links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter


 
Futurism:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

TUESDAY APRIL 22, 2014 – that is TODAY – is EARTH DAY 2014.

Want a really good way to reduce your carbon footprint?
Make Mother Earth Really Happy this Earth Day!
Here’s a simple and effective action for you to take to celebrate Earth Day that will make you feel really good about your contribution to the planet all year long.

Switch to 100% wind energy!  It’s a breeze!
What powers your home? We are all concerned about climate change and environmental degradation, but chances are that your lights, refrigerator, AC unit etc. are running on dirty fossil fuels. If you are a typical NYC resident, at present only 2% of your electricity comes from renewable sources: the other 98% is from a mixture of oil, gas, coal, hydroelectric, and nuclear power.

But the good news is that you can contribute to the solution.  If you pay your own electricity bill, you have a choice in where your electricity comes from. And switching to 100% wind energy is as easy as filling out a form online or picking up the phone.

350NYC has started aNYC Windcampaign as part of our sustainability initiative and we have partnered with Ethical Electric to encourage New Yorkers to make the switch. As we talk to people about this, we hear some of the same questions so let’s try to answer a couple of those FAQs now.  Click on the Ethical Electric logo to learn more about how you can sign up to get 100% wind power through your regular electricity bill.

1.       Can I really make a difference by choosing my source of electricity?
As a consumer, you are vitally important in pushing power companies to use more renewable energy.  By switching to wind, you create a market demand and you also make an immediate difference to the environment.  The New York State Public Service Commission estimates –  “If just 10% of New York’s households choose Green Power for their electricity supply, it would prevent nearly 3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, 10 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, and nearly 4 million pounds of nitrogen oxides from getting into our air each year.”

2.       Doesn’t it cost more?
At present, the cost per KWh for renewable energy is slightly higher than for dirty fuel. The industry estimates that the average NYC electric bill will be $8-10 a month higher with 100% wind.  So, what does that compare to in an average month? One subway ride a week, one glass of wine in a Manhattan wine bar, two Starbucks frappucinos.  It’s a quality of life decision to choose clean renewable energy – a decision for the quality of life on this planet in the future.

3.       How can I trust a new energy provider? What is Ethical Electric?
There are several reputable energy companies and you can research them online, as we did when we chose Ethical Electric to partner with.  Ethical Electric is a proudly progressive company, founded by former MoveOn organizer Tom Matzzie. Ethical Electric fights Keystone XL, opposes fracking, and donates a portion of its revenue to support progressive causes so you can feel good about your electricity supplier.

4.       Will I have to pay another bill?
Here in NYC, Con Edison or National Grid will remain the distributor for your electricity. When you switch to Ethical Electric, you will still receive the same service and a single, monthly utility bill. But instead of buying dirty energy from coal and fracking, you’ll be supporting 100% wind energy. That’s 100% better than an electric bill that’s paying for the dirty coal and toxic fracking that are fueling climate change.

Making the switch is easy. Get 100% clean energy from Ethical Electric today.  If you click on this link, it will take you directly to our “partner page,” but if you decide to make the switch by phone, please be sure to tell the representative that 350NYC referred you – they will pay us a referral fee which helps us finance our campaigns.  That’s another thing you can feel good about!

Happy Earth Day and thank you from all of us at 350NYC
– – - and from Mother Earth!

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will host on 23 September a Climate Summit to catalyze action on climate change prior to the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in 2015. The emphasis will be bold pledges that can scale-up and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put the global community on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC process. 

Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) is working with the office to facilitate the contribution of the transport community to the Climate Summit.  It is currently expected that transport will be well represented in the Summit through possible commitments on electric mobility, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), public transport, railways, fuel economy and green freight.

SLoCaT will be represented in the Ascent meeting in Abu Dhabi that brings together ministers, as well as leaders from business, finance and civil society, to develop proposals for action and determine how their countries, businesses and organizations can increase their participation in initiatives that broaden and deepen partnerships, in order to deliver concrete action at the September Summit.

SLoCaT and UN-DESA together with the International Railway Association expect to be hosting a High Level Event on Transport and Climate Change in New York on 22 September to  showcase the transport commitments to the Climate Summit as well as the specific contribution of railways to sustainable transport.

SLoCaT contribution to ADP Technical Expert Meetings: Energy efficiency

In Warsaw, the ADP requested the UNFCCC secretariat to organize, under the guidance of the ADP Co-Chairs, technical expert meetings at each of the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential.  SLoCaT was invited to contribute towards the March technical expert meeting that focused on opportunities for action on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Cornie Huizenga in his contribution highlighted 4 key messages on behalf of the SLoCaT Partnership and the Bridging the Gap initiative:

1. With 25% of Energy Related GHG emissions, Transport must become low carbon to realize 2 Degree Scenario

2. Transport and economic growth can, and must be decoupled

3. Technology and system-wide  improvements (e.g. fuel economy) needs to be combined with modal shift and behavioral change

4. This is an opportunity not a constraint – saves money; builds resilience and delivers more than climate benefits but needs to start now. NAMAs can help kick-start change

————————–

Transport Day 2014

Following the success of Transport Day 2013, the SLoCaT Partnership and the Bridging the Gap initiative will be organizing in the context of COP 20, Transport Day 2014 on 7 December in Lima, Peru.  CAF Development Bank of Latin America, the Inter American Development Bank as well as FIA Foundation have indicated their support for this year’s Transport Day. If you are interested in contributing towards Transport Day 2014 please contact hallen@trl.co.uk and cornie.huizenga@slocatpartnership.org.

SPECIAL FOCUS: Road Safety Resolution

UN road safety debate hears call for post-2015 action

Global action to combat a growing worldwide epidemic road deaths and injuries must become part of the UN’s new priorities for global development, the UN General Assembly was told on 10 April as it passed a new Resolution to address the crisis.

Governments, including Brazil, Jamaica and Russia, urged inclusion of road safety in the post-2015 development goals due to be agreed next year. Speakers in the debate, including the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, pledged support for the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The US co-sponsored the Resolution, which was introduced by Russia’s Deputy Interior Minister, Victor Kiryanov.

Governments at the UN have pledged to stabilise and reduce road deaths and injuries in a Decade of Action from 2011-2020, but progress is falling short. The issue must become part of the Post-2015 development goals so that millions of lives can be saved, the UN was told.

Speaking at the UN, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Chair of the Commission for Global Road Safety, called for renewed action to save lives on the roads around the world. The Commission is funded by the FIA Foundation an independent UK charity providing philanthropic support to road safety efforts worldwide.

Lord Robertson who was representing the UK Government during the debate said: “This new Resolution recognises the Commission for Global Road Safety’s call for a target for reducing road deaths to become part of the new development goals. Such a global commitment is vital to save millions of lives around the world.”

He was joined by global road safety ambassador, actress Michelle Yeoh, who also addressed the UN General Assembly. She said: “We need new sources of funding to support road safety campaign. And we need new momentum in support of our shared objective for the Decade of Action, beginning with inclusion of road safety in the post-2015 goals.”

The new Resolution encourages Governments to consider road safety when negotiating the post-2015 development goals. The Commission is calling for a specific global target to reduce road fatalities by 50% to be included in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This would be consistent with the objectives of the Decade of Action for Road Safety.

The Commission is joining partners in the UN Road Safety Collaboration and SLoCAT to call on Governments at the UN to support the Post-2015 road safety SDG target. Click here for an advocacy pack.

Click here for further information on the UN Resolution A/68/L.40 ‘Improving Global Road Safety’.

Thanks to Avi Silverman, Director of Campaigns and Communications, Fia Foundation, for his contribution to this article.

UPDATE FROM SLoCaT PARTNERSHIP

The most exciting SLoCaT news is that we are now well underway with the transformation of the SLoCaT Secretariat into a formal legal entity.  We believe that this will enable us to serve the SLoCaT Partnership better and will help to strengthen the voice of sustainable, low carbon transport in global policies on sustainable development and climate change.  We are very much pleased with the positive response to the plans to make SLoCaT into a more sustainable entity. It is encouraging to see that new organizations are coming forward who are willing to support the work of SLoCaT.  More details on the changes in the structure of SLoCaT will be reported in the next newsletter. It is planned that the transformation of SLoCaT will be completed by June 2014.  

The first quarter of 2014 was a busy time for SLoCaT. We were able to make good progress with our advocacy to see sustainable transport fully integrated in the post-2015 development agenda.  Linked to that the work of SLoCaT on poverty and sustainable transport really kicked off in the first quarter of 2014 with as first highlight the special event on “Sustainable Transport and Just Cities” at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia.  

Transport was identified as a key sector in the recent 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. SLoCaT has intensified its work with the UNFCCC Secretariat to better communicate the mitigation potential of land transport. Contracts were signed for Transport Day 2014 in December 2014 in Lima, Peru.  We are working closely with the organizers of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit to ensure that transport will be well represented at this critical event in September 2014.

We would also like to welcome Youth for Road Safety (YOURS) to SLoCaT Partnership as our newest member.  Please visit the member page of YOURS on the SLoCaT Website to learn more about their activities in road safety and sustainable transport.

SLoCaT’s effectiveness as a partnership is determined by the support its partners are willing to give to the organization.  I am confident that based on the interest shown by our members and others that SLoCaT has a strong future as an organization to effectively promote the interests of the sustainable transport community.

Cornie Huizenga, Secretary General, SLoCaT Partnership

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

IPCC’s recently published 5th Assessment Report confirms the importance and potential of mitigation action by the transport sector to reduce dangerous climate change. The Transport Section Mitigation Pathways of the Summary for Policy Maker can be found here. It is encouraging to see that there is increased alignment of the IPCC policy recommendations and the Avoid-Shift-Improve approach, promoted by SLoCaT to reduce GHG emissions from transport.  The detailed chapter (8) on transport, to which several SLoCaT members actively contributed contains a number of additional key messages:

  1. Reducing global transport greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be challenging since the continuing growth in passenger and freight activity could outweigh all mitigation measures unless transport emissions can be strongly decoupled from GDP growth
  2. High mitigation potential of transport by avoided journeys and modal shifts due to behavioral change, uptake of improved vehicle and engine performance technologies, low?carbon fuels, investments in related infrastructure, and changes in the built environment
  3. Both short? and long?term transport mitigation strategies are essential if deep GHG reduction ambitions are to be achieved
  4. Barriers to de-carbonizing transport for all modes differ across regions, but can be overcome partly by reducing the marginal mitigation costs
  5. There are regional differences in transport mitigation pathways with major opportunities to shape transport systems and infrastructure around low?carbon options, particularly in developing and emerging countries
  6. De-carbonizing of transport sector requires a range of strong and mutually?supportive policies

International Transport Forum 

Transport Outlook 2013: Funding Transport

The ITF Transport Outlook 2013 presents and discusses global scenarios concerning the development of transport volumes through 2050. The analysis highlights the impact of alternative economic growth scenarios on passenger and freight flows and the consequences of rapid urbanisation outside the OECD.

World Bank

Transport for health: the global burden of disease from motorized road transport 

World Bank’s Transport for Health  report summarizes the findings of a long and meticulous journey of data gathering and analysis to quantify the health losses from road deaths and injuries worldwide, as part of the path-finding Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study.

Reducing black carbon emissions from diesel vehicles: Impacts, control strategies, and cost-benefit analysis b

The most recent World Bank report Reducing black carbon emissions from diesel vehicles presents a summary of emissions control approaches from developed countries, which face a number of on-the-ground implementation challenges.

EMBARQ

CONNECT Karo 2014 Conference Looks at the Future for India’s Urban Transport

Government, transportation and planning leaders focused on finding practical ways to improve quality of life in India’s cities by improving mobility and accessibility in the second edition of CONNECTKaro, EMBARQ India’s annual conference on sustainable transportation. The conference was held in Bangalore, March 10 and 11, 2014 and opened by Madhav Pai, Director of EMBARQ India, saying that the challenge in India, with its burgeoning urban population “is to connect people to cities.” Over 250 people attended, and over 1,000 joined sessions on-line. More at EMBARQIndia.org.

New Low Emission Development Toolkit for City and Transport Planners
City leaders and planners weigh difficult decisions when choosing transport solutions, for example deciding between developing BRT or light rail, and finding the best way to measure greenhouse gas emissions. The new Transport Toolkit provides a new and very necessary resource to support these leaders as they shape our future cities. The toolkit – developed by the Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) Transport Working Group, led by EMBARQ in partnership with NREL and UNEP – provides a plethora of resources to plan for, implement, and monitor sustainable transport projects across the globe. More here and here.

European Cyclists’ Federation

ECF is building a global network of cyclists through World Cycling Alliance

World Cycling Alliance (WCA) is an initiative from European Cyclists’ Federation to build a global network of non-governmental organizations with a substantial interest in promoting cycling as the cleanest sustainable transport development. ECF will present the initiative for the WCA in Medellin, Colombia, at the World Urban Forum 7 (WUF7) of UN-Habitat, on Thursday, 10th of April 2014 at the Yellow Pavillion, Room 11. For more information about WCA, visit www.ecf.com/world-cycling-alliance or or get in touch with Marcio Deslandes at m.deslandes@ecf.com

Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation (iCET)

iCET to release 2013 China Environmentally Friendly Vehicle annual study results in June

China’s vehicle sales are the world’s highest for four consecutive years, accounting for about 60% of the national oil demand. Since 2007, iCET has been developing and updating a China-tailored passenger vehicle fuel-consumption and life-cycle emissions inventory tool promoted through annual reports and a free user-friendly website (www.greencarchina.org). These have been aimed at informing sustainable decision-making at all three pillars of China’s on-road private vehicle market: policy-makers, auto-makers and consumers. iCET’s 2013 green vehicle rating report (coming on Chinese Energy Conservation Week in June) will integrate “real-world” data provided by China’s Vehicle Emissions Control Center for taking China’s vehicle data disclosure one step forward.

Nordic Development Fund

NDF supports climate change adaptation in the transport sector

NDF has recently approved two new transport adaptation projects that will develop adaptive capacity and integration of climate change aspects into planning and design of road transport infrastructure. In Mozambique, NDF, together with the African Development Bank (AfDB), will support the National Road Administration, and other key stakeholders, with capacity-building and additional tools to manage climate impact threats to road development. The NDF support forms part of the Nacala Road Corridor III Project and aims to make resilient road development plans, improve construction methods, and ensure an active and sustainable road infrastructure asset management. Read more…

NDF is co-financing with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) a technical cooperation project to establish a Transport NAMA Support Facility in Asia

NDF is co-financing with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) a technical cooperation project to establish a Transport NAMA Support Facility with the aim of strengthening transport NAMA development in Asia. The EUR 500,000 support will build capacity in ADB and its developing member countries, and deliver tools that eventually will lead to development of at least two transport NAMAs in these countries. Read more…

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Report: Ukraine Synagogue Firebombed Just Days After Distribution of Anti-Semitic Flyers (VIDEO)

April 20, 2014 12:00 pm 21 comments
A vandal firebombing the Noklayev Synagogue, in Ukraine, on April 19, 2014, as recorded by closed-circuit security cameras. Photo: Screenshot / Yisroel Gotlieb.

A vandal firebombing the Nikolayev Synagogue, in Ukraine, on April 19, 2014, as recorded by closed-circuit security cameras. Photo: Screenshot / Yisroel Gotlieb.

The Nikolayev Synagogue in Ukraine was reportedly firebombed by vandals at approximate 2 AM on Saturday morning, according to Chabad blog Shturem and closed-circuit footage of the attack, uploaded to YouTube at the weekend.

The footage was posted by Yisroel Gotlieb, son of the city’s chief rabbi, Sholom Gotlieb.

One firebomb was thrown at the door of the synagogue, which was unoccupied at the time, and another was lobbed at a window, according to the blog.

The junior Gotleib told Shturem that “miraculously a person passing by the shul was equipped with a fire extinguisher, and immediately put out the fire that had erupted, preventing massive damage.”

In February, the Giymat Rosa Synagogue, in Zaporizhia, southeast of Kiev, was also firebombed.

Reports of rising anti-Semitism in the Ukraine after Russia’s recent occupation of Crimea were highlighted last week when fliers, reminiscent of the pogroms of a century ago, were distributed outside of a synagogue on Passover. The origin of the fliers is yet unknown, and debate has focused on whether they were from Russian or Ukrainian groups, from officials or designed to appear so, or if they were intended as some kind of a KGB-style subterfuge created to use anti-Semitism as a lever in the conflict.

The fliers, distributed in Donetsk, were addressed to “Ukraine nationals of Jewish nationality,” alerting Jews to pay a fee to register their names on a list and to show documentation of property ownership, or face deportation.

————————————–

From the 21 Comments

  • If one hair from one Jewish head will fall, the IDF will take good care of those anti-semities Bastards!! They really don’t know who are they dealing with?? What happend 70 years ago will NEVER happen again!!

  • What is it about this you don’t understand? Israel must always be there!

  • chaim yosef levi

    This behavior is expected from Ukrainians. The Breslovers must stop patronizing Ukraine by peregrinating there. Better rremove the remains of Rabbi Nachman and bury him in Israel.
    Stop going there to drink their Vodka and to use the Ukrainian hookers. Other jews must leave that G-d forsaken land.p

  • Many of us regrettably have such short memories. We should ask ourselves why so many concentration camp guards and auxiliary troops were Ukrainian and were often more ruthless than their German compatriots. This part of the world has been a hot bed of anti-semitism for centuries past and anti-Jewish animus remains well entrenched in the psyche of the populace. Not one Jew should have taken up residence in the Ukraine after the Second World War.

  • Adele Mischel MSW

    Those of us who went through the Holocaust, know from personal experience, when the ugly demon of anti-Semitism once again rears its head. The Ukraine is no longer a home for a proud people…the Jewish people.
    It is difficult to leave a homeland, but in this situation, the real homeland is Israel..

  • A message from On High to get out of there.

  • A message from On High to get out of therre.

  • I thought the flyer and all the antisemetic stuff from the Ukraine was fake. Ha–I do not want to say that I told you that those Ukranian bastards were bad, but I told you so.

    This is precisely why I have said from the beginning, that I hope the Ukraine-Russia situation becomes the same as the Iran-Iraq War–for 9 years. If you think this Ukranian firebombing of a synagogue is bad for Jews, you should only know what their hero–Bohdan Chmelnitzky did to the Jews in the 1600?s. A whole lot worse than the Nazis and Hitler–yet that mother f***** Chmelnitzky, is on their $5 bill today; and the Ukranians are obviously proud of him.

    The Russians and the Ukranians should all drop dead–and I will celebrate those events!!!

  • REMEMBER: The sad sacks who perpetrated this sick act were nursed by their mothers’…
    Cowardly perversion by a few with lesser brains. Decency…Respect was never their strong suit..

  • Lucille Kaplan

    Even if these events are sinister contrivances of Russian annexationists wanting to make ethnic Ukrainians look bad, the fact that either side, in this conflict, feels free to resort to anti-Semitism, and that both sides know full well that anti-Semitism catches on like wildfire in this region,confirms what others have already said here: That it is folly for Jews to remain in this part of Eastern Europe. The mass exterminations of Jews in the forests of Volhyn (including 2 of my sisters), often at the hands of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators, bespeaks what appears to be nearly a genetically programmed hatred of Jews, in that region. . .I wish it were otherwise. .The time to evacuate is now.

  • It is time to get out of any country were Jews lives are threaten, Israel is the homeland and today there are no excuses for a big tragedy. “Never Again means Never Again.” One more reason for Israel to remain a Jewish State…a Jewish Nation… a Jewish Country.

  • pity we did not have a sniper on place to shoot him down

  • This is precisely why Israel must be the Jewish homeland.

    • Dr. abraham Weizfeld

      Just one fascist and so many frightened chickens? My uncle Meyer Goldsheider did not run away, he fought the Nazi occupation as a partisan.

  • Not a moment too soon for Jews to leave this country that has persecuted Jews for over 100 years. Nothing will change there until the last one is out. Then the Ukrainians will be able to blame us anyway, but can’t hurt anyone. They murdered 100?s of thousands of Jews during WWII, why does anyone think this was a passing fad.

  • NOW IS THE TIME FOR JEWS TO MAKE ALYAH TO ISRAEL BEFORE ITS TO LATE

  • An Easter greeting perhaps?

  • It is time for the Jews to get out of Russia, the Ukraine and any of the countries in the former Soviet Union.

    • You only encourage other mindsets to add to the shame…As you sit smug else wear.  Not helpful in the least.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

    Tax Breaks That Are Killing the Planet

 The comments show how deep is the Republican brainwashing of the population. You have here pundits for whom loss of life is nothing when compared to what they think is the right of corporations to make a profit.

What is even worse, nobody asked whose oil and coal is it anyway?  If Natural Resources are the property of the Whole Nation, then why should a company get depletion subsidies for their appropriating to themselves the natural National treasures? The whole system of paying royalties is inadequate – but the payment to them for the deletion of the resources is ridiculous. Getting a bonus for gains from misappropriated resources is much more like rewarding the CEOs for being great thieves! Just give it some more rational thinking and use the babble of the comments as your guideline.   ST.info editor)

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 29th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Photo

A worker at a hydraulic fracturing operation in Rifle, Colo. Natural gas production releases methane, which contributes to greenhouse gas pollution. Credit Brennan Linsley/Associated Press

 

 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday announced a strategy to start slashing emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas released by landfills, cattle, and leaks from oil and natural gas production.

The methane strategy is the latest step in a series of White House actions aimed at addressing climate change without legislation from Congress. Individually, most of the steps will not be enough to drastically reduce the United States’ contribution to global warming. But the Obama administration hopes that collectively they will build political support for more substantive domestic actions while signaling to other countries that the United States is serious about tackling global warming.

 

In a 2009 United Nations climate change accord, President Obama pledged that by 2020 the United States would lower its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels. “This methane strategy is one component, one set of actions to get there,” Dan Utech, the president’s special assistant for energy and climate change, said on Friday in a phone call with reporters.

Environmental advocates have long urged the Obama administration to target methane emissions. Most of the planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution in the United States comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Methane accounts for just 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution — but the gas is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on future global warming.

And methane emissions are projected to increase in the United States, as the nation enjoys a boom in oil and natural gas production, thanks to breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing technology. A study published in the journal Science last month found that methane is leaking from oil and natural gas drilling sites and pipelines at rates 50 percent higher than previously thought. As he works to tackle climate change, Mr. Obama has generally supported the natural gas production boom, since natural gas, when burned for electricity, produces just half the greenhouse gas pollution of coal-fired electricity.

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have campaigned against the boom in natural gas production, warning that it could lead to dangerous levels of methane pollution, undercutting the climate benefits of gas. The oil and gas industry has resisted pushes to regulate methane leaks from production, saying it could slow that down.

A White House official said on Friday that this spring, the Environmental Protection Agency would assess several potentially significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector, and that by this fall the agency “will determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources.” If the E.P.A. decides to develop additional regulations, it would complete them by the end of 2016 — just before Mr. Obama leaves office.

 

Among the steps the administration announced on Friday to address methane pollution:

-  The Interior Department will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands.

-  In April, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management will begin to gather public comment on the development of a program for the capture and sale of methane produced by coal mines on lands leased by the ederal government.

-  This summer, the E.P.A. will propose updated standards to reduce methane emissions from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.

-  In June, the Agriculture Department, the Energy Department and the E.P.A. will release a joint “biogas road map” aimed at accelerating adoption of methane digesters, machines that reduce methane emissions from cattle, in order to cut dairy-sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

Advocates of climate action generally praised the plan. “Cutting methane emissions will be especially critical to climate protection as the U.S. develops its huge shale gas reserves, gaining the full greenhouse gas benefit from the switch away from coal,” said Paul Bledsoe, a former White House climate change aide under President Bill Clinton, now with the German Marshall Fund.

Howard J. Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for oil and gas companies, said he hoped the steps would not lead to new regulations on his industry. “We think regulation is not necessary at this time,” he said. “People are using a lot more natural gas in the country, and that’s reducing greenhouse gas.”

Since cattle flatulence and manure are a significant source of methane, farmers have long been worried that a federal methane control strategy could place a burden on them. But Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said that his group was pleased that, for now, the administration’s proposals to reduce methane from cattle were voluntary.

“All indications are that it’s voluntary,” he said, “but we do see increased potential for scrutiny for us down the line, which would cause concern.”

—————————

Related Coverage:

slideshow

Photographs: Rising Seas,

==============================================================================================—————————————————————————————————————————————————

 

Asia Pacific

Borrowed Time on Disappearing Land:

Facing Rising Seas, Bangladesh Confronts the Consequences of Climate Change

Bangladesh, with its low elevation and severe tropical storms, is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, though it has contributed little to the emissions that are driving it. Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

DAKOPE, Bangladesh — When a powerful storm destroyed her riverside home in 2009, Jahanara Khatun lost more than the modest roof over her head. In the aftermath, her husband died and she became so destitute that she sold her son and daughter into bonded servitude. And she may lose yet more.

Ms. Khatun now lives in a bamboo shack that sits below sea level about 50 yards from a sagging berm. She spends her days collecting cow dung for fuel and struggling to grow vegetables in soil poisoned by salt water. Climate scientists predict that this area will be inundated as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, and a cyclone or another disaster could easily wipe away her rebuilt life. But Ms. Khatun is trying to hold out at least for a while — one of millions living on borrowed time in this vast landscape of river islands, bamboo huts, heartbreaking choices and impossible hopes.

Play Video
Video|0:35

Home in the Delta — Like many of her neighbors, Nasrin Khatun, unrelated to Jahanara Khatun, navigates daily life in a disappearing landscape.

As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes.

Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions.

Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.

“There are a lot of places in the world at risk from rising sea levels, but Bangladesh is at the top of everybody’s list,” said Rafael Reuveny, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “And the world is not ready to cope with the problems.”

The effects of climate change have led to a growing sense of outrage in developing nations, many of which have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences.

A woman stood where her house was before Cyclone Aila destroyed it in 2009. Scientists expect rising sea levels to submerge 17 percent of Bangladesh’s land and displace 18 million people in the next 40 years. Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times

At a climate conference in Warsaw in November, there was an emotional outpouring from countries that face existential threats, among them Bangladesh, which produces just 0.3 percent of the emissions driving climate change. Some leaders have demanded that rich countries compensate poor countries for polluting the atmosphere. A few have even said that developed countries should open their borders to climate migrants.

“It’s a matter of global justice,” said Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies and the nation’s leading climate scientist. “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.”

River deltas around the globe are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising seas, and wealthier cities like London, Venice and New Orleans also face uncertain futures. But it is the poorest countries with the biggest populations that will be hit hardest, and none more so than Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world. In this delta, made up of 230 major rivers and streams, 160 million people live in a place one-fifth the size of France and as flat as chapati, the bread served at almost every meal.

A Perilous Position

Though Bangladesh has contributed little to industrial air pollution, other kinds of environmental degradation have left it especially vulnerable.

Bangladesh relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The resultant pumping causes the land to settle. So as sea levels are rising, Bangladesh’s cities are sinking, increasing the risks of flooding. Poorly constructed sea walls compound the problem.

The country’s climate scientists and politicians have come to agree that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people, Dr. Rahman said.

Bangladeshis have already started to move away from the lowest-lying villages in the river deltas of the Bay of Bengal, scientists in Bangladesh say. People move for many reasons, and urbanization is increasing across South Asia, but rising tides are a big factor. Dr. Rahman’s research group has made a rough estimate from small surveys that as many as 1.5 million of the five million slum inhabitants in Dhaka, the capital, moved from villages near the Bay of Bengal.

The slums that greet them in Dhaka are also built on low-lying land, making them almost as vulnerable to being inundated as the land villagers left behind.

Ms. Khatun and her neighbors have lived through deadly cyclones — a synonym here for hurricane — and have seen the salty rivers chew through villages and poison fields. Rising seas are increasingly intruding into rivers, turning fresh water brackish. Even routine flooding then leaves behind salt deposits that can render land barren.

Making matters worse, much of what the Bangladeshi government is doing to stave off the coming deluge — raising levees, dredging canals, pumping water — deepens the threat of inundation in the long term, said John Pethick, a former professor of coastal science at Newcastle University in England who has spent much of his retirement studying Bangladesh’s predicament. Rich nations are not the only ones to blame, he said.

In an analysis of decades of tidal records published in October, Dr. Pethick found that high tides in Bangladesh were rising 10 times faster than the global average. He predicted that seas in Bangladesh could rise as much as 13 feet by 2100, four times the global average. In an area where land is often a thin brown line between sky and river — nearly a quarter of Bangladesh is less than seven feet above sea level — such an increase would have dire consequences, Dr. Pethick said.

“The reaction among Bangladeshi government officials has been to tell me that I must be wrong,” he said. “That’s completely understandable, but it also means they have no hope of preparing themselves.”

Dr. Rahman said that he did not disagree with Mr. Pethick’s findings, but that no estimate was definitive. Other scientists have predicted more modest rises. For example, Robert E. Kopp, an associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute at Rutgers University, said that data from nearby Kolkata, India, suggested that seas in the region could rise five to six feet by 2100.

“There is no doubt that preparations within Bangladesh have been utterly inadequate, but any such preparations are bound to fail because the problem is far too big for any single government,” said Tariq A. Karim, Bangladesh’s ambassador to India. “We need a regional and, better yet, a global solution. And if we don’t get one soon, the Bangladeshi people will soon become the world’s problem, because we will not be able to keep them.”

Mr. Karim estimated that as many as 50 million Bangladeshis would flee the country by 2050 if sea levels rose as expected.

Continue reading the main story
Disappearing Land

Losing Everything

Already, signs of erosion are everywhere in the Ganges Delta — the world’s largest delta, which empties much of the water coming from the Himalayas. There are brick foundations torn in half, palm trees growing out of rivers and rangy cattle grazing on island pastures the size of putting greens. Fields are dusted white with salt.

Even without climate change, Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable places in the world to bad weather: The V-shaped Bay of Bengal funnels cyclones straight into the country’s fan-shaped coastline.

Some scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to more extreme weather worldwide, including stronger and more frequent cyclones in the Bay of Bengal. And rising seas will make any storm more dangerous because flooding will become more likely.

Bangladesh has done much to protect its population by creating an early-warning system and building at least 2,500 concrete storm shelters. The result has been a vast reduction in storm-related deaths. While Cyclone Bhola in 1970 killed as many as 550,000 people, Cyclone Aila in 2009 killed 300. The deadliest part of the storm was the nearly 10-foot wall of water that roared through villages in the middle of the afternoon.

The poverty of people like Ms. Khatun makes them particularly vulnerable to storms. When Aila hit, Ms. Khatun was home with her husband, parents and four children. A nearby berm collapsed, and their mud and bamboo hut washed away in minutes. Unable to save her belongings, Ms. Khatun put her youngest child on her back and, with her husband, fought through surging waters to a high road. Her parents were swept away.

“After about a kilometer, I managed to grab a tree,” said Abddus Satter, Ms. Khatun’s father. “And I was able to help my wife grab on as well. We stayed on that tree for hours.”

The couple eventually shifted to the roof of a nearby hut. The family reunited on the road the next day after the children spent a harrowing night avoiding snakes that had sought higher ground, too. They drank rainwater until rescuers arrived a day or two later with bottled water, food and other supplies.

The ordeal took a severe toll on Ms. Khatun’s husband, whose health soon deteriorated. To pay for his treatment and the cost of rebuilding their hut, the family borrowed money from a loan shark. In return, Ms. Khatun and her three older children, then 10, 12 and 15, promised to work for seven months in a nearby brickmaking factory. She later sold her 11- and 13-year-old children to the owner of another brick factory, this one in Dhaka, for $450 to pay more debts. Her husband died four years after the storm.

In an interview, one of her sons, Mamun Sardar, now 14, said he worked from dawn to dusk carrying newly made bricks to the factory oven.

He said he missed his mother, “but she lives far away.”


Play Video
Video|0:35

A Day’s Work:  At a brickmaking factory in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, Mamun Sardar works long hours to pay his family’s debts.

Impossible Hopes

Discussions about the effects of climate change in the Ganges Delta often become community events. In the village of Choto Jaliakhali, where Ms. Khatun lives, dozens of people said they could see that the river was rising. Several said they had been impoverished by erosion, which has cost many villagers their land.

Muhammad Moktar Ali said he could not think about the next storm because all he had in the world was his hut and village. “We don’t know how to support ourselves if we lost this,” he said, gesturing to his gathered neighbors. “It is God who will help us survive.”

Surveys show that residents of the delta do not want to migrate, Dr. Rahman said. Moving to slums in already-crowded cities is their least preferred option.

But cities have become the center of Bangladesh’s textile industry, which is now the source of 80 percent of the country’s exports, 45 percent of its industrial employment and 15 percent of its gross domestic product.

Photographs

Rising Seas

Some areas of the globe are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels and inhabitants are being forced to make stark changes in their lives.

OPEN Photographs

In the weeks after the storm, the women of Dakope found firewood by wading into the raging river and pushing their toes into the muddy bottom. They walked hours to buy drinking water. After rebuilding the village’s berm and their own hut, Shirin Aktar and her husband, Bablu Gazi, managed to get just enough of a harvest to survive from their land, which has become increasingly infertile from salt water. Some plots that once sustained three harvests can now support just one; others are entirely barren.

After two hungry years, the couple gave up on farming and moved to the Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second-largest city, leaving their two children behind with Mr. Gazi’s mother.

Mr. Gazi found work immediately as a day laborer, mostly digging foundations. Ms. Aktar searched for a job as a seamstress, but headaches and other slum-induced health problems have so incapacitated her that the couple is desperate to return to Dakope.

“I don’t want to stay here for too long,” Mr. Gazi said. “If we can save some money, then we’ll go back. I’ll work on a piece of land and try to make it fertile again.”

But the chances of finding fertile land in his home village, where the salty rivers have eaten away acre upon acre, are almost zero.

Dozens of people gathered in the narrow mud alley outside Mr. Gazi’s room as he spoke. Some told similar stories of storms, loss and hope, and many nodded as Mr. Gazi spoke of his dreams of returning to his doomed village.

“All of us came here because of erosions and cyclones,” said Noakhali, a hollow-eyed 30-year-old with a single name who was wearing the traditional skirt of the delta. “Not one of us actually wants to live here.”

——————————————

Produced by Catherine Spangler, David Furst, Hannah Fairfield, Jacqueline Myint, Jeremy White and Shreeya Sinha.

A version of this article appears in print on March 29, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: As Seas Rise, Millions Cling to Borrowed Time and Dying Land.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

   Josef Friedhuber/Getty Images

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Obama, EU to stand together on climate change draft.

Date: 14-Mar-14

by Barbara Lewis, Reuters, Brussels

U.S. President Barack Obama and EU leaders meeting in Brussels this month will throw their combined weight behind tackling climate change, a document seen by Reuters says, in a show of developed world solidarity on the need for a new global deal.

But the guarded, diplomatic language is likely to disappoint environmentalists calling for urgent, ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Sustainable economic growth will only be possible if we tackle climate change,” a draft communique ahead of the EU-US summit on March 26 says. The text is subject to further negotiation between the European Union and the United States.

Both the European Union and the United States are preparing new pledges on cutting emissions for the first quarter of 2015, ahead of a U.N. summit in Paris that is meant to agree a new worldwide deal.

Its aim must be to limit any global average temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels “and should therefore include ambitious mitigation contributions, notably from the world’s major economies and other significant emitters,” the document said.

The European Union has sought to lead efforts to curb global warming with more ambitious carbon-cutting goals than any other bloc, but some of its member states, notably Poland, say there is no point in Europe taking the lead when it is responsible for only just over 10 percent of global emissions.

The United States, the world’s second biggest emitter, together with China, the top emitter, account for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this month, the U.N.’s climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said closer cooperation between China and the United States could boost prospects for a U.N. deal in 2015.

European environmental campaigners say such a partnership could also marginalize Europe in the debate and in the race to keep up with technological advances to decarbonise energy.

PREPARATION:

To prepare its negotiating stance ahead of the 2015 U.N. talks, the Commission, the EU executive, in January outlined 2030 climate and energy policy, including a suggested 40 percent carbon cutting target. That compares with a 2020 goal to cut emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels, which the European Union has almost achieved already.

The United States by contrast has said it will reduce carbon by 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005, which equates to a fall of 3.5 percent below 1990 levels.

Just before Obama’s visit to Brussels, a summit of EU leaders on March 20-21, will debate 2030 climate and energy policy, but is not expected to reach a firm agreement. Poland, which relies on coal for most of its energy, would block a deal at this point.

But Britain says Europe should not only make an early commitment to a cut of at least 40 percent, it should be willing to increase the aim to 50 percent if the rest of the world signs up to a deal.

A draft document this week said only that the European Union will submit its contribution at the latest by the first quarter of 2015, raising the possibility the European Union does not need to reach a political agreement until late this year.

Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said only that next week’s summit should send a strong signal.

“The sooner we have an overall signal, a political signal of what kind of ambition level we are heading for, the easier it will be to elaborate on the details,” she said on Thursday.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 13th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Jeff Sachs – (c) IIASA       Jeffrey D.Sachs

Jeffrey David Sachs (born November 5, 1954) is professor of economics and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. One of the youngest economics professors in the history of Harvard University (at age 28), Sachs became known for his role as an adviser to Eastern European and developing country governments during the transition from communism to a market system or during periods of economic crisis. Subsequently he has been known for his work on the challenges of economic development, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, debt cancellation, and globalization.

 Sachs is Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Senior Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, and is director of the Millennium Villages Project.  He has authored three New York Times bestsellers in the past seven years: The End of Poverty (2005), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (2008), and The Price of Civilization (2011). His latest book is To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace.

Sachs is leader in sustainable development and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 80 countries.

 Now he teaches that the intertwined challenges of economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability must be addressed holistically, or else the world will find itself at dire risk of social instability and environmental calamity.  The path ahead is a narrow one, fraught with difficulties and uncertainties, yet the promise of a better life for billions of people is also realistic.  With proper policies and global cooperation, ours can be the era that ends extreme poverty, stabilizes the world’s population, and ushers in the exciting prospects of a new period of sustainable growth.  

————————–

Some more about Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs:

Academic career

Sachs was raised in Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, the son of Joan (née Abrams) and Theodore Sachs, a labor lawyer.
He attended Harvard College, where he received his B.A. summa cum laude in 1976. He went on to receive his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, and was invited to join the Harvard Society of Fellows while still a Harvard graduate student. In 1980, he joined the Harvard faculty as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1982. A year later, at the age of 28, Sachs became a full professor of economics with tenure at Harvard – one of the youngest ever.

During the next 19 years at Harvard, he became the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade, director of the Harvard Institute for International Development at the Kennedy School of Government (1995–1999), and director of the Center for International Development (1999–2002).

In 2002, Sachs became the Director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University. His classes are taught at the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health, and his course “Challenges of Sustainable Development” is taught at the undergraduate level.

In his capacity as director of the Earth Institute, he leads a university-wide organization of more than 850 professionals from natural-science and social-science disciplines, in support of sustainable development.

Sachs has consistently advocated for the expansion of university education on sustainable development, and helped to introduce the PhD in Sustainable Development at Columbia University, one of the first PhD programs of its kind in the U.S. He championed the new Masters of Development Practice (MDP), which has led to a consortium of major universities around the world offering the new degree. The Earth Institute has also guided the adoption of sustainable development as a new major at Columbia College. The Earth Institute is home to cutting-edge research on all aspects of earth systems and sustainable development.

Sachs’ policy and academic works span the challenges of globalization, and include: the relationship of trade and economic growth; the resource curse and extractive industries; public health and economic development; economic geography; strategies of economic reform; international financial markets; macroeconomic policy; global competitiveness; climate change; and the end of poverty. He has authored or co-authored hundreds of scholarly articles and several books, including three bestsellers and a textbook on macroeconomics that is widely used around the world.

In 2011, Sachs called for the creation of a third U.S. political party, the “Alliance for the Radical Center.

Advising in Latin America and post-communist economies:

Sachs is known for his work as an economic adviser to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union. A trained macroeconomist, he advised a number of national governments in the transition from communism to market economies.

In 1985, Bolivia was undergoing hyperinflation and was unable to pay back its debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sachs, an economic adviser to the Bolivian government at the time, drew up an extensive plan, later known as shock therapy, to cut inflation drastically by liberalizing the Bolivian market, ending government subsidies, eliminating import quotas, and linking the Bolivian economy to the US dollar. After Sachs’s plan was implemented, inflation fell from 11,750% to 15% per year from 1985 to 1987.

In 1989, Sachs advised Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement and the Government of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki. He wrote the first-ever comprehensive plan for the transition from central planning to a market economy, which became incorporated into Poland’s reform program led by Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz. Sachs was the main architect of Poland’s successful debt reduction operation. Sachs and IMF economist David Lipton advised the rapid conversion of all property and assets from public to private ownership. Closure of many uncompetitive factories ensued.  In Poland, Sachs was firmly on the side of rapid transition to “normal” capitalism. At first he proposed US-style corporate structures, with professional managers answering to many shareholders and a large economic role for stock markets. That did not fly with the Polish authorities, but he then proposed that large blocks of the shares of privatized companies be placed in the hands of private banks. As  a result, there were some economic shortages and inflation, but prices in Poland eventually stabilized.  The Government of Poland awarded Sachs with one of its highest honors in 1999, the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Cracow University of Economics.

Sachs’ ideas and methods of transition from central planning were adopted throughout the transition economies. He advised Slovenia (1991) and Estonia (1992) in the introduction of new stable and convertible currencies. Based on Poland’s success, he was invited first by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and then by Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the transition to a market economy. He served as advisor to Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and Finance Minister Boris Federov during 1991-93 on macroeconomic policies. He received the Leontief Medal of the Leontief Centre, St. Petersburg, for his contributions to Russia’s economic reforms.

Work on global sustainable economic development

More recently, Sachs has turned to global issues of economic development, poverty alleviation, health and aid policy, and environmental sustainability. He has written extensively on climate change, disease control, and globalization, and is one of the world’s leading experts on the fight against poverty and sustainable development.

Since 1995, Sachs has been deeply engaged in efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa. He has worked in more than two dozen African countries, and has advised the African leadership at several African Union summits. In the mid-1990s he worked with senior officials of the Clinton Administration to develop the concept of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). He has engaged with dozens of African leaders to promote smallholder agriculture and to fight high disease burdens through strengthened primary health systems. His pioneering ideas on investing in health to break the poverty trap have been widely applied throughout the continent. He currently serves as an advisor to several African governments, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, among others.

In his 2005 work, The End of Poverty, Sachs wrote “Africa’s governance is poor because Africa is poor.” According to Sachs, with the right policies and key interventions, extreme poverty — defined as living on less than $1 a day — can be eradicated within 20 years. India and China serve as examples, with the latter lifting 300 million people out of extreme poverty during the last two decades. Sachs has said that a key element to accomplishing this is raising aid from $65 billion in 2002 to $195 billion a year by 2015. He emphasizes the role of geography and climate, as much of Africa is landlocked and disease-prone. However, he stresses that these problems can be overcome.

Sachs suggests that with improved seeds, irrigation, and fertilizer, the crop yields in Africa and other places with subsistence farming can be increased from 1 ton/hectare to 3-5 tons/hectares. He reasons that increased harvests would significantly increase the income of subsistence farmers, thereby reducing poverty. Sachs does not believe that increased aid is the only solution. He also supports establishing credit and microloan programs, which are often lacking in impoverished areas. Sachs has also advocated the distribution of free insecticide-treated bed nets to combat malaria. The economic impact of malaria has been estimated to cost Africa US$12 billion per year. Sachs estimates that malaria can be controlled for US$3 billion per year, thus suggesting that anti-Malaria projects would be an economically justified investment.

From 2002 to 2006, Sachs was the Director of the UN Millennium Project and Special Advisor to then Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. Sachs founded the Millennium Villages Project, a plan dedicated to ending extreme poverty in various parts of sub-Saharan Africa through targeted agricultural, medical, and educational interventions. Along with philanthropist Ray Chambers, Sachs founded Millennium Promise, a nonprofit organization, to help the Earth Institute fund and operate the Millennium Villages Project.

The Millennium Villages Project, which he directs, operates in more than one dozen African countries, and covers more than 500,000 people. The MVP has achieved notable successes in raising agricultural production, reducing children’s stunting, and cutting child mortality rates, with the results described in several peer-reviewed publications. Its key concepts of integrated rural development to achieve the MDGs are now being applied at national scale in Nigeria and Mali, and are being used by many other countries to help support national anti-poverty programs. He works very closely with the Islamic Development Bank to scale up programs of integrated rural development and sustainable agriculture among the Bank’s member countries. One such project supports pastoralist communities in Eastern Africa, with six participating nations: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.

Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, Sachs has been the leading academic scholar and practitioner on the MDGs. He chaired the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (2000-1), which played a pivotal role in scaling up the financing of health care and disease control in the low-income countries to support MDGs 4, 5, and 6. He worked with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000-1 to design and launch the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He worked closely with senior officials of the George W. Bush administration to develop the PEPFAR program to fight HIV/AIDS, and the PMI to fight malaria. On behalf of Annan, from 2002-2006 he chaired the UN Millennium Project, which was tasked with developing a concrete action plan to achieve the MDGs. The UN General Assembly adopted the key recommendations of the UN Millennium Project at a special session in September 2005. The recommendations for rural Africa are currently being implemented and documented in the Millennium Villages, and in several national scale-up efforts such as in Nigeria.

Now a Special Adviser to current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Sachs is still a leading advocate for the Millennium Development Goals, frequently meeting with foreign dignitaries and heads of state. He has also become a close friend of international celebrities Bono and Angelina Jolie, both of whom have traveled to Africa with Sachs to witness the progress of the Millennium Villages.

In August 2012, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), which will mobilize scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector in support of sustainable-development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. The Network convenes 12 global expert Thematic Groups on key sustainable development challenges that will identify common solutions and highlight best practices, and over time will launch projects to pilot or roll-out solutions to sustainable development challenges and assist countries in developing sustainable long-term development pathways.

Sachs has been a consistent critic of the IMF and its policies around the world. He has blasted the international bankers for what he sees as a pattern of ineffective investment strategies.

In Vienna, Sachs presented THE AGE OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT as an unavoidable direction for the future of humanity and stated clearly that he is an optimist and knows that in the end we will move in the right direction.

 

Event Details

Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 18:00
The Aula of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (1010 Vienna, Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Platz 2).

PRESENTED BY:

 

 


 The event was chaired jointly by Professor Pavel Kabat, the Director General of IIASA, Professor Anton Zeilinger – the institutional host, the President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences – the location host, and Dr. Franz Fischler the President of the European Forum Alpbach of Austria.

————–

We heard an announcement about the creation of a new Think Tank based on the network that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon charged Professor Sachs to be its catalyst - that UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) of institutions dispersed globally.  IIASA will organize one of these institutions and Professor Sachs will become in the future a more frequent visitor at IIASA. – perhaps IIASA will be a major locus for this Network. I understand that right the following day a small meeting at IIASA, with the participation of 10 people, will start on this endeavor.

THUS THE START OF A NEW PATH TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT WITH THE UNDERSTANDING AND THE MANAGING OF COMPLEX SYSTEMS. Sachs pointed out that we proved to be so successful in extracting things and producing things that lead us to the present challenges – but these same qualities are also what will help us – - in the future – when applying them to reverse the present trend of self destruction by finding the right technologies that will move us in the right direction.

We are now the first generation that can bring havoc to the planet through our exploitation of it, but we will also be those that can apply the corrections. Sachs loves to quote President Kennedy who seems to be his idol – “Man holds in his hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life!” as per the January 20, 1963 Inaugural Address.

Sachs reminded us that 1692 billionaires (in dollars) hold  $6.3 trillion dollars in their possession – and this inequality is the great challenge we face. It is combined further with environmental and social issues. When the past century has raised the ocean level by 75 cm in New York City it was the poor that suffer most. He saw in the recent floods in New York that only the Goldman Sachs building was lit – this because they knew not to put the back-up generators in the basement – like all others did. Beijing that got its floods earlier, got now choked in smog – and the WHO advised people to stay indoors – think of the best economic development in history and now they have the worst air and water.

Professor Sachs went on to look at the Middle East and at Syria in particular. He drew intersecting circles for Social Systems (dynamics), the Economy (Techno-Economy), Earth Systems and Governance and pointed out how countries that lived in peace for centuries with the different population groups side-by-side were now at each other’s throat. He suggested to take the temperature of the social trust of societies. Then to analyze governance of the political system and the business system – eventually to look at political governance – and to see how this impacts on the stress.

Sachs looked at the US-Saudi-Turkey line-up vs. the Russia-Iran line up in regard to Syria – then looked at Mega-droughts and Sectarian Divisions – crops fail and reduce human security.

Complex systems have pivot points – the world does not care if poor hungry people when facing calamity tend to find a way out via migration – and disease, epidemics, violence – unrest can happen quickly. To bring home his points Professor Sachs showed us the map of the Middle East droughts and we saw how it fits also the violence patterns.

Looking closer to home – to the US – Professor Sachs sees there the lack of “Points of View” – it could be dangerous for politicians to have a point of view, he said. We need planning in the US – but after the Soviet Union was gone the belief in the US seems to be that planning is a NO! NO! Markets are great institutions for distribution – but they do not plan.

Power can come from investing in young people. He also found that bad experience of parents can be passed to children – 2 generations down – and we do not understand how – but it is real he said.

Professor Sachs advocated that every country needed an energy plan – a strategy – it need not be the same. We destroy land, acidify water and lead to extinction of species – 30% of the world food is lost in transmission from farms to consumers. He mentioned the power of Hedge Funds but pointed out that 0.7% of the income on earth could help close the gap with the poor. He kept stressing that Wellbeing is not measured by GDP.

People want to live in societies that have social support systems.

Professor Sachs turned back to his Idol – President Kennedy and said that equal compliments deserved also Mr. Nikita Khrushchev, when the two went ahead with the partial nuclear treaty and said that the need was to have the Americans to change themselves and not just to try to change the world of their adversaries. Kennedy and Krushev were partners and both had opponents among the extremes in their systems.

Kennedy said: Let us not be blind to our differences but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved.

So, now – let us end poverty by 2030 – we know people are up to this challenge.

The most important vocabulary is built with the words – Poverty, Economy, Inclusion, Health, Food, Cities, and ENERGY/CLIMATE, Biodiversity, Governance – of which is built the  SDNS Action Plan, 2013.

 

Illustrative SDGs:

1.
End Extreme Poverty Including
Hunger
POVERTY

2.
Achieve
Growth and Jobs
within Planetary
Boundaries
ECONOMY

3.
Effective Education for
All Children and Youth for Life and
Livelihood
EDUCATION

4.
Achieve Gender Equality, Social Inclusion, and Human Rights for
All
INCLUSION

5.
Achieve Health and Wellbeing at All
Ages
HEALTH

6.
Improve Agricultural Systems and Rural
Productivity
FOOD

7.
Empower Inclusive, Productive, and Resilient
Cities
CITIES

8.
Curb
Climate
Change and Ensure Sustainable
Energy
ENERGY/CLIMATE

9.
Secure Ecosystem
Services, Biodiversity, Water, Natural Resources
BIODIVERSITY

10. Transform Government for Sustainable Development
GOVERNANCE

 

The Kennedy goal to put a man on the moon in a decade can be the inspiration for goals like “Save the Planet,” “Save other Species” …  WE ALL BREATH THE SAME AIR, WE ALL CHERISH OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE, AND WE ARE ALL MORTAL  (JFK, June 10, 1963).

 

Main points of the presentartion:
 www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/ev…

——————–

CONTACT DETAILS:

Pavel Kabat

IIASA Director General and Chief Executive Officer Directorate

T +43(0) 2236 807 402

Claudia Heilig-Staindl

Executive Assistant Directorate

T +43(0) 2236 807 266

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) – Schlossplatz 1 – A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 – Fax: (+43 2236) 71 313 – info@iiasa.ac.at

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Seeking An Exit From the Ukrainian Cul-de-Sac.

Posted:

German chancellor Angela Merkel came away from a phone conversation with Russian president Vladmir Putin this week convinced that he is living “in another world,” she told Barack Obama — an Orwellian alternative universe, perhaps, in which freedom is slavery and lies are propagated by a Ministry of Truth. The political crisis that is consuming Ukraine has re-ignited the embers of cold war hostility and paranoia.

Yet as the West and Russia square off, Merkel has been reluctant to sanction and isolate Russia for destabilizing Ukraine. This only reinforces Washington hardliners’ disdain for Europe’s supposed ineffectuality: it was the European Union’s trade initiative that Putin torpedoed, triggering the Ukrainian upheaval — and now the E.U. expects the Americans to deal with Russia’s hardball reaction?

Europhile Henry Kissinger caustically blames E.U. “bureaucratic dilatoriness” for “turning a negotiation into a crisis.” The last disciple of Metternichian realpolitik, Kissinger at least recognizes the perils of reacting intemperately and urges a compromise with Moscow involving “Finlandization” of Ukraine. But his fellow Republicans have seized on Ukraine to launch a full-throated assault on Obama as a “weak indecisive leader” whose “feckless foreign policy” invited Russian aggression and who lacks the backbone to force Putin into ignominious retreat.

If cold-war reflexes still come quickly to life in conservative quarters in Washington, they are far more deeply ingrained in Russia. Putin famously told the Duma that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century.” NATO’s expansion eastward and its war with Serbia over Kosovo propelled his ascension to power in 1999, and what he sees through the Moscow looking-glass is an implacable Western drive to hem in Russia and impose Western economic and political models worldwide.

Russian rhetoric about Ukraine bitterly parodies the language of current Western internationalism. Russian military forces are undertaking a “humanitarian intervention,” just as the Western countries did in Libya and have proposed for Syria (though in Ukraine no one has been killed or remotely threatened by the current Kiev authorities).

The Crimean autonomous region has the right to secede from Ukraine, just as the Western countries asserted for Kosovo (juridically an uncomfortably snug parallel, though missing the small detail of internationally certified lethal repression by Belgrade).

Ejection of sitting government officials from their posts by militant protesters in Russified districts of Ukraine is an expression of the popular will, a just riposte to the “Euro-Maidan” protesters who finally forced the flight of president Viktor Yanukovych.

Sergey Aksyonov, whose fervently Russian party won four percent of Crimeans’ votes in regional elections, could then be legitimately installed as the region’s leader, while it was illegitimate for the national parliament, including Yanukovych’s own party members, to appoint Oleksandr Turchynov, whose Fatherland party had garnered 26 percent of Ukrainians’ votes for the Rada in 2012, to fill the purportedly vacant presidency.

All this pretended symmetry is simply pretextual. The bottom line is that Putin deemed even a modest European link for Ukraine as a serious threat to Russia, perhaps a first step toward NATO. He gambled that he could prevent it.

The gamble backfired badly, mobilizing legions of protesters and knocking Yanukovych, who had walked a fine line between Ukrainians’ European aspirations and Russian sympathies, off balance and finally out of power. While Obama does not see “some cold war chessboard,” Moscow concluded it had just lost its queen, and riskily upped the ante.

The confrontation, however, actually poses more danger to Putin’s economically brittle regime than to the West. And for a leader who craves international respect–basking in hosting the G-20 summit last September, sulking in the absence of his peers at the Sochi Olympics–Russia’s deepening isolation is a blow.

Last year the Pew Research Center found barely a third of citizens across 38 countries had a favorable view of Russia, compared to the half that saw China favorably and the nearly two-thirds favorable to the United States. Without bonds of amity, every relationship becomes transactional. Now, Putin’s tough talk and rough action are only exacerbating the international distaste. Even China, often an ally in the United Nations Security Council, is warning Moscow “not to interfere in others’ internal affairs.”

The militiamen in Crimea who blocked U.N. envoy Robert Serry’s way sent a particularly disquieting signal. The United Nations provides one of the few international mechanisms of ingrained impartiality that can walk everyone back from confrontation.

Presumably a deal can be made. Putin had evinced no interest in Russian control of Crimea so long as the government in Kiev was neutral between East and West, and permanently detaching it from Ukraine tilts the country’s electoral balance decisively toward the Russoskeptics. An international accord that guarantees a democratic Ukraine’s territorial integrity and bars it from any military alliance, on the Finnish and Austrian model, will likely be at the heart of a resolution. And if Putin decides to proceed with Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, he is signing off on NATO membership for Kiev, and other countries can permanently reject visa applications from Crimea or economic transactions with it.

The United States has proved itself essential to mobilizing the political pressures most persuasive to Putin, and Secretary of State John Kerry is managing the diplomacy with admirable firmness and nuance. But this is really a European affair. It is Europe that has the economic leverage that matters to Russia, and Europe whose prosperity Ukrainians want to share. Let Europe lead.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

QUOTATION OF THE DAY

 

“It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve.”

 

JOHN KERRY, secretary of state, on Russia’s actions in Crimea, a region in Ukraine.

 

QUOTATION OF THE DAY

 

“The only thing we had to do, and we did it, was to enhance the defense of our military facilities because they were constantly receiving threats and we were aware of the armed nationalists moving in.”

 

VLADIMIR V. PUTIN, president of Russia.

No Easy Way Out of Ukraine Crisis.

 

 

WASHINGTON — For all his bluster and bravado, President Vladimir V. Putin’s assurance on Tuesday that Russia does not plan, at least for now, to seize eastern Ukraine suggested a possible path forward in the geopolitical crisis that has captivated the world. Global markets reacted with relief, and the White House with cautious optimism.

But the development presented a tricky conundrum for President Obama and his European allies. Even if Russia does leave eastern Ukraine alone and avoids escalating its military intervention, can it effectively freeze in place its occupation of the Crimean Peninsula? Would the United States and Europe be forced to tacitly accept that or could they find a way to roll it back — and, if so, at what price?

Ever since Russian forces took control of Crimea, Mr. Obama’s aides have privately conceded that reversing the occupation would be difficult, if not impossible, in the short run and focused on drawing a line to prevent Mr. Putin from going further.

 

 

If Crimea in coming weeks remains cordoned off, it will then require a concerted effort to force Russia to pull back troops, an effort that could divide the United States from European allies who may be more willing to live with the new status quo.

For the moment, the White House was focused on preventing the confrontation from escalating. While dismayed if not surprised by Mr. Putin’s bellicosity and justification of his actions, American officials took some solace that he said he saw no need at this point for intervention in Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine. They were also encouraged by his seeming acceptance of elections in May as a way to legitimize a new Ukrainian government and by his decision to cancel a military exercise near the border. And they detected no new influx of troops into Crimea.

While Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kiev on Tuesday to show support for its beleaguered pro-Western government, Mr. Obama consulted with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany by telephone about finding a face-saving way for Mr. Putin to withdraw in favor of international monitors.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Obama said some had interpreted Mr. Putin’s remarks earlier in the day to mean he “is pausing for a moment and reflecting on what’s happened.”

Others cautioned against reading too much into Mr. Putin’s statements. “It would be a mistake on our part to look at what he’s saying and think this crisis is almost over: ‘O.K., we’ve lost Crimea, but the rest of the country is with us,’ ” said Ivo Daalder, Mr. Obama’s first ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

He said Crimea would become a precedent: “Crimea is a big deal. It means a country can be invaded, and a big piece of it can be taken away with no price. But two, this isn’t just about Crimea. This is about who is ultimately in control of Ukraine.”

The situation remained tense, as Obama administration officials moved forward with plans for sanctions that could be imposed by the United States and, they hoped, in conjunction with European allies. The administration is developing plans for actions that would escalate over time if Russia continued to leave forces in place in Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine.

Mr. Obama has authority to take several steps without new legislation from Congress. For starters, under a law called the Magnitsky Act, the State Department has already drafted a list of Russians tied to human rights abuses. The administration could promptly bar them from traveling to the United States, freeze any assets here and cut off their access to American banks.

The president also has the power under existing Syria sanctions to go after Russian individuals and institutions involved in sending arms to help President Bashar al-Assad crush the rebellion there. The administration had held back on such actions while trying to work with Russia to resolve Syria’s civil war, but if applied they could cut off certain Russian banks from the international financial system.

Mr. Obama could also sign an executive order creating another set of sanctions specifically against Russian officials and organizations blamed for creating instability in Ukraine and violating its sovereignty. In theory, that could include everyone up to Mr. Putin, but officials indicated that they would instead work their way up the chain of command.

Leaders in Europe, a region dependent on Russian natural gas and with far deeper economic ties to Russia, have expressed reluctance to go along with the toughest sanctions.

But an American order declaring a Russian bank in violation would be sent to banks around the world, forcing them to cut ties with that Russian institution or risk being barred from doing business with the American financial sector.

“My view is that Russia can be forced out of Crimea with the combination of financial sanctions plus straightforward hard diplomacy,” said Anders Aslund, a longtime specialist on Russia and Ukraine at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Still, others are more dubious, noting that Mr. Obama may not be willing to go as far as necessary without the support of allies, particularly given that it would presumably jeopardize Russian cooperation on a range of issues, including Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Middle East peace.

The precedent may be Abkhazia and South Ossetia, pro-Moscow regions that broke away from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. After Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin defied the United States and the rest of the world by recognizing their independence and left troops in place to guarantee it. The United States and Europe ultimately resumed doing business as usual with Russia.

Mr. Obama’s aides said that Ukraine was different and that they had a hard time imagining going back to a normal relationship as long as Russian troops occupied Crimea. Their first priority is preventing Russia from annexing the peninsula outright, but even leaving it as an enclave under Moscow’s control would not be acceptable, they said.

White House officials said they saw three possibilities. The first would be a Russian escalation into eastern Ukraine, one they hope Mr. Putin was signaling he would not pursue. The second would be Russia deciding to stay put in Crimea, either through annexation or through de facto rule. The third would be Russia taking what American officials call an offramp, agreeing to let international monitors replace Russian troops in the streets to guard against any attacks on Russian speakers and accepting the Ukrainian government that emerges from the May elections.

Mr. Obama said Tuesday that he recognized that Russia had natural interests in its neighbor. But he said he would not accept what he called a violation of international law.

“I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”

Mr. Obama added that Ukrainians should have the right to determine their own fate. “Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he’s not abiding by that principle,” he said. “There is still the opportunity for Russia to do so, working with the international community to help stabilize the situation.”

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

The Opinion Pages|Editorial

 

A Rational Response to Ukraine’s Crisis.

 

 

The tensions over Ukraine eased somewhat after President Vladimir Putin of Russia halted military maneuvers on the Ukrainian border and declared at a news conference on Tuesday that there was no immediate need to send troops into eastern Ukraine. The conciliatory talk prompted Russian financial markets to rebound from their plunge on Monday. The markets reward peaceful behavior.

But the crisis is not over: Russia remains in control of Crimea, and Mr. Putin prepared the way for possible annexation of the peninsula to Russia when he said it was up to Crimean citizens, a majority of whom are Russian-speaking, to determine their future. The question remains what the United States and the European Union should or can do.

The Ukrainian crisis has provoked a broad range of reactions in the West, including angry demands for immediate sanctions against Russia and charges in the United States that President Obama is somehow “losing” in the confrontation to Mr. Putin and thus endangering Washington’s credibility and global leadership. Yet leadership and credibility in a crisis mean reacting coolly and rationally, not rattling sabers, or rushing into economic warfare that allies may or may not support, or painting “red lines” that the other side can cross with impunity.

A bully welcomes a slugfest, and Mr. Putin revels in claiming American conspiracies; at his news conference on Tuesday, he even described the battering to Russia’s markets on Monday as a result of American policies. But that battering and the decline of the value of the ruble were no doubt major factors behind Mr. Putin’s conciliatory tone on Tuesday.

The Russian economy is not in great shape, and Russian businessmen understand full well that the $60 billion wiped off the value of their firms on Monday was because of a needless crisis.

Mr. Putin and his countrymen must be reminded, again and again, that seizing Crimea under a blatantly concocted pretext, or taking other measures against the new authorities in Ukraine, will carry a price.

Short of war, there is little the United States can do on its own to punish Russia. It is not among Russia’s major trading partners. Europe, which does far more business with Russia, has more leverage, but also a dependence on Russian gas, and, so far, European leaders have shown little enthusiasm for economic sanctions.

The measures that have been suggested — exclusion from the Group of 8, selective sanctions and travel bans — would not alone cause much pain. But the consequences of isolation take a toll over time. With every new demonstration of Mr. Putin’s authoritarian and expansionary tendencies, whether it was the invasion of Georgia in 2008 or the imprisonment of the Pussy Riot members in 2012, the West has become more wary of doing business with Russia. In a conversation with Mr. Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she was unsure whether Mr. Putin was in touch with reality. That, from the leader of Europe’s most powerful economy and one of Russia’s biggest trading partners, cannot be heartening for Mr. Putin, and certainly not for Russian businessmen.

These are exactly the buttons Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are pushing — threatening further isolation if Mr. Putin does not back down, and cooperation if he does, while rallying allies and pledging substantial assistance to the new authorities in Ukraine.

 

Closing the door to any further dealings with Mr. Putin, as hard-core cold-warriors want Mr. Obama to do, would not serve any purpose. Russia has already announced that it is ending discounts on the sale of Russian gas to Ukraine, and it could make life even more difficult for its bankrupt neighbor. But at his news conference, Mr. Putin said he felt a sympathy for the longing of the Kiev crowds to throw out a corrupt regime, and he insisted that Russian and Ukrainian soldiers “will be on the same side of the barricades.”

If he meant all that, then he must agree that the optimal conclusion to the crisis would be the election of a balanced Parliament and a universally accepted president in Ukraine, which would also reassure Russians that their ties to Ukraine, including Crimea, won’t be severed.

The United States and its European allies must prepare contingency plans for any escalation of Russian aggression or for the unilateral annexation of Crimea. The Europeans will have to overcome their reluctance on sanctions and form a common front with the United States. But, at the same time, they should reassure Mr. Putin that the West appreciates Russia’s historic ties to Ukraine and has no interest in turning Kiev against Moscow. So far, Mr. Obama is on the right track.

 

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

The Opinion Pages|Op-Ed Columnist – The New York Times

 

Why Putin Doesn’t Respect Us

 

 

Just as we’ve turned the coverage of politics into sports, we’re doing the same with geopolitics. There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. We vastly exaggerate Putin’s strength — so does he — and we vastly underestimate our own strength, and ability to weaken him through nonmilitary means.

Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.

So Putin is now fighting human nature among his own young people and his neighbors — who both want more E.U. and less Putinism. To put it in market terms, Putin is long oil and short history. He has made himself steadily richer and Russia steadily more reliant on natural resources rather than its human ones. History will not be kind to him — especially if energy prices ever collapse.

So spare me the Putin-body-slammed-Obama prattle. This isn’t All-Star Wrestling. The fact that Putin has seized Crimea, a Russian-speaking zone of Ukraine, once part of Russia, where many of the citizens prefer to be part of Russia and where Russia has a major naval base, is not like taking Poland. I support economic and diplomatic sanctions to punish Russia for its violation of international norms and making clear that harsher sanctions, even military aid for Kiev, would ensue should Putin try to bite off more of Ukraine. But we need to remember that that little corner of the world is always going to mean more, much more, to Putin than to us, and we should refrain from making threats on which we’re not going to deliver.

What disturbs me about Crimea is the larger trend it fits into, that Putinism used to just be a threat to Russia but is now becoming a threat to global stability. I opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War, when Russia was at its most democratic and least threatening. It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.

 

For a long time, Putin has exploited the humiliation and anti-Western attitudes NATO expansion triggered to gain popularity, but this seems to have become so fundamental to his domestic politics that it has locked him into a zero-sum relationship with the West that makes it hard to see how we collaborate with him in more serious trouble spots, like Syria or Iran. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is engaged in monstrous, genocidal behavior that also threatens the stability of the Middle East. But Putin stands by him. At least half the people of Ukraine long to be part of Europe, but he treated that understandable desire as a NATO plot and quickly resorted to force.

I don’t want to go to war with Putin, but it is time we expose his real weakness and our real strength. That, though, requires a long-term strategy — not just fulminating on “Meet the Press.” It requires going after the twin pillars of his regime: oil and gas. Just as the oil glut of the 1980s, partly engineered by the Saudis, brought down global oil prices to a level that helped collapse Soviet Communism, we could do the same today to Putinism by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead. I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).

You want to frighten Putin? Just announce those steps.

But you know the story, the tough guys in Washington who want to take on Putin would rather ask 1 percent of Americans — the military and their families — to make the ultimate sacrifice than have all of us make a small sacrifice in the form of tiny energy price increases. Those tough guys who thump their chests in Congress but run for the hills if you ask them to vote for a 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax that would actually boost our leverage, they’ll never rise to this challenge. We’ll do anything to expose Putin’s weakness; anything that isn’t hard. And you wonder why Putin holds us in contempt?

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Leadership 3,422 views

Meet The First Carbon-Neutral Hotel Group In The World, And Why Your Business Should Take Notice.

In an interview with Kirsten Brøchner of the Arthur Hotel Group in Copenhagen, Denmark, we discussed their journey to become the first carbon-neutral hotel group in the world, and how their 5-point climate action plan is not only good for the planet, but good for business.

 

Rahim Kanani: Tell me a little bit about the founding of Brøchner Hotels and the resulting Arthur Hotels group. Also, where did the desire to put sustainability at the core of the organization come from?

 

Kirsten Brøchner: Brøchner Hotels has been a family owned and family run business from day one in 1982. First by my parents, with my assistance, and later with the help of my brother. Until June 2013, Brøchner Hotels consisted of four hotels, but due to a generational change and different visions in management, my brother and I separated the company into two independent companies, and I thereby formed the Arthur Hotel group consisting of Hotel Kong Arthur and Ibsens Hotel.

 

Being climate-friendly was and is my mission, and this is why we continue our efforts for a greener planet with Arthur Hotels. I have been asked the question about why I have this desire to put sustainability at the core of the organization many times, and I have come to the conclusion that the reason must be found in the story of my upbringing. My family consists mainly of entrepreneurs and healthcare personnel—hospital professors, doctors and nurses—so I have always been inspired by both the desire to see new projects blossom and the desire to care for others. Quite a good combination when running a hotel group, when thinking about it. My philosophy has always been that if you value ethics highly in your business, the money will follow automatically.

 

When the climate debate began to rise, this immediately caught my attention. I found it important to take action, and this is why I decided that despite the hotel group being a very small player in the market, I believed we could make a difference and hopefully encourage others to make a difference as well. I am aware that we in my company cannot make a big change alone, but hopefully we could set an example, which we have done.

 

Hotel Group

 

Kanani: What did it take to become the first carbon-neutral hotel group in the world, and what challenges did you have to overcome to achieve such a feat?

 

Brøchner: I felt that we as a corporation had a co-responsibility for climate change and that we therefore had to take action. We investigated and discussed what to do, and I discovered that with the Kyoto Protocol, all parties committed were allotted the right to emit a certain amount of carbon. If emissions were not utilized, because an energy producer had converted their energy production into a more climate-friendly solution, these emissions could be sold via the European Union Emissions Trading System. I figured that if we bought some of these surplus energy offsets and destroyed them, and took them off the market, these emissions would not be utilized. Further, by buying these offsets we would also financially support these energy producers that had invested in alternative production methods. Finally, if buying and destroying offsets corresponding to the amount of carbon that our hotels emit, we would be able to neutralize our total energy consumption.

 

We then took the investigation one step further and researched what other businesses and hotels had done, and we discovered that we, by doing this, would become the first carbon neutral hotel group, which was confirmed by the international hotel organization IH&RA. However, it was nearly impossible to find out how to buy these offsets, as they were only available for energy companies. I talked to a lot of people, ministries, government boards and others, spending a lot of time to investigate this. Suddenly, I came in contact with the small, Danish, independent, climate-friendly energy company Modstrøm, who offered to sell energy offsets via them. Ever since, we have bought energy offsets equalling our annual carbon emission at the hotels based on electricity, heat and linen consumption. This was how we were able to call ourselves the first carbon neutral hotel in the world.

 

Besides buying offsets, we have changed our whole mindset in the company, investigating all details on how we can be climate-friendly in every corner of the company. And we have done this by creating a 5 step climate plan that we have followed since 2008. As the offsets market have lost value, we are thinking about what we can do next. But due to the recent creation of Arthur Hotels, we must be realistic and I must admit that this will take time if we want to present a new thought-through initiative and thereby make an even bigger impact. Nevertheless, our 5-step climate plan is still ruling.

 

The challenges with the offset system were not the only challenges we faced. I had a lot of ideas that were not realized, unfortunately. For instance, I wanted to set up a climate school for companies with training courses for employees, teaching them how to choose the green option at work and at home. One example is when boiling water for tea—only boiling the water needed, so energy is not wasted on boiling extra. Or eating more light than dark meat, as the production of beef is more harmful to the environment than the production of poultry. Unfortunately, none of the many government agencies I asked for help were interested in supporting the idea.

 

Through the years, I have met the Minister of Climate several times and have discussed my ideas. I have asked for more public information on how to choose green in the supermarket. How are we supposed to know, from a green perspective, what is best to buy: tomatoes grown in Danish greenhouses, or organic tomatoes transported from Spain? In my opinion, the government should create a system with which the average consumer will be able to understand how to shop with a carbon-minimizing mindset in the supermarket. I have also suggested the Minister carry out a governmental plan to help both citizens and companies finance the building of houses or renovation projects carried through by using alternative energy sources—giving people access to “cheap money”. Unfortunately, these are challenges I have yet to overcome.

 

Kanani: What are some of the details to your 5-step climate plan?

 

Brøchner: As of 2008, our plan is as follows:

 

1. CO2 neutralization now and in the future.
2. Create energy savings.
3. Involve guests.
4. Establish a CO2 neutral hotel network.
5. Collaborate with climate networks/alliances including climate friendly suppliers.

 

We have made many small adjustments such as changing to more energy-friendly sources when it comes to light bulbs, heating centrals, guest amenities, groceries and other items and always choose as green as possible when introducing new products. We bought electric cars for our guests to rent, and we have charging stations at Hotel Kong Arthur for guests arriving by electric car.

Electric Cars

 

The biggest change must be the reduction of our linen consumption by 22 per cent. Reducing our linen consumption means, from a green perspective, that less laundry detergent, which is harmful to the environment, is used, energy consumption from the washing machines is reduced, the transport of linen to and from the hotel is reduced, which reduces carbon emission from the transport and so on. And all of this is due to a simple idea put forth by one of our maids: instead of leaving all towels visible in the bathrooms, we leave some of the towels in the cupboard with a cute hand-written post-it message on the bathroom mirror inviting the guest to help us protect the environment by only using the towels needed – and if needed, more towels are available in the cupboard.

 

Of other ways we are enacting out a climate-friendly agenda is by collaborating with suppliers supporting the green initiative. A green chain collaboration so to speak. We buy primarily organic food products and bread, and actually our organic bread supplier, the bakery “Det Rene Brød”, even bought electric cars to deliver the bread to us after having seen our own. We have reduced transportation by, for instance, having milk delivered every other day instead of every day. And all of these great initiatives are based on ideas from employees in the company. Whenever someone gets a new climate-friendly idea, we discuss it and see if we can implement it.

 

Kanani: The city of Copenhagen intends to become carbon neutral by 2025—the first goal of its kind in the world. Were you inspired by the city’s ambition, or was the city inspired by yours?

 

Brøchner: This is a difficult question. When the Municipality of Copenhagen launched their Climate+ campaign, which has now resulted in the goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city, we were appointed Climate+ Frontrunner, and I gave a speech at the opening ceremony. But I will say that the city’s ambition and our ambition were two parallel stories or processes. And I am very happy that the city and we share the same ambition, because it is only by working together towards the same goal that we can make a difference.

 

Kanani: Is pursuing a sustainable and climate-friendly agenda good for business?

 

Brøchner: Definitely. And in several ways. First, in relation to the market, being sustainable has always been good for us as a small player, as we have achieved great attention. Not only do we receive great media coverage, but it has also meant that we have expanded our client portfolio. Before becoming carbon neutral, it was difficult for us to attract the attention of big companies. However, a few years ago, the Danish government passed a law demanding that all medium-sized and large corporations in their annual accounts report their CSR accounting. These companies are welcome to report that they do not do anything at all, but who wants to write that? So when this law was passed, this definitely put pressure on, for instance, these companies’ green chain collaborations which meant that suddenly international companies like Novo Nordisk wanted us as their hotel partner.

 

Second, there is no doubt that being sustainable has an economical advantage for all types of businesses. Saving energy for instance also means saving money.

 

Third, thinking and acting green also has an impact on the company internally. When making an effort for good causes such as protecting our planet, companies will automatically attract the passionate fireballs who want to be part of that company, contributing to the good cause. In this way, sustainability is sustainable; it becomes a positive impact causal loop.

 

Fourth, being sustainable has had a great impact on me personally. These efforts have expanded my network. Suddenly, I was having dinner with Nobel Pease Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. I have met so many inspiring and creative people throughout this process, and continue to do so—people who have helped me develop my business in many creative ways. I believe that inviting innovation inside is always good for business.

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Atlantic Chapter NYC Group Banner 3

*Full house for February’s Sustainability Event. A standing-room only crowd enthusiastically engaged in a presentation by Ron Gonen,  NYC Deputy Commissioner for Recycling.

Gonen stressed that it is possible for NYC to divert all but 18% of waste from landfills. He explained both the economic and environmental benefits of intensive recycling, and the planning for future residential and commercial composting.  To get composting in your building or neighborhood, ask your city councilmember to contact the Sanitation Dept (hrogers@dsny.nyc.gov). Other presenters included: Brooklyn College Professor Brett Branco, who stressed sustainable use of phosphorous, a finite resource for agriculture; Elizabeth Balkan, a senior policy advisor to Mayor de Blasio, who talked about how the new city law requiring commercial food waste recycling will be rolled out; and Vandra Thorburn, who established Vokashi, a unique composting service using the Japanese method of fermenting organic matter and returning it to the earth.  There was much enthusiastic discussion.

 

Maryland rally
Chesapeake Climate Action Network

 

*On the Bus to Baltimore. On February 20th, about 30 activists, including a number of Sierra Club members, got on a bus at 7:00 in NYC, picking up another 10-15 at two New Jersey stops, to join a rally against an LNG export facility in Cove Point,  Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay.  Dominion Resources which built an import facility there, wants to break its agreement to set aside wetlands and build an export facility on those wetlands. The demonstration was spirited and the speakers, including Sierra Club’s Josh Tulkin, were inspiring. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (see picture) made a strong case to the environmental justice aspect of this issue, see picture right. For more pictures, see here.

 

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment NYC
Divestment Forum Panelists

 

*Fossil Fuel Stock Divestment is a movement that is quickly gathering steam on campuses across the country.  While still principally on campuses, it is moving into city and state governments. Six speakers at a February 26th “Divestment Open House” at the Ethical Culture Society  discussed the divestment movement from a variety of perspectives. Sierra Club’s Lisa DiCaprio (far left in photo), spoke about how successful divestment efforts might shift the way investors view the value of fossil fuel investments, making them less attractive. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session with the audience.

 

 


Check out recent posts on our Blog:
A Letter from Minisink, talks about a community’s resistance to the intrusion of a gas compressor station and proposals for a gas power station in their community;  NYC Parks Under Siege, reports about efforts to block the granting  of permission for restaurants to locate in parks; and Promises and Pitfalls in the 2014 NYS Energy Plan raises questions about the State’s newly released energy plan.   And don’t forget to check our calendar for events of interest to environmentalists in and around New York City.

 


If you are interested in volunteering to work on the NYC Group’s online and digital communications, please email Gary Nickerson at    gary@gwntec.com.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

china and the world discuss the environment

The new capitalist manifesto.

by

John Elkington

From Rio+20 to the birthday of Silent Spring, this year’s sustainability milestones mark decades of effort, writes John Elkington. Now the agenda is shifting its focus to the large-scale remodelling of capitalism. 
Some people raised their eyebrows when, in a 2009 study called “The Phoenix Economy”, we concluded that the world was not in a simple recession, nor even in a double-dip variant, but instead that it had entered one of those periodic, fundamental restructurings of the global economy that take decades to work through.  The drivers this time around, we argued, include the obsolescence of an increasingly global economic model that has served us fairly well since World War II, coupled with an accelerating shift of at least some parts of the global economy to Asia, and particularly to China.
But we also spotlighted a growing interest in what some call “sustainable capitalism” – an appetite for change that is so far very poorly represented in the UN-led climate conferences in places like Copenhagen and Durban.
For an idea of what this might mean in practice, it will be well worth taking a look at the “Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism”, due for launch shortly by Generation Investment Management—and which has already been spotlighted in The Wall Street Journal by Generation’s founders, former US vice-president Al Gore and former Goldman Sachs investment banker David Blood.
Unfortunately, as we noted in 2009, history suggests that a prolonged downturn is needed if we genuinely want to burn out the old economic mindsets, business models and technologies, and open up the space for new ones better adapted to the conditions of the twenty-first century. Now, as we enter 2012, it is worth taking stock and considering whether there is much evidence, either way, of progress towards the Phoenix Economy. “We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking,”
Blood and Gore argue in their Wall Street Journal article. “The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanisation, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.”
But what do they suggest business leaders – what we might call the Global C-Suite – do next?
They recommend “five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation.”
First, they encourage CEOs and other senior business leaders to identify and account for the growing risk from “stranded assets”. These are risks “whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account – for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.” We have been here before, they note. The true value of subprime mortgages was recognised very late in the day and mortgage-backed assets had to be repriced in short order. 
Second, they call for mandatory integrated reporting, something that is now being pushed by the International Integrated Reporting Committee. “Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies,” they say, “access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG [environmental, social and governance] performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.”
Third, they call for an end to the practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. “The quarterly calendar frequently incentivises executives to manage for the short-term,” they conclude. “It also encourages some investors to overemphasise the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies’ issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.” Fourth, and a strongly linked point, they see a critical step to be the better alignment of senior executive compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. “Most existing compensation schemes,” they warn, “emphasise short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realised and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling, multiyear milestones for performance evaluation.” And, fifth, there is a growing need to incentivise and reward long-term investing with “loyalty-driven securities”. The logic here is that “the dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete ‘standard model’ of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.” To counter such short-termism “companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years.” An immensely turbulent 2011 is being followed by a year marked by an extraordinary number of sustainability milestones. Most obviously, we have the UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit. Then there will be the twenty-fifth anniversaries of the Brundtland Commission report, Our Common Future, and of SustainAbility, the company I co-founded in 1987. But there’s more. Many will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of 1972’s The Limits to Growth study which first laid out the “Peak Resources” agenda, and the fiftieth of 1962’s Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book that sparked the Environmental Revolution.

Some will find it strange that businesses like Generation Investment Management are now signalling the next round of the sustainability agenda, but as the focus shifts to the large-scale remodelling of capitalism for the new century, this feels like the logical trajectory for the next 20, 25, 40 or 50 years.

——————————————-

John Elkington is executive chairman at Volans and non-executive director at SustainAbility. He blogs at www.johnelkington.com and tweets at @volansjohn.
www.chinadialogue.net/article/4732-The-new-capitalist-manifestoHomepage image by Ihuiz 
==============================================

We found above posting while looking up for the original Al Gore and David Blood article in the Wall Street Journal that was sent to us by a new friend we met at a Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce Panel on “2014 Brazil Economic and Political Outlook.” On that meeting we will report later – but for now we will just follow up on a clip our new friend sent us.

 

That original Gore and Blood article had several WSJ versions – starting November 5, 2008 – and the most recent one was:

A Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism

How businesses can embrace environmental, social and governance metrics.

December 14, 2011

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the United States was preparing its visionary plan for nurturing democratic capitalism abroad, Gen. Omar Bradley said, “It is time to steer by the stars, and not by the lights of each passing ship.” Today, more than 60 years later, that means abandoning short-term economic thinking for “sustainable capitalism.”

We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking. The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanization, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.

Before the crisis and since, we and others have called for a more responsible form of capitalism, what we call sustainable capitalism: a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.

Such sustainable capitalism applies to the entire investment value chain—from entrepreneurial ventures to large public companies, seed-capital providers to institutional investors, employees to CEOs, activists to policy makers. It transcends borders, industries, asset classes and stakeholders.

Those who advocate sustainable capitalism are often challenged to spell out why sustainability adds value. Yet the question that should be asked instead is: “Why does an absence of sustainability not damage companies, investors and society at large?” From BP to Lehman Brothers, there is a long list of examples proving that it does.

CorbisMoreover, companies and investors that integrate sustainability into their business practices are finding that it enhances profitability over the longer term. Experience and research show that embracing sustainable capitalism yields four kinds of important benefits for companies:

• Developing sustainable products and services can increase a company’s profits, enhance its brand, and improve its competitive positioning, as the market increasingly rewards this behavior.

• Sustainable capitalism can also help companies save money by reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency in the supply chain, and by improving human-capital practices so that retention rates rise and the costs of training new employees decline.

• Third, focusing on ESG metrics allows companies to achieve higher compliance standards and better manage risk since they have a more holistic understanding of the material issues affecting their business.

• Researchers (including Rob Bauer and Daniel Hann of Maastricht University, and Beiting Cheng, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim of Harvard) have found that sustainable businesses realize financial benefits such as lower cost of debt and lower capital constraints.

Sustainable capitalism is also important for investors. Mr. Serafeim and his colleague Robert G. Eccles have shown that sustainable companies outperform their unsustainable peers in the long term. Therefore, investors who identify companies that embed sustainability into their strategies can earn substantial returns, while experiencing low volatility.

Because ESG metrics directly affect companies’ long-term value, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, foundations and the like—investors with long-term liabilities—should include these metrics as an essential aspect of valuation and investment strategy. Sustainable capitalism requires investors to be good investors, to fully understand the companies they invest in and to believe in their long-term value and potential.

We recommend five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation:

• Identify and incorporate risk from stranded assets. “Stranded assets” are those whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account—for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.

That’s exactly what occurred when the true value of subprime mortgages was belatedly recognized and mortgage-backed assets were suddenly repriced. Until there are policies requiring the establishment of a fair price on widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for investment opportunities.

• Mandate integrated reporting. Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies, access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.

This enables companies and investors to make better resource-allocation decisions by seeing how ESG performance contributes to sustainable, long-term value creation. While voluntary integrated reporting is gaining momentum, it must be mandated by appropriate agencies such as stock exchanges and securities regulators in order to ensure swift and broad adoption.

• End the default practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. The quarterly calendar frequently incentivizes executives to manage for the short-term. It also encourages some investors to overemphasize the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies’ issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.

• Align compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. Most existing compensation schemes emphasize short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realized and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling multi-year milestones for performance evaluation.

• Incentivize long-term investing with loyalty-driven securities. The dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete “standard model” of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.

To push against this short-termism, companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years. This would attract long-term investors with patient capital and would facilitate both long-term value creation in companies and stability in financial markets.

Ben Franklin famously said, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” Today we have an opportunity to steer by the stars and once again rebuild for the long-term. Sustainable capitalism will create opportunities and rewards, but it will also mean challenging the pernicious orthodoxy of short-termism. As we face an inflection point in the global economy and the global environment, the imperative for change has never been greater.

Mr. Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, is a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Blood is managing partner of Generation Investment Management.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 


Sent: Sunday, February 21, 2014 12:37 PM
Subject: Fwd: FW: KERRY’S BROTHER CAMERON WRITES A LETTER

While we were traveling last week, an Israeli Knesset member accused my brother of anti-Semitism and a group of rabbis said he is waging “war on God.”  I wrote this op-ed in response on the plane back; it appears (in Hebrew) in today’s Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s widest circulation paper.  Since it discusses our trip, I thought it might interest you:

By Cameron Kerry

Last week at this time, I was in Terezin,  Czech Republic, at the 18th Century fortress where the Nazis gathered Jews from Czechoslovakia, Austria,Germany, and other countries for the tragic journey to death camps further east.  I joined a group from the Boston synagogue, of which my wife is the lay head, in traveling to Europe to celebrate Torah scrolls miraculously saved from Czech synagogues during World War II and restored 50 years ago.  Both of my daughters became a Bat Mitzvah reading from a scroll rescued from the Bohemian town of Blatna, from which 26 Jews were transported to Terezin and none survived.

 

At Terezin, I walked along the banks of Ohre River and joined other members of our temple in saying Kaddish at the place where the Nazis poured out the cremated remains of some 22,000 inmates who died at Terezin.  These presumably included the remains of my paternal great-uncle Otto Lowe, who died at Terezin in 1942.  He, along with his sister Jenni, was transported to Terezin in 1942.  Jenni was soon sent to die at Treblinka.

 

These experiences and their deeply personal meaning for my family make it all the more disturbing that some have recently suggested that my brother, John Kerry, had expressed “anti-Semitic undertones” in his pursuit of a framework  for negotiations, and some even suggested that he “has declared war on God.”  Such charges would be ridiculous if they were not so vile.

 

My family’s experience with anti-Semitism and oppression runs deep.  On another visit to the Czech Republic last fall, I visited the town where my grandfather Frederick Kerry was born Fritz Kohn. A few years before emigrating to America, while serving in the military, my grandfather converted from Judaism to Catholicism because of anti-Semitism in the ranks. In memory — and in honor — of the Kohns, I planted a tree in my grandfather’s town.

 

This experience is not limited to the side of the family with Jewish roots.  My mother – a Bostonian –  was living in Paris training to become a nurse when World War II broke out, and she was among the mass of refugees who escaped the city in front of the Nazis.  The sister she left with was later interned for helping the resistance in the south of France, where her activities included helping Jewish families get out of the country. My grandparents’ home was occupied by the Nazis and later destroyed by them because it offered an artillery spotting post in battles with Patton’s army.

 

All this is part of my brother John Kerry’s DNA.  His earliest memory is of holding our mother’s hand as, soon after the war, she walked in tears viewing the ruins of that house.  With my father serving his country in the State Department, our family took up a posting in Berlin with bombed, burned out, and shot-up buildings still visible across Europe.  My brother embraced my own conversion to Judaism when I got married. He has been part of our family mitzvot.  He was present when my daughters read from the Blatna scroll and helped to raise the chairs in which they were paraded on the dance floor.

 

I recall when he came home from his first visit to Israel with friends from the Boston Jewish community, more than thirty years ago as a young Senator: he spoke vividly of flying an Israeli military jet over the country and realizing how it was possible to cross the country in a matter of moments. Today, his determined work on Middle East peace is informed by an abiding sense of the need to secure  Israel as a home for the Jewish people. For years since that first visit, he has engaged passionately with a wide variety of leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and across the region to understand the way to peace.  He also maintained a 100-percent pro-Israel voting record during his nearly three decades in the U.S. senate.

 

It is this deep involvement that has led to the conviction that Israel’s long-term security requires a two-state solution — that, in the face of the inexorable forces of security, demographics, and geography, Israel cannot sustain occupation of the West Bank and remain both democratic and Jewish.  It is the same conclusion that such resolute defenders of Israel as Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon reached and that Prime Minister Netanyahu is confronting now.

 

Prime Minister Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Lieberman, and Ambassador Dermer were courageous in their defense of my brother’s motives.  We can all debate the effectiveness of security measures, the delineation of borders,  arrangements for East Jerusalem, and other real issues among the parties, but there is no truth and no good that can come by calling into question John Kerry’s good faith toward his own heritage.  Israel and the Jewish people deserve better than that.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Richard Silverstein Calls Black Supporter of Israel ‘Negro Zionist,’ Says ‘Uncle Tom is Dancing for Joy.’

February 23, 2014

Chloe Valdary delivers an impassioned speech.

Blogger Richard Silverstein’s racism was laid bare today when he tweeted the following to his followers, referring to an African-American Zionist named Chloe Valdary who had published an op-ed at Times of Israel about Judith Butler. He also posted the offensive message to his Facebook page.

 

Richard Silverstein’s offensive tweet. Photo: Screenshot.

Silverstein - a ‘Comment is Free‘ contributor through 2012 who, until now, was best known for his anti-Israel (and at times pro-Hamas) activism and his faux scoops - has now revealed himself to be bigoted towards black Americans as well. The term “Negro” stopped being used in America in the late 60s or early 70s, and the term “Uncle Tom“ of course is a horrible epithet used historically to accuse African-Americans of being subservient to whites, and betraying their own group by participating in systematic white racism.

As Valdary’s column about Butler had nothing to do with the issue of American racism, Silverstein’s ugly assault seems to have been motivated by his disgust at seeing a woman of color expressing support for Israel.

Silverstein seems to have deleted the post from his Facebook account (though the Tweet is still there), but let the snapshots above serve as a reminder of the narrow-mindedness of some on the Left when confronted with information contradicting their anti-Zionist assumptions.

Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

First He Ran the Obama Seder. Now Eric Lesser is Running for Office.

Former White House aide launches campaign for Massachusetts State Senate

The White House Seder in April 2009. Lesser is fifth from President Obama’s right. (White House / Pete Souza)

Back in April 2008, Eric Lesser began what would become a White House tradition when he helped organize a seder for staffers on the Obama campaign trail. “We were feeling a little down because we realized it wouldn’t be possible to get home for Passover,” the 28-year-old recalled. “So we set up our makeshift seder in this windowless basement in the Sheraton in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and when we were down there getting ready to begin, all of a sudden Senator Obama popped his head in and said, ‘Is this where the seder is?’ and asked, ‘Can I join?’ It was actually a little funny, because we were planning to have a bit of a briefer version, but he was very interested in it, and so we went through almost the entire haggadah, which is much more than I had ever done with my own family.”

The seder became a yearly tradition for the Obama family, and Lesser would go on to serve as a special assistant to David Axelrod and later director of strategic planning for the Council of Economic Advisers. He was profiled–along with his weekly shabbat dinners with other young Obama administration staffers–in the New York Times, and then moved on to Harvard for law school, where he’d previously attended college. And just this week, he launched his own political career by announcing his candidacy for State Senate in Massachusetts.

Lesser casts his campaign as a community-building exercise, rather than a particularly partisan affair. “My family wasn’t very political per se, but was very community-oriented,” he explained. “I was very active in my synagogue in Springfield, MA., Sinai Temple. I was active in my synagogue youth group, which was a branch of NFTY. And that was one of my early paths into community work,” he said. One of Lesser’s first political acts was to work with his local community to successfully fight budget cuts for his high school in 2002. “I’m a proud Democrat, but I don’t particularly care if an idea comes from a Democrat, from a Republican, or from none of the above. My focus is on good ideas,” he said. “We didn’t even know what party the community members and the volunteers were, and we didn’t care. What we cared about was that we fought for a good idea.”

Both of Lesser’s parents worked their way through college in New York–his father as a taxi driver–and became professionals in Holyoke, MA. Lesser’s goal is “to give more families that kind of opportunity”–to enable others to live the success story of his own family’s rise into the middle class. At the moment, however, he is still in listening mode. He intends to release “a variety of new innovative policy proposals.” Until then, he’s demurring on hot button issues like the role of charter schools, which has split progressives across the country, and pitted his former boss President Obama against liberal leaders like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. “My goal now is to listen to people, and to make sure I’m hearing from all people in the district, regardless of party or position.”

In the end, Lesser’s hope for his political career is simple. “My background in Judaism is there’s no greater work than tikkun olam, and that’s always been a very strong part of my identity and my motivating force,” he said. “The idea is that you work in some small way to try to leave things a little better off than how you found them.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:  Policy & Corporate Programs The Korea Society
950 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
policy@koreasociety.org
212-759-7525

 David Lee, CEO of Shakr Media spoke at The Korea Society  on Korea and Startups.

David Lee is the founder & CEO of Shakr Media, the Seoul & SF-based startup that makes great video accessible to everyone. David has built an international development team in Seoul, while raising $2.75M in venture capital from both Korean & U.S. investors including NHN Investment and 500 Startups.
Under David’s leadership, Shakr has appeared as a presenter at Techcrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield in Beijing, and has earned top honors at beLAUNCH 2013 in Seoul and beGLOBAL 2013 in Palo Alto.

Attention to South Korea becoming the next Global Hub for Tech Startups comes from Alan McGlade of Forbes Magazine:“American business has long led the way in high tech density or the proportion of businesses that engage in activities such as Internet software and services, hardware and semiconductors. The US is fertile ground for tech start-ups with access to capital and a culture that celebrates risk taking. Other countries have made their mark on the world stage, competing to be prominent tech and innovation hubs. Israel has been lauded as a start-up nation with several hundred companies getting funded by venture capital each year. A number of these companies are now being acquired by the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google. Finland and Sweden have attracted notice by bringing us Angry Birds and Spotify among others. But a new start-up powerhouse is on the horizon – South Korea.”

Bloomberg News recently published the Bloomberg Global Innovation Index and ranked South Korea first among all nations by comparing a group of indicators such as research & development capability, productivity, tech density and patent activity. South Korea’s ranking is not a surprise. In recent decades, South Korea has transformed into an economic heavyweight, having systematically applied substantial resources to research and development. As a result, South Korea has become the world leader in patent activity, and information and communication technology. The country has the highest broadband penetration in the world at 97 percent and is a leader in broadband speed with an average peak connection of close to 50 megabits per second.
Increasingly young technologists are fueling a fledgling start-up scene that is led by mobile game developers and social media innovators. This is complemented by entrepreneurs returning from overseas with an eye on conquering the globe.  These entrepreneurs are coming back with a sense of how to take on the US market, a greater willingness to assume risk, and an interest in building things that aren’t just made for Korea.  This has attracted the notice of American technology companies. Google has taken an active role in nurturing South Korean companies, introducing their favorites in the US to help them build a global profile. A company called Sparklabs was formed a little over a year ago with offices in Seoul and San Francisco to incubate Korean start-ups.
It is logical for South Korea to follow this path. The country is smaller than the state of New York, is not rich in oil or other natural resources, and has limited agriculture and manufacturing capacity. Korean’s must promote technology and innovation to be competitive as a nation since it is not enough to just contend on cost or scale. While the South Korean Chaebols, or large family-controlled corporate groups, focus on exporting and manufacturing, there is a clear recognition that South Korea needs to have a more diverse economy. Thus, the tides are shifting towards supporting smaller businesses and promoting entrepreneurship.
Many of the fundamentals are already in place. Just as Samsung transformed the consumer electronics business, Korean start-ups are poised to have an explosive impact on digital media and services.
To me the most interesting thing I heard from Mr. David Lee was his description of the recent evolution of the Korean psyche – it is really based on the fact that the country developed so much in the last 20 years and the fact that the young people have taken ownership of this success. He said that “they feel they own the story and are proud of it” and that this is the secret of their success. This success is here – in he Palo Alto and New York City High Tech region and in the fact that many of these young people go now back to Korea and are ready to be creative at home.
Sounded interesting – and led me to decide the following day to go and have lunch – under the New York Restaurant Week plan – at the newest high-quality Korean Restaurant in town – the Kristabelli (near Fifth Avenue  at 8 W. 36th Street). As expected – the place filled up with young Koreans.
The lower cost these two weeks was seemingly what brought in this clientele. They came not just because it was an eatery – but seemingly to enjoy their time there. It is al these little dishes and close attention to the food that stretched out my lunch for nearly two hours. The three course meal ($25)
Gujeolplan (an Emperor’s Assortment of nine different thinly sliced sauteed vegetables and beef served with blini stile small crepes, a rib eye cut small barbeque with lots of additives and some blini in a vinaigrette  liquid, and a terrific ice cream bread pudding for desert – and  paired with three containers of Korean wines ($15) – a rice wine infused with sweet potato vodka, a black raspberry wine and a plum flower wine. Quite interesting when one thinks that 20 years ago Korean immigrants  in New York were known only as vegetable marketeers and for finger-nail cosmetic stores.
Thinking of our website and the fact that from start I had Korea as one of the promising Nations on my homepage – I feel totally justified. Further, obviously, helped by the US originally, now I think that further advancement by Korea calls for a more independent policy by South Korea.
It is obvious that all powers – China, Japan, India, the US, Russia – have no interest in the reunification of Korea – but the Koreans themselves ought to keep Germany in mind and learn from the German experience that through re-unification they have a chance to grow. This is simply a question of an internal market that makes them independent of the vagaries of a global market. Forget any kind of revenge – just work hard to supply the unending needs of a backward North Korea like Germany did for East Germany. This will then bring Korea into the front line of the emerged powers and the real competitor with China in its region.
Further – looking up the maps – North Korea borders Manchuria of China – the Jilin and Liaoning Provinces and there is an Autonomous Prefecture for Koreans at the border – Yanbian – in the Jilin Province. The kind of place that might someday lead to conflict. Also, the islands in the Yellow Sea (Korea Bay and Bohai Sea) were divided amicably between North Korea and China in 1962 as per the ethnicity of the inhabitants. This again may eventually be disputed.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Actually – the title of the speech at the lunch organized yesterday by the Brazilian, Colombian, Ecuadorean Peruvian and Venezuelan – American Associations or Chambers of Commerce “- with Dr. Ocampo – was: “IS THE COMMODITY BOOM IN LATIN AMERICA ENDING?

The speaker who is now professor at Columbia University is very well known to us since his having been Finance Minister in Colombia, an official at the World Bank and the UN and member of many studies and panels – in effect searching our own website one finds many references to him.

Traditionally, Latin America is an exporter of Natural Resources we call Commodities because we used to say they are fungible – if the producer wants to increase price we will go to someone else who makes the same product – so exchanges just dealt with the bulk in many cases even not specializing – that is except for just a few items like sugar, coffee, cocoa, but forget wood, minerals, oil, coal – these were just means of getting the resources of the South to an industrialized North at fire-sale prices.  In the exporting countries  a few in the government circle got rich – and the many got meager salaries provided they played the game. Country economies were measured in GDP terms without any attention to who gets that income and why.

We know that the World economy had a slow down – but commodity purists say that 2004 – 2007 was the best time for commodity exports in the last three decades. Now they look at the possibility  that World Growth Prospects are slowing by much and this is not just in the movement of goods.

In effect Dr. Ocampo enlarged the subject also to Migrant flows and Remittances, and access to International Financial markets – that were best since the second half of the 1970s.

What has happened since 2011 is that growth has slowed by 30% despite a strong business cycle – not any different then in the US itself I must add – and this must be an eye opener to all those young unemployed that prepared themselves for a life on the boom. Dr. Ocampo found within the commodity business boom also a South-North regional pattern that will harm poverty reduction efforts – and he reaches the conclusion that due to the weakening of the World Trade, the space for orthodox export-led policies may be over, he said. On the other hand, a pure inwards-looking strategy would work only for very few countries – perhaps Brazil – he said.

So, he advises an aggressive export diversification strategy;
A reorientation towards Asia – that means China – but this works only with diversification;
A sponsored expansion of the domestic markets.

When it came to the Q&A – a question that seemed to me out of place was about entrepreneurs and small business. This is indeed very important for the social structure of the country, and for the economy at large – but does not touch the Commodity issue because that issue was always in BIG Hands.

I tendered a different question which I predicated by saying that I am trying to deconstruct the concept of Commodities – a concept that in my eyes never had standing in the economy.

I mentioned that some of the commodities are non-renewable and when exhausted leave only problems behind and an impoverished Nation. Within this group there are technology induced changes – like the foreseeable demise of the Copper market and a new demand for Lithium .

But then there are Commodities based on Renewable Resources that do not harm the future of the State. But even here there are effects from the outside – this like the demise of Leopard Skins or Ivory and Rhinoceros Tusks from lists of Commodities.

So, my actual question is if time has not arrived to look at each exported good separately rather then bunching them into the term of Commodities where the exporters of bananas once thought they could build up a power equal to that of OPEC.
After the talk  – I found that quite a few people were ready to give a second thought to these comments.o
I took then the 50 Street Crosstown bus to get to the UN where a group that claims solidarity with the Palestinians was hosting Mr. Emad  Burnat from the village of Bil’in – a farmer and self-styled cameraman whose documentary “5 Broken Camera”  is being promoted by activist Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore.

Emad Burnat started filming in 2005 daily life in his village, and clearly had the talent to bring out the abnormal life under a foreign occupation  – that is if you consider living in the Colorado State of the Columbine shootings as normal, or life in any village in an Arab State normal.

I knew what to expect, but wanted to see how the UN sells the commodity of “Hate Israel” – because really – the hand clapping had nothing to do with trying to alleviate suffering of the Palestinians, but rather I saw there various people – some claiming Jewishness for unclear reason – and heaping it on Israel. There were so called Press or Media people that have never written a word about climate change,  and there was an Arab who lived in Brazil and loves to speak Portuguese and Spanish for his outreach.

I asked Mr. Burnat if he spoke ever with Uri Avnery – the Israeli maverick who was the one to bring to the public’s eye the problems the villagers of Bil’in were having, and who tried to help?  After all the film-maker’s statement was that it is his intent to help the villagers and himself? I said that talking with people like Avnery can help him on the ground – and what can the people in this room at the UN actually do on the ground?

As I did not get an answer to my very direct public question – just a few grunts and something that a TV reporter meant as an insult – “Zionist” I spoke to Emad after the presentation in private and then I heard from him that it is not about the village but larger, about Palestine. OK – so be it – the commodity at sale here is simple hatred – nothing else, but the problem is real and involves real people – and this is not his issue. I also said to him that in Israel people do not want to revisit the Holocaust and I would expect from him to not like the killing of the Syrian Arabs by Arabs – it does not make sense to score points over dead bodies.

I must also note that the UN DPI that posts a list of UN activities for the information of the media – had the “5 Broken Cameras” information, but then never has other topics of general interest – like the presentation today by Ms. Angela Kane – The UN Representative for Disarmament Affairs who spoke on her experiences as head of the UN spearhead on the issue of Chemical Weapons in Syria. She was very diplomatic and made sure she says only things she can prove. The Syrian Ambassador could not have had reason to doubt her impartiality.  She did her work out of her Vienna based headquarters and gave support to the UN Security Council – in case the UN wants to come up with decisions – but the question is will they?  For journalists the question is what is actually going on – and this presentation could have helped them – but the UN Department of Public Information keeps the Information commodity very close to the Arab side – whatever that might be the case.

OK, I am sure that I might have over extended the use of the term Commodities – but I do believe that there is indeed much more to this word if we try an ounce of real Aqua Vita. Individual Nations are suffering when the value of commodities is in decline – our job ought to be to explain why this happens – and the suffering – not of Governments but of their subjects.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Stop the Syrian Bloodletting

Posted:

by Jeffrey Sachs – Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University; Author, “To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace”

The Syrian War has already taken more than 130,000 lives. It is destroying a country that lies at the very cradle of civilization. Some of the world’s greatest cultural treasures, in ancient heritage cities like Aleppo, are being destroyed; irreplaceable archeological sites are being plundered. Yet this violence could be brought to a quick end with a more enlightened policy by the United States and its allies.

The U.S. demands that Bashar Al-Assad must go. Assad has certainly acted with brutality and committed atrocities, as have some of the rebel groups. Yet the U.S. government contributes to the trajectory of escalating violence by demanding that another head of state must leave or else. It is this demand, above all others, that prolongs the Syrian bloodshed by blocking a pragmatic end to the killing.

When the Arab Spring began in 2011, a popular movement in Syria demanded political reforms. The government responded instead with a bloody crackdown. In turn, some parts of the Syrian military broke off and began an insurrection.

At that point, in August 2011, Barrack Obama declared that, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” This was a remarkable statement, one head of state telling another to leave. Presumably the president thought that Assad was about to fall. Big miscalculation.

In fact, the U.S. has no right to pick the leaders of other countries. Nonetheless, the U.S. has a long track record of overthrowing other leaders. These U.S.-backed coups and insurrections almost always end in disaster and prolonged chaos. Think of Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1961), Vietnam (1963), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011), to name a few.

As Obama demanded Assad’s exit, U.S. allies in the region also began giving support, sanctuary and arms to the Syrian rebels. On April 1, 2012, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reiterated that “Assad must go, the sooner the better,” and led support for the insurgency through a new U.S.-led multinational group, “Friends of the Syrian People.” The war escalated dramatically. The death rate soared.

The U.S. sought to topple Assad in part because the U.S. and its allies deemed him to be too friendly and beholden to Iran. By toppling Assad, the U.S. thought, Iran would be weakened. Yet Assad has another important ally: Russia. And Russia was not about to step back and let their ally be toppled by a U.S.-backed insurgency. Moreover, international law prohibits one group of nations supporting the overthrow of a sovereign government unless in self-defense or mandated by the UN Security Council.

The way to end the bloodletting is to staunch the flow of weapons into Syria from outside powers. Saudi Arabia and probably other neighbors have been providing weapons to the insurgents, and the U.S. has been providing at least financial, logistical and political support to the insurrection, if not arms. On the other side, Iran and Russia are arming the Assad regime. It would not take much for all major outside parties — the U.S., Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia — to tamp down the war rapidly and dramatically. By ending the arms inflows, the violence would drop dramatically.

So why doesn’t it happen? Because from the U.S. perspective it would mean that Assad would stay. There are those who would say that Iran and Russia would not abide by such an arms limitation. They are likely mistaken.

No country has an interest in Syria falling to pieces. No country has an interest in the spread of Al-Qaeda-backed terrorism, as is now occurring in the midst of the growing violence. Just as the U.S., Russia and the Syrian government were able to agree on removing the chemical weapons, it would very likely be possible to tamp down the violence decisively as long as regime change by the U.S. and its allies is off the table.

Even with Assad remaining in power at this stage, political change in Syria would likely continue. Political change occurs from inside as well as from the outside. Myanmar, for example, has opened a political reform process not through an insurrection but through internal negotiations judged to be in the interest of the major actors including the military. Similarly, Poland in 1989 made its transition to democracy with a government that included leaders from the Communist old guard as well as the Solidarity-backed new leadership.

Internal political change is possible. It is, indeed, far more likely to succeed than the violent overthrow of governments engineered from abroad. And in the process, Syria would be spared the ongoing bloodbath.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  english@other-news.info
date:  Mon, Feb 17, 2014

[]

Syrian rebels or international terrorists?
 
Vijay Prashad* – The Hindu
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
 
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
 
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
 
Role for India, China?
 
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
 
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
 
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
 
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
 
Islamic Front:
 
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
 
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
 
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off.  Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert.  Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria.  Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line.  Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
 
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16.  This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
 
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters.  On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S.  The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west.  All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy.       Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government?  Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders?  Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad.  The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion.  Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.”  This is a cruel strategy.
It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
 
Road ahead for Syria group:
 
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
 
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.

The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.

Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.

 
If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
 
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.

 

###