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


the Republican party’s de-democratization strategy is the one of calling for a strategy of
“one Anglo-Saxon, financially successful person, one vote”.

Trump’s Next Attack on Democracy: Mass Voter Suppression

By Russ Feingold, Guardian UK
01 July 17

The Trump administration’s ‘election integrity’ commission is declaring war on voters – our democratic legitimacy be damned

he most important aspect of any democratic election is participation. A democracy gains its legitimacy through elections only so far as those elections represent the will of the people. Limit voter participation, and there is a direct correlation between the legitimacy of an election and the democratic system. President Trump and Vice-President Pence’s “election integrity” commission is unequivocally declaring war on voters – our democratic legitimacy be damned.

The commission recently sent a letter to all 50 states asking that they provide all the names and associated birthdays, last four digits of social security numbers, addresses, political parties, and voting histories since 2006 of people on their voter rolls. This letter is helping to lay the groundwork for nationalized voter suppression.

The commission is requesting the same information that Republican state governments have used to create hyper-partisan gerrymandering and enact restrictive voter ID laws. Such measures have been disturbingly successful at suppressing voting of minority and low-income citizens, groups that tend to vote with Democrats. This assault on voters might seem farfetched, except that we’ve seen this strategy too many times before to claim ignorance now.

After slavery ended, white elites invented felony disenfranchisement as a means to delegitimize black citizens and prevent them from gaining influence. We saw Jim Crow gut-punch our democracy in yet another attempt to disenfranchise minorities. We are witnessing history repeating itself.

Nationally, the Democratic party is gaining support as the country’s demographics become increasingly diverse. The majority of black, Native American, Hispanic and Asian voters vote as Democrats. The Republican party has known for several years now that its best tactic to cling to power is not to build a party worth supporting, but to deny participation in the political process to Democratic party voters.

Making matters worse, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Office, long heralded as the ultimate guarantor of civil rights, including voting rights, might unknowingly be supporting the commission’s efforts. The Civil Rights Office sent out a letter on Wednesday, the same day as the commission sent its letter, seeking information from states on how they maintain their voter rolls. The office charged with upholding the 1965 Voting Rights Act must resist playing a leading role in further dismantling this most fundamental democratic right.

I would expect these actions from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or any of the other authoritarian regimes we have sanctioned around the world – regimes that stay in power by suppressing their people and manipulating election results. We must not lie to ourselves when we see the warning signs here at home. This commission is a harbinger of a top-down, White House-endorsed assault on voters, specifically Democratic voters: the same voters who denied Trump the popular vote.

State leaders have a moral and constitutional obligation to our democracy and to their citizens to refuse to cooperate with this commission.

States should refuse to hand over any of the requested voter information, as California, Virginia, Rhode Island and Kentucky have refused to do at this writing. The Connecticut, Oklahoma and North Carolina secretaries of state, on the other hand, have agreed to send “publicly available” information to the commission. This is a mistake.

Our democracy cannot afford to turn over any information now and ask questions later. States turning over any information, including publicly available information, legitimize the commission and betray the trust and privacy of voters. Having publicly available information for in-state use is different from providing information for a national voter database that will be placed at the hands of nefarious actors. States must take a stand to protect their voters’ most fundamental democratic right.

Additionally, Democrats must refuse to participate in the commission. The secretaries of state for New Hampshire and Maine should step down from the commission immediately. Participation risks granting legitimacy where there can be none. Two lone Democrats on this commission will stand no chance of preventing the pre-cooked outcomes. Instead, they and their states are being used to cloak the commission in the guise of bipartisanship. If Democrats refuse to participate, the commission will be left with no clothes on.

The litany of research on voting in recent years has failed to come up with but a handful of voter fraud cases. On the other hand, voter suppression techniques, such as those employed by the Republican party, effectively disenfranchise scores of voters across the country. If the real goal of the administration is election integrity, the stated objective from day one should have been to maximize voter participation.

Rather than target minority voters with a modern gloss on McCarthyism, we should be prioritizing a 21st-century Voting Rights Act to protect voting rights and increase access to the ballot box.

Rather than voter ID laws that disenfranchise certain demographics, a new Voting Rights Act could set a national ID standard, granting maximum flexibility to voters. It could also ban felony disenfranchisement in national elections and require publication of new electoral changes to help educate voters.

The options are there to strengthen our democracy and truly protect “one person, one vote”. Instead, this commission appears intent on nationalizing the Republican party’s strategy of “one Anglo-Saxon, financially successful person, one vote”.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

E&E News on EPA

Pruitt will launch program to ‘critique’ climate science

Emily Holden, E&E News reporter
Climatewire: Friday, June 30, 2017

Scott Pruitt, U.S. EPA Administrator, of the Trump Administration, favors reopening the endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, according to Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp. @EPAScottPruitt/Twitter

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading a formal initiative to challenge mainstream climate science using a “back-and-forth critique” by government-recruited experts, according to a senior administration official.


The program will use “red team, blue team” exercises to conduct an “at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science,” the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations.

“The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals … provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science,” the source said.

“We are in fact very excited about this initiative,” the official added. “Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.”

The disclosure follows the administration’s suggestions over several days that it supports reviewing climate science outside the normal peer-review process used by scientists. This is the first time agency officials acknowledged that Pruitt has begun that process. The source said Energy Secretary Rick Perry also favors the review.

Executives in the coal industry interpret the move as a step toward challenging the endangerment finding, the agency’s legal foundation for regulating greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and other sources. Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., said Pruitt assured him yesterday that he plans to begin reviewing the endangerment finding within months.

“We talked about that, and they’re going to start addressing it later this year,” Murray said in an interview. “They’re going to start getting a lot of scientific people in to give both sides of the issue.”

But another person attending the meeting said Pruitt resisted committing to a full-scale challenge of the 2009 finding. The administration source also said Pruitt “did not promise to try to rescind the endangerment finding.”

Climate scientists express concern that the “red team, blue team” concept could politicize scientific research and disproportionately elevate the views of a relatively small number of experts who disagree with mainstream scientists (Climatewire, June 29).

Pruitt told about 30 people attending a board meeting of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity yesterday morning that he’s establishing a “specific process” to review climate science, the administration official said. Murray and two other people in the room interpreted Pruitt as saying he would challenge the endangerment finding.

Challenging the endangerment finding would be enormously difficult, according to many lawyers. The finding is built on an array of scientific material establishing that human health and welfare is endangered by a handful of greenhouse gases emitted by industry, power plants and cars. It stems from a Supreme Court ruling in 2007.

If Pruitt somehow succeeded in rolling back the finding — an outcome that many Republicans say is far-fetched — the federal government would no longer be required to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

Power companies have told Pruitt they don’t want him to wade into a protracted and public legal battle that he would likely lose. Many have said that if EPA rescinds its carbon standards for power plants — the Clean Power Plan — the agency should write a substitute rule and try to avoid court fights that might confuse their efforts to make long-term business plans (Climatewire, June 22).

Murray yesterday commended President Trump’s announcement that he would try to boost some coal exports, but he said that ultimately what the sector needs is for EPA to nix the endangerment finding.

Perry also has touted carbon capture and sequestration technologies for coal plants, even as he questions whether climate science is settled.

Murray said carbon capture won’t help, either.

“Carbon capture and sequestration does not work. It’s a pseudonym for ‘no coal,'” Murray said while waiting for a ride outside DOE headquarters. “It is neither practical nor economic, carbon capture and sequestration. It is just cover for the politicians, both Republicans and Democrats that say, ‘Look what I did for coal,’ knowing all the time that it doesn’t help coal at all.”

Murray acknowledged that the legal fight over the endangerment finding would be “tough.” He thinks that’s because climate activists and renewable power producers want to keep making money off climate change.

“All these people will be jumping on this on the other side because it’s all about money, but it is not about America. America needs reliable, low-cost electricity, and that is a mix of different fuels,” he said.

Murray also wants Perry to use emergency authority to stop coal and nuclear plant closures, although lawyers have said that is unlikely to happen (Energywire, June 19).

Still, Murray, who is close with the president, said he thinks Trump would be “receptive” to the idea.

Reporter Rod Kuckro contributed.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From [Columbia University Climate Law Blog]: UN Body Finds That Human Rights Treaty Requires Climate Action

Climate Law Blog

Columbia Law School Climate Law Blog has posted a new item, ‘UN Body Finds That
Human Rights Treaty Requires Climate Action’

By Jessica Wentz

On June 23 the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
issued a statement recognizing that the failure to take adequate action on
climate change may rise to a violation of the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The Committee, a body of
independent experts that monitors compliance with the ICESR for the UN Economic
and Social Council, made the following observations and recommendations during
its review of Australia’s implementation of the treaty:

The Committee is concerned about the continued increase of CO2 emissions in the
State party, at risk of worsening in the coming years, despite the State
party’s commitments as a developed country under the UN Framework Convention
on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as its Nationally Determined
Contribution under the Paris Agreement. The Committee is also concerned that
environmental protection has decreased in recent years as shown by the repeal of
the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2013, and the State party’s ongoing support to
new coal mines and coal-fired power stations. The Committee is also concerned
that climate change is disproportionately affecting the enjoyment of Covenant
rights by indigenous peoples.

The Committee recommends that the State party revise its climate change and
energy policies, as indicated during the dialogue. It recommends that the State
party take immediate measures aimed at reversing the current trend of increasing
absolute emissions of greenhouse gases, and pursue alternative and renewable
energy production. The Committee also encourages the State party to review its
position in support of coal mines and coal export. The Committee further
recommends that the State party address the impact of climate change on
indigenous peoples more effectively while fully engaging indigenous peoples in
related policy and programme design and implementation.

You may view the post at
 blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatecha…

Best regards,

Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
Columbia Law School
 www.columbiaclimatelaw.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Dr. Wil Burns
Co-Executive Director, Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, School of International Service, American University  wil at feronia.org  www.ceassessment.org

What Is Climate Engineering?

Climate engineering is the deliberate, large-scale intervention in one or more Earth
systems for the purpose of counteracting the causes or symptoms of human-caused
climate change. It is also called geoengineering or, less often, climate intervention. CE
encompasses two very different kinds of proposed technologies: Solar geoengineering,
also known as solar radiation management (SRM), would aim to cool the Earth by
reflecting a small fraction of incoming sunlight back into space before it can warm the
Earth. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR), sometimes called negative emissions
technologies (NETs) or greenhouse gas removal technologies, would remove carbon
dioxide (CO2) or other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and sequester them for
long periods of time in biological, geological, or oceanic reservoirs. These two kinds of
technologies generally raise different sets of technical, ethical, social, and legal
concerns, leading to frequent calls to treat them separately. Since many of the reports
being summarized here address both kinds of CE, this report will do so, too.

A Survey of Reports on Climate Engineering, 2009-2015
by Dr. David R. Morrow
Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment
American University
FCEA Working Paper Series: 001
SSRN: 2982392
June, 2017

 ceassessment.org/wp-content/uploa…

The first incarnation of our think tank’s monthly newsletter is now available: mailchi.mp/6030d8133d1c/new-clima….

=============================================

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

President Donald Trump spoke at the Energy Department on Thursday June 29, 2017
He called for a new era of “American energy dominance”

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump delivered a Thursday afternoon speech promoting the White House’s “Energy Week” on a day largely overshadowed by a series of disparaging tweets aimed at MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski.

Trump said his administration will seek “American energy dominance,” calling for domestic energy development and loosening of Obama-era regulations.

“We have nearly 100 years worth of natural gas and more than 250 years worth of clean, beautiful coal. We are a top producer of petroleum and the number one producer of natural gas. We have so much more than we ever thought possible. We are really in the driving seat, and you know what? We don’t want to let other countries take away our sovereignty,” he said at the “Unleashing American Energy Summit” at the Department of Energy. “This vast energy wealth does not belong to the government. It belongs to the people of the United States of America.”

The President cited the Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline as administration achievements, adding that he will reduce restrictions on the development of natural gas and canceled the moratorium on a coal leasing on federal lands.

He also noted his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords, saying “maybe we’ll be back into it some day, but it will be on better terms.”

Trump announced six new administrative initiatives in his remarks, including the approval of construction of a new petroleum pipeline to Mexico, which he said would “go right under the wall,” and an agreement to begin negotiations for the sale of more American natural gas to South Korea, which he said he would discuss with South Korean leaders at the White House Thursday.

Surrounded by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Vice President Mike Pence, Trump spoke to an audience of administration officials, lawmakers, energy industry executives and labor union leaders and employees about his administration’s energy policy.

“The golden era of American energy is now underway,” he said. “And I’ll go a step further: the golden era of America is now underway, believe me.”

He also pointed to two immigration policy votes on the House floor Thursday, “Kate’s Law” and the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” legislation he said he would give “the fastest signature that you have ever seen.”

Trump said his first order of business upon return to the White House would be to ask about the votes.

“I expect good things. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be talking about it right now, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t like losing.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 25th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From TRUTHOUT:

In a recent, exclusive interview with Truthout, we asked Noam Chomsky about his take on climate change and the state of the planet. Here’s what he said:

“Every part of [the world] is trying to do something. The United States alone is trying to destroy it, and it’s not just Trump, it’s the whole Republican Party. You just can’t find words for it. And it’s not reported. It’s not discussed.”

From WASHINGTON POST:

Beyond opposing Trump, do Democrats have a message?

Perhaps Democrats thought things would be easier because of Donald Trump’s rocky start. His presidency has produced an outpouring of anger among Democrats, but will that be enough to bring about a change in the party’s fortunes? Some savvy Democratic elected officials doubt it.

By Dan Balz, June 24, 2017

Their anti-Trump fantasies are not working for them. Anger is not a plan or a policy. It only feeds those they already had and does not expand their base. If anything, it further alienates them from voters they need. This is because they not only hate Trump, they also hate those who voted for him. “I hate you because you did not vote for me” is a tough sale.

The loss in last week’s special congressional election in Georgia produced predictable handwringing and finger-pointing inside the Democratic Party. It also raised anew a question that has troubled the party through a period in which they have lost ground political. Simply put: Do Democrats have a message?

Right now, the one discernable message is opposition to President Donald Trump. That might be enough to get through next year’s midterm elections, though some savvy Democratic elected officials doubt it. What’s needed is a message that attracts voters beyond the blue-state base of the party.

The defeat in Georgia came in a district that was always extremely challenging. Nonetheless, the loss touched off a hunt for scapegoats. Some Democrats, predictably, blamed the candidate, Jon Ossoff, for failing to capitalize on a flood of money and energy among party activists motivated to send a message of opposition to the president. He may have had flaws but he and the Democrats turned out lots of voters. There just weren’t enough of them.

Other critics went up the chain of command and leveled their criticism at House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. She has held her party together in the House through many difficult fights – ask veterans of the Obama administration – but she also has become a prime target for GOP ad makers as a symbol of the Democrats’ liberal and bicoastal leanings. Pelosi, a fighter, has brushed aside the criticism.

Perhaps Democrats thought things would be easier because of Trump’s rocky start. His presidency has produced an outpouring of anger among Democrats but will that be enough to bring about a change in the party’s fortunes?

History says a president with approval ratings as low as Trump’s usually sustain substantial midterm losses. That could be the case in 2018, particularly if the Republicans end up passing a health care bill that right now is far more unpopular than Obamacare. But Trump has beaten the odds many times in his short political career. What beyond denunciations of the Republicans as heartless will the Democrats have to say to voters?

Though united in vehement opposition to the president, Democrats do not speak with one voice. Fault lines and fissures exist between the ascendant progressive wing at the grassroots and those Democrats who remain more business-friendly. While these differences are not as deep as those seen in Trump’s Republican Party, that hasn’t yet generated a compelling or fresh message to take to voters who aren’t already sold on the party.

Hillary Clinton, whose rhetoric often sounded more poll-tested than authentic, never found that compelling message during her 2016 campaign. She preferred to run a campaign by demonizing Trump and as a result drowned out her economic issues. This was a strategic gamble for which she paid a high price.

The absence of a convincing economic message did not start with Clinton. Former president Barack Obama struggled with the same during his 2012 reelection. He wanted to claim credit for a steady but slow recovery while acknowledging forthrightly the persistent growth that was rising far more rapidly for those at the top. It was a muddle at best, but he was saved the fact that Mitt Romney couldn’t speak to those stressed voters either. In 2016, however, Trump did.

Clinton’s loss forced Democrats to confront their deficiencies among white, working-class voters and the vast areas between the coasts that flipped in Trump’s direction. Their defection from the Democratic Party began well before Trump but until 2016 Democrats thought they could overcome that problem by tapping other voters. Trump showed the limits of that strategy.

The Georgia loss put a focus on a different type of voter, the well-educated suburbanites, particularly those who don’t live in deep blue states. While losing ground among working-class whites, Democrats have been gaining support among white voters with college degrees. Last fall, Clinton advisers believed she would do well enough with those college graduates to overcome projected erosion among those without college educations. She fell short of expectations, however, allowing Trump to prevail in the pivotal Midwest battlegrounds.

The Georgia district had the highest percentage of college graduates of any in the nation. Ossoff tried to win over those suburban voters with a moderate message on economic issues but it wasn’t powerful or persuasive enough to overcome the appeal of the Republican brand in an election in which the GOP made Pelosi-style Democrats a focus. Loyalty to party was strong enough to allow Karen Handel to prevail.

The long-running debate over the Democrats’ message likely will intensify as the party looks to 2018 and especially to 2020. It is a debate that the party needs. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, writing in the American Prospect, sees a problem that goes beyond white, working-class voters to those within the Democratic base who also were left behind by the post-2008 economic gains. He argues that the part’s problem is with working class voters of all types, not just whites.

Greenberg has long been critical of the tepidness of the party’s economic message and puts some of the blame on Obama. He believes the former president’s economic message in 2012 and 2016 focused on progress in the recovery largely to the exclusion of the widespread pain that still existed. “That mix of heralding ‘progress’ while bailing out those responsible for the crisis and the real crash in incomes for working Americans was a fatal brew for Democrats,” he argues.

For progressives, the answer to this problem is clear: a boldly liberal message that attacks big corporations and Wall Street and calls for a significant increase in government’s role in reducing income and wealth inequality. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. has been aggressive in promoting exactly that, as he did during the 2016 campaign, a big investment in infrastructure, free college tuition at public colleges and universities. He has said he intends to introduce legislation he calls “Medicare for all.”

That kind of message likely will spark more internal debate, particularly among Democrats from swing districts or swing states. It points to one of the biggest challenges Democrats face as they move beyond being the anti-Trump party. That is the question of whether they are prepared to make a robust and appealing case in behalf of government in the face of continuing skepticism among many of the voters they are trying to win over. Trump might not succeed in draining the swamp, but he has tapped into sentiments about Washington that Democrat ignore at their peril.

Nor can Democrats ignore voters’ concerns about immigration. The Democrats’ message on immigration and immigrant rights (and some other cultural issues) plays well in many blue states, but it draws a much more mixed reception in those parts of the country where Trump turned the election in his direction.

In this divided era, it’s easy for either party to look at the other and conclude the opposition is in worse shape. That’s the trap for Democrats right now as they watch Trump struggle in office. But Democrats are in the minority in the House, Senate, governorships and state legislatures. Clinton may have won the popular vote but that proved about as satisfying as coming close while losing last week in Georgia. It’s no substitute for the real thing. If continued frustration with losing doesn’t prompt rethinking about the message, what will?

From OpenDEMOCRACY:

Macron and absolute responsibility
PATRICE DE BEER 23 June 2017
If there were one word to characterise these elections, it was crafted by Melenchon and is “dégagisme”, or cleaning-out.

French President Emmanuel Macron has won his ambitious and unlikely bet. After having been elected president last May at the age of 39, he now holds an absolute majority in the National Assembly, with 350 seats out of 577 – his own movement, La République En Marche (LREM), having 308 MPs, the rest being held by his centrist MoDem allies.

For a movement created only14 months ago and long considered by pundits and politicians alike as a “bubble”, this is an incredible success. Even if it is less than what the most recent opinion polls had predicted (up to 470 seats), and even though the 57% abstention rate has reached an apex in the history of the Fifth Republic.

Now that he has turned the French party system upside down, he holds all the cards to implement his promised in-depth reform of a paralysed political, economic and social system. This is what most French voters elected him for. He will marginally revamp his government, which includes ministers from left, right and centre alongside personalities from civil society, serving under the conservative 46-year-old Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, before Parliament is due to convene on June 27. Yet he has to move fast on his reforms – first of the labour market, a very divisive one, on which negotiations with unions and employers have already started – knowing by experience as the former adviser and economic minister of the last Socialist president, François Hollande, that delaying crucial decisions means having their positive effects delayed till the end of his five year tenure, if not later. He knows this so well that some of his new bills are already in the pipeline, having even been partly drafted before he took office.

If his predicted triumph has been downsized to an historical success in presiding over the demise of the two parties who ruled France in the last 60 years, it is mostly because of a massive abstention rate. Already noted during the first round, when other parties lost up to 60% of the votes obtained during the April-May presidential election, this conviction on the part of many voters that this is the only election that matters, also afflicted the Macron vote last Sunday. Some of his voters thought there was no point voting again as the dice were cast, others were not so keen to give him too big a majority. At the same time, it looks as if tactical voting from opposition voters, starting with the left and right extremes – France Insoumise (FI or Unsubdued Left) and National Front (FN) – helped defeat some LREM candidates who were ahead on the first round.

Faced by these 350 seats, conservative Républicains and their centrist allies had their worse ever score with 130 seats (against 229 in the last Parliament). Socialists slumped to 30, 10% of their previous score. They are in total disarray, having lost their historical strongholds and some MPs only having survived thanks to Macron’s support for those considered “Macron compatible”, after they voiced support in public for some of his reforms and their willingness to support his government in its first vote of confidence. A split between such recruits and the hard-liners has already occurred in the Republicains, with the same expected to ensue any moment now within the Socialists, all of which should benefit the new President.

Together for the first time, the far left and the far right will play an albeit minor role within a split opposition. FN has now 8 MPs instead of 2, including the election of its leader Ms Marine Le Pen. This is far less than they had hoped for and not enough to form a parliamentary group (a minimum of 15 MPs). The FI, the new populist party led by Jean-Luc Melenchon, has 17 MPs when it previously had none. This will give him a basis to pursue his war against Macron whom he considers as the devil incarnate of the worst type of capitalist and financial system. This is a huge disappointment for a man who still hoped a few weeks ago for a majority in Parliament and who considers Macron’s power as illegitimate because, he says, overlooking the fact that less than 2.5 millions voted for him, that it only represents 7.3 million registered voters out of 47.6 million. The Communists, rejecting fealty to the FI, cling to their 10 MPs. As for the Greens, bitterly torn among themselves, they have gone from 17 to one MP while French ecology icon, Nicolas Hulot, is now number 3 in the Philippe government, in charge of energy transition.

If there were one word to characterise these elections, it was crafted by Melenchon and is “dégagisme”, or cleaning-out. “Dégagisme” of old politicians, old parties, of the old world, to build a new one made up of several bold promises regularly repeated like mantras by this gifted orator who can hold the attention of large audiences for hours, while sporting his Mao-like jacket. “Dégagisme” for him began with his rivals on the left, starting with the PS whom he vowed to destroy and replace, and with whom he rejected any alliance, even choosing to stand against the local head of the party in Marseilles, and winning.

But it is also clear that a large majority of those who left the PS were from its moderate wing and disillusioned by Hollande as well as by his vociferous minority of hard-liners who took control of a rump party in the presidential primaries – their candidate came out fifth with only 6% of the vote at the presidential election – the rest siding with France Insoumise. So, the main beneficiary of this “dégagisme” against politicians who had been in charge for decades and were held responsible by so many of the French voters, left and right, has been Macron himself. It was they who helped him build his following before he received support from the centre and from part of the right in his “neither left nor right” or “and left and right” strategy.

Absolute majority, absolute responsibility

So the easy part of his job has now been done and a hard task lies ahead. Initially, few people believed he could be elected. Now all of a sudden they expect him to deliver. And fast. To balance his job-creating reforms by loosening up the French labour system with social reforms. To make it easier to lay-off but also to recruit. To improve the living of the less-well-off by simplifying taxes and financing health and unemployment benefits, not from wages but through a higher tax on all income, financial and corporate included, and by removing an obsolete and unjust housing tax for 80% of taxpayers.

The French want things to change for the better but are at the same time afraid of the future. And they are also reluctant to see these changes affect them directly. Difficult people to deal with! But by promoting a more benevolent type of politics, by refusing to countenance verbal abuse against his opponents, asking people in rallies to stop booing them, he has tried to promote a more peaceful atmosphere. This might pacify the political arena for a time but there will be no honeymoon: he will have to deliver.

He has started by building an image of himself as a leader. At home, by not ducking out of talking face to face with strikers fighting against the outsourcing of their jobs; booed at first, he managed at least twice to have a frank discussion with them without making, as he said, promises everyone knew he could not fulfil. Then he did the same in the international world where so many pundits said that he was too young and lacked the international exposure and guts to talk face to face with world leaders, starting with Trump and Putin. But now he will have to dirty his hands with day to day politics.

He will do this with the help of his new majority in an Assembly profoundly affected by another brand of institutional ”dégagisme”. Thanks to a recent bill, no politician can be elected for more than three terms or hold more than one position of responsibility (deputy or senator, mayor, regional counsellor). Macron has also decided to implement strict parity between women and men in his government as among his candidates for Parliament. So the new Assembly will accommodate 432 (75%) new MPs, 223 of them women (160 from LREM) instead of 155. With an average age of 48 years instead of 54 years as before, they are elected under Macron’s name. New in politics but active in business, start-ups, social services, various jobs and professions who will have to learn the tricks of the trade while remaining close to people outside Parliament. Loyal? yes, but hopefully bringing new blood, new ideas, new experience to a political world far too long endogamous and male orientated.

Will they all be up to the task? The fact is that they represent the first revolution – the title of Macron’s last book – to occur in fossilised French politics and a timely chance to bring France back as a European, and world power, thanks to his promised reforms and his pro-European stand at a moment when the EU is not that popular in the Old Continent. Just at the time when the EU’s future is at stake and Britain is starting her long, complex and, probably, bitter divorce proceedings.

As the conservative Le Figaro, criticised by readers for being too accommodating with Macron wrote on Monday, “Absolute majority, absolute responsibility”. And Le Monde’s publisher added, “Rebuild confidence”. A tough programme indeed.

‘It only needs all’: re-reading Dialectic of Enlightenment at 70

MARCEL STOETZLER 24 June 2017

Seventy years ago, Querido Verlag published a densely written book that has become a key title of modern social philosophy. Underneath its pessimistic granite surface a strangely sanguine message awaits us.

How do you make an argument against social domination when the very terms, concepts and languages at your disposal are shaped by, and in turn serve that same social domination? Probably in the way you would light a fire in a wooden stove. How would you write a book about the impossibility of writing just that book? Like a poem about the pointlessness of poems. What if your enemies’ enemies are your own worst enemies? Can you defend liberal society from its fascist enemies when you know it is the wrong state of things? You must, but dialectics may well ‘make cowards of us all’ and spoil our ‘native hue of resolution’.

Dialectic of Enlightenment[1] is a very strange book, and although it was published, in 1947, by the leading publishing house for exiled, German-language anti-fascist literature, the Querido Verlag in Amsterdam, alongside many of the biggest literary names of the time, no-one will have expected that it gradually became one of the classics of modern social philosophy.

It is a book that commits all the sins editors tend to warn against: its chapters are about wildly differing subject matters; the writing is repetitive, circular and fragmented; no argument ever seems exhausted or final and there are no explicitly stated conclusions, and certainly no trace of a policy impact trajectory. Arguments start somewhere, suddenly come to a halt and then move on to something else. If this sounds like the script for a Soviet film from the revolutionary period, then that is not totally coincidental: it is an avant-garde montage film, transcribed into philosophy.

Unsurprisingly, given that it was written during WW2 in American exile and published at the beginning of the Cold War, it does not carry its Marxism on its sleeves, but it gives clear enough hints: in the preface, Horkheimer and Adorno state that the aim of the book is ‘to explain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism’. This addresses the dialectic referenced in the title of the book. The important bit here is the ‘instead of’: the reality of barbarism was undeniable and clearly visible, but the originality of the formulation lies in its implication that humanity could have been expected to enter ‘a truly human state’ sometime earlier in the twentieth century, leaving behind its not so human state.

The promise of progress towards humanity, held by socialists (and some liberals), blew up in their faces. It would have been easy and straightforward then to write a book arguing against the holding of such hope, but this would not have been a dialectical book; Dialectic of Enlightenment undertakes to rescue this hope by looking at why progress tipped over into its opposite.

Whose barbarism?
A number of propositions have been made, at the time and later, as to who or what is to be blamed for the barbarism. Capitalism was an obvious answer, but then, capitalism does not typically and all the time produce Holocausts (and capitalists could be found among the victims). Others pointed at ‘the Germans’ and their peculiar intellectual and social history; this, too, is neither an entirely wrong nor a quite satisfying answer. Again others pointed at ‘the bureaucracy’ and modern statecraft. These surely played a role but there are plenty of state bureaucracies that do not engage in genocides and world wars, most of the time. Horkheimer and Adorno made a much stranger, more abstract and strangely radical proposition: the barbarism that destroyed civilization was a product of civilization as such. It is civilization’s self-destruction.

The attempt to formulate a theory of barbarism as the product of civilization creates a very thorny problem, though: theorizing, the attempt to bring about enlightenment, is very much the stuff of civilization, as it involves thinking, language, perceptions, concepts, images, ideas, judgements, ‘spirit’ (which in the philosophical tradition Horkheimer and Adorno came from means as much as ‘culture’). Dialectic of Enlightenment blames the destruction of enlightenment on enlightenment, i.e. on itself. The philosopher Jürgen Habermas some decades later cleverly pointed out that this is a bit of a contradiction. That was exactly the point, though: the hint is in the title, in the word ‘Dialectic’.

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Title-page of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, 1807. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.
The book’s painful starting point is described in the preface: Horkheimer and Adorno looked for a position from which to confront fascism and found that ‘in reflecting on its own guilt’, thought finds that it lacks a language.

In the name of what exactly is it possible to challenge fascism effectively? In the languages of sociology, psychology, history, philosophy? The discourses of truth, freedom, human rights?

Barbarism… is civilization’s self-destruction.
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Here is the rub: in the period in which fascism took power these sounded hollow as they had been stripped of their authority. If this sounds familiar, it is because, almost a century later, we are in a not so different situation. Horkheimer and Adorno state – still in the preface – that fascist demagogues and liberal intellectuals feed off the same (positivist) zeitgeist, marked by the ‘self-destruction of the enlightenment’. Science and scholarship are not potent weapons against fascism anymore, and this even affects tendencies that are opposed to ‘official’, positivistic science.

The basic point here is that scientific, materialist, technological rationality is a force for good only when it is linked to the idealistic notion of general human emancipation, the goal of full rich lives for all, without suffering, exploitation and oppression. (Using a word they had good reasons to avoid, this is what Marx would have called ‘communism’). Only this link gives empirical and rationalist science its truth and significance: enlightenment needs to be ‘transcendental’, i.e. something that points beyond the actually existing reality, not unlike metaphysics in traditional philosophy. It needs to be critical, that is, in opposition to reality as it is.

The principal thesis of the book is that enlightenment purged itself of this connection to society-transcending, non-empirical, critical truth, and as early as on the second page of the preface Horkheimer and Adorno are happy to name the thinker who exemplifies for them this fatal development: Auguste Comte, the founder of positivist philosophy. They assert that in the hostile and brutal conditions of the eighteenth century – the period often described as that of ‘the Enlightenment’ – philosophy had dared to challenge the ‘infamy’ (as Voltaire called it) of the church and the society it helped maintain, while in the aftermath of the French Revolution philosophy switched sides and put itself at the service of the state. This was of course, by now, the modernising state, but still the same state. They write that the Comtean school of positivism – ‘apologists’ of the modern, capitalist society that emerged in the nineteenth century – ‘usurped’ the succession to the genuine Enlighteners, and reconciled philosophy with the forces it previously had opposed, such as the Catholic church.

Horkheimer and Adorno mention in this context the ultra-nationalist organisation Action Française, whose chief ideologist Charles Maurras had been an ardent admirer of Comte. This hint helps understand what kind of historical developments they had on their minds: while Comte himself surely saw himself in good faith as a protagonist of social reform meant to overcome-but-preserve the achievements of the Revolution, and his translation of enlightenment empiricism into the system of ‘positivist philosophy’ as a contribution to the process of modernization, his followers in many ways contributed to the development of the modern authoritarian state and, as in the case of Maurras, proto-fascism.

Dear Reader of SustainabiiTank – if you got up to here and want to read further please find the continuation starting with WATERLOO at the souce:

 www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe…

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About the author
Marcel Stoetzler is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Bangor University, Wales.
He studied at Hamburg University, Germany, and at the Universities of Greenwich and Middlesex (both London). He works on social and political theory, intellectual history and historical sociology, and has lately concentrated on various aspects of modern antisemitism, especially its interconnections with liberalism and nationalism and the emergence of the discipline of sociology. He serves on the editorial board of Patterns of Prejudice and is a fellow at the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester.

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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 16th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

30 May 2017
UN Secretary-General on Climate Action as delivered before NYU, the Stern School of Business.

I would like to thank everyone at New York University, and especially the Stern School of Business, for your warm welcome and your role in making today’s gathering possible.

Let me also thank all of you for being here to discuss the crucial challenge of climate change and how we must address it.

I can think of no better audience – this wonderful mix of scholars and scientists, students and activists, investors and entrepreneurs – the people who, together, are making climate action real.

And I can think of no better place to have this conversation than here at NYU and the Stern School, where you are dedicated to cultivating solutions and a new generation of leaders.

This notion of inter-generational responsibility is very much on my mind.

My grandfather was born in 1875. He could not have imagined the world we live in today.

Now I have three grand-daughters of my own – the oldest is eight. I cannot imagine the world they will inhabit decades from now, when they will be my age.

But not knowing is no excuse for not acting to ensure that we do not undermine their future.

I want my grandchildren to inherit a healthy world, free of conflict and suffering — and a healthy planet, rooted in low-carbon sustainable solutions.

That is my wish for everyone, everywhere. To get there, we have our work cut out for us.

Allow me to be blunt. The world is in a mess.

Countries and communities everywhere are facing pressures that are being exacerbated by megatrends – like population growth, rapid and many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of population and migration… the list can go on and on.

But one overriding megatrend is far and away at the top of that list – climate change.

Climate change is a direct threat in itself and a multiplier of many other threats — from poverty to displacement to conflict.

The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world.

They are dangerous and they are accelerating.

And so my argument today is that it is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement – and that we fulfil that duty with increased ambition.

The reason is three-fold:

Climate change is undeniable. Climate action is unstoppable. And climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.

Let’s start with the reality of climate change today.

The science is beyond doubt.

The world’s top scientists have been shouting it from the rooftops.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has put it and I quote: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”

Dear friends,

If anything, that disruption is happening even faster than expected.

Last year was once again the hottest on record. The past decade has also been the hottest on record.

Every geo-physical system on which we depend is being affected, from mountains to oceans, from icecaps to forests, and across all the arable lands that provide our food.

Sea ice is at a historic low; sea levels are at a historic high, threatening the existence of low-lying island nations and cities.

The seas are also being affected by warmer temperatures, rapid acidification and coral bleaching, endangering the marine food chain on which so many livelihoods and economies depend.

On land, glaciers are retreating almost everywhere – a risk to the breadbaskets of the world as rivers fed by glaciers run dry.

Soon the famous snows of Kilimanjaro will exist only in stories.

Here in the United States, only 26 of Glacier National Park’s glaciers remain. When it was made a Park in 1910, there were around 150. I hope you will never have to rename it “no-Glacier National Park”!

Further north, we see an unfolding crisis of epic proportions.

The ice caps in the Arctic Ocean are shrinking dramatically. Some even predict that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by the summer of 2020.

That would be catastrophic for Arctic wildlife. It would be a death-blow to the ways of life of indigenous peoples. And it would be a disaster for the world.

Why?

Because ice reflects sunlight. Dark water much less. That means warming will accelerate.

Frozen tundra will thaw earlier and freeze later, releasing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

This will mean more ice melting from the Greenland ice cap.

It could alter the Gulf Stream and affect food production, water security and weather patterns from Canada to India.

We are already seeing massive floods, more extreme tornadoes, failed monsoons and fiercer hurricanes and typhoons.

But slow-motion disasters are also speeding up.

Areas where drought once struck every decade are now seeing cycles of five or even two years between droughts. Moreover, dry spells are lasting longer, from California to the Sahel.

Dear friends,

The moral imperative for action is clear.

The people hit first and worst by climate change are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized.

Women and girls will suffer as they are always the most disproportionately affected by disasters.

The nations that will face the most profound consequences are the least responsible for climate change and the least equipped to deal with it.

Droughts and floods around the world mean poverty will worsen, famines will spread and people will die.

As regions become unliveable, more and more people will be forced to move from degraded lands to cities and to other nations.

We see this already across North Africa and the Middle East.

That is why there is also a compelling security case for climate action.

Around the world, military strategists view climate change as a threat to global peace and security.

We are all aware of the political turmoil and societal tensions that have been generated by the mass movement of refugees.

Imagine how many people are poised to become climate-displaced when their lands become unliveable.

Last year, more than 24 million people in 118 countries and territories were displaced by natural disasters.

That is three times as many as were displaced by conflict.

Climate change is also a menace to jobs, to property and to business.

With wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events becoming more common, the economic costs are soaring.

The insurance industry raised the alarm long ago. They have been joined by many others across the business community.

They know that the time has come for transformation.

Dear friends,

Climate action is gathering momentum not just because it is a necessity but also because it presents an opportunity – to forge a peaceful and sustainable future on a healthy planet.

This is why governments adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015, with a pledge to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.

I applaud the immense efforts of my predecessor, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who brought the essential stakeholders to the table and helped forge this landmark Agreement.

It is worth taking a moment to step back and reflect on the unity that was forged in Paris.

It was a remarkable moment in the history of humankind.

The world came together for the first time to address this global challenge collectively. And it did so at a time of division in so many other areas.

There has been nothing like it in terms of enabling the global community to work on an issue together that none of us can solve on our own.

Today, it is increasingly understood that implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goes hand-in-hand with limiting global temperature rise and increasing climate resilience.

As of today, 147 Parties representing more than 82 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the Paris Agreement.

Every month, more countries are translating their Paris pledges into national climate action plans.

Yes, not everyone will move at the same pace or with equal vigour.

But if any government doubts the global will and need for this accord, that is reason for all others to unite even stronger and stay the course.

It is reason to build ever broader coalitions – with civil society and business, with cities and states, with academia and community leaders.

Indeed, all around the world, cities, regions, states and territories are setting their own ambitious targets.

Thousands of private corporations, including major oil and gas companies, are taking their own action.

They know that green business is good business.

It is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

Some may seek to portray the response to climate change as a fundamental threat to the economy. Yet what we are witnessing in these early years of a systemic response is the opposite.

We are seeing new industries. New markets. Healthier environments. More jobs. Less dependency on global supply chains of fossil fuels.

The real danger is not the threat to one’s economy that comes from acting. It is, instead, the risk to one’s economy by failing to act.

The message is simple: The sustainability train has left the station. Get on board or get left behind.

Those who fail to bet on the green economy will be living in a grey future.

On the other hand, those who embrace green technologies will set the gold standard for economic leadership in the 21st century.

Last year, solar power grew 50 per cent, with China and the United States in the lead.

Around the world, over half of the new power generation capacity now comes from renewables. In Europe, the figure is more than 90 per cent.

The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today.

In the United States and China, new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries.

China aims to increase its renewable energy by about 40 per cent by 2020.

Major oil producers are also seeing the future and diversifying their economies. Even Saudi Arabia announced plans to install 700 megawatts of solar and wind power.

And industry experts predict India’s solar capacity will double this year to 18 gigawatts.

Boosting energy efficiency is also crucial – for reducing climate risk and for increasing profits.

The International Energy Agency has indicated that investing in energy efficiency could increase global economic output by $18 trillion dollars — more than the outputs of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined.

Future spending on energy infrastructure alone could total some $37 trillion dollars.

Now if that is the case, it is crucial for such massive investments to be sustainable and climate-friendly; otherwise, we will lock ourselves into bad practices for decades to come.

Given the facts about youth unemployment, air pollution and climate change, surely it is common sense to put our investments where they will generate the most savings, create the most jobs, deliver the biggest health dividends and have the most impact against global warming.

Surely that is why nearly two dozen of the world’s most successful business leaders, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists plan to invest in a fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures, led by Bill Gates, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with clean energy technology.

It is why green bonds are starting to come in many different shades as the size of the market for securities designed to benefit the environment is on track to double again – from $93 billion dollars in 2016, to $206 [billion dollars] this year.

It is why 60 per cent of the world’s 500 largest asset owners are taking steps to recognize the financial risks associated with climate change.

And it is why more than 7,000 cities in the newly launched Global Covenant of Mayors have agreed to report their emissions and climate progress according to a standard set of tools that are more rigorous than those currently used by many countries.

Here I want to salute my Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is showing great leadership in mobilizing mayors and cities to build the resilient and dynamic cities of the future.

Dear friends,

Science is speaking to us very clearly about what is happening. Innovation is showing us very clearly what can be done.

If we want to protect forests and life on land, safeguard our oceans, create massive economic opportunities, prevent even more massive losses and improve the health and well-being of people and the planet, we have one simple option staring us in the face: Climate action.

Today, I call on all leaders of government, business and civil society to back the most ambitious action on climate change for the benefit of this generation and generations to come.

As Secretary-General, I am committed to mobilize the world to meet this challenge.

I will do so in at least five concrete ways.

First, I will intensify high-level political engagement to raise the bar on climate action.

The Paris pledges are historic but still do not go nearly far enough to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.

Commitments so far could still see temperatures rise by 3 degrees or more.

So we must do our utmost to increase ambition and action until we can bend the emissions curve and slow down global warming.

Most immediately, I will also press for ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Next week’s Ocean Conference at United Nations Headquarters is yet another opportunity to build momentum.

Second, I will rally the full capacity of the United Nations development system behind climate action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially at the country-level. Because that is where true change will be achieved.

As we support Member States, I will continue to emphasize the urgency of empowering the world’s women and girls. There can be no successful response to a changing climate without also changing mind-sets about the key role of women in tackling climate change and building the future we want.

Third, I will use the convening power of the United Nations to work with Governments and all major actors, such as the coal, oil and gas industries, to accelerate the necessary energy transition.

Eighty per cent of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal. We cannot phase out fossil fuels overnight. We have to engage the energy industry and governments to use fossil fuels as cleanly, sparingly and responsibly as possible, while transforming our energy systems.

I will work with all actors to promote a global energy transition, the greening of investments in infrastructure and transport, and progress on carbon pricing.

More and more politicians, policy makers and business actors are calling for a carbon price as the green economy’s missing link.

Putting a price on carbon at a global scale could unleash innovation and provide the incentives that industries and consumers need to make sustainable choices.

Fourth, I will work with countries to mobilize national and international resources to support mitigation, adaptation, resilience and the implementation of their national climate action plans.

And I will focus on strengthening resilience of the small island states against the existential threat that climate change poses to them.

I will encourage developed countries to fulfil the pledges they have made to support developing countries – including for the Green Climate Fund.

As a matter of global solidarity, the international community must also help developing countries increase their capacity to generate their own resources and to gain access to capital markets. The international financial institutions have a key role to play to help deliver innovative financing that matches the enormous needs.

And fifth, I will encourage new and strengthened partnerships for implementing the Paris Agreement through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation. We need to harness the enormous potential of these partnerships.

In all these areas, I will use every possible opportunity to persuade, prod and push for progress. I will count on the vital forces of civil society to do the same.

Looking further ahead, I also intend to convene a dedicated climate summit in 2019 to make sure we reach the critical first review of Paris implementation with the strong wind of a green economy at our backs.

Let me also stress that my door is open to all who wish to discuss the way forward, even those who might hold divergent perspectives.

The climate conversation should cease to be a shouting match.

Yet, there will continue to be strong differences about how to achieve our climate goals.

Yet it is also clear that the journey from Paris is well under way. The support across all sectors of society is profound. The transition in the real economy is a fact.

There will be bumps along the path; that is understandable in a family of over 190 nations.

But with everyone’s participation, the world can bring the Paris Agreement fully to life.

I look forward to continuing to engage all countries in forging a truly shared vision of the way ahead that leaves no one behind.

Dear friends,

Let me conclude where I began — with all of you and with the power of people to make a difference.

Climate change is an unprecedented and growing threat.

The arguments for action are clear.

So are the immense opportunities for peace and prosperity if we act quickly and decisively.

All of us – governments, businesses, consumers – will have to make changes. More than that, we will have to “be” the change.

This may not be easy at times. But for the sake of today’s and future generations, it is the path we must pursue.

This is my message to all the world’s leaders.

Students, scientists and others such as you across the world helped to put the climate challenge on the table.

If we work together as a global community, we can emerge stronger, safer and more prosperous for our shared future and the future of all of our grandchildren like my three granddaughters.

Thank you very much.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 16th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Your Money, Your America
CEOs to Trump: You’re failing

by Matt Egan @mattmegan5
June 15, 2017

President Trump loved to brag during the campaign about his business skills. Now that he’s in charge, business leaders seem alarmed by Trump’s political skills.

A stunning 50% of the CEOs, business execs, government officials and academics surveyed at the annual Yale CEO Summit give Trump an “F” for his first 130 days in office.

The survey, released earlier this week, found that another 21% give Trump’s performance a “D” so far. Just 1% of the 125 leaders polled awarded the billionaire an “A.”
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The overarching message from CEOs is: “Stop the random 3 a.m. tweets and stop the needless brushfires diverting from the agenda,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the Yale School of Management professor who led the summit.

Sonnenfeld noted that 80% of those surveyed are CEOs, including Blackstone (BX) CEO Steve Schwarzman and IBM (IBM, Tech30) boss Ginni Rometty, who sit on Trump’s advisory council and Merck (MRK) CEO Ken Frazier, a member of the president’s manufacturing initiative. (Individual responses by each CEO were not released.)

“This was not a granola-eating crowd of Democrat entrepreneurs. It’s a cross-section of the business community, including some who are quite pro-Trump,” he said.

The Yale findings are the latest evidence that some pockets of the business community are growing disenchanted with Trump as his administration struggles to implement its economic agenda amid scandal and missteps.

Related: Trumpworld thinks there’s such a thing as a ‘good’ government shutdown
Earlier this month, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord sparked an unprecedented revolt by CEOs. Business leaders led by Tesla (TSLA)founder Elon Musk, Disney CEO Bob Iger and JPMorgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon publicly bashed the decision. Goldman Sachs (GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein even sent his first-ever tweet to slam the move as a “setback” for U.S. leadership in the world.

CEOs surveyed by Yale agree with that sentiment. Two-thirds of respondents indicated that Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord diminished America’s global standing. Another 86% expressed concern about Trump minimizing Russian security mischief.
Business leaders are not impressed with Trump’s budget either. Three-fourths of survey respondents said the administration’s budget proposal is not sound.

Corporate America’s poor marks for Trump have not spread to Wall Street, at least not yet.
Trump’s promises to slash taxes, ramp up infrastructure spending and cut regulation have fired up investors. The Dow has surged roughly 3,000 points since Trump’s election and it hit yet another record on Wednesday.

Yet Trump’s economic agenda has been stalled due to opposition from Democrats and Republican infighting. Wall Street has dialed back its expectations for the size and timing of the tax reform Trump promised.

CEOs don’t think it’s a slam dunk. Just 42% of leaders surveyed by Yale think Trump will pass corporate tax reform.

David Bianco, chief investment strategist at Deutsche Asset Management, warned this week about the impact of the political trouble on stocks soon.

The Trump rally is “vulnerable to summer fatigue and rising anxiety over whether Congress can make pragmatic decisions,” Bianco warned in a report this week. He advised clients to be safe by moving some money from stocks to bonds.

“We think (the rally) has reached its near-term limits,” Bianco wrote.

——————————————–
CNNMoney (New York)
First published June 15, 2017: 8:38 AM ET

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The Washington Post – June 15, 2017

Special counsel investigating Jared Kushner’s business dealings as part of Russia probe, officials say

Robert S. Mueller III is investigating the finances and business dealings of President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to officials familiar with the matter.

The Washington Post had earlier reported that investigators were scrutinizing separate meetings that Kushner held with the Russians in December — first with the Russian ambassador and then with the head of a Russian development bank. At the time of that report, it was not clear that the FBI was investigating Kushner’s business dealings.

Mueller’s investigation is still in a relatively early phase, and it is unclear if any criminal charges will be brought when it is complete.

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The New York Times —- June 16, 2017

In Washington, President Trump taunted federal investigators, accusing them of making up a “phony collusion with the Russians story” and dismissing reports that he could be investigated on suspicion of obstruction of justice for firing James Comey, the F.B.I. director.

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, during his annual call-in show, sarcastically offered Mr. Comey political asylum in the country.

Vice President Mike Pence has hired a criminal defense lawyer to guide him through the various investigations.

and further from CNN:

The lawyer, Richard Cullen, is a former Virginia attorney general and a former US attorney for the eastern district of Virginia. Pence interviewed several lawyers before selecting Cullen, who is based in Richmond.

The decision to hire Cullen has been in the works for weeks, aides to the vice president said. It follows President Donald Trump’s decision to assemble a team of outside lawyers to represent him through the Justice Department special counsel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“The vice president is focused entirely on his duties and promoting the President’s agenda and looks forward to a swift conclusion of this matter,” Jarrod Agen, the vice president’s communications director, said Thursday night in a statement.

Cullen, reached by CNN’s Kevin Bohn, Cullen said he had nothing to add beyond the official statement.

The vice president made the final decision to hire Cullen earlier this week, and aide told CNN, and stressed that the decision to hire Cullen was not prompted by anything.

=====================================================================================

AND ONE GOOD WORD FROM TRUMP AND US CONGRESS:

FROM THE EUOBSERVER OF JUNE 16, 20017

TICKER
Austria and Germany oppose US sanctions on Russia
By EUOBSERVER – TODAY, 08:53

Austria and Germany have spoken out against the latest round of US sanctions against Moscow over broader concerns that they may affect European businesses dealing with Russian natural gas. The US Senate had voted earlier this week to impose the new sanctions. In a joint statement following the US vote, Austria and Germany said: “We can’t accept the threat of illegal and extraterritorial sanctions against European companies.”

AND WE AT SUSTAINABILITANK HAVE A LONGSTANDING OPPOSITION TO AUSTRIA ENERGY INTERESTS
HAVING SOLD THEMSELVES TO RUSSIA’S GASPROM BY INVESTING IN AND BUILDING PIPELINES FOR
RUSSIAN GAS MAKING EUROPE DEPENDENT ON RUSSIA.

NOT THAT US BUSINESS IS CLEAN BUSINESS, THEY JUST CONTEMPLATE MAKING MONEY BY SELLING AIRPLANES TO IRAN WHICH THEY BOMBASTICALLY ATTACK WITH WORDS. ALSO THE US OFFENSIVE
ON SAUDI MONEY BY LOADING THEM WITH MILITARY HARDWARE AND PLANES DOES LITTLE TO STABILIZE
THE REGION. OH WELL – BUT ON THOSE PIPELINES THE US IS RIGHT.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 15th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

NATURE Magazine | COLUMN: WORLD VIEW Sharing

Kaia Diringer — Let Trump claim a better deal on climate

If we can stomach it, a ‘renegotiation’ of the Paris Agreement could help us all, says Elliot Diringer.

14 June 2017


It was perhaps inevitable that Donald Trump would stand on the White House lawn to proclaim that the United States was quitting the Paris Agreement, our best hope ever for tackling climate change. It’s also plausible that the United States will not actually withdraw.

Like so many others, I was distressed at the images and words coming from the Rose Garden earlier this month. Having attended the 1992 Earth Summit where the global climate effort was born, spent years helping negotiators navigate their way to the 2015 Paris Agreement, and rallied companies to support the United States staying in, I could hardly bear to watch.

Trump was spurning fellow world leaders, the chief executives of many of the world’s largest companies, and a strong majority of Americans — for no evident reason other than to gratify his voting base, or simply to prove that he could.

Related stories

How scientists reacted to the US leaving the Paris climate agreement
Trump pulls United States out of Paris climate agreement
Climate change: A patchwork of emissions cuts
The ensuing global outrage won’t quickly subside. Nor, let us hope, will the groundswell of renewed climate commitment. Country after country has reaffirmed its support for Paris, and a spontaneous ‘We Are Still In’ campaign by US cities, states and companies offers hope that the United States can still get close to its Paris goal. The message from many is clear: forget Trump, we’ll do it without him.

It is better, I think, not to count him out yet.

Trump did not declare a clean break from the global climate effort. The United States remains a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the treaty underlying the Paris Agreement. (It also did when president George W. Bush rejected the 1997 Kyoto Protocol; had the United States not stayed then, Paris would probably never have emerged.) And the earliest the country can technically depart the Paris Agreement is 4 November 2020.


In the meantime, Trump says he is willing to rework the deal. That opening, if properly navigated, could produce another dramatic proclamation, this one keeping the United States in.

“The greater obstacle may be our own visceral aversion to letting Trump ‘get his way’.”
To be clear, the basic terms of Paris are not open for renegotiation. Other countries regard them as a sensible balancing of national interests against an urgent common threat. And they are weary of accommoda­ting the vagaries of US climate politics. After all, this agreement, like the Kyoto Protocol, was designed largely to US specifications.


But there is a way to preserve the core agreement and still allow the president to declare that he’s secured a better deal.

A fundamental feature of the Paris Agreement is that countries’ individual contributions are “nationally determined”. Although the accord discourages parties from weakening their goals, it doesn’t forbid them from doing so. If President Trump doesn’t like former president Barack Obama’s target of shrinking greenhouse-gas emissions to 26–28% below 2005 levels in 2025,
he’s free to change it.

Although many are loath to encourage a move so clearly contravening the spirit of the Paris Agreement, some of the countries most vulnerable to climate change openly acknowledge the option. Thoriq Ibrahim, environment and energy minister for the Maldives and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said, “If the US wishes to change its contribution, that would be unfortunate but is its prerogative”.

Why would the Maldives or anyone else be open to a weaker US target? For the same reasons so many of us worked so furiously to persuade Trump to stay in. For now, his announcement may have a galvanizing effect. But over time, the formal exit of the world’s largest economy risks corroding global ambition.

Today’s strong momentum to decarbonize can be only a start. We need a wholesale transformation of energy and transportation systems over the coming decades to even approach the Paris goal of keeping warming below 2?°C above pre-industrial levels. Countries will make their best efforts only if they’re confident that others, especially major competitors, will too. That’s how Paris works: by strengthening confidence that everyone’s doing their part.

If the United States walks away, other countries will remain, but they’re likely to be less ambitious in meeting their initial targets, and in the next ones they’re due to set in 2020. Staying in, on the other hand, would also encourage US action by forcing a national conversation every five years around climate goals and measures. Better, on the whole, for the United States to be in than out.

How would this benefit Trump? The president has shown that he’s motivated more by the ‘deal’ than its substance, and that his extreme opening positions are just that. In the international realm alone, he’s retreated from his threat to quit the North American Free Trade Agreement, his promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his currency-manipulation charges against China, and his dismissal of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as obsolete. With his Rose Garden speech, Trump checked one box and drew another. He fulfilled his campaign pledge to leave Paris, and he told Americans he’s now going for a better deal. Coming back with a reduced target could be enticing precisely because it would allow him to claim another win.

The forces within the administration that goaded him to withdraw would no doubt persist. But the greater obstacle may be our own visceral aversion to the idea of letting Trump ‘get his way’. Our choice, in the end, may be between indulging a prideful charade or letting the United States leave. I, for one, hope we manage to keep Paris whole.

Nature 546, 329 (15 June 2017) doi:10.1038/546329a
Related stories and links

From nature.com
How scientists reacted to the US leaving the Paris climate agreement
02 June 2017
Trump pulls United States out of Paris climate agreement
01 June 2017
Climate change: A patchwork of emissions cuts
18 September 2013
Author information

Affiliations
Elliot Diringer is executive vice-president of the US-based Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). CLIMATE CHANGE ENERGY SOLUTIONS

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In a sleepy town in the Norwegian Arctic, an American-funded radar system is being built to spy on Russia’s expanding fleet of nuclear submarines.

The project has already infuriated the Kremlin, which is seeking to assert itself in the region as climate change opens up shipping routes and resources.

“Norway has to understand that after becoming an outpost of NATO, it will have to face head-on Russia and Russian military might,” Russia’s ambassador to Norway said. “Therefore, there will be no peaceful Arctic anymore.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 14th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


A bit of green

When the United States announced its decision to step away from the Paris accords last week, environmentalists were furious. The decision, they warned, might significantly weaken the most important international plan to fight climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Others, though, suggested that the turn away from carbon energy might be too far along to be halted by the U.S.’s decision. Here’s one indication that they might be right: Global demand for coal has fallen for the second year in a row, according to a study by petroleum giant BP, down 1.7 percent worldwide. That shift is all the more impressive when you consider this: just four years ago, coal fueled most of the world’s growth in its energy demands.

“We’re seeing a decisive break with coal, relative to the past,” said the oil company’s chief economist, Spencer Dale, to the Guardian. “I think the big story here is coal getting squeezed.”

For one thing, coal has become expensive compared to natural gas and renewable energy, a rapidly growing sector worldwide. Lots of places have also pledged to stop building coal plants. The EU has said no more new plants after 2020. China, too, has shuttered about 100 coal plants and also cut back on energy-intensive sectors like iron, steel and cement. At the same time, China is investing heavily in renewable energy.

Other countries have also made marked improvements. The United Kingdom in particular significantly reduced its reliance on coal. The country’s use of coal fell by 52.5 percent in 2016, and it even celebrated its first coal-free day earlier this year. According to the BP report, Britain’s use of these fuels has fallen to levels not seen “since the start of the industrial revolution.” The decline was accomplished, in part, by shuttering major coal power plants and mines, along with a carbon tax. The United States and China are also burning far less coal than before.

The war on coal is largely responsible for another positive trend: for the third year in a row, global carbon emissions have flat-lined. (Of course, to meet the Paris goals, the world will have to actually reduce its carbon use.) But with President Trump vowing to do away with any effort to limit coal use, we’ll see how long the trend continues.
— Amanda Erickson for the Washington Post.

and from Fareed’s mail:


Politicians Aren’t The Answer on Climate Change.

Climate activists should “weep not” over Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord, writes Jon Evans in The Walrus. After all, politicians aren’t the ones capable of solving climate change. That depends on “the ingenuity of our engineers.”

“To stop global warming before it comes catastrophic, we need to take technology which is currently restricted to the very wealthy, and make it available to the poorest of the poor, in a matter of only a decade or two,” Evans writes. “If only the global technology industry had essentially been training for this superhuman feat for its entire existence. If only this was arguably the one thing that it is incredibly, consistently good at. Oh, wait.

“There was a time when transatlantic flights were so expensive that they were often paid for in instalments. Last month I booked a flight from Oakland to Barcelona for $200. Remember when only rich people had cell phones? And then when only rich people had smartphones? How long do you think it will be before we’ll be rhapsodizing nostalgically: ‘Remember when only rich Californians drove electric cars?'”

and from Washington:

TILLERSON STILL A PARIS FAN: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that he still supports the Paris climate change agreement, despite President Trump withdrawing from it.

He told Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that he respects Trump’s decision but disagrees with it.

“My view didn’t change,” Tillerson said Tuesday at a hearing on the State Department’s budget. “My views were heard out. I respect that the president heard my views, but I respect the decision he’s taken.”

He said Trump was “quite deliberative” in his consideration of the Paris pact. The president “took some time to come to his decision, particularly waiting until he had heard from European counterparts in the G7 on it,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson was a vocal supporter of the Paris agreement going back to his time as CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp.

He fought against Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt, who led an all-out push to get Trump to live up to his campaign promise to pull out of the pact.

DEMS: EPA IS NOT RESPONSIVE: A hearing for EPA and Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominees Tuesday turned into a Democratic assault on the responsiveness of the EPA.

The top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee said Tuesday that the EPA is moving too slowly to respond to the lawmakers’ request for information.

“The minority remains disappointed that the committee has not received complete written responses from Administrator [Scott] Pruitt to 11 oversight letters the committee has sent to the EPA this year,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said.

“Absent a heartfelt commitment by the EPA to provide complete and timely responses to our current information requests, I will find it very difficult to support moving forward with consideration of any EPA nominees.”

The EPA and committee Republicans defended the agency, saying officials have responded to 386 of the 416 letters they have received from members of Congress this year, including many from Carper and other members.

At the hearing, Democrats raised concerns about Susan Bodine, Trump’s nominee to head the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, worrying the agency’s enforcement might tail off under her leadership and that of the Trump administration.

But Trump’s three NRC nominees drew few complaints. The committee will convene on Thursday to quickly advance Chairwoman Kristine Svinicki’s renomination before her term expires at the end of the month.

ENERGY RESEARCH AGENCY GETS A THUMBS UP: A federal study of a key Department of Energy research agency concluded Tuesday that the program works and should serve as a model.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), modeled after the Pentagon office responsible for innovations such as the technology that became the internet, is being targeted for elimination under President Trump’s budget proposal for 2018.

But the 239-page report released Tuesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says the nimble, somewhat independent research agency should serve as a model for the rest of the federal government.

“Roughly half have published results of their research in peer-reviewed journals, and about 13 percent have obtained patents. One quarter of the supported project teams or technologies have received follow-on funding for continued work,” the panel wrote in the congressionally mandated report.

“All of these are positive indicators for technologies on a trajectory toward commercialized products. In fact, several are either already commercially available or poised to enter the commercial market.”

COAL CONTINUES TO DROP: A global energy report released Tuesday brought more bad news for coal.

According to an annual report from BP, global coal production fell by 6.2 percent in 2016, the largest decline since BP began reporting the total in 1950.

Energy-sector coal consumption dipped for the second straight year, falling by 1.7 percent and bringing the fuel’s share of electricity production to 28.1 percent globally, its lowest level since 2004.

Both the U.S. and China reduced coal production and consumption in 2016 and were the driving forces behind the fuel’s decline, according to the study.

Renewable energy was the fastest-growing source of electricity last year, increasing by 12 percent. The industry now accounts for 4 percent of primary energy production worldwide.

PANEL TO MARK UP OZONE BILL: The House Energy and Commerce’s environment subcommittee on Thursday will mark up a bill to overhaul the EPA’s implementation of ozone regulations.

The bill, from Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) and others, would require the EPA to reconsider ozone rules every 10 years rather than every five years, the current timeline. EPA critics say the five-year timetable makes implementation difficult for cities and states because they don’t have enough time to cut emissions before the standards are tightened.

The House passed Olson’s bill last year but it went nowhere with a Democrat in the White House.

Trump and his EPA, though, oppose current ozone standards — and last week said they would delay implementation of Obama-era ozone rules — which means Olson’s measure may find more traction this year.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on an ethanol bill.

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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 June 1st, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Celebrating 30 Years of ACUNS (May E-Update) (Academic Council on the United Nations System)

Review of: “Conflict and Cooperation in the Global Commons: A Comprehensive Approach for International Security” —- 9 May 2017


Scott Jasper (ed.) Conflict and Cooperation in the Global Commons: A Comprehensive Approach for International Security (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2012)
, pp. 280.

Reviewed by: Manas Dutta (Department of History, Kazi Nazrul University, India)

In recent times, the global community is witnessing that several countries, both friendly and unfriendly to the United States (U.S.), have tried to gain economic power and military capabilities. This stimulates concerns about whether there can be peace and harmony in the near and distant future. China, for example, continues to increase its economic power by rapidly acquiring scarce assets around the world. Natural resources such as agricultural land, water, oil, and precious metals, such as gold and silver, have been acquired by China. Besides, North Korea continues to acquire greater military capability and challenges the U.S. by defying it and by violating basic human rights. North Korean leadership continues to refuse to sign agreements that will limit the production of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, in the Middle East, Iran’s leaders seek to establish better relations with the U.S. Still, one wonders whether North Korea is going to use their nuclear assets and capabilities only for peaceful purposes. Amidst such uncertainties, which cause discomfort and unease, it is hard to establish global peace and security. Conflict and Cooperation in the Global Commons tries to addresses our concerns and indicates areas where freedom of action is threatened mainly in the air, at sea, in outer space, and in cyberspace.

The book explains the conditions of the global commons in the international scenario, which is more congested, contested, and competitive. Scott Jasper, the editor of this volume, is a retired navy captain, who served in the U.S. Navy. He describes the four global commons, namely maritime, air, space, and cyberspace, which, according to him, “no one state can control but on which all states must rely.” (p. 1)The text tries to emphasize the collaborative efforts in each sphere, yet more emphasis is placed on cyberspace and maritime domains.

US support for the global war on terrorism. photo credit: Wikimedia Commons: United States Navy.
The foreword of this monograph addresses three complex and challenging security areas that influence the commons: violent extremist organizations, regional antagonists, and a rising China (p. ix). Conflict and Cooperation in the Global Commons includes thirteen essays which are categorized into five sections under the subheadings of security dynamics, conflict methods, cooperative opportunities, interface mechanism, and behavioural norms. At the outset of the book, the authors mention that the U.S. has a long-standing interest in protecting access to the global commons. The U.S. military has protected the global commons as this, not only provided security and prosperity for the nation, but also protected international airspace and the high seas to guarantee a global free flow of ideas, commerce, and travel. Though, the U.S. involvement in the protection of the global commons has been a matter of debate for quite some time among the security strategists and policy makers of the globe.

The monograph tries to identify and explore the trends, contexts, and implications of persistent conflict and shared cooperation that occur within the four domains of the global commons. In this respect, the global commons according to the authors, “can serve as an organizing principle…for developing strategy, policy, and capabilities” (p. 12). The first section of the book explains various aspects of security dynamics and introduces the reader to the notion of competing interests and motivations. These competing interests and motivations in turn threaten the security and prosperity in the global commons. Thus, this section provides a ground through which one can build a basic understanding regarding the collective action, where groups cooperate to ensure the security of the global commons. This section also explains various causes and types of conflict in the global commons and elaborates on concepts of deterrence.

China Victory Day parade 2015. photo credit: Wikimedia Commons: Voice of America.
The next three essays namely, ‘Problems in Collective Action’, ‘The Character of Conflict’, and ‘Strategies of Deterrence’ deal with conflicts, which according to the authors, could originate within the global commons. It is evident that these three essays are wide-ranging, however they primarily discuss the impact of Chinese military modernization within the maritime, aerospace, and cyberspace domains of the commons. This section also explores how China’s ballistic missile improvements could potentially undermine the U.S.-Russian Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This example demonstrates that any changes within the global commons can affect all of the global players.

The next two sections, cooperative opportunities and interface mechanisms, provide a notion of alternative solutions to conflicts that occur in the global commons. Two of the essays from these sections address maritime security, two others address cyberspace concerns, and one of the essays discusses the U.S. joint operational access. Theses sections explain the collaborative methods undertaken jointly by the government, commercial, and military stakeholders in defence of the commons and provide insights on the various types of forums, practices, and incentives used in implementing a comprehensive approach for the commons.

Paul Giarra’s “Assuring Joint Operational Access” is one of the excellent articles published in this book. The article summarizes intellectual changes required by the U.S. strategists to deal with complex challenges. Giarra examines operational access needs embedded in traditional American war models of “getting forward, staying forward,” and operating along secured lines of communication (p. 150). Adversary modernization, highlighted in earlier essays, could prevent the U.S. from enjoying these advantages as fully as in the past. Giarra suggests that we need to elevate operational access planning to a new strategic context by recognizing our past assumptions, “enroute and forward-deployed infrastructure” demands, and how our competitors exploit the commons (p. 150). As Giarra suggested, we cannot move forward if the U.S. falls back to its old strategic mind-sets.

Discussion on Cyber Security Held at UN in Geneva. photo credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.
The last section of Conflict and Cooperation in the Global Commons argues that new mind-sets and global understanding of the actors and of the threats must be shaped by new behavioural norms. The two essays namely, ‘Setting Norms for Activities in Space’ and ‘Establishing Rules for Cyber Security’ focus on space and cyberspace domains. They explain the notion of behavioural norms used to maintain peace and stability in the international environment. The ‘Setting Norms for Activities in Space’ article highlights the responsibilities of state and non-state actor to provide debris mitigation, prevent harmful interference, and manage space traffic. An essay on “Establishing Rules for Cyber Security”, written by Eneken Tikk, is the second exceptional article in this volume. State and non-state actors should be more responsible and should avoid vulnerable ambivalence in the cyber security area. The readers can identify with several international issues that connect people around the global commons. One can argue that all ideas presented in the book are interesting, while some could be seen as contradictory during implementation.

Scott Jasper sheds a light on a crucial area of international relations – the global commons – that most of us have not looked at closely enough, but need to. Overall, Conflict and Cooperation in the Global Commons provides excellent ideas that can be used to promote cooperation in a comprehensive manner against the ongoing security threats, military domination, civilian antagonism, commercial agendas, and conflicts. All of these factors play active role in creating a global crisis in the global commons. This book will definitely fill our knowledge gaps about shared international domains that are absolutely essential to our security and prosperity. The book specifically highlights the importance of cooperation as a prerequisite required to overcome national power in the political, diplomatic, economic, and military realms. Finally, the book tries to highlight issues that can enhance cooperation by avoiding conflict among the nations.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 29th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Foreign ministers from the eight Arctic states – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States — will meet for the tenth Arctic Council Ministerial meeting.

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft warned that “the Russians ‘have got all the pieces on the chess board’ while the United States has only a rook and pawn in play in the Arctic,” the U.S. Naval Institute reports.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs -Judith Garber – participated in the tenth Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 11, 2017. We do not have info from what was discussed there under the 2017
US leadership of the Arctic Council.

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

The Huffington Post – POLITICS 05/10/2017

Donald Trump’s Story About Why He Fired FBI Director James Comey Is Already Falling Apart
Trump never complained that Comey was too hard on Hillary Clinton until he needed a reason to fire him.

By Jessica Schulberg

WASHINGTON ? President Donald Trump and his aides claimed he fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday because Comey mishandled the bureau’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. They argued it had nothing to do with the fact that Comey was leading an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interference in the 2016 election. But by Wednesday morning, that story — which never made much sense in the first place — was falling apart, and the White House was stumbling to defend it.

Hours after Comey was fired, Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, appeared on television to defend the president’s decision. At first, Conway stuck to the talking points, reading verbatim from a three-page letter written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, criticizing Comey’s treatment of Clinton. But minutes later in the same interview, she contradicted herself.

“This has nothing to do with the campaign from six months ago,” Conway told CNN’s Anderson Cooper early Wednesday morning. “This has everything to do with the performance of the FBI director since the president has been in the White House.”

Trump addressed the issue publicly for the first time Wednesday morning, after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He didn’t mention Comey’s treatment of Clinton. “[Comey] wasn’t doing a good job,” Trump told reporters. “Very simply. He was not doing a good job.”

Trump had been considering firing Comey “pretty much since the day he took office,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday during the press briefing. The FBI director had committed “atrocities,” she said. She stuck with the idea that Comey’s treatment of Clinton during the campaign was a fireable offense. The final straw, Sanders said, was Comey’s testimony to Congress last week. Comey told lawmakers he had bypassed then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and held a press conference on the Clinton email matter because he believed Lynch had a conflict of interest.

Comey went “around the chain of command,” Sanders said Wednesday. “And that is simply not allowed.”

McClatchy reported Wednesday that Trump asked Rosenstein to write the recommendation justifying firing Comey. Senior White House and Justice Department officials ? including Attorney General Jeff Sessions ? were asked to come up with reasons to fire Comey, Trump aides told the New York Times on Tuesday.

That’s not true, Sanders claimed Wednesday.

According to the White House, Trump was leaning toward firing Comey after watching him testify before Congress last week. During that testimony, Comey defended his handling of the Clinton email investigation and brushed away questions related to the Russia probe. On Monday, Trump met with Rosenstein and Sessions and they discussed why Comey should be removed, a White House official told reporters Wednesday night. A letter from Rosenstein dated Tuesday detailed Comey’s various missteps in the Clinton email investigation, but did not explicitly call for his removal. Sessions sent a second, shorter letter expressing support for Rosenstein.

The idea that Trump fired Comey because of how he handled the Clinton email investigation was inconsistent with the president’s previous actions. Trump has long clashed with Comey over issues unrelated to the White House’s stated reason for his ouster. He fumed over Comey’s decision to confirm in March that Trump associates were under FBI investigation for possible ties to Russian government officials. He resented Comey’s refusal to back his unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama spied on him. And during the campaign, he criticized Comey’s decision to recommend no criminal charges be filed against Clinton for her use of a private email server ? the opposite of the argument Rosenstein made in the letter the White House claims was the impetus for Comey’s dismissal.

“Very very unfair! As usual, a bad judgement,” Trump tweeted in July after Comey recommended no criminal charges against Clinton. Trump made no mention of Comey’s blistering public criticism of Clinton’s handling of classified information.

Trump later praised Comey for notifying Congress that the FBI was examining newly discovered emails related to the Clinton investigation days before the election ? a controversial move that Democrats say contributed to Clinton’s loss. “It took guts,” Trump said of Comey’s decision in October. “He brought back his reputation. He brought it back.”

Rosenstein specifically cited Comey’s July criticism of Clinton and his October letter to lawmakers as reasons he should be fired.

If Trump truly believed Comey had treated Clinton unfairly, it would have made sense for him to fire the FBI director on his first day in office.

But when Trump entered the White House, there was no indication he was unhappy with Comey. On his fourth day as president, Trump blew a kiss toward Comey, patted him on the back and remarked on how “famous” the FBI director had become.

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Paul Blumenthal contributed reporting.
This story has been updated to include comments the White House made Wednesday night.

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


Obama returns to spotlight to speak up on climate change.

Former US President Obama to speak at “Seeds and Chips” summit
During his time in office, Obama devoted energy to pushing sustainable food.

By Nic Robertson, CNN
Tuesday, May 9, 2017 – Victory Day in WWII

Nic Robertson is CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor.

Milan, Italy (CNN)Hard on the heels of one of his first public comments since leaving office, President Barack Obama is heading overseas to talk about food.

Where else but Italy? The gastronomic heart of the world, Italy is a place where food is taken seriously, and its status as a culinary destination gives it the gravitas and credibility to be among the first to raise questions about the future of nutrition. To be sure, Obama will have dined well. To fail to do that, even in Milan, the once industrial capital of the north now better known for its fashionistas, would be a crime, but that’s not the meat of visit. It’s far more somber and serious, to help advance sustainable food supplies for us all and generations to come.

Fresh in office in 2009, Obama initiated his “Feed the Future” campaign that by some accounts has helped 9 million farmers and more than 17 million children, many under 5 years of age, have a chance of improved nutrition in more than 19 countries worldwide.

At the same time, his wife Michelle planted the modest White House kitchen garden — the creation of another First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt — and turned it into a source of nutritional food for her family and others. She went on to champion the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, providing much needed healthy meals for schoolkids, an early Trump target in scything back the Obamas’ legacy.

Both Barack and Michelle have had a thing about helping the needy get access to good food for a long time.

So why step back into the limelight now?

President Trump will go to Italy later this month to the culinary heaven known as Sicily. Food likely won’t be on his mind — it could be the toughest of all his stops in his first overseas excursion as commander in chief.

Trump will be attending the G7 leaders summit, where topics like migration and climate change will vie for attention in an agenda already dense with thorny issues like Syria, Russia, globalization and trade.

Obama adds his voice to “Seeds and Chips,” a summit that aims to advance his own cherished principles and stitch together food issues that for most people are scudding along below the radar yet stalk our very existence.

He’ll deliver the keynote speech at the global gathering of government ministers, innovators, business leaders and experts “to face one of the greatest global challenges: climate change and the issues linked to food supply in an increasingly populated world with progressively scarce resources.”

By raising these issues, Obama will be challenging Trump’s stated goal to collapse the COP21 climate change agreement forged in Paris — perhaps Obama’s biggest global legacy — as well as point out Trump’s hacks at his wife’s signature legacy too.

Trump Admin guts Obama-era climate regulations

The United States was one of the last big polluters to come on board and accept the principle of climate change. Obama’s desire to cut a deal in Paris determined neither China nor Russia had any room to back out.

The “Seeds and Chips” summit that Obama is opening is in its third year, and its organizers are looking to him to nail down its legacy as a force for good and change.

Obama won’t have to open his mouth to do that, or for that matter butt ideological heads with Trump. His presence and legacy alone will convey both the dire prospects for climate change and the importance of planning and preparing sustainable food supplies.

Some forward-leaning climate scientists have been saying for years that polar ice melts and unusual weather changes are here to stay, that so much damage has already been done by industrialization that turning back the clock is not an option.

In his two and a half hours on stage, Obama will deliver the guiding speech setting the tone for the event and then take questions.
The former President has come well prepared — his former senior food policy adviser and former chef Sam Kass will be there too.
Obama should have no trouble holding his own among the gathered experts. Often chided as “policy wonk in chief,” intellectual discourse is his staple. Turning up the heat and bringing passion to a topic many already feel exhausted by will be his challenge.
What ever sage advice he brings to the table, it won’t be to Trump’s taste. An avowedly anti-science instinct has led the current President to appoint an EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who questions the majority-held scientific views on climate change and intends to roll back the hard-earned climate gains of Obama’s administration.

Ex-EPA chief: Trump climate policy ’embarrassing’

Obama, now out of office, seems unwilling to sit silently in the margins, like some Victorian schoolchild only to speak when spoken to.

Silence has been the default state for many previous Presidents happy to shed the responsibilities of the White House. But Trump’s targeting of Obama’s legacy — his health care plan at home and climate change overseas — seems to have pushed him to take up speaking engagements he knows will needle the new commander in chief.


Yates contradicts Spicer on Michael Flynn

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump and Obama never saw eye to eye, even following their now famous hour-long White House meeting late last year when they came out all smiles and bonhomie. It emerges now that was the meeting when Obama warned Trump about hiring Michael Flynn, Trump’s soon to be fired National Security Adviser.

Obama was right that Flynn would be trouble.

Today Trump may feel he needs to follow his gut and learn climate change for himself too.
What he thinks about Obama’s return to the global spotlight will no doubt be revealed in his Tweets, where no amount of sugarcoating will hide his sentiment.

But this is only the beginning. Obama has more global speeches penciled in, including one in the UK, just two days before Trump’s big G7 summit.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 8th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

United States corporate tax reform and global FDI flows*
by
Miguel Pérez Ludeña**

May 8, 2017

The US is the largest source of FDI, accounting for 24% of the world’s outward stock. Now that Congress and the new presidential administration are putting forward plans for reforming the corporate tax regime, and especially the way multinational enterprises (MNEs) are taxed on their foreign earnings, we should consider the effects of these plans on FDI flows and the behavior of MNEs.

At the moment, US MNEs face income tax liabilities for the profits of their foreign affiliates, with a deduction for the taxes paid in host countries. Since payment is deferred until the income is returned to the US—and because the corporate tax rate in the US (35%) is higher than in most other countries—companies tend to accumulate earnings abroad to avoid a large tax bill at home. By the latest estimates, US companies hold US$2.343 trillion abroad in “reinvested foreign earnings.”[1] Half of these have been reinvested in productive assets, as is common practice for MNEs anywhere;[2] but half of that sum is estimated to be kept in liquid assets in low-tax territories.[3]

A reform that addresses this distortion should have short-term and long-term effects on FDI flows. To begin with, there are plans to bring back the earnings accumulated abroad by substituting the tax liability for a one-off toll.[4] If companies perceive this offer as time-limited, as it was the case with the American Jobs Creation Act (AJCA) in 2004, the amounts repatriated could be very high. For instance, assuming that the final deal only attracts half of the reinvested foreign earnings kept in liquid assets (or 25% of the total), the repatriation would be US$600 billion, double the average annual FDI outflows from the US over the past few years. The reform should try to spread this repatriation across several years, but the annual US FDI flows (and those of some other countries) would still be severely distorted.[5]

What will parent companies do with this one-off inflow? The objective of the reform is to increase investment in the US. But most of the accumulated foreign earnings are owned by large information technology and pharmaceutical companies that can already access as much capital as they want in the US.[6] It is more likely that the funds will be used to reduce debt, pay dividends or engage in large share buy-backs. It may also increase the appetite for domestic acquisitions, already high among technology firms. Regulators and market players should be aware of potential disruptions that a sudden inflow could create in financial markets.

In the long term, the reform is likely to reduce the incentives to keep future foreign earnings abroad, bringing the reinvestment rate of US foreign affiliates in line with those of the rest of the world. This should affect mostly the type of reinvested earnings kept in liquid assets in low-tax territories. But even a marginal impact on the decision to reinvest in productive assets would be felt in some host countries: reinvested earnings by US MNEs account for 19% of total FDI inflows in Mexico, for example.[7] These effects also may be seen between two non-US economies, as foreign affiliates of US MNEs have less capital to invest in other countries.

A second aspect concerns the effect on the global efforts to prevent tax avoidance by MNEs through profit shifting. If the reform brings the US corporate rate more in line with that of other large economies, it will reduce a significant distortion in the global corporate tax system. But unless the corporate tax is eliminated, US companies (like those of other countries) will still have an incentive to shift profits to tax havens.

Overall, US corporate tax reform is likely to generate large FDI flows, as companies unwind their stocks of reinvested foreign earnings. Lower corporate tax may increase investments in the US in the long-run, but little of the repatriated foreign earnings will be invested in productive capacity However, if it reduces the incentive that US companies shift profits abroad, this reform could help to harmonize international tax regulations and discourage aggressive tax planning. The US and other governments should seize this chance to continue the cooperation on this agenda.

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* The Columbia FDI Perspectives are a forum for public debate. The views expressed by the author(s) do not reflect the opinions of CCSI or Columbia University or our partners and supporters.
** Miguel Pérez Ludeña ( Miguel.Perez at cepal.org) is an economist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The author is grateful to Jennifer Blouin, Gary Hufbauer and Leslie Robinson for their helpful reviews. Columbia FDI Perspectives (ISSN 2158-3579) is a peer-reviewed series.
[1] See Jessica McKeon, “Indefinitely reinvested foreign earnings still on the rise,” Audit Analytics, www.auditanalytics.com/blog/indef….
[2] See UNCTAD, World Investment Report 2016 (Geneva: UNCTAD, 2016), p.7.
[3] Jennifer L. Blouin et al., “The location, composition, and investment implications of permanently reinvested earnings,” July 8, 2014, ssrn.com/abstract=2154662.
[4] The previous Administration suggested a 14% rate for this toll, but the new proposal may be lower. See 2015 Economic Report of the President (Washington, D.C.: Council of Economic Advisors, 2015), p. 219, obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sit….
[5] Repatriated earnings are counted as negative FDI outflows in home countries (a credit in the financial account of the balance of payments) and as negative FDI inflows in host countries (a debit).
[6] In AJCA’s experience, only firms that were capital constrained used the repatriated funds to increase investment. See Michael W. Faulkender and Mitchell A. Petersen, “Investment and capital constraints: repatriations under the American Jobs Creation Act,” NBER Working Paper no. w15248, August 2009, ssrn.com/abstract=1454981.
[7] Secretaría de Economía, Mexico, www.gob.mx/se/acciones-y-programa….

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The material in this Perspective may be reprinted if accompanied by the following acknowledgment: “Miguel Pérez Ludeña, ‘United States corporate tax reform and global FDI flows,’ Columbia FDI Perspectives, No. 199, May 8, 2017. Reprinted with permission from the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment  www.ccsi.columbia.edu).” A copy should kindly be sent to the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment at  ccsi at law.columbia.edu.

Columbia FDI Perspectives


Columbia FDI Perspectives

Perspectives on topical foreign direct investment issues
No. 199 May 8, 2017

Editor-in-Chief: Karl P. Sauvant ( Karl.Sauvant at law.columbia.edu)

Managing Editor: Matthew Schroth ( mas2443 at columbia.edu)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 8th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


This column is based on sorrow reading of the May 8 issue.

On page A 12 we looked up the article “Israel Presses Trump on Vows” that was a very short reporting from yesterday’s whole day Jerusalem Post Conference at the Times Square Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The problem was not the shortness but the sentence: “The U.S. leader is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe beginning May 19.” By saying Europe rather then Rome or the Vatican – this shows that the reporter hid what went on there or he just did not liste and made it up. At the meeting – several speakers explained that this continuation to Rome was with deep meaning of bringing Christianity into this conflict between Jews and Muslims.

Voodoo Economics was represented under the Opinion page A19 with “Trump’s Tax Plan Would Spur Growth” – A Consumption levy could generate a GDP gain of between 2.5% and 4.5%

A nebulous aim to favor a return to old energy dependence is on same page under the title:
“Remake the Paris Climate Deal to Promote U.S. Energy.” A place at the table would let Trump counter Chinese predation and European unrealism.

The Editorial on page A19 is the least enthusiastic article of Macron’s achievements in yesterday’s France presidential elections. “The French center held barely.
If Mr. Macron fails to deliver faster growth, France may not be so lucky the net time.
The reality just passed the writer – the fact the French did not like to get an American outcome!

Page A9 is even more worrisome – seemingly intentional – with columns: “Macron Clashes With World Rivals” and “Le Pen Grows in Stature.” Really?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 8th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


MIDDLE EAST: Mixed Signals From Trump Worry Pro-Israel Hard-Liners

By MARK LANDLER and MAGGIE HABERMAN, MAY 5, 2017, THE NW YORK TIMES.

Sheldon G. Adelson, one of President Trump’s most powerful donors, is disappointed that Mr. Trump had not fulfilled a campaign promise to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. {Adelson refuses to understand the mentality of his protege Donald Trump. – our comment}

WASHINGTON — President Trump hosted Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, at the White House this week with all the usual bonhomie he displays for foreign leaders. Within hours, he wrote on Twitter that it had been “an honor,” adding, “Hopefully something terrific” would come out “between the Palestinians & Israel.”

But then something odd happened. Within a day, the message vanished from Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed. The White House said it had no idea why that happened and that it stood by the original message. But stakeholders in the peace process have seen the unexplained disappearance as a sign of uncertainty from a president who has presented himself as Israel’s greatest friend but has then called it “an honor” to meet with its adversary.

As Mr. Trump embarks on what he vows will be a historic effort to do what no president has done before and make peace between Israelis and Palestinians, he finds himself under pressure from his hard-line pro-Israel supporters. They worry that he and his aides are listening too closely to Arab and Palestinian arguments and diluting what they hoped would be uncompromising support for the current Israeli government.

They are particularly concerned about the role of one of Mr. Trump’s closest Jewish friends, the New York billionaire Ronald S. Lauder, who is prodding Mr. Trump to forge an alliance with Mr. Abbas. Mr. Lauder is in frequent contact with Mr. Trump’s chief Middle East negotiator, Jason D. Greenblatt, who attended a dinner at Mr. Lauder’s Georgetown home with Mr. Abbas the night before the Palestinian leader went to the White House.

Trump, Bullish on Mideast Peace, Will Need More Than Confidence MAY 3, 2017

G.O.P. Pressures Trump to Take Tough Stance With Mahmoud Abbas MAY 2, 2017

Mahmoud Abbas Proposes Palestinian Unity Government With Hamas NOV. 30, 2016
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Continue reading the main story

Mr. Greenblatt got a very different message at an earlier dinner with two other prominent Palestinians, Salam Fayyad and Ziad Asali, and two American Jewish diplomats, Elliott Abrams and Dennis B. Ross. They all told him that a breakthrough was not realistic now, and that Mr. Trump would be better off pursuing incremental advances, like bettering the economic fortunes of the Palestinians.

“There is a perception that he’s fundamentally sympathetic, but there is an uncertainty about where he wants to go,” said Mr. Ross, a Middle East envoy for Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “Among those who think there is no such thing as a deal, or that Israel is being asked to make troubling concessions, there is unease.”

So far, none of these objections are being made public. Conservative supporters of Israel view Mr. Trump as a vast improvement over Mr. Obama, whose blunt pressure on Israel to halt construction of settlements in the West Bank poisoned his relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Trump has “done more in just 100 days than Barack Obama ever did in transforming the U.S.-Israel relationship into a U.S.-Israel partnership,” said Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

PHOTO: Jason D. Greenblatt, Mr. Trump’s chief Middle East negotiator, left, meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, in Ramallah, in the West Bank, in March.

But later this month, when Mr. Trump will test his ideas on his first foreign trip, to Saudi Arabia and Israel, one of his most powerful donors, the Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson, will be in Israel when the president is, according to people briefed on his schedule.

{THE REPORTERS FORGOT TO MENTION THAT ON THIS TRIP Mr. TRUMP CONTINUES TO ROME TO MEET WITH THE POPE – THIS IN OUR OPINION IN ORDER TO BRING IN A NOTION OF RELIGION – THE HOLY LAND WITH IMPORTANCE TO JEWS (ISRAEL), MUSLIMS (RYADH, SAUDI ARABIA) AND THE VATICAN (CHRISTIANITY). THIS REMINDING US THAT IN 1945-48 JERUSALEM WAS DEALT WITH SEPARATELY FROM PALESTINE AND ISRAEL). SO – THERE MIGHT BE HERE FURHER DEPTH – SOMETHING THAT SKIPPED THE WALL STREET JOURNAL IN ITS OWN REPORTING WHEN IT SAID TRUMP WILL ALSO GO TO EUROPE (?)}

Mr. Adelson was disappointed that Mr. Trump had not fulfilled a campaign promise to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. He will be watching closely to see how the president squares his vow to be a stalwart friend of Israel with his peacemaking ambitions.

The deletion of Mr. Trump’s Twitter message calling it “an honor” to meet with Mr. Abbas was widely noticed by Israeli news media. Curiously, similar messages on other social media were not deleted. Michael Anton, a White House spokesman, said that no one knew what had happened to the Twitter post but that “we stand by the message.”

Mr. Trump has borrowed a few pages from Mr. Obama’s playbook. He, too, has leaned on Mr. Netanyahu to curb settlement construction to make it easier to pursue talks with the Palestinians. Mr. Greenblatt came to an understanding with Mr. Netanyahu that is not unlike the one between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, under which Israel agreed not to approve further construction outside existing settlement boundaries.

After his promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem, Mr. Trump has set that issue aside for now, heeding the advice of King Abdullah II of Jordan and other Arab leaders, who warned him it could ignite violence among Palestinians. White House officials insist it may still happen; Mr. Trump must decide by June whether to renew the waiver of the congressional vote instructing that the embassy be moved.

David M. Friedman, the bankruptcy lawyer who is Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Israel, has told people he plans to divide his time between the ambassador’s seaside residence near Tel Aviv and the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where the State Department keeps an apartment for its envoy.

But Mr. Friedman, who is moving to Israel in the coming days, has been a less central figure in Mr. Trump’s peacemaking project than Mr. Greenblatt. An Orthodox Jew and an in-house lawyer who negotiated real estate deals for Mr. Trump, Mr. Greenblatt has impressed outsiders with his determination to learn the bedeviling history of Middle East peace.

Mr. Greenblatt has met with a wide range of Arab leaders, ambassadors, and other officials, in a crash course that hard-liners worry will leave him sympathetic to those officials’ arguments, for example, on settlements.

The president’s push on settlements unnerved Mr. Netanyahu, according to officials on both sides, though they avoided an open split over it. Mr. Netanyahu was determined not to antagonize another president, and the understanding on settlements was left unwritten, mitigating attacks on Mr. Netanyahu by pro-settler factions in his coalition.

One of the biggest cheerleaders for a peace deal is Mr. Lauder, a cosmetics heir who has known Mr. Trump for decades. His mother, Estée Lauder, was among the first of the Manhattan social elite to accept Mr. Trump when he arrived on the scene as a young developer from Queens.

Mr. Lauder’s enthusiasm for a bold new initiative has alarmed some in Mr. Trump’s circle, particularly his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. Mr. Bannon speaks regularly with Mr. Adelson, who donated millions of dollars to outside groups to help Republicans in the 2016 elections.

How much direct influence Mr. Lauder has on Mr. Trump is a matter of debate: Some close to the White House insist their contacts are frequent; others say there have been just three meetings, one in the Oval Office and two at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach club. But Mr. Lauder has an open line to Mr. Greenblatt; the dinner for Mr. Abbas testifies to his social clout.

An adviser to Mr. Lauder denied he was pushing an alliance with Mr. Abbas, but described Mr. Lauder as an optimist.

Mr. Adelson was frustrated that Mr. Trump did not fulfill his promise to move the embassy on “Day 1.” But people who have spoken to him said he was heartened by the White House’s silence when the Israeli government announced a new settlement to replace Amona, a settler outpost evacuated after it was declared illegal. A spokesman for Mr. Adelson declined to comment.

Aides to Mr. Trump said they are well aware of the hurdles to a deal. But they say the president has an obligation to try, suggesting that his unconventional approach to diplomacy might unlock some doors.

His hard-line pro-Israel supporters console themselves that Mr. Trump will soon recognize the futility of this undertaking. That pessimism, they note, is a view shared not just by hard-liners but also by most of the Israeli political establishment, left and right.

“The administration is likely to discover what its predecessors learned: that there is no deal to be had right now because the parties have unbridgeable positions on most of the issues,” said Noah Pollak, a Republican strategist who works with pro-Israel conservative groups.

“Obama used the impasse as a way to condemn Israel,” he continued. “We’re not worried Trump will follow suit. We simply hope the process of the administration proving to itself that no deal is possible will be quick and undramatic.”

Mark Landler reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.

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