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

From Laura Musikanski: The Happiness Alliance – Home of the Happiness Initiative and the GNH (Gross National Happiness) Index

Hi Friend of the Happiness Alliance,

Happiness is important to a new economic paradigm, the sustainability of our future and your happiness.

You are one of 61K people who took the Gross National Happiness Index and, in doing so, are the happiness movement. And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agrees – happiness, wellbeing & sustainability are important.

Who is the OECD? Here is a little history lesson. The OECD is the international organization that first started collecting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers and comparing them for all countries. As such, they became a major force pushing GDP to the forefront for policy makers and our society. The backstory is that the superpowers got together after WWII and decided the best way to end future world wars was to bind their economies together (anybody remember Bretton Woods in history class?). The measure they decided to use for economic success was GDP. The term “globalization” had not been coined yet, and the full effects of exponential growth of production, pollution and GDP were still to come. About ten years ago the OECD, and many others, started seeing that wider measures of well-being were needed.

So what? October 13-15 in Guadalajara, Mexico is the OECD’s Fifth World Forum on statistics, knowledge and policy “transforming policy, changing lives.” We will be there (chat with us at our booth), as will be nef, Richard Layard, Jeffrey Stiglitz, Gus O’Donnell and so can you.

There is no fee to participate, but you must apply as a participant by August 31. Send an email to  wellbeing at oecd.org to apply as a participant.

There is more news from our project:

Our latest tool, Happiness for the Depressed, takes a real look at how to address depression. It is quickly becoming one of our more popular tools in part because it does not to give a bandaid to real problems.

And for the data and policy geeks, our second of a four essays that will constitute a white paper on the happiness movement has finally been published. The peer review process is no joke – but we are grateful to the Journal for Social Change for the input and editing. The essay is Measuring Happiness to Guide Public Policy Making. The end includes a grid of the areas included by different measures.

Community activists – check out the wonderful work Laura Hannant had been leading in the Creston, British Columbia region. Elected and appointed officials from the city, region and community boards came together with volunteers to measure and now manage the happiness and wellbeing of the community as part of a three year long project.

Academics and Researchers – check out the article covering the research Professor David Pendery did with four different universities in Taiwan. He is particularly concerned with the happiness and wellbeing of Chinese youth.

Laura Hannant and David Pendery both plan to be at the OECD fifth world forum and share a booth with the Happiness Alliance.

Last, please keep using the Gross National Happiness Index for your life and for your group. If you have not tried the new platform, check it out! You can create a group with one click. If you have, please let us know what you think and of any problems ( info at happycounts.org)

Thank you!
Laura Musikanski, other volunteers & the board of the Happiness Alliance.

P.S. We need donations to help us cover costs for posters, handouts and a banner for the OECD forum. If you can help, please donate here!

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

Alaska Dispatch News
Published on Alaska Dispatch News  www.adn.com)

August 24, 2015

The White House on Sunday revealed some details of President Barack Obama’s upcoming three-day trip to Alaska [1].

The president will travel to “the Seward area, where he will have the opportunity to view the effects of climate change firsthand,” on Tuesday, Sept. 1, according to White House spokesperson Hallie Ruvin.

On the following day, the president will visit Dillingham and Kotzebue, “where he will engage directly with Alaskans on issues important to their communities and to the local economy,” Ruvin said.

Obama will leave the state on Sept. 2, Ruvin said, adding that additional details will be available later this week.

Speculation over Obama’s plans has grown as the date draws near. The president will touch down in Anchorage on Aug. 31 and deliver a speech at a State Department-sponsored Arctic conference that will draw nearly a dozen foreign ministers and hundreds of attendees.

Obama has said he plans to address climate change during his visit. But details are sparse — and rumors rampant — about whether he will address other issues, if security concerns will enable a visit to some of the most rural parts of Alaska, and just what kind of impacts the unusual visit will have on downtown Anchorage.

Source URL: www.adn.com/article/20150824/whit…

Links:
[1] www.adn.com/list-article/20150820…

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The three member Alaska Congressional delegation – two Senators and one Member of the House of Representatives – complained that they were not consulted by the White House. We assume that the President had good reasons for making his own decisions.

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


To celebrate 100 days to COP21, we would like to share with you the latest infographic from Climate Action that explores the role of cities in accelerating sustainable growth- including actions from utilising renewable energy to driving urban mobility to embedding efficiency measures.

As countries continue to submit INDCs ahead of COP21, the growing role of cities in driving post-2020 climate action cannot be ignored. Increasingly city leaders are engaging in positive actions around climate finance, renewable energy, mobility and efficiency, with C40 cities recording the conception of over 8000 measures, policies, and programmes since they started monitoring.

Recent examples of positive action include Adelaide, Australia, announcing the aim to become the world’s first carbon neutral city, and Oberlin, Ohio, moving towards a 89% renewable energy supply.

The Sustainable Cities for Climate Action infographic explores many similar examples of forward thinking solutions, gathering facts from across the globe to showcase the most promising opportunities for sustainable urban growth.

A sneak peek at the facts…

London plans to install 6,000 charging points and 3,000 battery-powered cars by 2018
Gothenburg and Johannesburg have issued $489 million worth of green bonds
Shanghai plans to invest $16.3 billion over the next 3 years on 220 anti-pollution projects

This infographic is brought to you by Climate Action and UNEP, hosts of the 6th annual Sustainable Innovation Forum (SIF15), which will be held alongside UNFCCC COP21 in Paris.

You can download the infographic for free here

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What is an INDC? | World Resources Institute
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Posted in Archives, Copenhagen COP15, Future Events, Paris, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York

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


A Department of Management Engineering at UN City in Copenhagen, Denmark is a UNEP Collaborating Centre Advisory on Energy, Climate, and Sustainable Development. They work with SE4All, WRI, and ICLEI – Local Government for Sustainability – as a global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform. They will conduct a webinar September 1, 2015.

An announcement:

Please join us on September 1 as the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator platform hosts a webinar on the opportunities to use building efficiency and district energy in combination to create more sustainable cities.

This webinar of the SE4ALL Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator partnership is jointly hosted by World Resources Institute (WRI), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. Additional information on the webinar is included below and in the attached document.

Please feel free to share information about this webinar with your colleagues and partners. The primary audience for the webinar is local governments, but it is open to a general audience.

Combining Building Efficiency and District Energy for More Sustainable Cities: A Sustainable Energy for All webinar

Date: Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Times: 10:00-11:30 CEST

Location: Video conference/webinar

Language: English
Registration: attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/3055…

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UN City
Marmorvej 51, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark

DTU – Dept. of Management Engineering

Xiao Wang is DTU Coordinator for
Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform

Email:  xwang at dtu.dk
Direct: +45 4533 5314

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Posted in Archives, Copenhagen COP15, Denmark, European Union, Finland, Future Events, Futurism, Green is Possible, Nairobi, Obama Styling, Paris, Real World's News, Scandinavia, Vienna

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 21st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Climate – from The Center of American Progress – ClimateProgress

7 Big Oil Companies Submit Climate Commitments To The U.N.

by Natasha Geiling Aug 21, 2015 2:16pm


Earlier this week, seven oil and gas companies proposed methane emissions cuts as part of their contribution to a global climate deal ahead of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris later this year.


The companies — including the United States’ Southwestern Energy and Norway’s Statoil — have committed to cutting methane in oil production “by systematically surveying for nine key emission sources” and then reporting those findings to the public, the United Nations’ Climate Action website said. Specific reduction numbers were not listed in the database, though concrete reduction targets could be released at a later date.

Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Oil and gas production produces methane either via leaking infrastructure, or through a process known as flaring, where excess methane is intentionally released and then burned. Reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production could go a long way to helping the globe stay under a 2°C warming scenario — the International Energy Agency has estimated that curbing methane from upstream oil and gas production could account for 15 percent of the global emissions reductions needed to stay under 2°C.

“It’s heartening to see these companies understand the climate situation and understand the contribution that methane makes,” Han Chen, international climate advocate with the {industry-closely related – our comment} Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told ThinkProgress. “I think that a lot of these corporations are facing inquiries from investors, looking at the divestment campaign, and seeing that they are going to have to eventually change their strategy.”

But when a company’s entire business is the extraction of fossil fuels for profit, their climate commitments need to be looked at critically, Greenpeace’s Travis Nichols told ThinkProgress.

“In general, it’s really good to consider the source of these things. You think, ‘Okay, this is an oil company, its entire M.O. is to extract fossil fuel,’” Nichols said. “If they’re making certain kinds of pledges, then we probably need to push them harder.”

In early June, six oil companies wrote a letter to the UN’s climate chief, pledging their support for international climate commitments and emphasizing their willingness to work with international bodies to place a price on carbon.

That’s a good start, Chen said, but environmentalists still want to see oil and gas companies go further. Recent scientific analysis suggests that to keep global temperatures under 2°C, 49 percent of the world’s remaining natural gas reserves and 33 percent of its remaining oil can’t be burned as fuel, meaning that oil and gas companies will need to look beyond their current infrastructure if they want to help prevent dangerous levels of climate change.

“We’re pretty happy that these corporations are even acknowledging that this is a serious problem that we’re facing, but what we need them to commit to over the long term needs to be significantly more than this,” Chen said. “We don’t think that thinking about a carbon price and just reducing methane leakage is going to be enough. In the long term, we’re talking about moving toward low carbon solutions.”

The commitments to methane reductions come just days after the Obama administration proposed methane regulations for new and modified oil and gas wells across the country. In January, the administration announced a goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector between 40 and 45 percent by 2025, compared to 2012 levels.

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 thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/08…

Climate

The Dry Weather That’s Hitting The Tar Sands Industry Is ‘A Preview Of The Future,’ Scientist Says.

by Samantha Page Aug 21, 2015 1:57pm

Dozens of tar sands developers in Alberta’s tar sands have been suspended from taking water — needed for their operations — out of local rivers, after a low flow advisory was issued.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) suspended 73 licenses to temporarily divert water (TDLs) from the Athabasca, Peace, and Wabasca rivers on July 24, after unusually dry weather caused water to fall to at or below healthy maintenance levels. Now, scientists are saying this could become a regular issue for Alberta’s tar sands industry.

Tar sands mining is a type of surface mining in which the top layer of organic matter — trees and plants — is scrapped off, and heavy crude oil is filtered from the sand and clay below. Three barrels of water are needed for every barrel of oil extracted from the tar sands, according to Friends of the Earth.

“More than 90 percent of this water, 400 million gallons per day, ends up as toxic waste dumped in massive pools that contain carcinogenic substances like cyanide,” the group says. Processing the oil from tar sands is incredibly carbon-intensive, and because of tar sands, the energy sector has become Canada’s biggest source of greenhouse gases.

As global warming worsens, some regions, including Alberta, can expect more and more dry summers, scientists say.

“This is absolutely a preview of the future,” Simon Dowell, a climate scientist at the University of British Columbia, told ThinkProgress.
This is a reminder that even the fossil fuel industry has to be worried about the impacts of climate change

Earlier snow melt and drier conditions due to climate change are “exactly what all the models predict,” he said. In fact, the AER suspensions came the same week a paper Dowell co-authored was accepted for publication. In the paper, Dowell and lead author Doris Leong found that, by mid-century, there could be two-month interruptions in tar sands development due to lack of water.

Four counties in Alberta have declared a state of “agricultural disaster” due to drought this summer, the CBC reports. And with the record-breaking El Niño event, it’s expected that western Canada will continue its dry spell at least through this winter, Dowell said.

Some studies have predicted that climate change could increase the likelihood of severe El Niños, a phenomenon that, like climate change, can exacerbate extreme weather events in some parts of the world.

This spring, a group of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian scientists banded together against the continued development of the Alberta tar sands, saying it is “incompatible” with limiting climate change.

“It is somewhat ironic,” Dowell said. “This is a reminder that even the fossil fuel industry has to be worried about the impacts of climate change.”

For now, the water use restrictions will not end operations for all the affected companies, as many have stored water or alternative sources.

“The AER encourages industry to develop their own contingency plans to minimize the impacts that low-flow has on their energy operations. For example, operators may have previously stored water from the source to a reservoir on their site, and when water restrictions are in place, they can divert water from a reservoir,” Jordan Fitzgerald, an AER spokesman, told ThinkProgress by email.

The current restrictions are in effect only in the Upper Athabasca Basin, in northern Alberta, but operators elsewhere in the province are also being urged to conserve.

“The AER is also encouraging oil and gas operators to voluntarily reduce their water consumption in areas with no mandatory restrictions but with streamflows lower than normal,” Fitzgerald said.

Unfortunately for the tar sands industry, low flows might actually be the new normal.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

US Proposals to Cut Methane and Other Pollutants.

As an extension of his Climate Action Plan President Obama through the EPA has announced a series of proposals that will reduce methane and other harmful emissions. While there are there are already some voluntary programs to reduce methane emissions, the EPA has proposed new regulations that will significantly reduce methane in the oil and gas sector as well as in landfills.

In June of this year the EPA announced that it was preparing plans to limit methane. On August 18, 2015, the EPA publishes more details of the new rules. The standards are intended for the oil and gas sector. They are designed to reduce methane, VOCs and other toxic air pollutants. Under the proposed regulations the oil and gas industry would have to cut methane emission by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

The new standards would reduce methane emissions by between 340,000 and 400,000 short tons. This is equivalent to reducing 7.7 to 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. According to EPA estimates the net climate benefits will be worth between $120 and $150 million. In addition to methane the new rule will eliminate as much as 180,000 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

To achieve these goals the new EPA rules require the oil and gas industry to find and repair leaks, capture gas leaking from fracking wells, as well as limit emissions from pumps and other equipment. Several studies have shown that due to leakages, natural gas has a higher emissions profile than coal.

The new standards also address airborne toxins, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Under the plan as much as 2,500 tons of these toxic emissions will be eliminated.

On August 14, 2015 the EPA issued two other proposals that are intended to reduce methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills which are the third largest source of anthropogenic methane. As part of the proposals landfills would have to reduce methane emissions by almost one third.

Landfills generate around 18 percent of methane emissions which is the equivalent to 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.

The proposed rules are expected to reduce methane emissions by an estimated 487,000 tons a year which is equivalent to reducing 12.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The EPA estimates the climate benefits of the combined proposals at nearly $750 million in 2025 or nearly $14 for every dollar spent to comply. Combined costs of the proposed rules are estimated at $55 million in 2025.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over.

From: May Boeve - 350.org

Monday, August 17, 2015

Friends,

2015 is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history, and this December hundreds of world governments will meet in Paris to try to strike a global climate agreement. It will be the biggest gathering of its kind since 2009, and it’s potentially a big deal for our global movement.

In Paris our governments are supposed to agree on a shared target for climate action, based on the national plans governments have been putting together all year — but the numbers just aren’t adding up. Everything being discussed will allow too many communities that have polluted the least to be devastated by floods, rising sea levels and other disasters.


This has the makings of a global failure of ambition — at a moment when renewable energy is becoming a revolutionary economic force that could power a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Join us in telling world leaders to keep fossil fuels underground and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Our movement has grown tremendously — and it shows every time a new leader stands up to declare we must keep fossil fuels under ground, or a university, church or pension fund divests from fossil fuels. The problem is the power of the fossil fuel industry.

The Paris negotiations could potentially send a signal that world governments are serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. If they fail, it will embolden the fossil fuel industry and expose more communities to toxic extraction and climate disasters.

The solutions are obvious: we need to stop digging up and burning fossil fuels, start building renewable energy everywhere we can, and make sure communities on the front lines of climate change have the resources they need to respond to the crisis.

This could be a turning point — if we push for it. Join our global call for action to world governments, telling them to commit to keeping at least 80% of fossil fuels underground, and financing a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over. No matter what happens in the negotiating halls, we must build power to hold them accountable to the principles of justice and science.

After many months of consultation with our global network, here is the plan for what I call “The Road Through Paris”: the plan to grow our movement and hold world leaders accountable to the action we need.

First, in September we will launch a global framework to grow the movement before and after the Paris talks. On September 10th, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and others will be joined by global movement leaders in New York City to lay out our vision for the road ahead. Then on September 26th communities across the globe will hold workshops to plan for the coming months of action. After that, I think we’ll see several months of escalating activity as communities drive the message home that we can’t wait for action.

The talks in Paris start on November 30th, and run for 2 weeks. But before the talks start, the world will stand together in a weekend of global action, paired with an enormous march in the streets of Paris. During the talks, 350′s team on the ground will do their best to help keep you in the loop on the most important developments. And when the talks wrap up, we’re planning a big action in Paris on December 12th to make sure the people — not the politicians — have the last word.

But most importantly, we won’t stop there. I want you to mark your calendars for the month of April in 2016. That’s when we will mobilize in a global wave of action unlike any we’ve seen before. Not one big march in one city, not a scattering of local actions — but rather a wave of historic national and continent-wide mobilizations targeting the fossil fuel projects that must be kept in the ground, and backing the energy solutions that will take their place.

In the 6 years 350.org has been around, this is the most ambitious plan we’ve ever proposed. But ambition is what is called for, along with courage, faith in each other and the readiness to respond when disaster strikes, plans change, or politicians fail to lead.

We are nearer than ever to the changes we’ve been fighting to see. I hope to stand with you in the coming months to see them through.

May Boeve
Executive Director

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


IPCC chair election: 5 candidates, 8 weeks to go

By Megan Darby of ” title=”http://www.rtcc.org” target=”_blank”>www.rtcc.org/2015/08/14/ipcc-chai…

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SustainabiliTank supports Naki (Nebosja Nakicenovic) because of his years long personal involvement in energy matters and his understanding of the importance of energy in the economy, on the environment and in development matters. Further, we think his Vienna base at the former East-West IIASA institution – is a tremendous plus – and as well – practically all UN and international energy active centers are based in Vienna be it UN affiliates like IAEA and OPEC and then the new SE4All which ought to be a major locus for post-Paris-2015.

Also, we think it as a plus, the fact that Naki was not part of the outgoing IPCC management – we found years ago that the influence of oil interests reached into the minds and actions of that outgoing management.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 14th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: UNITAR E-LEARNING TEAM

Environmental Governance Programme

United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)

Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 917 8776

 delphine.clement at unitar.orgwww.unitar.org

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) wishes to inform you of the launch of an e-learning training session on Green Economy (in French) which will begin next September.
 www.unitar.org/sites/default/file…

For further information on the course methodology, structure, registration and fellowship opportunities, please consult the course announcement below.
Do not hesitate to disseminate this information around you.

The “Environmental Governance” team of UNITAR remains at your disposal should you need any additional information,

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Breaking Latest forecast suggests ‘Godzilla El Niño’ may be coming to California
By Rong-Gong Lin II

The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, as warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are now predicting a strong El Niño to peak in the late fall or early winter. A host of observations have led scientists to conclude that “collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect a significant and strengthening El Niño.”

At the moment, this year’s El Niño is stronger than it was at this time of year in 1997. Areas in red and white represent the warmest sea-surface temperatures above the average. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at La Cañada Flintridge – their climatologist Bill Patzert)

To see the graphs – please go to Los Angeles Times or Rolling Stones – our source at:
 www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me…


Patzert said El Niño’s signal in the ocean “right now is stronger than it was in 1997,” the summer in which the most powerful El Niño on record developed.


“Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño,” Patzert said. “If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”

After the strongest El Niño on record muscled up through the summer of 1997, the following winter gave Southern California double its annual rainfall and dumped double the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, an essential source of precipitation for the state’s water supply, Patzert said.

A strong El Niño can shift a subtropical jet stream that normally pours rain over the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America toward California and the southern United States.

But so much rain all at once has proved devastating to California in the past. In early 1998, storms brought widespread flooding and mudslides, causing 17 deaths and more than half a billion dollars in damage in California. Downtown L.A. got nearly a year’s worth of rain in February 1998.

The effects of this muscular El Niño – nicknamed “Bruce Lee” by one blogger for the National Weather Service – are already being felt worldwide. While a strong El Niño can bring heavy winter rains to California and the southern United States, it can also bring dry weather elsewhere in the world.

Already, El Niño is being blamed for drought conditions in parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia, as occurred in 1997-98.

Drought is also persistent in Central America. Water levels are now so low in the waterways that make up the Panama Canal that officials recently announced limits on traffic through the passageway that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

El Niño also influenced the heavy rainstorms that effectively ended drought conditions in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

There are a couple reasons why scientists say El Niño is gaining strength.

First, ocean temperatures west of Peru are continuing to climb. The temperatures in a benchmark location of the Pacific Ocean were 3.4 degrees above the average as of Aug. 5. That’s slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees above normal.

The mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is also bigger and deeper than it was at this point in 1997, Patzert said.

Second, the so-called trade winds that normally keep the ocean waters west of Peru cool — by pushing warm water further west toward Indonesia — are weakening.

That’s allowing warm water to flow eastward toward the Americas, giving El Niño more strength.

For this year’s El Niño to truly rival its 1997 counterpart, there still needs to be “a major collapse in trade winds from August to November as we saw in 1997,” Patzert said.

“We’re waiting for the big trade wind collapse,” Patzert said. “If it does, it could be stronger than 1997.”

There is a small chance such a collapse may not happen.

“There’s always a possibility these trade winds could surprise us and come back,” Patzert said.

Overall, the Climate Prediction Center forecast a greater-than-90% chance that El Niño will continue through this winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and about an 85% chance it will last into the early spring.

In California, officials have cautioned the public against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges. A forecast is never a sure thing, they say.

And they also want to remind the public that California has been dry for much of the last 15 years. Even if California gets a wet winter this year, it could be followed by another severe multi-year drought.

“We certainly wouldn’t want people to think that, ‘Gee, because it’s an El Niño this year, it’s going to be wet and therefore we can stop conserving water,” Jeanine Jones, the California Department of Water Resources’ deputy drought manager, said in July.

Another problem is that the Pacific Ocean west of California is substantially warmer than it was in 1997. That could mean that though El Niño-enhanced precipitation fell as snow in early 1998, storms hitting the north could cause warm rain to fall this winter. Such a situation would not be good news “for long-term water storage in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

Drought officials prefer snow in the mountains in the winter because it slowly melts during the spring and summer and can trickle at a gentle speed into the state’s largest reservoirs in Northern California. Too much rain all at once in the mountains in the winter can force officials to flush excess water to the ocean to keep dams from overflowing.

Swain said it’s important to keep in mind that all El Niño events are different, and just because the current El Niño has the potential to be the strongest on record “doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects in California will be the same.”

Interested in the stories shaping California? Sign up for the free Essential California newsletter >>

“A strong El Niño is very likely at this point, namely because we’ve essentially reached the threshold already, but a wet winter is never a guarantee in California,” Swain said in an email.

“I think a good way to think about it is this: There is essentially no other piece of information that is more useful in predicting California winter precipitation several months in advance than the existence of a strong El Niño event,” Swain said. “But it’s still just one piece of the puzzle. So while the likelihood of a wet winter is increasing, we still can’t rule out other outcomes.”

Updated Aug. 13, 8:10 a.m.: In another sign that El Niño is gaining strength, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have risen to their highest level so far this year.

That temperature increase — 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average — was recorded Aug. 5 by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center at a benchmark location in the Pacific. That is slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

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Updated Aug. 13, 9:29 a.m.: “This could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record dating back to 1950,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

ALSO:

California will soon have toughest shower head requirements in nation

Another El Niño sign: Ocean temps hit highest level of the year

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

PRESS RELEASE by the UN office of “2015 TIME FOR GLOBAL ACTION FOR PEOPLE AND PLANET.”

Consensus Reached on New Sustainable Development Agenda to be adopted by World Leaders in September.

Ambitious new agenda would end poverty by 2030 and universally promote economic prosperity, social development and environmental protection

2 August, New York—The 193 Member States of the United Nations reached agreement today on the draft outcome document that will constitute the new sustainable development agenda that will be adopted this September by world leaders at the Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

Concluding a negotiating process that has spanned more than two years and has featured the unprecedented participation of civil society, countries agreed to an ambitious agenda that features 17 new sustainable development goals that aim to end poverty, promote prosperity and people’s well-being while protecting the environment by 2030.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the agreement, saying it “encompasses a universal, transformative and integrated agenda that heralds an historic turning point for our world.”

“This is the People’s Agenda, a plan of action for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere, and leaving no one behind. It seeks to ensure peace and prosperity, and forge partnerships with people and planet at the core. The integrated, interlinked and indivisible 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the people’s goals and demonstrate the scale, universality and ambition of this new Agenda.”

Mr. Ban said the September Summit, where the new agenda will be adopted, “will chart a new era of Sustainable Development in which poverty will be eradicated, prosperity shared and the core drivers of climate change tackled.”

He added that the UN System stands ready to support the implementation of the new agenda, which builds on the successful outcome of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, and which, he said, will also contribute to achieve a meaningful agreement in the COP21 in Paris in December.

More than 150 world leaders are expected to attend the Sustainable Development Summit at the UN headquarters in New York between 25 to 27 September to formally adopt the outcome document of the new sustainable agenda.

The new sustainable development agenda builds on the success of the Millennium Development Goals, which helped more than 700 million people escape poverty. The eight Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, aimed at an array of issues that included slashing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to water and sanitation by 2015.

The new sustainable development goals, and the broader sustainability agenda, go much further, addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.

The preamble of the 29-page text, “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” states, “We are resolved to free the human race within this generation from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet for the present and for future generations.” It continues, “We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind.”


Rio+20 and the intergovernmental process

At the Rio+20 Conference of 2012, Member States agreed to launch a process to develop a set of sustainable development goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals have proven that goal-setting can lift millions out of poverty, improve well-being and provide vast new opportunities for better lives. It was agreed that the new goals would be global in nature and universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.

The negotiations were co-facilitated by the UN Permanent Representative of Ireland, Ambassador David Donohue, and the UN Permanent Representative of Kenya, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, over two years. The inclusive and transparent consultations by Member States, with the strong engagement of civil society and other stakeholders, have served as a basis for the conclusion of the intergovernmental negotiations on the emerging universal and people-centred agenda



Core elements of the draft outcome document

The outcome document highlights poverty eradication as the overarching goal of the new development agenda and has at its core the integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The emerging development agenda is unique in that it calls for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income. Member States pledge that as they embark on this collective journey, no one will be left behind. The ‘five Ps’—people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership — capture the broad scope of the agenda.

The 17 sustainable goals and 169 targets aim at tackling key systemic barriers to sustainable development such as inequality, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, inadequate infrastructure and lack of decent jobs. The environmental dimension of sustainable development is covered in the goals on oceans and marine resources and on ecosystems and biodiversity, bringing core issues into the goal and target framework.

The means of implementation outlined in the outcome document match its ambitious goals and focus on finance, technology and capacity development. In addition to a stand-alone goal on the means of implementation for the new agenda, specific means are tailored to each of the sustainable development goals.

Member States stressed that the desired transformations will require a departure from “business as usual” and that intensified international cooperation on many fronts will be required. The agenda calls for a revitalized, global partnership for sustainable development, including for multi-stakeholder partnerships. The agenda also calls for increased capacity-building and better data and statistics to measure sustainable development.

An effective follow-up and review architecture – a core element of the outcome document – will be critical to support the implementation of the new agenda. The High Level Political Forum on sustainable development, set up after the Rio+20 Conference, will serve as the apex forum for follow up and review and will thus play a central role. The General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and specialized agencies will also be engaged in reviewing progress in specific areas.

Based on the outcome document, the agenda will include a Technology Facilitation Mechanism to support the new goals, based on multi-stakeholder collaboration between Member States, civil society, business, the scientific community, and the UN system of agencies. The Mechanism, which was agreed at the Addis Conference in July, will have an inter-agency task team, a forum on science, technology and innovation, and an on-line platform for collaboration.

The successful outcome of the Addis Conference gave important positive momentum to the last stretch of negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. It is expected that the consensus reached on the outcome document will provide momentum for the negotiations on a new binding climate change treaty to culminate at the Climate Change Conference in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015.

The draft agreement can be found at sustainabledevelopment.un.org/po…

For further information, please contact Sharon Birch, UN Department of Public Information.
1 212 963-0564, e:  birchs at un.org and Francyne Harrigan, 1 917 367-5414 e:  harriganf at un.org

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We must remark that the logo of the announcement mentions 2015 in largest letters then TIME FOR ACTION in medium size letters and two of the 5 “P”s – People and Planet in barely visible small letters. Sensibly the other three “P”s that joined these negotiations – Prosperity, Peace, Partnership were left out from this logo so it does not make it obvious that this lowest common denominator is not just wishful thinking.

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

International Business – The New York Times

I.M.F. Demands Greece Debt Relief as Condition for Bailout

By JACK EWING JULY 14, 2015

FRANKFURT — The International Monetary Fund threatened to withdraw support for Greece’s bailout on Tuesday unless European leaders agree to substantial debt relief, an immediate challenge to the region’s plan to rescue the country.

The aggressive stance sets up a standoff with Germany and other eurozone creditors, which have been reluctant to provide additional debt relief. The I.M.F role is considered crucial for any bailout, not only to provide funding but also to supervise Greece’s compliance with the terms.

A new rescue program for Greece “would have to meet our criteria,” a senior I.M.F. official told reporters on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “One of those criteria is debt sustainability.”

Debt relief has been a contentious issue in the negotiations over the Greek bailout.

Athens has pushed aggressively for creditors to write down the country’s debt, which now exceeds €300 billion. Without it, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has argued the debt will remain a heavy weight on Greece’s troubled economy.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Reported by Irith Jawetz from Vienna
July 12. 2015

On Friday, July 10, 2015 – a very timely – at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
Since the Iran talks are being held in Vienna, the panel discussion was very appropriate and although many people have left the City for the Summer, or at least for the weekend, this round table – and the room were full.
I will try to give a somewhat concise reporting of that event.

The event was called: Iran und der Westen nach den Verhandlungen (Iran and the West after the talks).

The participants were:

Dr. Christian Prosl, Austrian Ambassador to Washingtion 2009-2011

Dr. Walter Posch, Institut für Friedenssicherung und Konfliktforschung an der Landesverteidigungsakademie Wien
( Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management, Vienna).

Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist, APA (the Austrian Press Agency) and Wiener Zeitung

The excellent moderator was Dr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Politische Akademie und des AIES, former Austrian Minister for Defense.

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Dr. Fasselabend opened the discussion stating that only 99.9% of the talks are completed.

He continued by by displaying historic and current maps of the Region, giving us a broad historic overview of Iran and its influence on the region. He stressed that because of Iran’s geographical location it was and still is a very large regional power and stability in the Middle East without Iran’s cooperation is impossible.

Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist for APA (Austrian Press Agentur) and Wiener Zeitung gave us an inside look from the perspective of the journalists covering the talks.

He recalled that after 17 days, 12-16 hours of work, 600 journalists and at a cost of about $1 million for the stay in Vienna by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation at the famous Imperial Hotel, there is still no deal. There have been many improvements since the beginning of the talks, but still no deal. Mr. Kerry has prolonged his stay yet again and said a deadline will not be a factor as long as an agreement can be achieved. The new deadline to be breached is Monday July 13th.

The three major problems that stand in the way of an agreement are:

1) The sanctions on Iran – the Iranian delegation insists those have to be lifted right away;

2) The UN Arms Embargo that includes conventional weapons;

3) Political readiness by President Obama and Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. Both have to agree to a deal which will be accepted at home.

Dr. Faal said he is an optimist by nature and is still hopeful that an agreement will be reached.

Ambassador Dr. Christian Prosl addressed the matter from the US point of view. He said that for the US the stability of the region and the security of the State of Israel are the main factors and the two problems which the US faces are with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Both countries, though for different reasons, are against any deal with Iran since they do not trust the Iranian regime.

As for the supply of oil, this is not anymore a factor for the US because of the fracking industry. However, the strained relationship between President Obama and the Republican party may be a factor. The Republicans have tried for a long time now to see that President Obama fails, and they may try to fail him also in this endeavor. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech in Congress against the Iran deal, which was prompted by the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boemer, did not help. However Ambassador Prosl said that he cannot imagine that the Republicans will fail the agreement if it is iron clad and the treaty will be safe for the US.

Dr. Posch addressed the matter from the Iranian point of view and concluded that although the problems are being viewed from different perspective, i.e. US, the EU and Iran, the will is there. Regional security, oil supply and human rights in Iran all play a part in the talks. He also was hopeful that a deal will be signed

At the end of the panel presentations, Dr. Fasselabend invited to the podium Dr. Massud Mossaheb, General Secretary of the Austro-Iranian Society in Vienna.

Mr. Mossaheb said that there is mutual mistrust between the West and the Iranian Government.

In spite of the fact that the Iranian nuclear position has not changed in the last 40 years, there is still mistrust. The people of Iran hope for the lifting of the sanctions so they can have a better quality of life. They suffer from high inflation and lack of supplies, especially in medications. Dr. Mossaheb also hopes for a deal to be reached.

As the end, the consensus was that the talks will go on, of course not for ever, but without the threat of an immediate deadline, and an agreement, which will be safe and beneficial for all participants will be reached.

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From the US MEDIA – I will add to the above
that the personal insistence of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the opinion is that the White House investment in these talks is so high that a failure to obtain an agreement is unthinkable.

The fact that the Iranians see this deep involvement of the Americans has in itself weakened the position of the United States in these negotiations. But then, the Iran Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei – whose position is still strong as he is still blindly followed by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who are in charge of the Nuclear Program – may be using tough talk now just to make sure that his agreeing to an agreement is not viewed as weakness. The Iranian people want an end to the sanctions provided it is not seen as a cave in (the CNN/GPS program of Fareed Zakaria).

The current round, now in its 16-th day, was supposed to conclude on June 30, but was extended until July 7, then July 10 and now July 13. The sides had hoped to seal a deal before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid delays in implementing their promises.

By missing that target, the U.S. and Iran now have to wait for a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama can’t waive sanctions on Iran. Had they reached a deal by Thursday, the review would have been only 30 days.

En route to Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.

Kerry noted that “a few tough things” remain in the way of agreement but added: “We’re getting to some real decisions.”

A senior State Department official also said Sunday that the department will not speculate about the timing of anything during the talks and that key issues remain unresolved.

Iran’s state-run Press TV cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday as calling the U.S. an “excellent example of arrogance.” It reported that Khamenei told university students in Tehran to be “prepared to continue the struggle against arrogant powers.”

His comments suggest Tehran’s distrust of Washington will persist whether a deal gets done or not. Khamenei’s comments also have appeared thus to be a blow to U.S. hopes than agreement will lead to improved relations with the country and possible cooperation against Islamic rebels.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, like Kerry, indicated talks could go either way. “We behaved so skillfully that if talks won’t succeed, the world would accept that Iran is for logic and dialogue and never left the negotiating table … and if we succeed by the grace of God, the world will know that the Iranian nation can resolve its problems through logic,” his website quoted him as saying.

The supreme leader’s comments also come after it was learned Saturday that the Islamic Republic’s spies have been seeking atomic and missile technology in neighboring Germany as recently as last month.

Iran’s illegal activities have continued since talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as rotating member Germany – began with a Joint Plan of Action in 2013, according to German intelligence sources. The JPOA was intended to stop Iran’s work on a nuclear weapon until a comprehensive agreement is reached.

“You would think that with the negotiations, [Iranian] activities would drop,” a German intelligence source said. “Despite the talks to end Iran’s program, Iran did not make an about-turn.”

With a final agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program set for Monday, the intelligence data from Germany raises disturbing questions about the success of the deal.

Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program over the last two years, according to German intelligence sources. Germany is required to report Iran’s illegal procurement activities to the UN.

Iran is unlikely to begin a substantial rollback of its nuclear program until it gets sanctions relief in return.

But then the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers said they will come to Vienna for the signing of the agreement – and the news are that Mr. Sergei Lavrov has said he will be there on Monday.

An Iranian diplomat said that they have a 100 pages document to study and that logistically it cannot be done by Sunday night with parallel meetings going on.

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

The Sunday, June 14, 2015 program started with Fareed retelling us the content of his last Friday’s Washington Post column - www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/s… /9ce1f4f8-1074-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

While some hysteria-builders in Washington are worried about a Saudi nuclear race to follow Iran, Fareed Zakaria tells us clearly that besides drilling holes to get out oil from the ground, the Saudis have actually not proven capability of doing anything else. They just do not have the people nor the education system that leads to knowledge. You can actually conclude that they are hardly a State in the normal sense of the word – though with them having a full treasury they will not fail easily – but clearly not amount to much power either. In effect they are a natural target for ISIS – so let them not bluff us.

The Saudi GDP is based 44% on oil and 90% of their revenues are from oil. Their puritanical reactionary conservative education system puts them at 73rd place in global ranking compared to the much poorer Iran that is placed 44th. Two out of three people with a job are foreigners – hardly a recommendation for capability of doing anything.

Then Fareed brought on Professor Michael Porter of Harvard who makes now a career of talking and writing about America’s unconventional energy opportunity that turned the till-2005 dependence on gas import and till 2008 dependence on oil import – to an economy now that produces $430 billion/year of oil-shale fracking gas and oil products – that he says have reduced the energy bill of an average American family by $800/year and is now being enhanced by secondary industries like the petrochemical industry.

Gas prices are now lower by one third then those in US trading-countries and he contends that even though there are environmental problems with “fracking” these problems get smaller with time as there are new technological developments leading to decrease in pollution. Oh well – this at least reduces the US dependence on Saudi good-will.

To point out some more the effect of oil on developing countries that export the stuff, Fareed brought on a New Yorker journalist who works now in Luanda, Angola, and previously worked many years in Russia. Michael Specter was fascinating in his description of the “Bizarro” World of Luanda where for four out of the last five years Luanda was the most expensive City for the “Expatriates.” The Fifth year they were second to Japan.

With a watermelon selling for $105, a Coke for $10 and a cab-ride of 20 miles costing $450 – this while the working locals make $4/day while after Nigeria Angola is now the second largest oil producer in Africa.

For a saner discussion Fareed brought on Richard Haass – a former official of the Bush administration, Advisor to Colin Powell and president of the New York City based Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, and David Rothkopf – who worked for the Clinton Administration, Managed the Kissinger Associates, and now is CEO and Editor of the Foreign Policy Group that publishes Foreign Policy Magazine. Interesting, it was Haass who wore a blue tie and Rothkopf who wore a red tie – and to my surprise, and clearly to their own surprise – there was no difference between their positions on the issues.

The main topic was Iraq and they agreed that sending in some more advisers to keep the ongoing losing policy in place makes no sense and never did. Iraq has passed, or was handed, to Iran while the only functioning part of it are the Kurdish evolving State.

The problem is the Sunni part that will eventually be a State as well – but it depends on a change in US position if this will be the ISIS State or a conventional Sunni State. Trying to hold the three parts of Iraq together does not make sense – period.

Oh well – how we got there – ask the Bush family – now we guess – ask Jeb (John Ellis) Bush. and Fareed also pointed a finger at Senator Rick Santorum who wants to be President and says the Pope should not mix the church and science – leave science to the scientists which for him are the Climate-deniers paid by the oil industry.

Fareed pointed out to Santorum that Pope Franciscus happens to be a scientist. He was trained as chemist and worked as a chemist before reentering the seminarium for clerical studies.

This coming week the world might finally get a boost from the Catholic Church as very well described in the New York Times article by Jim Yardley of June 13, 2015: “Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor.”

On Thursday June 18, 2015, Pope Franciscus will release his most important Encyclical on the theme of the environment and the poor. This follows a meeting May 2014 of the Pope with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accompanied by his Development lieutenants. This could be finally a joined effort for the good of humanity – of faith and true science.

Above is not completely new. Already the last two popes started to investigate the moral choices of development. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI already wrote about the role of industrial pollution in destroying the environment. Francis went further – and on his January 2015 trip to the Philippines expressed his being convinced that global warming was “most;y” a human-made phenomenon. Now he is expected in the September trip to Cuba and New York, to bring the encyclical to the UN General Assembly and encourage the Heads of States to bring the issue to a positive conclusion at the December Climate Convention meting in Paris. The driving force of this Pope is his experience in Latin America with an agenda of poverty and Unsustainable Consumption that reveals ethical issues. He can be expected to reject the American conservative interests underwritten by oil industry interests that send to his doorsteps folks like Marc Morano and the Heartland Foundation with Republican Skeptics found in the US Senate of James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Fareed also mentioned on his program the fact that coincidentally it was June 15, 1215 that King John released the First Magna Carta that was shortly thereafter declared “Null and Void for all validity for-ever” by Pope Innocent II. A new Magna Carta was instituted later and it is the 2025 version that is the basis for the Constitutions of many States – including the USA. Pope Francis’s Encyclical might be viewed by future generations as the Magna Carta for the Earth – we hope the term SUSTAINABILITY will be brought into full focus – so ought to be “sustainable development.”

One last issue of this State of the World program was about the dwindling population in all European States and in many Asian States as well. It is only the USA that is growing – this thanks to immigration and some might say energy autarky?. The subject needs more linking to the rest of the program ingredients and we expect this will be done eventually.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IISDRS – Summary & Analysis from the 5th Intergovernmental Negotiation on Post2015 Development Agenda

as per Langston James Goree VI

5th Session of the Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations (Follow-Up and Review)
18-22 May 2015 | UN Headquarters, New York
 www.iisd.ca/post2015/in5/

The fifth session of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda took place from 18-22 May 2015, at UN Headquarters in New York.

The session, which focused on follow-up and review of the post-2015 development agenda, was led by the Co-Facilitators for the post-2015 process, David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland, and Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya.

This session marked the last of the “scripted” sessions outlined in UN General Assembly decision A/69/L.46, on modalities for the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. During the course of the week, delegates discussed: follow-up and review of the post-2015 development agenda; goals, targets and indicators; themes for the interactive dialogues during the Post-2015 Summit in September; and the way forward. An interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders took place on Wednesday, 20 May. Delegates adopted the six themes for the interactive dialogues, which will be transmitted to the President of the General Assembly.

During the week, participants discussed what exactly “follow-up and review” entails at the national, regional and global levels. There was much discussion on the role of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in this regard. There was disagreement on whether there should be technical revisions to the targets, which were approved by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals in July 2014.

At the end of the week, the Co-Facilitators announced that the zero draft of the outcome document would be circulated on or about 1 June 2015, noting this would provide enough time to delegations to organize preliminary informal consultations before the sixth session of the intergovernmental negotiations begins on 22 June.

The Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format

at  www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb3218e… and in HTML format at
 www.iisd.ca/vol32/enb3218e.html

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A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE MEETINGS

The fifth session of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations marked the last stocktaking session of the process before the focus turns to the textual negotiations on the post-2015 outcome. Since January 2015, participants have discussed elements of the structure of the post-2015 development agenda, including the declaration, the goals and targets, means of implementation and, at the fifth session, follow-up and review. As delegates await the zero draft of the outcome document, which they were informed would be issued by the Co-Facilitators on or about 1 June, it is clear that some “existential questions” remain regarding the post-2015 development agenda. These questions could be the focus of difficult debates before negotiations conclude in July. This brief analysis reflects on some of these questions, within the context of the fifth session’s discussions on follow-up and review, and examines the way forward, in the context of a complex set of interrelated sustainable development negotiations.

“COMING TO TERMS WITH THE TERMS”

While most delegations shared the view that a well-functioning review framework is essential for the implementation of the SDGs, it was clear that there is not yet agreement on the nomenclature. While most developing countries wanted to maintain the terminology “follow-up and review” in the outcome document, some developed countries preferred to use “monitoring, accountability and review” instead. The phrases have different meanings and implications and many developing countries are concerned that “accountability” could imply conditionality.

The EU, for example, said monitoring, accountability and review are all essential for the implementation of the agenda, and clarified that monitoring is about data and information to provide an assessment of progress, while accountability is about taking ownership, responsibility and ensuring follow-up of commitments. By contrast, the G-77/China stressed the importance of follow-up and review, noting that these terms were used in decision A/69/L.46 on the modalities for the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, and stating that accountability and monitoring had “no place in the debate.” India argued that it is better to look at this part of the post-2015 agenda as “review and follow-up,” since review should precede follow-up.

It was clear from this that achieving a common understanding on the terminology is necessary before agreeing on any review framework.


“BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR”

By the end of the week, there was some degree of consensus that, at the global level, the HLPF should be the main platform for follow-up and review. However, the issue of whether the review of the post-2015 agenda should take place under a highly centralized structure under the authority of the HLPF or under a network with the HLPF at its core remained, among other questions. As these discussions took place, Co-Facilitator Kamau cautioned delegates to “be careful what you wish for,” noting that there was a level of complexity built into their proposals and that, once their complexity was unpacked, it would be difficult to develop a proposal that would work, especially given the short negotiating time left before the Post-2015 Summit. The G-77/China said the HLPF should be the key forum, to which other mechanisms created to follow up on outcomes of UN conferences and conventions should report in order to eschew unnecessary duplication.

Japan, however, stressed that it is impossible to build a highly centralized structure whereby one single authority would take charge of following up the wide and interlinked agenda. Therefore, Japan and others suggested that the global review structure should have the HLPF at the center, with the widest possible network of existing review mechanisms supporting it. Existing mechanisms, from the World Trade Organization for trade elements, to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee for reviews related to official development assistance, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation for multi-stakeholder efforts, and existing legally binding agreements for relevant targets were identified as candidates for supporting mechanisms during the discussions, but the nuts and bolts of the reporting relationship with the HLPF and timing for reviews require further examination and discussion.

Another issue that remains to be unpacked is whether the follow-up for the FfD3 and post-2015 processes should take place under an integrated framework or in two separate review mechanisms. The EU and Switzerland, among others, supported developing an overarching monitoring, accountability and review framework for the entire post-2015 agenda, including both the financial and non-financial MOI, and said the FfD3 review process should ultimately feed into the HLPF. The G-77/China, by contrast, argued that the two processes are independent and said, even though they have points in common, they need two different review frameworks. Many agreed that the unpacking of this issue will depend on what is agreed by FfD3 in July.

A key question for the follow-up and review mechanism relates to how the HLPF itself will function. As the Co-Facilitators noted, delegates assigned a multitude of possible tasks to the HLPF during this session, including: keeping track of progress; identifying shortcomings and gaps on the SDGs; making recommendations about what countries should do to stay on track; discussing national and regional reviews; providing a science-policy interface; and addressing emerging issues and challenges. The Co-Facilitators reminded delegations that the HLPF only meets eight days a year, under the auspices of ECOSOC, with three of those days taken up with a ministerial segment. Co-Facilitator Kamau’s suggestion that the HLPF might need to meet twice a year was almost universally rejected, but his idea that some elements could be “offloaded” to other UN bodies that could report back to the Forum generated some interest. Additional proposals related to the HLPF’s functions included calls for the annual HLPF meetings to focus on thematic topics, and for the adoption of a four-year review cycle, where governments could be invited to communicate how they are implementing the SDGs at the national level and what still needs to be done.

In addition to the HLPF, there was also discussion on how other institutions and stakeholders would be involved. On the question of whether regional or global institutions should undertake national reviews, some proposed that country reviews should be done at the regional or sub-regional levels, with the HLPF taking the lead on the global assessment with inputs from the UN Regional Commissions, other relevant stakeholders and international organizations. Others, such as Switzerland and Germany, said the HLPF should review both how countries are doing individually and how the international community is doing globally. Many countries also stressed the importance of stakeholder participation at all levels. The EU, for example, suggested that the UN Global Compact could contribute to the work of the HLPF by preparing assessments of the private sector’s involvement in implementation. Several delegates noted that NGOs, civil society and the private sector also need to be held accountable for implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, especially with regard to MOI. The G-77/China and Egypt said that the follow-up and review process should be determined by national governments and include the participation of all relevant stakeholders in accordance with existing laws and regulations, pointing to another aspect in which further unpacking will be necessary before the follow-up and review framework is adopted.

“WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHICH GOALS TO IMPLEMENT AND WHICH GOALS NOT TO”

In opening the session, Co-Facilitator Kamau highlighted that, because the SDGs are interrelated, “we will not be able to pick and choose which goals to implement and which goals not to.” This indivisibility of the agenda, due to the integrated nature of the SDGs, implies that one cannot look at a goal without taking into account its relationship with other goals and targets. For example, as a participant noted during the interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders, universal health coverage will not be achieved without sanitation, and sanitation will not progress without improvements in education, such as school toilets, which calls for integration and policy coherence. Some participants noted that the same interdependence applies to thematic reviews and proposals to organize the work of the HLPF along thematic lines. If those thematic reviews are to be considered, inter-sectoral linkages as well as horizontal linkages with other multilateral agreements, international organizations, the private sector, governments and other stakeholders will have to be considered to ensure coherence of action.

What will be reviewed does not, however, simply relate to the coherence and inter-linkages between the goals, but also to the targets and indicators under each goal. While the targets were included in the report of the OWG, some said that having undefined numbers?identified by the use of “Xs”?was unacceptable and expressed concern that Heads of State should not adopt a document with “Xs.” However, when the Co-Facilitators distributed a document containing revised targets, there were mixed reactions to the proposal to revise only some of the targets. Some welcomed the revisions so as to ensure that the goals are measurable and aligned with international agreements. Others actually supported leaving the “Xs” in the text since it would allow countries to choose the targets that are best for them. Finally, there were those who expressed concern that this exercise could reopen the SDGs and thus derail the entire post-2015 agreement. The development of indicators by the UNSC will also try to achieve coherence across this indivisible agenda.

“WE CANNOT USE PREVIOUSLY AGREED LANGUAGE IN A DOCUMENT THAT IS LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE”

Based on the discussions during the first five sessions of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, the Co-Facilitators will attempt to put “flesh on the bones” of the document to be adopted in September. However, as several countries noted, the outcome document has to look towards the future, not rely on “stale,” previously agreed UN language. To achieve this objective, delegates will need to unpack previous arrangements and business-as-usual frameworks to understand how 193 countries can individually and jointly pivot to pursue a sustainable development path for the next 15 years. Optimists at the fifth session pointed to the sticking points that emerged from the discussion as evidence that delegates are grappling with the need to change course, although they too wondered how the complexities of interrelated issues and actors could be fully recognized when the process finally puts pen to paper over the next two months.

The zero draft of the outcome document will be the focus of three weeks of negotiations in June and July. The Co-Facilitators have asked delegations to consult within and among their negotiating groups before the sixth session begins on 22 June, and start to build bridges across the chasms on the agenda. Many questions remain about the details of this agenda and the fifth session of the intergovernmental negotiations indicated that there could be a rocky road ahead in reaching agreement on terminology, the follow-up and review process, the role of the HLPF, and any changes to the targets. What is clear, however, is that many want a document that will “connect, inspire and motivate” a global audience, avoid recycling UN language, and look towards the future.

This analysis, taken from the summary issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin ©  enb at iisd.org, is written and edited by Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. <pam@iisd.org>, Ana Maria Lebada, Nathalie Risse, and Christine Søby. The Editor is Lynn Wagner, Ph.D. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <kimo@iisd.org>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Union, the Government of Switzerland (the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)), and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. General Support for the Bulletin during 2015 is provided by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies – IGES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Wallonia, Québec, and the International Organization of La Francophonie/Institute for Sustainable Development of La Francophonie (IOF/IFDD). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <kimo@iisd.org>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022 USA.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


IPCC Expert Meeting: Climate research community looks into future scenarios.
IPCC Press Release

GENEVA, May 18 – Climate experts will meet in Laxenburg near Vienna, Austria, on 18-20 May 2015 at an Expert Meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to discuss and further develop new socioeconomic scenarios as shared tools for climate research.

Experts from the climate change research community will meet with representatives of the IPCC at the meeting hosted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria.

“We use scenarios much like testing probes to explore future societal developments and their consequences for climate and the environment,” said Keywan Riahi, who leads IIASA’s energy program and is convening the Expert Meeting. He is also a lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the mitigation of climate change. “The scenarios that were assessed by the IPCC have proven vital for the AR5. This expert meeting will have a detailed look at a new generation of scenarios and framework that the climate change research community has adopted to facilitate the integrated analysis of future climate impacts, vulnerabilities, adaptation, and mitigation,” said Riahi.

Scenarios, as used in research with integrated assessment models, are stories about potential ways that the future might develop. They feature specific quantitative elements and details about how sectors such as the economy, climate, and the energy sector interact. By looking at scenarios, researchers look for insights into the paths and circumstances that might lead to specific objectives.

“The scenarios from the research community form the backbone of our analysis of potential climate change impacts as well as mitigation and adaptation solutions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, which deals with the mitigation of climate change. The IPCC facilitated the development of the new scenarios in AR5 and assessed their results in the report, but the process is coordinated by the research community.

The Expert Meeting is being convened to continue the dialogue with the research community, to take stock of the achievements of the process during the AR5 cycle, to share available information across scientific disciplines, and to discuss the role of scenarios in future IPCC products.

With the meeting the IPCC intends to bring together scientific groups with diverse expertise and backgrounds to share experiences and expectations related to the scenario community’s activities and to facilitate further development of common scenarios in climate change research. This will allow a more integrated assessment of mitigation, adaptation, and climate change impacts across the entirety of IPCC work in the future.

The development of the new socioeconomic scenarios, called ‘Shared Socioeconomic Pathways’ (SSPs) complements the Representative Concentration Pathways already used in AR5; these are previously developed trajectories for future levels of greenhouse gases that are being explored in experiments by the climate modeling community.

The SSPs enable researchers to conduct related studies across a broad range of topics. Just before the IPCC meeting a new generation of SSP scenarios has been made publicly available for review by the community (see below). The research communities will continue to investigate the implications of various socioeconomic developments on the local, regional, or global scale for the impacts of climate change and the costs, risks, and benefits of a range of possible policies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

It released the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in four stages over 2013 and 2014, finishing with the AR5 Synthesis Report in November 2014.

The IPCC organizes Expert Meetings and Workshops to facilitate discussions of topics relevant to the assessment process and to receive early input from the scientific community. In order to enhance coordination across the Working Groups in the preparation of the IPCC Assessment and Special Reports, topics of a cross-cutting nature are of particular interest. Proposals for Expert Meetings and Workshops are approved by the IPCC Plenary. The nomination process for the two kinds of events differs, as governments nominate experts for Workshops, while for Expert Meetings, attendees are nominated by the Working Group Co-Chairs.

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Database for the SSPs:
 secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/…

Scenario database of the IPCC AR5:
 secure.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/ene/…

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About IIASA The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. www.iiasa.ac.at

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

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany; Biovision Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland; and Millennium Institute in Washington DC, USA organize, a few days before the May session of the Post?2015 Intergovernmental negotiations on follow?up and review, titled “Follow?up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the SDGs.”

They will address some key issues associated with this topic. The event’s main focus is on the management and governance of natural resources, but the options presented could be further developed and applied to other thematic and cross-cutting areas.
It examines options on how to address the conflicting uses and the need for protection of natural resources across and among different goals and targets.

“A High?Level Event on Follow?Up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

12 – 13 May 2015

at the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York, 145 West 44th Street, New York.

This High?Level Event aims at providing a platform for UN Member States, UN organizations, ministries, non-governmental organisations, academia, civil society, and the private sector – to discuss options for follow?up and review mechanisms connecting national, regional and global levels.

It is an invitation only event – and for more information, please visit the event’s website:  globalsoilweek.org/thematic-areas…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

More Assembly news in the coming weeks.

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

I got my information today, April 29th, from statements by IIASA Director General and CEO, Professor Pavel Kabat, who participated at the Rome event Tue Apr 28, 2015, and from the Reuters reporting of today by Philip Pullela.

In effect the idea of a Papal Encyclical on Climate Change was breached already April 8th when Yale University hosted a panel discussion on how Pope Francis’s upcoming encyclical on the environment could transform the global climate debate for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

This rare Papal Encyclical on the environment in is expected to declare climate action a moral imperative for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. The encyclical — or “papal letter” — will be the first in the church’s history that addresses environmental issues specifically.

The Policy points are:

The Vatican and U.N. team up on climate change against sceptics.

* Pope writes keenly awaited encyclical on the environment

* U.N. leader and pope discuss effects of climate change

* Sceptics say view one-side, deny climate change man-made

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon discussed this Tuesday climate change with the pope before opening a one-day conference of scientists and religious leaders called “The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development”.

The pope, is due to make a major address on sustainable development at the United Nations in September, has said he believes man is primarily responsible for climate change and is writing an encyclical on the environment. The encyclical will be released in June.

Ban Ki-moon, opened the Rome conference of some 60 scientists, several of whom met at IIASA in Austria, the following day – April 29th. In Rome Participated religious leaders and diplomats besides the scientists. The Vatican event hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, urged industrialised countries to invest in clean energy and reduce their carbon footprints.

“Mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects are necessary to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and secure equitable, sustainable economic development,” said Ban Ki-moon.

The gathering’s joint declaration said “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive control is a moral imperative for all of humanity”.

Ban said he and the pope discussed Francis’ keenly awaited encyclical, which will be addressed to all of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and is expected to address the issue of man’s responsibility for climate change.

The pope has said he hopes the document will influence the U.N. conference on climate change in Paris this year.


“It (the encyclical) will convey to the world that protecting our environment is an urgent moral imperative and a sacred duty for all people of faith and people of conscience,” Ban said.


Jeffrey Sachs, Colombia University professor and director of the U.N. Sustainable Solutions Network, told reporters in Rome that companies that invest in fossil fuels stand to lose money.


“Everybody needs to understand that policies are going to change to make it unprofitable if you wreck the planet,” he said. “Those companies that continue exploring and developing fossil fuel resources for which there is no safe use are going to pay a very heavy cost for that”


The Heartland Institute, a Chicago think tank that says climate change is not human-induced, sent a delegation to Rome to contest the premise of the conference.

Heartland member Christopher Monckton of Britain, told reporters that the pope “should listen to both sides of the scientific argument … not only people of one, narrow, poisonous political and scientific viewpoint”. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Heartland did not talk about who funds it and how US Oil Industry tycoons besides its beer brewery, are the sugar daddies of its operations. Also, we do not know if former Czech President Vaclav Klaus, their ally, was present as part of their team at the Vatican. We met him at previous activities of Heartland. {this is a SustainabiliTank comment}


The Pope’s encyclical represents one of the most important documents on the moral implications of the damage we are doing to our planet at an extremely significant moment,” said Mary Evelyn Tucker, a senior lecturer research scholar at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the Yale Divinity School. “It will have profound implications in terms of environmental justice for the poor and those whose lives will be disrupted by this ecological crisis.”
We add to this that the suffering was imposed on us by the International Oil Industry and their political serves.

The panelists at Yale included:

Science: Peter Crane, Dean, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES)
Ethics: Margaret Farley, Yale Divinity School (YDS), Emeritus
Religion: Mary Evelyn Tucker, Forum on Religion & Ecology, F&ES, YDS
Conservation: Dekila Chungyalpa, World Wildlife Fund
Law: Douglas Kysar, Yale Law School

Concluding Remarks: Gregory Sterling, Dean of the Yale Divinity School.

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

Environment
How Elves and Dragons Are Doing a Fantastic Job of Protecting Iceland’s Environment
Originally Icelanders used mythological creatures as a way to deter people from coming to their island, now they protect it.

By Sola Agustsson / AlterNet
April 13, 2015

In Iceland, where my father is from, it’s perfectly reasonable for people to think elves exist. Over half the population believes in, or at least entertains the existence of these invisible, magical and often mischievous creatures. I have relatives who are marine biologists, professors and agnostics who will not deny that elves, the huldufólk, or “hidden people,” reside in communities underneath rocks, living in detached harmony with humans and the natural world. For the most part, elves ignore humans until they interfere with their habitat.

When developers try to destroy rocks that are known elf homes or churches, things get spooky. A notorious example is the Álfhólsvegur (elf-hill) road in Kopavogur, which was eventually moved to accommodate the elves after machinery continued to mysteriously break down and construction accidents began to frequently occur in the 1930s. Fifty years later, plans to rebuild the same road were again halted when the same issues resurfaced, and workers refused to go near the hill with any machinery. Similar cases of construction machinery malfunctioning or natural disasters occurring when people attempted to disturb elf homes have led many Icelanders to abandon development over elf sites.

Over the last few decades, elves have gotten political representation in Iceland. An emerging group of elf advocates have formed alliances with environmentalists, and have managed to prevent major roads and homes from being built over rocks where elves are rumored to live.

Elf advocates have not always been successful in defending their invisible friends, as in the case of the Ófeigskirkja boulder, which was eventually moved after an 8-year battle with developers. Some argue that the process of protecting elf territory, and taking elf issues seriously, gives elves time to adjust to leaving their homes. “It cannot be denied that belief in the supernatural is occasionally the reason for local concerns and these opinions are taken into account just as anybody else’s would be…Issues have been settled by delaying construction projects so that the elves can, at a certain point, move on,” the Iceland Road and Coastal administration stated.

It’s difficult to imagine why elves garner so much respect in Norse culture. In America, we think of elves as Santa’s pointy green factory workers. But according to 18th- and 19th-century legends, Icelandic elves are anything but servile. They have been known to seek revenge on people who betray them, but also provide good fortune to those who pay them respect. Roughly the same size as humans, they are invisible, and have been described by scholar Terry Gunnell as “beautiful, powerful, alluring, and free from care.”

Some Icelanders go as far as to allegedly have sex with elves. “Sex with humans is boring,” writes self-proclaimed elf sex expert Hallgerdur Hallgrímsdóttir, who is fed up with dating her own kind. “Elf sex is possibly the safest sex on earth. They don’t carry sexually transmitted diseases and you can’t get pregnant or make an Elverine pregnant unless you both want to, which is not unheard of.”

The island of fire and ice, full of geysers, waterfalls, glaciers, fjords, natural hot springs, and vast mossy fields, is a landscape people want to preserve, and one that fosters the belief in supernatural forces. Elves and other mythological beings came to represent a way of understanding the natural environment, and also human consciousness. “Many things indicate that the hidden people originate in our unconscious: They resemble us in many ways, though they are more spirit-like and invisible, and to see the elves, must to either be given permission by them, or have a special ability. They can have supra-human capacities; and they can be both better and worse than humans,” says Haukur Ingi Jónasson, a theologian and psychoanalyst.

Though defending elf homes is not merely about Icelandic belief in superstition, but also in respecting the natural, non-human world. “Icelanders are few in number, so in the old times we doubled our population with tales of elves and fairies,” says President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Even Icelandic-born singer Bjork admitted to believing in elves when asked by TV host Stephen Colbert: “It’s sort of a relationship with nature, like with the rocks. (The elves) all live in the rocks, so you have to. It’s all about respect, you know.”

“Iceland is full of álagablettir, or enchanted spots, places you don’t touch – just like the fairy forts and peat bogs in Ireland. They’re protected by stories about the bad things that will happen if you do. This word of mouth, passed down over generations, is usually more effective than an official preservation order,” says Terry Gunnell, professor of folklore at the University of Iceland.

Iceland’s rising tourist industry could be one factor in maintaining the existence of not just elves, but other Icelandic mythic characters, such as trolls, sea monsters, and dragons.

One example is the Lagarfljótsormur, the Icelandic version of a Loch Ness monster. Resembling an aquatic brachiosaurus, myths of this serpent date back to 1345, though most sightings of the monster have occurred in the 20th century. Stories of the wormlike monster breathing poisonous fire and killing civilians abound, and sightings of the creature are said to foreshadow natural disasters. In 2014, the Fljótsdalshérað municipal council declared that the Lagarfljótsormur exists, though some speculate that this was a ploy to attract monster-seeking tourists.

Originally Icelanders used these mythological creatures as a way to deter people from coming to their island. Thirteenth-century cartographers depicted Icelandic coasts as utterly terrifying, laden with sea monsters, mermen, serpents and other unclassifiable mutants in order to dissuade explorers from settling there. On some ancient maps, the northern region of Dreki is ominously marked “Here be Dragons,” and is rumored to be populated by sea monsters.

Coincidentally, this same area is also thought to have untapped oil resources of interest to private companies who have recently gotten licensing rights to search for oil there. In a 2014 agreement, oil companies agreed to pay 10,000 ISK per square kilometer per year for the exclusive right to search for any useable resources.

While elf activists have been vocal about disturbing elf territory, there have yet to be sea dragon advocates rushing to defend the fire-breathing aquatic monsters of the Dreki region, or the Lagarfljótsormur for that matter. Elves have been known to cause mischief, but sea monsters have been less than desirable residents in Iceland, having been rumored to eat children.

Still, many Icelandic environmentalists are wary of disturbing the arctic region. Though beliefs in these otherworldly characters may seem ridiculous, the traditions have promoted a worldview of existing in harmony with the natural world rather than merely dominating it.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Invitation to the 2nd annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum

SE4ALL Forum

Kindly find attached an invitation from Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Chief Executive Officer of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, for the 2nd annual United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum that will take place on 17-21 May in New York.

Important information on registration, as well as preliminary documents such as agenda and concept note will be made available on the Forum website at www.se4allforum.org.

Very best,
Sustainable Energy for All Forum Team

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Vienna Energy Forum 2015

The Vienna Energy Forum 2015 (VEF 2015) will emphasize the multiple benefits of the post-2015 development and climate agendas and showcase the best practices and actions on the ground that can contribute to both agendas. Energy practitioners, policymakers and thought leaders will discuss the interconnections of sustainable energy and inclusive development in the areas of partnerships, finance, policy, technology, capacity building and knowledge management. The event will also explore the consequences of trends such as population growth and urbanization, as well as addressing the resulting increase in energy demand. Other topics will include South-South cooperation, and energy, water, food and health linkages. The event is organized by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Austrian Foreign Ministry.

The Vienna Energy Forum 2015 (VEF 2015) will take place only a few months before the Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York (September 2015) and the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris (November 2015). By emphasizing the multiple benefits of the Post-2015 Development and the Climate Agenda and by showcasing best practices and actions on the ground, the VEF 2015 aims at contributing to both.

Building on the findings from the VEFs held in 2009, 2011 and 2013, as well as the overarching goals of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), the VEF 2015 will provide a high-level platform for thought leaders, policy makers and energy practitioners to engage in a multi-stakeholder dialogue on pivotal sustainable energy issues connected to inclusive development, including partnerships, finance, policy, technology, capacity building and knowledge management.

dates:
18-20 June 2015
venue:
Hofburg Palace, Michaelerkuppel, 1010
location:
Wien, Austria
contact:
UNIDO
phone:
+43 (1) 26026-0
fax:
+43 (1) 2692669
e-mail:
 vef2015 at unido.org

www:  www.viennaenergyforum.org

Registration is open now here!
 www.unido.org/en/news-centre/eve…

read more: energy-l.iisd.org/events/vienna-e…

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Key questions to be addressed at the VEF 2015:

• What are the main benefits of sustainable energy to inclusive development and productive capacities?

• What are the main drivers of the increasing energy demand across sectors and how can these be addressed in an integrated way?

• How can we strengthen the potential of sustainable energy so that it results in concrete actions supporting the Post-2015 Development and the Climate Agenda?

• What are the areas of greatest potential in energy efficiency, and what can be done to accelerate action and investment in energy efficiency, the ‘hidden fuel’ that has some of the most promising prospects to advance the goals of climate security and sustainable growth?

• Which innovative financing mechanisms can we use to promote renewable energy systems? How do we scale up investments in renewable energy technologies to meet the SE4ALL goals?

• How do we energize multi-stakeholder partnerships, private sector involvement and regional cooperation to promote sustainable energy for all?

• How can the nexus perspective be operationalized to support integrated approaches to energy, water, food, ecosystems and human health?

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