And they challenged richer countries to do the same.

Despite these steps forward there were still some areas of significant difference between the parties, especially over money. The talks will continue in 2017 with a new US delegation picked by the Trump administration.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 thegreeneconomy.com/content/towar…

Towards a New Economy: Investors forging a road less traveled.

We live in an economic world that most would call capitalism: a word we all use, but definitions vary. Generally starting with “An economic ‘system’ …”. The definitions go on to define aspects of the ownership of capital. What is left out is the question: “What are the goals of a capitalist system?” As the goals of a capitalist economy have changed, so have the investor strategies that fuel markets. Currently, the system has tended toward ‘maximizing shareholder profit’ rather than on creating companies that have long term value for shareholders through:

Transparent and accountable governance,
A stable employee base that makes enough money to purchase the output of the economy,
Policies that strengthen local communities, and a
Means of production that produces goods at the least cost to the environment.
Investors, who do use these metrics as a basis for their decisions, use terms such as ‘mission investing’ ,’ triple bottom line’, ‘ESG’ and ‘impact’ investing. However, such terms can miss the point because they imply that investors are searching for social good, not for metrics that provide returns above market rate. Yet as far back as 2009, Sarah Stranahan, speaking at a Sustainable Investing conference in New York, spoke about the Needmor Foundation, which has used a mission investing strategy.

Sarah Stranahan: “Why are we trying to prove that we [mission investors] are as good as the dominant markets? The dominant markets have failed dismally. Needmor did 4.5% better [than a comparable foundation without a mission strategy]. So what? We still lost 25% of our endowment. We failed in our fiduciary duty and disappointed our grantees and our staff because we had faith in the dominant markets.”

As foundations and funds were reassessing their strategic goals in 2009, Dave Chen in San Francisco was working on a plan to implement. Please continue by going to the link!

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