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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 12th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

CHORNOBYL SONGS PROJECT
SPECIAL CD RELEASE CONCERT
Saturday, April 25, 7:00PM

from: Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD) –  traditions at ctmd.org via ctmd.ccsend

In partnership with the Ukrainian Museum and Yara Arts Group, we are excited to present a special concert of the Chonobyl Songs Project, performed by Ensemble Hilka.

Back in 2011, CTMD worked with ethnomusicologist/singer Maria Sonevytsky (Bard College) to bring renowned vocalist/ethnomusicologist Yefim Yefremov to New York for a series of workshops and concerts with a group of leading local singers (Hilka) that focused on the polyphonic village singing styles of Ukraine’s Chornobyl region which were extant before the nuclear disaster of 1986. The Chornobyl Songs Project CD is now being released on Smithsonian Folkways.

This concert will take place at the beautiful Ukrainian Museum, 222 East Sixth Street (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues) in Manhattan’s East Village.

A reception in the museum concourse featuring music by the Veveritse Brass Band will follow the concert. Admission is $15/$10 members and seniors/$5 students.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The transformation to fair and sustainable regional economies requires place-based, citizen-driven tools. The principles behind these tools are universal, but their effective application will be shaped by the landscape, the people, the history, and the culture of each particular region.

On September 14, 2015 Schumacher College for New Economists will welcome its first class of students to the Berkshires for the first two months of a nine month program. The program will be unprecedented, involving over twenty partner organizations at multiple locations across the US and UK. The list of partners is still growing, and currently includes:

The initiative grows from a common recognition: every local economy will need its own community economists – part visionary theorists, part activists – imagining what can be achieved and organizing to achieve it. Schumacher College was formed to train these new economists.

Program graduates may not have all the answers – but they will have the resources and connections to know where to look. They will know, and be known by, their community, and be committed to sharing and applying what they have learned.

They will find allies in the Maker Community who value the hand-crafted over the mono-culture products of an anonymous global economy, in the new agrarians cultivating small lots to produce for a regional food system, in community bankers who still make loan decisions based on face to face interviews, in environmentalists who understand the carbon cost of transporting goods over long distance, and in all those who love the “sidewalk dance” of a vibrant local economy.

They will engage a community process to explore the financing structures, the land tenure structures, the community supported industry structures, and the ownership structures needed to sustain and grow locally-owned businesses that pay a living wage.

They will need community engagement and support for their training. See below for more information on how to send a student from your community.

To get further details on Schumacher sustainability and the education for a new economy – please go to:
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Posted in Archives, European Union, Green is Possible, Massachusetts, United Kingdom

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


The Guardian Divests $1.2 Billion Fund From Fossil Fuels.

By Bill McKibben, EcoWatch

04 April 15
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…


Here’s how far we’ve come in just a couple of years: One of the world’s most respected and influential news organizations —
the Guardian Media Group — announced Wednesday that it will divest from fossil fuels.

The move follows the launch of The Guardian‘s own climate change campaign, in partnership with 350.org, to press two of the world’s largest charitable foundations to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.

The chairman of the Guardian Media Group called the move a “hard-nosed business decision” that is justified on both ethical and financial grounds. I couldn’t agree more.

It was also the second billion-dollar divestment commitment in just two days: Syracuse University in New York also ditched fossil fuels this week, demonstrating once again that cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry is both feasible and responsible.


Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust — two of the world’s largest charities, and both explicitly dedicated to global health — to do the same.

Can you help us reach 200,000 signatures this week?

Add your name to the petition calling on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to stop investing in the climate crisis.

The Guardian Media Group is leading by example by divesting its entire £800 million (aka $1.2 billion) fund from fossil fuels and committing to invest in socially responsible alternatives instead. You can watch a video and find out more about The Guardian decision here.

When the roll of honor for action on climate change is someday called, I believe The Guardian’s name will be high on the list. They’ve taken a bold step in joining the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground, both through their journalism and their own investments.

As Alan Rusbridger, their editor-in-chief said: “What was a trickle is becoming a river and will, I suspect, become a flood.”

Let’s make sure The Guardian’s divestment commitment sends a strong signal to other foundations—as well as universities, cities, states, churches and any institution that holds money and is dedicated to the public good—to get on the right side of history too.

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Comments:

+35 # Barbara K 2015-04-04 13:08
That is great news. Time to stop making the oil barons wealthier and support solar and wind energy for the sake of the planet, and us. Thank you “The Guardian”.

+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2015-04-04 18:00
Hydrogen? By product of combustion – water!

+22 # Corvette-Bob 2015-04-04 15:13
Fossil fuel is in a death spiral, the only question is whether or not it will take us with it.

-13 # brycenuc 2015-04-04 15:44
Divestment won’t phase the fossil fuel industry. They are well aware that global economy depends on it.

+12 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:50
Just because the fossil fuel is dominant now, does not mean that it cannot be replaced with a better source of energy. Wars have been fought to have the oil. It is time for the world to turn away from dependence on fossil fuels. We can dig and frack until it all runs out. The sun is there for everyone and will be always.

+3 # seeuingoa 2015-04-04 16:26
Barbara K:

thank you for always stating the obvious.

+8 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:41
Thank you Guardian! It takes a few to start the ball rolling. The Green Way is the right way to go to save our planet and to stop the oil barons from their pursuit of their rule over the earth from dependence on oil. There will be plenty of job growth from energy from the sun because of needing solar power panels and the expertise to develop solar power plants to get it to the people. Thomas Edison knew about the power of solar energy and wanted to see it developed in his time. Power from the sun and water will be here for us as long as the earth exists, not so for fossil fuels. Go Green!

+3 # rhgreen 2015-04-04 19:31
That’s great news, but pardon me from being a bit cynical and pointing out that with the fall in oil prices it’s a good time to be doing it out of self-interest, anyway.

+3 # Eliza D 2015-04-04 20:31
Mr. McKibben is a real hero of the grassroots environmental movement. He has few politicians with any power on his or our side.
Now is the time for us to support Green and Third parties and turn around this do-nothing, stuck-in-the-tw entieth century government of ours. If Costa Rica could run their electric grid on renewable energy since the new year, the US could make a good run at attaining 50% renewables in two years. The folks who are sick and having their farms torn up by fracking are about as happy about that “clean energy” as the families of the dozens killed in the NYC gas explosion this past week.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Beyt Tikkun Synagogue  shul at tikkun.org via mail.salsalabs.net - this comes from Oakland, California and shows the Jewish way of love for Planet Earth and all Creation. You do not have to be religious to see this – and we are not religious.

SEDER FOR THE EARTH & CLIMATE MARCH
.

*When: Saturday, February 07 2015 @ 11:00 AM – - 12:00PM

Where:

No rain: Frank Ogawa Plaza nr. the Rotuda near the 15th & Broadway entry to the Plaza
In case of Rain: 685 14th Street (the Unitarian Church

Description:

We davven the morning service first at Rabbi Lerner’s home from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. then go to Frank Ogawa Plaza at Broadway and 15th street in Downtown Oakland to set up for a short (one hour) Tu B’shvat Seder.
If you can get there by 10:30 a.m. to help us set up, that would be sweet.

We will have a few tables and a few chairs in the alley way near the Rotunda on the other side of the plaza from City Hall, assuming it isn’t raining heavily. Please bring a chair to sit on it if you can, and something delicious to nosh, or just come–we’ll have fruit and grape juice for the seder if you tell us you are coming BEFORE Friday 10 a.m. Feb. 6th so we can buy enough!! But if you haven’t done so, come anyway, but get there by 11 a.m. (which requires that you also give yourself at least 15-20 minutes to park if you come by car–there are big parking structures down there around 11 th and 12th streets–but environmentally best to come via the BART).

Rain is predicted but we have no way of knowing whether that is going to be like the heavy rain expected for Friday, or a much lighter rain that won’t be a big deal.

If the rain in heavy, the 1st Unitarian Church of Oakland, at 685 14th street, has graciously agreed to let us hold the seder in their building in their Wendte Hall (NOT the main sanctuary, where something else is happening).

After the Seder we will march up to where the march is happening (a mere four blocks away), and meet up with our already-drenched allies for the march. Be sure to bring clothing and umbrellas just in case.

Please let us know that you plan to attend and please spread the word to your non-Jewish friends as well–The Seder for the Earth is free and a wonderful way to begin the environmental march that will begin at noon at the same place.

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TIKKUN IS PART OF THE NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES (NSP) – they like to talk of “rEVOLution” for how to EVOLVE into a a decent world. Their kind of true revolution comes about with a little “r” with large “EVOL” so there is no blood-shedding.
 spiritualprogressives.org/newsite…

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

Crude Oil Dips Under $50 A Barrel, A Price Last Seen In 2009.
January 05, 2015

The price for a barrel of U.S. oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell below $50 Monday, matching levels seen in the spring of 2009. The drop is linked to both OPEC’s boosted production and a stronger dollar.

Oil’s latest fall came along with a dip on Wall Street, as the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 330 points to finish at 17,501 — a drop of 1.86 percent that’s also seen as a reaction to new instability in Europe.

Petroleum has been in a free fall: In the U.S., the average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline has fallen from above $3.60 to below $2.20 since June, according to AAA.

The sharp drop has come as OPEC member nations seek to protect their market share by raising production levels to undercut profits for U.S. oil companies.

Both Iraq and Russia are now producing crude at record levels, as Bloomberg News reports.


“People are thinking about promises from OPEC, mostly Saudi Arabia, that they’ll continue to produce at very high levels,” TD Securities commodity strategy chief Bart Melek tells Agence France-Presse. “On the demand side of the equation, what we’re getting is basically a lack of demand growth … as Europe is potentially in crisis.”

The cheaper oil and gas prices come along with a surging dollar, which reached a nine-year high against the euro earlier Monday.

As Krishnadev reported for the Two-Way, the reasons for that gain include renewed instability in Greece and the possibility that the European Central Bank “could introduce quantitative easing to stimulate the eurozone.”

For many in the American oil industry, a central question has been whether companies can keep developing oil fields, even as the financial incentive to do so keeps shrinking.

As the industry site Fuel Fix notes today, the number of working U.S. oil rigs has fallen more in the past two weeks than in any similar period since 2009.

“The number of rigs operating in the United States declined by 29 last week to 1,811,” the site reports, “marking the fourth consecutive weekly decrease for the U.S. count, published by oil field services company Baker Hughes.”

—————

The euro fell by 1.2% against the dollar to $1.1864, marking its weakest level since March 2006, before recovering slightly to $1.19370.

The drop follows ECB president Mario Draghi’s comments indicating the bank could soon start quantitative easing.

Greek political turmoil also weighed on the currency.

Although the ECB has already cut interest rates to a record low level, and also bought some bonds issued by private companies, a full-scale programme of quantitative easing QE has not yet been launched.

But on Friday, Mr Draghi hinted in a newspaper interview that the bank might soon start a policy of QE by buying government bonds, thus copying its counterparts in the UK and US.

The purpose would be to inject cash into the banking system, stimulate the economy and push prices higher.

Speaking in an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Mr Draghi said: “We are making technical preparations to alter the size, pace and composition of our measures in early 2015.”
Greek turmoil

Political turmoil in Greece also weighed on the euro, with fears that the general election on 25 January, could see the anti-austerity, left-wing Syriza party take control of the country.

The possibility has sparked fears about whether Greece will stick to the terms of its international bailout and stay in the eurozone.

On Saturday, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said the German government believes the eurozone would be able to cope with a Greek “exit” from the euro, if the Syriza party wins the Greek election.

Reacting to Der Spiegel’s report, a spokesman for German Chancellor Merkel said there was no change in German policy and the government expects Greece to fulfil its obligations under the EU, ECB and IMF bailout.

French president Francois Hollande also commented, saying it was now “up to the Greeks” to decide whether to remain a part of the single currency.

“Europe cannot continue to be identified by austerity,” he added, suggesting that the eurozone needs to focus more on growth than reducing its deficit.

Analysts said the euro was likely to remain volatile for the next few weeks.

“The market is readying itself for action from the ECB. The first meeting of the year takes place on 22nd January, so the euro is likely to remain in focus and see heightened volatility as we approach that date, which is also a few days before the Greek General Election,” said FxPro senior analyst Angus Campbell.

——————–

We go back to our base – the question what all this means to the answer of Clean Energy from Renewable Sources and Energy Independence in all parts of the World?

Our answer is that we are still optimists – now as the “Internet of Things” and our “Super-Connectivity” a la Rifkin – that we just posted – will help us get away from the reliance on fossil fuels. It seems thus that Russia may work in its best long term interest by squandering now its oil resources. I would not say that they do this because they have that foresight.

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


Jeremy Rifkin, Author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Joined BK Yoon, President of Samsung Electronics, on stage during Mr. Yoon’s Opening Keynote Address on the Future of the Internet of Things at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas

Mr. Rifkin Described how the Internet of Things Digital Revolution transforms Consumer Electronics into “Prosumer Electronics,” Allowing Billions of People to Actively Produce, Consume, and Share Economic and Social Activity with one another via their Connected Devices

LAS VEGAS – January 5, 2015 – Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, joined BK Yoon, President of Samsung Electronics, on stage during Mr. Yoon’s opening keynote address on the future of the Internet of Things at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Mr. Rifkin described how the Internet of Things digital revolution transforms consumer electronics into “prosumer electronics,” allowing billions of people to actively produce, consume, and share economic and social activity with one another via their connected devices.

Mr. Rifkin observed that “every great economic paradigm shift in history brings together three new technologies in a seamless new infrastructure that changes the way we organize our economic life: new communication technologies to more efficiently manage economic activity; new sources of energy to more efficiently power economic activity; and new modes of transportation to more efficiently move economic activity.”

“Today,” said Mr. Rifkin, “we are embarking on a Third Industrial Revolution. The communication Internet is converging with a nascent renewable Energy Internet, and a fledgling Transportation and Logistics Internet, to create a super-Internet of Things.”


In the Internet of Things era, sensors will be embedded into every device and appliance, allowing them to communicate with each other and Internet users, creating an intelligent technology infrastructure for a smart world.


Mr. Rifkin pointed out that “homeowners and businesses will be able to produce and consume their own solar and wind green electricity and store and sell any surplus electricity back to the electricity grid.”

Mr. Rifkin went on to explain how “the automated Transportation and Logistics Internet will ease mobility by allowing people to use their mobile devices to share electric and fuel cell vehicles, monitor traffic flows, and, in the near future, enjoy driverless transportation on smart roads.”

This new era of super-connectivity will allow us to effortlessly manage our devices and appliances with solutions that will increase efficiencies and dramatically reduce the fixed and marginal costs of operating our homes, businesses, and vehicles.

According to Mr. Rifkin, “the Internet of Things platform will enhance virtually every aspect of our lives, from monitoring our health to improving our athletic skills, marking a vast improvement in our quality of life.”

“Most importantly,” said Mr. Rifkin, “the Internet of Things will also enable each of us to minimize our use of the Earth’s energy and material resources and usher in a more ecologically sustainable society.”

Mr. Rifkin added that “the Internet of Things brings with it new challenges, including the need to maintain an open network, ensure universal access, protect personal privacy, and guarantee data security.”


Finally, Mr. Rifkin concluded with the observation that “the Internet of Things will bring the human race together as a single extended human family for the first time in history… allowing us to share our commercial and social lives in ways never before imaginable.”

“We are,” says Rifkin, “on the cusp of a great economic transformation. The rise of the Internet of Things is going to improve the lives of billions of people and create a more efficient, democratic, and sustainable future.”

CONTACT:
Shawn Moorhead
The Office of Jeremy Rifkin
+1-301-656-6272
 shawn at foet.org

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

Dr. Vandana Shiva, the environmentalist from India who works for seed integrity against international corporations that are seeking control over every inch of the agricultural process, has joined with Rabbi Michael Lerner of Berkely, California, and became the international chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

Rabbi Lerner is promoting ESRA that stands for – the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – that he and Peter Gabel co-authored and which is being circulated as per salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/525…


(ESRA): The Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
(As proposed by Rabbi Michael Lerner and Peter Gabel and advanced through the work of The Network of Spiritual Progressives.)

The intent of the framers of this Amendment is to:

a. Protect the planet and its inhabitants from environmentally destructive economic arrangements and behavior, and to increase environmental responsibility on the part of all corporations and government bodies.

b. Increase U.S. citizens’ democratic control over American economic and political institutions and ensure that all people, regardless of income, have the same electoral clout and power to shape policies and programs.

c. Promote the well-being of citizens of the United States by recognizing that our well-being depends on the well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants, which in turn requires an end to poverty, wars, and violence, and the rise of a new global ethic of genuine caring and mutual interdependence.


Article One: The Pro-Democracy Clause

A. The First & Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution shall apply only to human beings, and not corporations, limited liability associations, and other artificial entities created by the laws of the United States.

B. Money or other currency shall not be considered a form of speech within the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and its expenditure is subject to regulation by the Congress and by the legislatures of the several States.

C. Congress shall regulate the amount of money used to disseminate ideas or shape public opinion in any federal election in order to assure that all major points of view regarding issues and candidates receive equal exposure to the greatest extent possible. Congress shall fund all major candidates for the House, Senate and Presidency in all major elections and in primaries for the nomination for president of major parties (those which have obtained at least 5% of the vote in the last election for president).

D. In the three months prior to any election for a federal position, all media or any other means of mass communication reaching more than 300,000 people shall provide equal time to all major presidential candidates to present their views for at least an hour at least once a week, and equal time once every two weeks for congressional candidates during that media agency’s prime time. The candidates shall determine the form and content of that communication. Print media reaching more than 300,000 people shall provide equal space in the news, editorial, or most frequently read section of the newspaper or magazine or blog site or other means of communications which may be developed in the future. During the three months prior to an election, no candidate, no political party, and no organization seeking to influence public policy may buy time in any media or form of mass communication or any other form of mass advertising including on the Internet. Major candidates shall be defined as:

a. those who have at least 5% of support as judged by the average of at least ten independent polling firms, at least two of which are selected by the candidates deemed “not major,” 3 months before any given election,

b. or any candidate who can collect the signatures of 5% of the number of people who voted in the election for that office the last time that office was contested in an election. These petitions can only be signed by people eligible to vote in the relevant electoral districts. Every state shall develop similar provisions aimed at allowing candidates for the governor and state legislatures to be freed from their dependence on wealthy donors or corporations.


Article Two: Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility

A. Every citizen of the United States and every organization chartered by the U.S. or any of its several states shall have a responsibility to promote the ethical, environmental, and social well-being of all life on the planet Earth and on any other planet or in Space with which humans come into contact.

This being so, corporations chartered by the Congress and by the several States shall demonstrate the ethical, environmental, and social impact of their proposed activities at the time they seek permission to operate.

In addition, any corporation with gross receipts in excess of $100 million shall obtain a new corporate charter every five years, and this charter shall be granted only if the corporation can prove a satisfactory history of environmental, social, and ethical responsibility to a grand jury of ordinary citizens chosen at random from the voting rolls of the community in which the primary activities of the corporation take place, or, if there is dispute between stakeholders and the corporation on where those primary activities take place, then in Washington, D.C.

Factors to be considered by the grand jury in determining whether a corporation will be granted a charter shall include but not be limited to:

1. The degree to which the products produced or services provided are beneficial rather than destructive to the planet and its oceans, forests, water supplies, land, and air, and the degree to which its decisions help ensure that the resources of the earth are available to future generations.

2. The degree to which it pays a living wage to all its employees and the employees of any contractors with which it does business either in the US or abroad, and arranges its pay scale such that none of its employees or contractors or members of its board of directors or officers of the corporation earn (in direct and indirect benefits combined) more than ten times the wages of its lowest full-time wage earners; the degree to which it provides equal benefits including health care, child care, retirement pensions, sick pay, and vacation time to all employees; and the degree to which its employees enjoy satisfactory safety and health conditions; and the degree to which it regularly adopts and uses indicators of its productivity and success which include factors regarding human well-being, satisfaction and participation in work, and involvement in community service by its employees and members of its top management and board of directors;

3. The degree to which it supports the needs of the communities in which it operates and in which its employees live, including the degree to which it resists the temptation to move assets or jobs to other locations where it can pay workers less or provide weaker environmental and worker protections.
4. The degree to which it encourages significant democratic participation by all its employees in corporate decision making; the degree to which it discloses to its employees and investors and the public its economic situation, the factors shaping its past decisions, and its attempts to influence public discourse, and the degree to which it follows democratic procedures internally

5. The degree to which it treats its employees, its customers, and the people and communities in which it operates with adequate respect and genuine caring for their well-being, and rewards its employees to the extent that they engage in behaviors that manifest genuine caring, respect, kindness, generosity, and ethical and environmentally sensitive practices.

6. The degree to which its investment decisions enhance and promote the economic, social, and ethical welfare and physical & mental health and well-being of the communities in which its products may be produced, sold, or advertised and/or the communities from which it draws raw materials.

7. When assessing the environmental and social responsibility of banks, stock markets, investment firms and other corporations whose activities include the lending or investing of monies, in addition to the issues 1-6 above, the jury should also consider: the degree to which the financial institutions direct the flow of money to socially and/or envrionmentally useful activities, including non-profits serving the most disadvantaged of the society and including the financing of local business cooperatives and local community banks and to support low-income and middle income housing with affordable mortgages, rather than directing the money to speculators in finance, real estate, or other commercial activities; the degree to which it forgives loans previously given to poverty stricken countries; the degree to which it engages in misleading advertising or hides the costs of its services in small print or engages in aggressive marketing of monies for loans or preys on the most economically vulnerable; the degree to which it offers no-interest loans to those with incomes below the mean average income in the society; and the degree to which it seeks to fund directly socially useful projects and small businesses.

In making these determinations, the jury shall solicit testimony from the corporation’s board of directors, from its employees, and from its stakeholders (those whose lives have been impacted by the operations of the corporation) around the US and around the world. The U.S. government shall supply funds to provide adequate means for the jury to do its investigations, to hire staff to do relevant investigations, and to compensate jurors at a level comparable to the mean average of income in the region in which the deliberations of the jury takes place, or at the level of their current income, whichever is higher.

If the grand jury is not satisfied with the level of environmental, social, and ethical responsibility, it may put the corporation on probation and prescribe specific changes needed. If after three more years the jury is not satisfied that those changes have been adequately implemented, the jury may assign control of the board and officers of the corporation to non-management employees of the corporation and/or to its public stakeholders and/or to another group of potential corporate directors and managers who seem most likely to successfully implement the changes required by the jury, but with the condition that this new board must immediately implement the changes called for by the jury within two years time, or else the jury can reassign control of the corporation to another group of potential board members.

B Any government office or project receiving government funds that seeks to engage ln a contract (with any other corporation or limited liability entity) involving the expenditure of over $100,000 (adjusted annually for inflation) shall require that those who apply to fulfill that contract submit an Environmental and Social Responsibility Impact Report to assess the applicant’s corporate behavior in regard to the factors listed above in point A of Article II. Community stakeholders and non-supervisory employees may also submit their own assessment by filling out the Environment and Social Responsibility Impact Report. Contracts shall be rewarded to the applicant with the best record of environmental and social responsibility that can also satisfactorily fulfill the other terms of the contract.


Article Three: The Positive Requirement to Enhance Human Community and Environmental Sustainability

A. Earth being the natural and sacred home of all its peoples, Congress shall develop legislation to enhance the environmental sustainability of human communities and the planet Earth, and shall present a report annually to the American people on progress made during the previous year in ameliorating any conditions deemed by an independent group of scientists to be adverse to the planet’s long-term environmental welfare. The objectives of such legislation shall include but not be limited to alleviating global warming, reducing all forms of pollution, restoring the ecological balance of the oceans, and assuring the well-being of all forests and animal life. The President of the United States shall have the obligation to enforce such legislation and to develop executive policies to assure the carrying out of its objectives.

B. In order to prepare the people of the United States to live as environmentally and socially responsible citizens of the world, and to recognize that our own well being as citizens of the United States depends upon the well being of everyone else on Earth and the well being of this planet itself, every educational institution receiving federal funds whether directly or through the several states, shall provide education in reading, writing and basic arithmetic, and appropriate instruction including at least one required course for all its students per year per grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade, and in any college receiving funding or financial aid or loan guarantees for its students, in:

1. the skills and capacities necessary to develop a caring society manifesting love, generosity, kindness, caring for each other and for the earth, joy, rational and scientific thinking, non-violence, celebration, thanksgiving, forgiveness, humility, compassion, ethical and ecological sensitivity, appreciation of humanity’s rich multicultural heritage as expressed in literature, art, music, religion, and philosophy, non-violence in action and speech, skills for democratic participation including skills in how to change the opinions of fellow citizens or influence their thinking in ways that are respectful of differences and tolerant of disagreements, and how to organize fellow citizens for non-violent political action and engagement in support of causes not-yet-popular; and in

2. the appropriate scientific, ethical, and behavioral knowledge and skills required to assure the long term environmental sustainability of the planet Earth, and to do so in ways that enhance the well being of everyone on the planet.

Congress shall provide funding for such courses in all the educational institutions receiving public funds or loans or loan guarantees for students, and shall provide funding for similar courses to be made available to the non-student populations in each state.

All such courses must teach caring not only for the people and economic, social and environmental well-being of the people of the United States, but also for the economic, social and environmental well-being of all the people on the planet Earth and the well-being of the planet as well!

The measurement of student progress in the areas covered by sections 1 and 2 being, like artistic and musical skills, difficult or impossible to measure by quantitative criteria, educational institutions supported directly or indirectly by public funds shall develop subtle and appropriate qualitative ways of evaluating adequate progress on the part of students in the areas specified, ways that contribute to and not detract from students’ ability to love learning and to enhance their capacities to cooperate rather than compete with their fellow students in the process of intellectual and emotional growth. Teachers shall be funded to learn the skills described in points A and B and the methods of evaluation appropriate to this kind of values-oriented subject matter.


Article Four: Implementation

A. Any corporation which moves or seeks to move its assets outside the U.S. must submit an Environmental and Social Impact report to a grand jury of ordinary citizens, and the jury shall similarly receive testimony from other stakeholders and the employees of the corporation in question to determine the impact of the moving of those assets outside the U.S. The jury shall then determine what part of those assets, up to and including all of the assets of the corporation, shall be held in the U.S. to compensate those made unemployed or otherwise disadvantaged by the corporate move of its resources elsewhere, and or to pay for other forms of environmental or social destruction of the resources or the well-being of the United States or its citizens. Conspiracy to evade this provision shall be a crime punishable by no less than twenty years in prison for all members of the board of such a corporation.

2. Any part of the Constitution or the laws of the U.S., or any of its states, deemed by a court to be in conflict with any part of this ESRA Amendment shall be null and void. Any trade arrangements, treaties, or other international agreements entered into by the United States, its citizens, or its several states, deemed by a court to be in conflict with the provisions or intent of this Amendment are hereby declared null and void.

3. Congress shall take action to provide adequate funding for all parts of this amendment and implementing legislation that seeks to fulfill the intent as stated above.

Please circulate and seek endorsements by your local city council, religious, civic and professional organizations, political parties, and your State Legislature and U.S. Congressional and Senatorial representatives.

And please sign this yourself: by going to
 salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/525…

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

The Fletcher School of International Affairs, Tufts University

2014 Fletcher D-Prize Winners Develop Innovative Distribution Models to Help Light the Night in Rural African Villages -
Tommy Galloway, F’14 and Andrew Lala, F’14.

Date: September 12, 2014

“Buses are the West African version of FedEx and Paypal mixed together” says Andrew Lala, Clair de Lune co-founder.

In remote regions of Sub-Saharan African, where local bus routes provide one of the few regular connections between businesses and families, two Fletcher graduates are finding a way to bring people light from a natural source: the bus driver.

Pioneered by Tommy Galloway (F14) and Andrew Lala (F14) and funded in part by $15,000 from The Fletcher D-Prize Poverty Solutions Venture Competition, Clair de Lune – French for “moonlight” – aims to bring solar lights to villages in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Many families – upwards of 600 million people throughout the region – rely on kerosene lanterns to light their homes. Yet, solar lanterns provide a cheaper, safer and cleaner alternative. Families that buy solar lamps save money on energy expenses and are more productive outside of daylight hours. Household incomes often increase 15-30 percent. Children study for an additional two hours a day.

The solar lighting solution existed, but without traditional delivery networks found in other parts of the world, Clair de Lune’s creators hoped to find a way to bring the lights to those who could benefit most from them. They drew inspiration from their prior experiences in the region – Andrew in Burkina Faso and Tommy in Myanmar – where they saw firsthand the powerful conduit buses serve as for transport of all kinds, from people to goods to information.

“I saw my Burkinabé counterparts frequently going to bus stations to send cash and goods that you couldn’t find in villages – such as flashlights and cell phones – to rural family members,” Andrew said. “Buses are the West African version of FedEx and Paypal mixed together.”

Based on this model, the Fletcher alumni duo implemented a distribution platform that leverages existing bus infrastructure and cultural remittance practices to bring solar lights to these hard to reach region. Starting in the summer of 2014 with 400 off-the-grid families in Burkina Faso, they aim to scale to 30,000 customers within two years.

Tommy and Andrew have faced some challenges, from lack of infrastructure to difficult trade policies, yet the pilot program continues onward with new opportunities as Clair de Lune looks for second round investment. What was once a simple business plan hatched on the seventh floor of the Cabot building at Fletcher has evolved into a tangible and promising network of clients and partners on a real path to helping fight poverty.

“Every day you can engage in creating something new that you fundamentally believe in,” Tommy said, “and that is affirmed with every step forward we make.”

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Fletcher’s Editors Note: If you had $20,000, how would you fight poverty? Help kick off this year’s D-Prize competition on Tuesday, September 16, 2014, with presentations from D-Prize President Paul Youn and Clair de Lune co-founders Andrew and Tommy. The Fletcher D-Prize is open to all Fletcher students and their Tufts teammates, and – new this year – all Fletcher alumni as well! Read more

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Denmark considers phasing out coal by 2025 in big green shift.

Date: 03-Nov-14
Country: Denmark
From Alister Doyle of Reuters – November 3, 2014

Denmark should ban coal use by 2025 to make the Nordic nation a leader in fighting global warming, adding to green measures ranging from wind energy to bicycle power, Denmark’s climate minister said on Saturday.

Denmark has already taken big steps to break reliance on high-polluting coal – wind turbines are set to generate more than half of all electricity by 2020 and 41 percent of people in Copenhagen cycle to work or school, higher than in Amsterdam.

“The cost (of phasing out coal) would not be significant,” Climate, Energy and Building Minister Helveg Petersen told Reuters of a proposal he made this week to bring forward a planned phase-out of all coal use to 2025 from 2030.

His ministry is studying details of how it would work before unveiling a formal plan. Denmark imports about 6 million tonnes a year of coal on world markets, currently from Russia, so a ban would coincidentally cut dependence on Moscow for energy.

The Danish Energy Association, representing energy firms, said a faster phase-out of coal would bring risks that wind turbines could not meet demand on calm days. Coal now generates about a third of Danish electricity.

“There will be a bill to pay,” said Anders Stouge, deputy head of the association. Petersen said that some coal-fired plants could shift to burning wood as a backup.

Denmark often gets high marks for its work to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which fell 25 percent from 1990 to 2012, among the steepest falls of any EU nation. It is aiming for a 40 percent cut from 1990 by 2020, matching the EU’s goal for 2030.


A report by the WWF conservation group said Denmark was a global leader on climate and energy. Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace said Denmark’s plans ultimately to phase out use of fossil fuels by 2050 “is the direction for all countries”.


Even though Denmark’s greenhouse gas emissions are falling sharply, however, the heavy dependence on coal means per capita emissions of 9.25 tonnes in 2012 were still above the European Union average of 8.98.

Copenhagen has won awards as the world’s greenest capital -glass trophies are on show in the mayor’s office in ornate City Hall to reward a cleanup that means, for instance, that people can swim in the formerly polluted harbor in summertime.

Mayor Frank Jensen said a shift from burning coal in homes and buildings was originally to encourage workers to live in the city, rather than commute and pay local taxes elsewhere.

Mayors had to create livable cities, he told Reuters. “You soon come to the green agenda because families want to have a green city,” he said. Copenhagen’s cycle lanes, for instance, have expanded to 350 kms (220 miles).

Other mayors often say they cannot match Copenhagen’s biking success because their cities are hillier than the flat Danish capital, he said. But they forget that it rains and snows a lot in Denmark. “My wife cycles every day,” he said.

——————————-

The more general news from Copenhagen said:

Climate change fight affordable, cut emissions to zero by 2100: U.N.

Governments can keep climate change in check at manageable costs but will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2100 to limit risks of irreversible damage, a U.N. report said on Sunday.

The 40-page synthesis, summing up 5,000 pages of work by 800 scientists already published since September 2013, said global warming was now causing more heat extremes, downpours, acidifying the oceans and pushing up sea levels.

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act, time is not on our side,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in presenting the report in Copenhagen that is meant to guide global climate policy-making.

With fast action, climate change could be kept in check at manageable costs, he said, referring to a U.N. goal of limiting average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. Temperatures are already up 0.85 C (1.4F).

The study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), approved by more than 120 governments, will be the main handbook for negotiators of a U.N. deal to combat global warming due at a summit in Paris in December 2015.

To get a good chance of staying below 2C, the report’s scenarios show that world emissions would have to fall by between 40 and 70 percent by 2050 from current levels and to “near zero or below in 2100″.

Below zero would require extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – for instance by planting forests that soak up carbon as they grow or by burying emissions from power plants that burn wood or other biomass.

RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR

To cut emissions, the report points to options including energy efficiency, renewable energies from wind to solar power, nuclear energy or coal-fired power plants where carbon dioxide is stripped from the exhaust fumes and buried underground.

But carbon capture and storage (CCS) is expensive and little tested. Last month, Canada’s Saskatchewan Power opened the world’s first big CCS unit at a coal-fired power plant after a C$1.35 billion ($1.21 billion) retrofit.

“With CCS it’s entirely possible that fossil fuels can be used on a large scale,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said. In most scenarios, the report says “fossil fuel power generation without CCS is phased out almost entirely by 2100″.

Without extra efforts to cut emissions, “warming by the end of the 21st century will bring high risks of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally,” the IPCC said.

“Irreversible” could mean, for instance, a runaway melt of Greenland’s vast ice sheets that could swamp coastal regions and cities or disruptions to monsoons vital for growing food.

“The cost of inaction will be horrendously higher than the cost of action,” Pachauri said.

Deep cuts in emissions would reduce global growth in consumption of goods and services, the economic yardstick used by the IPCC, by just 0.06 percentage point a year below annual projected growth of 1.6 to 3.0 percent, it said.

So far, major emitters are far from curbs on emissions on a scale outlined by the IPCC. China, the United States and the European Union are top emitters.

John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, said the report was “yet another wake-up call to the global community that we must act together swiftly and aggressively in order to stem climate change.”

“We must safeguard the world for future generations by striking a new climate deal in Paris next year,” British Secretary of State for Climate and Energy Ed Davey said.

Environmental groups welcomed the report, including its focus on zero emissions. “This is no longer about dividing up the pie. You need to get to zero. At some stage there is no pie left for anyone,” said Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace.

The report also says that it is at least 95 percent sure that manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, rather than natural variations in the climate, are the main cause of warming since 1950, up from 90 percent in a previous assessment in 2007.

————————————

Power to Denmark – they do not talk Clean Coal But No Coal. Please note this higher note then the one proposed by Engineer Pachauri of the IPCC

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

Marketplace
Israel’s Solar-Powered ‘Trees’: For Smartphones And Community.
 www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/…

by Emily Harris on an nPR blog
October 25, 2014

A man surfs the Internet on a tablet attached to a solar tree in Israel. This tree’s broad “leaves” are solar panels, powering electric and USB outlets, a drinking fountain and Wi-Fi, all available to people passing by.

A man surfs the Internet on a tablet attached to a solar tree in Israel. This tree’s broad “leaves” are solar panels, powering electric and USB outlets, a drinking fountain and Wi-Fi, all available to people passing by.
Emily Harris/NPR

There are plenty of real trees in Ramat HaNadiv. Oaks, pine and willow line the trails that circle through this nature park near Mount Carmel in northern Israel.

And planted in the gravel at the edge of one clearing is a new species, the solar powered tree.

Biologically speaking, of course, all trees are powered by the sun. But this is different.

Its brown metal trunk and branches reach high toward the sky, like the acacia tree this model is named after. Its seven broad “leaves” are standard solar panels. They shade benches below, as well as power electric and USB outlets, chill drinking fountain water and supply energy for wi-fi.

Inventor Michael Lasry says it’s a new way of bringing solar power to people.

“We’re used to seeing big companies working on large scale systems,” he says. “Now we see solar energy becoming accessible to each one of us on the street.”

The tree was formally unveiled Thursday, although it and a smaller, two-panel model were installed in the park several weeks ago. Guests invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony loved it.

“People come with computers to coffee shops,” said Gideon Inbar, a retired Israeli-American. “They can come here.”

“It’s wonderful,” said Xia Wang, from China, who attended the unveiling. “Many functions. And it’s also very green energy.”

Wang’s company, Mode PV-Tech, made the panels. The Israeli company that dreamed up the tree, Sologic, is targeting cities in China and France for first sales, says Claude Brightman, a Sologic publicist. Her pitch aims at the future.

“The new cities of tomorrow, the smart cities … this will be the icon of the city who has made such a choice,” she says.

One Acacia model solar tree costs about $100,000. Brightman calls it a combination of art, convenience, green energy and community — all frequent aims of urban design, she says.
A small solar-powered tree, invented by Israeli energy entrepreneur Michael Lasry, stands at the edge of natural greenery.

A small solar-powered tree, invented by Israeli energy entrepreneur Michael Lasry, stands at the edge of natural greenery.
Emily Harris/NPR

A seven-panel tree can generate a maximum of 1.4 kilowatts, enough to run 35 laptops. A battery stores excess power, lighting the area at night using LEDs and providing backup power on cloudy days.

One Israeli politician speaking at the unveiling ceremony suggested fields of solar trees might be nicer than the fields of industrial solar panels that have sprung up on rooftops and in deserts. Eli Barnea, an investor in Israel’s largest private power company, agrees they are prettier. But he says the solar tree has its limits.

“It’s an excellent idea for young people away from home, they go to the park, they play and want to charge their phone or do other things. That’s fine.”

But to use solar trees for serious power generation, he says would be difficult.

“It will be expensive. When you don’t look at it as a means of energy production, but like another item in a park, I think it will catch on worldwide.”

Sologic CEO Lasky doesn’t want to plug the trees in to the grid anyway. He says keeping them self-sustaining is part of the point.

“Showing that OK, we’re in the middle of the desert and we’re able to create everything we need just from the solar system,” he says.

Future solar tree models are planned to include technology to condense water from the air, as well as touch screens to display information or give internet access.

And cameras, says Lasry, to connect people under a solar tree in one part of the world with people under another solar tree in another place.

“That’s the idea, to bring the community closer. All the trees around the world will be able to communicate,” he says.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Wednesday October 1, 2014, after all those UN Member States’ Heads have left New York, the UN was still closed to the NGOs – supposedly for security reasons – the guards say this will hold on until next week – so it will be three weeks without “Civil Society” at the UN except for the handful handpicked by the UN itself. So much if you had any illusion that the UNSG hullabaloo about the enlargement of his entourage to include Civil Society in his deliberations was intended to lead to the new post-2015 world. Oh yes – we posted the harmless poem that was touted as the Civil Society contribution to the deliberations by that handful of participants.

Now we find that Grist publishes the analyses of the pure fact that the UN can in effect not aim at true results, and that it can only at best paint fake blue onto a heavy clouded sky – so please just know that you are being had and understand the reasons why. But also do not give up to despair – this because you are right in what you are fighting for and can rxpect that the truth will break through because it does make even economic sense. If allowed in some countries it will lead to alliances of States so it spreads eventually outside the UN that at best could then be used to bless the results.

———————————

Grist Daily posed 2014,today, October 14 2014, the question – “Is there any hope for international climate talks?”

A binding international treaty with firm emission limits just isn’t happening. Now attention is turning to a bottom-up, “pledge and review” strategy. Can it work?

By David Roberts

I don’t write very often about international climate talks because it’s super-depressing and nothing ever changes. Which I guess characterizes most things I write about, but something about climate talks in particular really drains the spirit. Nonetheless! Let’s take a fresh look at the landscape.

The original idea behind the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks was simple. Climate change is a classic tragedy of the commons. When emitting greenhouse gases, a country gets all the economic benefit but only a tiny fraction of the harm; conversely, when mitigating emissions, a country pays all the cost but receives only a tiny fraction of the benefit. I wrote about this in a recent post and Harvard’s Robert Stavins sums it up nicely in a recent op-ed:

“Greenhouse gases mix globally in the atmosphere, and so damages are spread around the world, regardless of where the gases were emitted. Thus, any country taking action incurs the costs, but the benefits are distributed globally. This presents a classic free-rider problem: It is in the economic self-interest of virtually no country to take unilateral action, and each can reap the benefits of any countries that do act. This is why international cooperation is essential.”

This has always been the logic of UNFCCC talks: burden sharing. Determine the proper way to distribute the load, and then sign a binding treaty to insure that all countries do their appointed part.

The same logic that yields the need for international cooperation, however, has made it virtually impossible to achieve in practice. Turns out national governments don’t like burdens! So the dispute over how to properly divide the burden between developed and developing countries has been as endless as it has been intractable. Early on in the UNFCCC process, developing countries like China and India were effectively exempted from the obligation to reduce emissions. What the U.S. and Europe have wanted ever since is to ditch the (arguably outmoded) developed vs. developing dichotomy, acknowledge that China et al. are going to be major sources of emissions growth this century, and sign a treaty in which all countries, including China, commit to binding targets. China disagrees, as do India and all the other countries that have so far escaped targets.

The result has been stalemate. And despite feverish hopes in the run-up to each new meeting (“last chance!”), nothing has happened to dislodge that dynamic. Yet the 2015 climate negotiations in Paris are supposed to be all about a “binding treaty.” What to do?

In many quarters, a comprehensive, binding treaty with national and global carbon targets is the holy grail. But its pursuit has led to nothing but a cycle of high hopes and crushing disappointment. There is very little hope of such a treaty in Paris, or maybe ever. What’s more, the focus on burden sharing has made the meetings a defensive, angst-ridden affair, everyone blaming everyone else while trying to minimize their own responsibility.

Most of the world’s major emitters agree that collective action on climate change is badly needed. Yet the meetings meant to facilitate such action produced little of it.
Something had to change.

The idea that’s gained traction since the 2009 talks in Copenhagen is that it’s time to abandon the “burden sharing” frame altogether, give up on a binding treaty, and shift to a regime known as “pledge and review,” in which countries pledge specific policies and reductions and agree to have those policies and reductions internationally verified. Rather than being forced to accept a target, every country is simply asked to put on record what it is willing to contribute. Peer pressure and economic competition are supposed to do the rest. This is more or less what came out of Copenhagen, and Durban in 2011, and what will likely come out of Paris in 2015.

Those pledges are unlikely to add up to what’s needed to avoid 2 degrees C of warming, the stated international goal, any time soon. An outfit called Climate Interactive is tracking the pledges and adding them up; so far, they leave us on a path to exceed 4 degrees, which would be a disaster. But as John Podesta told Jeff Goodell (in the latter’s must-read story on China and climate), “If we wait until we have a binding international agreement that actually puts us on track for 2 C, we’ll hit 2 C before we get an agreement. But we have to get started if we hope to get to the destination.” Fred Pearce has a nice rundown of this general line of thinking here. It also finds clear expression in a recent op-ed from retired senators Tim Wirth and Tom Daschle.

Wirth has been working in and around international climate talks for as long as they’ve been going on. When I talked to him about pledge-and-review, he grew most animated when discussing the sheer torpor of the UNFCCC talks. “Everybody’s so depressed by the whole thing,” he said. “It’s a problem, it really is. They need a shot of energy! They need some enthusiasm! They need a new framework! Any time you run into a political dead end, you gotta change the rules. This is a way of changing the rules.”

Wirth says pledge-and-review has a chance of working because the economics have shifted and clean energy investment is increasingly in countries’ self-interest. He cites the recent New Climate Economy research project led by Nicholas Stern. Nations competing to outdo each other in these vast new markets could spark a “race to the top,” a sense of energy and progress that has been sorely missing. “We’re not saying we’re in the best of all possible worlds, by any means,” Wirth said, “but if we do it relatively soon, it’s going to end up being in everyone’s best interests.”

Wirth has a close eye on this November’s APEC meetings, where Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are likely to discuss climate change (among other things). A substantial bilateral agreement on climate would bring momentum into Paris, giving, Wirth laughed, “the U.S. a chance to hide behind China’s skirts and China a chance to hide behind the U.S.’s skirts. That’s important politically.” The U.S. and China being the world’s two largest markets, other countries would be pulled along. “The U.S./China relationship is so much more important than anything else in the world,” Wirth said.

Whatever the prospects of a race to the top, there remains the question of climate justice — what to do about those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, who did little to cause the problem. Wirth points to the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to transfer money from the developed to the developing world. But the nature of those funds is in hot dispute. In their piece, Wirth and Daschle write:

Finance is the final key to a global deal. At Copenhagen in 2009, the United States memorably pledged that developed countries would mobilize $100 billion a year in climate change assistance for the rest of the world by 2020. At a time of fiscal retrenchment in the West, the chance of that pledge being met in the form of additional development assistance is approximately zero. The pledge is eminently achievable, however, in the context of global energy investment, which has an annual flow a dozen times as large as the amount pledged in Copenhagen.

And when I talked to Wirth, that’s what he emphasized: opportunities to channel private investment money to developing countries. It appears that the climate fund is primarily going to consist in such investments.

But where does this leave the world’s poorest countries and low-lying islands? There’s a lot of adaptation to be done in those areas and not all of it is going to be a profit opportunity. Will the fund end up being just another instance of what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism,” wherein wealthy westerners descend on countries reeling from misfortune and treat them as business opportunities to exploit?

The reason climate-justice advocates have always relied on the UNFCCC framework is that it’s the only venue in which the claims of vulnerable nations are guaranteed a hearing. If the meetings become nothing more than a forum for mutually advantageous bilateral and multilateral dealmaking, where is the pressure to do right by the vulnerable, much less any kind of guarantee?

I’ve never heard a good answer to that question. I sure don’t have one. But we return again to an ineluctable fact: The chances of the U.S. Senate ratifying a binding climate treaty are nil. The chances of it ratifying one that is also supported unanimously by all 195 or so countries of the UNFCCC are even niller. So what else is there to do?

“The building blocks approach, bottom up, is the only way to go,” says Wirth. “We’re not going to get a top-down agreement. So you gotta go the other direction.”

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

So what is the verdict on Climate Week, the summit meeting on global warming convened by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York?


SundayReview | The New York Times Editorial – A Group Shout on Climate Change.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD – Sunday September 27, 2014 – That is one week since the Sunday September 22, 2014 PEOPLE’s CLIMATE MARCH and the September 23, 2014 one day – UNSG Ban Ki-moon Climate-topics UN display.

The marchers and mayors, the ministers and presidents, have come and gone. So what is the verdict on Climate Week, the summit meeting on global warming convened by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York?

The meeting was not intended to reach a global agreement or to extract tangible commitments from individual nations to reduce the greenhouse gases that are changing the world’s ecosystems and could well spin out of control. Its purpose was to build momentum for a new global deal to be completed in December 2015, in Paris.

In that respect …… it clearly moved the ball forward, not so much in the official speeches but on the streets and in the meeting rooms where corporate leaders, investors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and state and local officials pressed the case for stronger action.

It was important to put climate change back on the radar screen of world leaders, whose last effort to strike a deal, in Copenhagen five years ago, ended in acrimonious disaster. President Obama, for one, was as eloquent as he has ever been on the subject: “For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease — there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

But most of the positive energy at this gathering came from people closer to the ground, like the 300,000 activists who marched last Sunday. They included mayors like New York’s Michael Bloomberg and his successor, Bill de Blasio, who both spoke of the critical role that cities can play in reducing emissions. They included governors like California’s Jerry Brown, who is justly proud of his state’s pathbreaking efforts to control automobile and power plant pollution. And they included institutions like Bank of America, which said it would invest in renewable energy, and companies like Kellogg and Nestle, which pledged to help stem the destruction of tropical forests by changing the way they buy commodities like soybeans and palm oil.

Underlying all these declarations was a palpable conviction that tackling climate change could be an opportunity and not a burden, that the way to approach the task of harnessing greenhouse gas emissions was not to ask how much it would cost but how much nations stood to gain by investing in new technologies and energy efficiency.

This burst of activity comes at a crucial time. A tracking initiative called the Global Carbon Project recently reported that greenhouse gas emissions jumped 2.3 percent in 2013, mainly because of big increases in China and India. This means it is becoming increasingly difficult to limit global warming to an upper boundary of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (the long touted 2 degrees Celsius limit) above pre-industrial levels. Beyond that point, scientists say, a world already suffering from disappearing glaciers, rising seas and persistent droughts could face even more alarming consequences.

Avoiding such a fate is going to require a revolution in the way the world produces and consumes energy, which clearly has to involve national governments, no matter how much commitment there is on the streets and in the boardrooms. The odds are long that a legally binding treaty will emerge from Paris. Congress is unlikely to ratify one anyway. The smart money now is on a softer agreement that brings all the big polluters on board with national emissions caps, and there are reasons for hope that this can be done.

Mr. Obama is in a much stronger leadership position than he was at Copenhagen, having engineered a huge increase in automobile fuel efficiency and proposed rules that will greatly reduce the United States’ reliance on dirty coal. The Chinese, in part because their own air is so dirty, have been investing heavily in alternative energy sources like wind and solar, and they are giving serious consideration to a national cap on coal consumption. The cooperation of these two countries could by itself create the conditions for a breakthrough agreement. But what might really do the trick — if Climate Week is any guide — is the emergence of a growing bottom-up movement for change.
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Copenhagen was the COP 15 (Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP9 of UNFCCC – and those who follow our website will realize that we stopped counting after Copenhagen even though this year’s end of the year’s meeting will be already the 20th meeting – or COP20 of the UNFCCC – and it will be held in Lima, Peru. We have no intention of opening a new page for this meeting either – but we are optimistic nevertheless that we will be in much better shape when we go to COP21 of the UNFCCC in Paris – December 2015.
With the 70th celebration of the UN and the need to do something to mark this date – we believe that a more responsive Climate Change reduction path will be fleshed out by that time.

The People’s March of last Sunday will then be remembered as the People’s expression that they demand action from those that sit at UN’s New York Headquarters in what they see as seats of the Global management. Also, please note the fact that even the UN has recognized by now that the Assembly of Governments will not reach the needed consensus to create true action – it will be rather the involvement of Civil Society, and business – led by scientists, economic and social developers and plain people that care for their environment – ethical and mass leaders from he line – that will do it.

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

 

Energy & Environment

Buying Into Solar Power, No Roof Access Needed.

By

Photo

A Clean Energy Collective solar panel array in Denver. Such arrangements are drawing renters and apartment owners who prefer clean energy.
Credit Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

Like many consumers, David Polstein had already done much to reduce energy use in his large Victorian home in Newton, Mass. He replaced his appliances with energy-efficient models, installed better heating and put in new insulation. But he was unable to get a solar system to reduce his utility bill, he said, because his roof is too small and shady to make it worthwhile.

Now, that could be changing. Mr. Polstein is considering joining a so-called community solar garden that is under development in his part of the state, one of many similar new arrangements now available in Massachusetts. Through the approach — largely pioneered in Colorado and spreading across the country — customers buy into a solar array constructed elsewhere and receive credit on their electricity bills for the power their panels produce.

For developers, such shared or community solar arrays create a new market from the estimated 85 percent of residential customers who can neither own nor lease systems because their roofs are physically unsuitable for solar or because they do not control them — like renters and people living in large apartment buildings. And for those customers, it offers a way into the solar boom, whether they seek to contribute to the spread of clean energy or to reap the potential cost savings.

“I pretty much realize that if I’m going to do this sort of thing,” Mr. Polstein, a violin maker, said, “this is the only way I’m going to be able to do it.”

Massachusetts passed its law enabling community renewable energy projects in 2008 and saw at least one town solar garden begin operating in Brewster in 2012. Now, Clean Energy Collective, a leading developer, is building systems that are due to start producing power in Massachusetts by the end of this month. The company has teamed with Next Step Living of Boston, a home energy-efficiency company, which is selling the product to consumers across Massachusetts.

Several other places, including California, Minnesota and Washington, D.C., have laws to establish their programs, while others have proposals at some stage of drafting. In New York, for instance, a bill is working its way through the State Legislature.

“There’s no ability to really put solar on your roof when you live in an apartment — you just don’t own the roof,” said Amy Paulin, an assemblywoman representing Westchester.

Ms. Paulin, who is chairwoman of the Energy Committee, co-sponsored the bill after learning of the concept from advocates including Vote Solar, a group that promotes solar energy. Encouraging the development of modest solar installations throughout the state would also put less stress on the transmission and distribution grid, she said.

The shared approach has its roots in rural electric cooperatives, said Elaine Ulrich of the Department of Energy’s SunShot program, but has only begun to take off in recent years, and still accounts for a tiny fraction of solar production. There are at least 52 projects in at least 17 states, and at least 10 states are encouraging their development through policy and programs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the main trade group.

It is among the profusion of financing mechanisms meant to encourage the development of solar energy, from residential leasing programs to crowdfunding.

The combination of plummeting prices for solar equipment and installation and generous federal and state incentives has widened their appeal. The Energy Department is encouraging their spread, publishing a guide to best practices in 2010, and is weighing proposals to award $15 million in grants to help design community projects.

In general, a developer builds a solar farm that can range from a few dozen panels on a rooftop to thousands sitting on more than 100 acres, and sells the electrical output of a set number of panels to each customer, depending on how much of their power use they want or can afford to offset. Customers then receive a credit for that power, often at a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour, that is then deducted from the energy portion of their electric bills.

Costs typically run $500 to $1,400 for a panel, said Paul Spencer, president of Clean Energy Collective, adding that customers benefit from the fact that the arrays can be situated in optimal locations to maximize energy production. But those costs can run higher in some markets, and customers must generally live within certain geographic or utility service boundaries.

The details vary from state to state, and can be complicated by how utilities charge customers. In Colorado, for instance, Xcel Energy customers continue to pay the standard nonenergy fees, but can buy enough solar shares to offset 120 percent of their load.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of zero bills,” said Brendan Miller, a civil engineer who said he paid about $10,000 for 11 panels to cover most of his electricity needs in his Denver condominium.

Interested in solar energy since high school, Mr. Miller had purchased a system for his previous home in Arizona and said the community solar arrangement was much simpler because he did not have to navigate the tax credits or installation himself.

“It was more of a financial transaction than a contractor-construction transaction,” he said.

In New York, the proposed system would allow customers to offset no more than 100 percent of their electric use and would limit their initial ownership period to five years for residential consumers and 10 years for businesses, with an option for renewal.

For customers, the systems offer flexibility, proponents say, because their interest in the panels is transferable so they can take the output with them if they move or turn it over to someone else. The community solar garden differs from another common way consumers can remotely buy green energy — energy service companies — because people like Mr. Miller buy into the array itself.

Still, they can carry high upfront costs depending on the size. For Mr. Polstein’s roughly 3,000-square-foot house in Newton, for instance, it would cost about $41,000 — after anticipated rebates and incentives — to buy 32 panels in the coming Massachusetts array. He likes the idea of contributing to the growth of solar, but worries that he may end up, as an early adopter, paying more than he should.

“It may not be the smartest investment if you’re only doing it from the point of view of money,” he said. “But if you factor in the idea that you’re trying to make a change in how the energy you use is produced and the effect it has on the world, then you can sort of rationalize it a little better even if five years from now you could do the same thing and it would cost a little less.”

A version of this article appears in print on June 20, 2014, on page B1 of the New York edition.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

SundayReview | by Op-Ed Columnist for The New York Times – Thomas Friedman.

 

Obama on Obama on Climate

 

 

 

WHEN it comes to dealing with the world’s climate and energy challenges -

I have a simple rule: change America, change the world.

If America raises its clean energy standards, not only will others follow — others who have hid behind our inaction — we’ll also stimulate our industry to invent more of the clean air, clean power and energy efficiency systems, and move them down the cost curve faster, so U.S. companies will be leaders in this next great global industry and American consumers will be the first to benefit. That is why the new Environmental Protection Agency rules President Obama proposed last week to curb carbon emissions from power plants are so pivotal. You can’t make power systems greener without making them smarter — smarter materials, software or design. One new ruling will not change the world — and we have to be careful that this one doesn’t replace our addiction to coal with an addiction to natural gas alone. But coming at a time when clean energy technologies are becoming more competitive, and when awareness of climate change is becoming more pervasive, this E.P.A. ruling should give a real boost to clean power and efficiency innovation and make our country more resilient, healthy, secure — and respected.

Photo

Climate change “is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges” the nation faces, said Mr. Obama.    Credit Video Still Frame Image from, Years of Living Dangerously – Showtime

 

Several weeks ago, as he was drawing up these new emission rules, I interviewed President Obama in the White House library about climate and energy. Following are highlights. (The interview is also featured in the final episode of Showtime’s climate series, “Years of Living Dangerouslyairing on Monday - that is tomorrow.)

For starters, Obama is aware that we can’t just keep burning oil, coal and gas until they run out. As the International Energy Agency warned, “no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050” — unless carbon capture and storage technology is widely deployed — otherwise we’ll bust through the limit of a 2 degree Celsius rise in average temperature that climate scientists believe will unleash truly disruptive ice melt, sea level rise and weather extremes. The rest has to stay in the ground, and we need to steadily find cleaner alternatives and more energy efficiency.
I asked Obama if he agreed with that analysis.

“Science is science,” he said. “And there is no doubt that if we burned all the fossil fuel that’s in the ground right now that the planet’s going to get too hot and the consequences could be dire.”

So we can’t burn it all?

“We’re not going to be able to burn it all. Over the course of the next several decades, we’re going to have to build a ramp from how we currently use energy to where we need to use energy. And we’re not going to suddenly turn off a switch and suddenly we’re no longer using fossil fuels, but we have to use this time wisely, so that you have a tapering off of fossil fuels replaced by clean energy sources that are not releasing carbon. … But I very much believe in keeping that 2 [degree] Celsius target as a goal.”

If that is so, your environmental supporters wonder why you keep touting how much we’re still exploring for oil, coal and natural gas?

“We have got to meet folks where they are,” said Obama. “We’ve gone through, obviously, in the last five years, a tough economic crisis. … I don’t always lead with the climate change issue because if you right now are worried about whether you’ve got a job or if you can pay the bills, the first thing you want to hear is how do I meet the immediate problem? One of the hardest things in politics is getting a democracy to deal with something now where the payoff is long term or the price of inaction is decades away. What we’ve tried to do is continually find ways in which we can make progress, recognizing that we’re not immediately going to get people to abandon the old gas-guzzler” [because] “they can’t afford an electric car.”

Every morning you get a security briefing from the intelligence community on global threats; do you now also get the same on environmental threats?

“I do,” said Obama. Science adviser “John Holdren typically makes presentations when there are new findings,” and his reports show that environmental stresses are now impacting both foreign and domestic policy. For instance, wildfires are now “consuming a larger and larger portion of the Department of Interior budget. And if we continue to fund fighting fires the same way we’ve done in the past, all the money for everything else — for conservation, for maintenance of forests — all that money gets used up.”

But the area he’s just as worried about, said Obama, “is how climate change could end up having profound national security implications in poorer countries.

We’re obviously concerned about drought in California or hurricanes and floods along our coastlines and the possibility of more powerful storms or more severe droughts. All of those things are bread-and-butter issues that touch on American families. But when you start seeing how these shifts can displace people — entire countries can be finding themselves unable to feed themselves and the potential incidence of conflict that arises out of that — that gets your attention.

There’s a reason why the quadrennial defense review — [which] the secretary of defense and the Joints Chiefs of Staff work on — identified climate change as one of our most significant national security problems. It’s not just the actual disasters that might arise, it is the accumulating stresses that are placed on a lot of different countries and the possibility of war, conflict, refugees, displacement that arise from a changing climate.”

Syria couldn’t manage a four-year drought when it had a government, and that drought helped fuel the uprising there, because the government did nothing for the people. Imagine what will happen if they have another prolonged drought and they’ve destroyed half their country?

“Which gives you a sense of what happens in a lot of these countries that are just barely hanging on,” said Obama. “They don’t have a lot of margin for error, and that has national security implications. When people are hungry, when people are displaced, when there are a lot of young people, particularly young men, who are drifting without prospects for the future, the fertility of the soil for terrorism ends up being significant. And it can have an impact on us.”

What is the one thing you would still like to see us do to address climate change? Said Obama: put a price on carbon.

The way we’ve solved previous problems, like acid rain, he noted, “was that we said: ‘We’re going to charge you if you’re releasing this stuff into the atmosphere, but we’re going to let you figure out — with the marketplace and with the technology’ ” how best to mitigate it. But “you can’t keep dumping it out in the atmosphere and making everybody else pay for it. So if there’s one thing I would like to see, it’d be for us to be able to price the cost of carbon emissions. … We’ve obviously seen resistance from the Republican side of the aisle on that.  And out of fairness, there’s some Democrats who’ve been concerned about it as well, because regionally they’re very reliant on heavy industry and old-power plants. … I still believe, though, that the more we can show the price of inaction — that billions and potentially trillions of dollars are going to be lost because we do not do something about it — ultimately leads us to be able to say, ‘Let’s go ahead and help the marketplace discourage this kind of activity.’ ”

Where does natural gas fit in?

After all, it can be a blessing and a curse. Natural gas emits only half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned, but if methane leaks when oil companies extract it from the ground in a sloppy manner — methane is far more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — it can wipe out all the advantages of natural gas over coal.

Natural gas, the president said, “is a useful bridge” to span “where we are right now and where we hope to be — where we’ve got entirely clean energy economies based around the world.” Environmentalists, he added, “are right, though, to be concerned if it’s done badly, then you end up having methane gas emitted. And we know how to do it properly. But right now what we’ve got to do is make sure that there are industry standards that everybody is observing.” That doesn’t “necessarily mean that it has to be a national law,” he said. “You could have a series of states working together — and, hopefully, industry working together — to make sure that the extraction of natural gas is done safely.”

Do you ever want to just go off on the climate deniers in Congress?

“Yeah, absolutely,” the president said with a laugh. “Look, it’s frustrating when the science is in front of us. … We can argue about how. But let’s not argue about what’s going on.

The science is compelling. … The baseline fact of climate change is not something we can afford to deny. And if you profess leadership in this country at this moment in our history, then you’ve got to recognize this is going to be one of the most significant long-term challenges, if not the most significant long-term challenge, that this country faces and that the planet faces. The good news is that the public may get out ahead of some of their politicians” ——  as people start to see the cost of cleaning up for hurricanes like Sandy or the drought in California —— and when “those start multiplying, then people start thinking, ‘You know what? We’re going to reward politicians who talk to us honestly and seriously about this problem.’

 

The president added: “The person who I consider to be the greatest president of all time, Abraham Lincoln, was pretty consistent in saying, ‘With public opinion there’s nothing I cannot do, and without public opinion there’s nothing I can get done,’ and so part of my job over these next two and a half years and beyond is trying to shift public opinion. And the way to shift public opinion is to really focus in on the fact that if we do nothing our kids are going to be worse off.”

The trick, I argued, is to find that fine line between making people feel the problem is urgent, but not insoluble so they just say: If the end is nigh, let’s party.

“The most important thing is to guard against cynicism,” responded the president. “I want to make sure that everybody who’s been watching this program or listening to this interview doesn’t start concluding that, well, we’re all doomed, there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s a lot we can do about it. It’s not going to happen as fast or as smoothly or as elegantly as we like, but, if we are persistent, we will make progress.”

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Some Comments:

Occupy Government – Abraham Lincoln didn’t know climate change, but if he had, he would have done a might more than recent successors and their legislatures. …

Dave Scott

As president of the Sierra Club board, I applaud President Obama for EPA’s proposed power plant pollution rules, a significant step towards…

RevWayne

The President has presented powerful reasons for us to respond to global change. The consequences for America cannot be ignored. …

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 2nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 ADVISORYInformation as of 29 May 2014
UN Secretary-General convenes leaders of government, business and civil society to mobilize investment and action for sustainable energy for all.
Forum to advance on-the-ground solutions; launch UN Decade with focus on energy for women and children’s health; contribute to post-2015 development agenda.
—————————
Website:  The latest Forum programme, speakers and other resources will be posted and updated   at www.se4all.org.
—————————-
WHAT:
The first annual SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FOR ALL FORUM (4-6 June) will assess results thus far from the billions of dollars in commitments made at Rio+20 towards targets on energy access, efficiency and renewables, and mobilize further action. The Forum will launch the UN Decade on Sustainable Energy for All with a two-year focus on energy for women and children’s health, build momentum on solutions ahead of the September Climate Summit and contribute to shaping the direction of energy policy for the crucial decades to come.
WHO:    
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Representative Kandeh Yumkella will be joined by several Heads of State, over 20 Ministers of energy, development and other relevant portfolios, heads of UN System agencies, development banks and other international organizations, CEOs of private sector partners and leaders from broader civil society, including from the research, innovation and investment communities, as well as women’s and youth groups active on energy issues.WHEN and HOW:4 June – Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships Day.  To review progress and advance sustainable energy solutions, in areas ranging from renewable energy – both on and off grid – to modern cooking fuels and cookstoves and energy-efficient buildings, appliances and transportation.
4 June – Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships Day.  To review progress and advance sustainable energy solutions, in areas ranging from renewable energy – both on and off grid – to modern cooking fuels and cookstoves and energy-efficient buildings, appliances and transportation. [THIS IS A LATE ADDITION of today]

5 June – Global Leaders Dialogue.  Global launch of the UN Decade on Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024. High-level presentations and dialogues to catalyze action on finance and investment, universal energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy.6 June – Ministerial Dialogue on the role of energy in the post-2015 development agenda.WHERE:   
United Nations Headquarters, New York.

BACKGROUND:
The UN Secretary-General launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in 2011, with three global targets:

a) to ensure universal access to modern energy services,

(b) double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and

(c) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all by 2030.

 

At the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, businesses, investors and others committed billions of dollars towards these objectives. Currently, 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity, and 2.6 billion use traditional fuels for cooking and heating, causing the premature deaths of 4.3 million people each year, mostly women and children, from the effects of indoor smoke.

 

Press Briefings

3 June, 11:00 11:30am – Launch of Renewables 2014 Global Status Report, with Christine Lins, Executive Secretary, REN21.  Providing a comprehensive overview of renewable energy markets, industry, investment and policy developments worldwide, the report, produced annually since 2005, has become the most frequently referenced publication on renewable energy business and policy. Produced collaboratively with regional research and UN system partners, and input from over 500 contributors and reviewers.
Contact: Laura Williamson, laura.williamson@ren21.net, tel +33-1-44375099; Jim Sniffen, UNEP, sniffenj@un.org, tel 212-963-8094, www.ren21.net. Press briefing room S-237.

4 June, 11:00 –11:30am – Prospects for energy access & launch of Poor People’s Energy Outlook report.  With Simon Trace, CEO, and Aaron Leopold, Global Energy Advocate, Practical Action; and Susan McDade, Country Team Leader, SE4ALL. Launch of Poor People’s Energy Outlook report and framework for scaling up action to end energy poverty, followed by review of country-level action towards universal access to modern energy services.
Contact:  Nick Milton, nick.milton@practicalaction.org.uk, mob: +44 (0) 7880 622059; Pragati Pascale, p.pascale@se4all.org, mob (917) 744-2114. Press briefing room S-237.

5 June, 12:30 – 1:00pm – Sustainable Energy for All: Achieving Results and Shaping the Future.
With Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and CEO of SE4ALL;
Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility; Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development (tbc).
Contact: Anthony Kamara, a.kamara@se4all.org, Pragati Pascale, p.pascale@se4all.org, tel (917) 744-2114. Press briefing room S-237.

 
5 June, 1:00 1:30pm – Launch of REmap 2030: A Renewable Energy Roadmap. With Adnan Amin, Director-General, Director General of Abu Dhabi based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), others.
How to reach the target of doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030. 
Contact: Tim Hurst, THurst@irena.org, tel +971 2 417 9966, Press briefing room S-237.

 

Other Key Events
The most up-to-date full listing of events and speakers can be found at: www.se4all.org
.

4 June –  Multi-stakeholder Partnerships Day – featuring on-the-ground work.

Over 40 events will showcase and assess innovative work and projects on energy access, efficiency and renewables, and provide a forum for civil society, business and other stakeholders to share their views. This program did not originate with the UN as such and there is no reason to expect the UN to take responsibility over what is said here.
A full programme with details of events, speakers and rooms, and a full list of media contacts, can be found at www.se4all.org. Below are a few highlights.

 
Modern Cooking Appliances and Fuels – Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (kkelleher@cleancookstoves.org, tel 202-864-5158)
Global Gas Flaring Reduction Initiative – Partners include Statoil and the World Bank (Chris Neale, cneal1@worldbank.org, tel 202-473-2049)
Mini-Grids – Partners include UK DFID (Steven Hunt, S-Hunt@dfid.gov.uk)
Sustainable Bio-energy – Partners include Novozymes ( Frederik Bjørndal, tfbh@novozymes.com, mobile +44 (0) 7976 138 265)

Civil society and business events — media contacts:
Practical Action, nick.milton@practicalaction.org.uk, Mob: +44 (0) 7880 622059
World Energy Council, Monique Tsang, tsang@worldenergy.org, tel (+44) 20 314 0616
Student Energy, Sean Collins, scollins@studentenergy.org
Energia, Sheila Oparaocha, s.oparaocha@ETCNL.NL
Energy Access Practitioners Network, Mahalakshmi Mahadevan,              mmahadevan@unfoundation.org, tel (202) 864-5159

5 June – Global Leadership Dialogue on Sustainable Energy for All
(in Trusteeship Council unless otherwise stated)
THIS SEEMS TO BE THE HIGH POWER DAY OF THE MEETINGS!

10:00am — Global Launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024.  Including statements by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; General Assembly President John Ashe; World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (by video); President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.

10:25-10:45 am – Inventing and Investing in a Sustainable Future
Statements by Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development; Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP; Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank; Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

10:45-11:25 am – Sustainable Energy for All: Achieving Results and Shaping the Future
SE4ALL achievements to date: Kandeh Yumkella, SRSG, and Chad Holliday, Bank of America,
Co-chairs of Executive Committee. SE4ALL high-level Advisory Board members outline opportunities and solutions on energy finance, access, efficiency and renewables.

11:35 am – 12:45 pm — Global Leaders Panels
I. Catalyzing Large-Scale Financing and Investment for SE4ALL
(moderator: Rachel Kyte, World Bank).
Lightning round kick starter with Purna Saggurti, Chairman, Global Corporate & Investment Banking, Bank of America. Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives from China, Mozambique, Nicaragua, United States; Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Brazil Development Bank; Citigroup; Eni SpA; European Investment Bank; Global Environment Facility; Morgan Stanley; United Nations; World Energy Council; others.

(Trusteeship)

II. Energy Linkages (moderator: Laura Trevelyan, BBC America).
Lightning round kick starter conversation with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women, and Kathy Calvin, UN Foundation.  Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives of Barbados; Burundi; Greenland, Holy See, Madagascar, Sierra Leone; Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves; Itapu Binacional Brasil; Practical Action; We Care Solar; World Energy Council; others. (Conference Room 1)

1:10 – 2:20 pm – World Environment Day special event on Small Island Developing States and clean energy.
With John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly; Lord Ma’fu, Minister, Tonga; Ravinesh Nand, Fiji Department of Energy; Venkat Ramana Putti, World Bank; Sheila Watson, FIA Foundation; others. Contact: sniffenj@un.org, tel 212-963-8094.
(Trusteeship)

2:40 – 3:20 pm – Energy, Women, Children and Health
Global campaign announcement with Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom (by video); Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN; followed by UN Leadership Panel, with senior officials from UNDP, UNFPA, WHO, Norway, others. (Trusteeship)

3:45-4:55 pm – Global Leaders Panels (cont.)
III. Doubling the Share of Renewables in the Global Energy Mix
(moderator: Matthew Bishop, The Economist).
Lightning round kick starter with Jose Manuel Entrecanales, CEO, Acciona, and Francesco Starace, CEO, Enel SpA. Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives from Brazil, China, Ecuador, New Zealand, Tonga, United Kingdom; First Solar; Global Wind Energy Council; International Solar Energy Society; IRENA; Moroccan Solar Power Agency; REN21; SkyPower; others. (Trusteeship)

IV. Ensuring Universal Access to Modern Energy Services
(moderator: Elizabeth Thompson, Senior Advisor, SE4ALL).
Lightning round kick starter with Kandeh Yumkella, SRSG and CEO of SE4ALL; Mohammed Wakil, Minister of State for Power, Nigeria; and James E. Rogers, Retired Chairman, Duke Energy. Dialogue with high-level representatives of Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia; African Development Bank; Alliance for Rural Electrification; Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Energia; Eskom; EuropeAid, EC; Global Electricity Initiative; Islamic Development Bank; Royal Dutch Shell; Self-Employed Women’s Association; others (Conference Room 1).

 
5:00 – 6:10pm – Global Leaders Panels (cont.)
V. Doubling the Global Rate of Improvement in Energy Efficiency
(moderator: Chad Holliday, Bank of America). Lightning round kick starter with Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School, Zayed Future Energy Prize 2014 Global High School Finalist. Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives of Japan, Ireland, Peru, Romania, Slovakia; ABB North America; Union for the Mediterranean; AFG Consultores; Business Council for Sustainable Energy; EBRD; IKEA; Industrial Promotion Services; Kenya Assoc. of Manufacturers; Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership; Statoil; UN Foundation; WWF China; others (Trusteeship).

VI. Catalyzing Bottom-Up Financing and Investment for SE4ALL (moderator: Boason Omofaye, Bloomberg TV Africa) Lightning round kick starter with Harish Hande, Managing Director, SELCO India.  Followed by dialogue with high-level representatives of Nepal, Senegal, Tanzania; Arc Finance; Deutsche Bank; Global LPG Partnerships; KITE; Rockefeller Foundation; Self-Employed Women’s Association; UN OHRLLS; WWF USA; others (Conference Room 1).

6 June — High-level Ministerial Dialogue: Energy in the post-2015 Development Agenda

9:00 am – 12:40 pm. Including remarks by Heads of State and Ministers, CEOs and leaders of civil society organizations and international organizations. (ECOSOC Chamber)

12:40 – 1:00 pm. Closing Plenary: Mobilizing All Stakeholders Towards SE4ALL with UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson (tbc); Jose Angel Gurria, Secretary-General, OECD (tbc); Fred Krupp, President Environmental Defense Fund; Kandeh Yumkella, SE4ALL. (ECOSOC Chamber)

 

——————————Media Accreditation                    
Media representatives who wish to be accredited to cover the Forum on-site at UN Head-quarters should submit a request and required documentation to the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit.  Full guidelines as well as accreditation forms are available at www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/request.shtml. For questions regarding accreditation, e-mail malu@un.org or phone (212) 963-6934.
——————————————–Media Resources
Press conferences.  An updated schedule of press events and briefings will be available the night before in the daily Media Alert at www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/alert.shtmlWebsite. The latest Forum programme, speakers and other resources will be posted and updated at www.se4all.org.Digital and Social Media. The Forum will be live-tweeted using #SE4ALLForum. In addition, +Social Good (plussocialgood.org), a digital platform run by the UN Foundation and UNDP, will feature original interviews and content for digital media, using #socialgood
(contact: jsullivan@unfoundation.org, njanati@unfoundation.org, boaz.paldi@undp.org).IISD Reporting Services will provide daily bulletins and digital coverage as well as a summary report of the Forum, including photographs. Coverage of the Forum will be available online at www.iisd.ca from 4 June 2014 and will be sent out on social media using @IISDRS.Multimedia.  Selected photographs of the Forum will be available from UN Photo online, along with other multimedia materials, at www.unmultimedia.org.  Additional photos and high-resolution files can be obtained by contacting the UN Photo Library at photolibr@un.org.Webcast.  Most of the Forum will be webcast, live and on-demand, at webtv.un.org, including all events in the larger conference rooms and all press briefings.

Broadcast. UNTV will cover the Forum live in HD, 4-6 June, schedule at www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/untv.shtml, information tel. 212 963-7650.
TV packages will be available to broadcasters through unmultimedia.org/tv/unifeed/ Broadcast quality video files can be requested from video-library@un.org.

Media Contacts
Pragati Pascale, p.pascale@se4all.org, tel +1 917-587-8549
Anthony Kamara, a.kamara@se4all.org, tel (+43-699) 1458-3402
Wynne Boelt, boelt@un.org, tel +1 212-963-8264
Ornesha Reagan, o.reagan@se4all.org, tel +1 347-651-9521
Media contacts for SE4ALL partners can be found at se4all.org

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FURTHER NOTES FROM www.Sustainabilitank.info – A MEDIA ACCREDITED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD BUT WITH A PAST OF FIGHTING THE UN FOR THE RIGHT TO BE RECOGNIZED AS MEDIA RATHER THEN AS AN NGO (which it never became one) – THIS WITHIN THE WALLED COMPOUND OF THE UN HEADQUARTERS.

 WE THUS WISH TO WARN INTERESTED ENVIRONMENTALLY ORIENTED MEDIA, AND TRUE SUSTAINABILITY ORIENTED MEDIA, THAT EVEN WHEN THE UN IS HOME TO FORCES OF PROGRESS – THERE ARE WITHIN IT MUCH MORE FORCES OF DARKNESS.

THE UN MEDIA OFFICE THAT USED TO BE RUN BY THOSE FORCES OF DARKNESS WOULD SIMPLY NOT ALLOW THOSE INTERESTED IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TO ENTER THE ROOM WHERE PRESS CONFERENCES WERE ORGANIZED FOR THE MEDIA  – SO ONLY THOSE BELONGING TO GENERAL MEDIA AND NOT INTERESTED COULD PARTICIPATE – BUT OBVIOUSLY DID NOT. THAT IS HOW THE UN MANAGED TO KEEP AS TOP SECRET EVERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION THAT MIGHT HAVE HURT THE FORCES OF OIL.

WE SUGGEST THUS – THAT LIKE IN VIENNA, WHERE THE HEAD OFFICE OF  SE4ALL IS LOCATED IN THE ANDROMEDA OFFICE OUTSIDE THE WALLED-IN VIENNA UN COMPOUND, THE NEW YORK MEETING COULD REACH MORE OF THE GLOBAL MEDIA IF IT WERE HELD ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE UN, RATHER THEN INSIDE. IT IS HARD FOR US TO SEE THAT EVEN THOUGH THIS MEETING IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE UN SECRETARY GENERAL’S AGENDA, THERE WILL NOT BE INTERFERENCE WITH THE DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION BY FACTORS WITHIN THE UN STAFF. WE WOULD HAVE PREFERRED AT LEAST THAT THE SE4ALL ORGANIZATION ALSO ADVERTIZES AT LEAST SOME MEETINGS WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT WITNESSES ON MATTERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT  ARE MADE AVAILABLE AT THE CHURCH CENTER OR AT ONE OF THE MISSIONS – THE LIKES OF BHUTAN, FINLAND, GERMANY, OR JAPAN WHICH HAPPEN TO BE RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE UN IN NEW YORK CITY.

IT WOULD BE A PITY TO SEE ANOTHER IMPORTANT UN INSTITUTION TO TURN INTO A YEARLY  BOMBASTIC TALK FEST AT THE UN BUT AT THE SAME TIME INSULATED FROM HAVING ANY POSITIVE EFFECT ON PLANET EARTH’S HUMANS’ FUTURE.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

AMAZING – I just spent two days at the yearly meetings of the Austrian Economic Association that this year dealt with: ECONOMICS OF INEQUALITY and had as key-note speaker Sir Tony Atkinson f Oxford U., and now I find in my incoming e-mail an article from Bill Moyers talking to Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia U. who is President of the International Economic Association and cooperates with Sir Atkinson, something that nails the same topic down in excellent journalistic terms. Yes – clearly – we are doing everything wrong when it comes to build an economy – Why?

The Vienna meeting was held on the new campus of the Business University – WirtschafysUniversitaet Wien – in a building funded by the Austrian oil Company OEMV that is just in the news for the ill-advised South Stream Pipeline that is being planned to bypass The Ukraine when bringing to the EU Russian Gas – and was just shut down by the EU Commissioner for Energy who clearly does not want responsibility for this politically most miserable attempt by an oil company and a EU Member State to make money from fossil fuels and undermine a European Effort to go instead for Renewable Energy.

Professor Joe Stiglitz unmasks here this self-righteousness of the rich that think the World is their oyster and they have a Constitutional right to rob and legally cheat. The implications are immense and reach into globalization and efforts to enlarge the scope of international piracy using multinational trade agreements to undo healthy laws in countries that somehow managed to pass such laws.

 

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Let’s Stop Subsidizing Tax Dodgers.

 

By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

 

31 May 2014
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

 

  new report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values.” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

 

BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Our democracy is now probably better described as one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Avoiding taxes has become a hallmark of America’s business icons; Apple, Google, GE, and many more of the Fortune 500. The nation’s largest corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in cash while revenue from corporate income taxes have plummeted from just below 40 percent in 1943 to just below 10 percent in 2012. Government and big business have colluded to create what’s tantamount to an “unlimited IRA” for corporations.

That’s not my term, although I wish I had thought of it, because it explains so much about what’s gone wrong in a country where some 20 million workers who would like a full-time job still can’t get one. Yet the upper one percent of the population takes home a staggering 22.5 percent of America’s income while their effective federal income tax rate has dropped.

No, the phrase was coined by Joseph Stiglitz, a man eminently worth quoting, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the world’s most influential economists.

Currently he’s president of the International Economic Association. Former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Bill Clinton, and the author of best-selling books that have shaped worldwide debates on globalization, income inequality, and the role of government in the financial marketplace. Now he’s written one of his shortest but most important works: this white paper, published by the Roosevelt Institute where Joseph Stiglitz is a senior fellow. It’s a mere 27 pages, but in clear and cogent prose, backed up by facts and figures, it lays out a plan that not only would reform our taxes but create jobs and strengthen the economy. I’ve asked him here to tell us about it. Welcome.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Nice to be here.

 

BILL MOYERS: You argue that elimination of corporate welfare, or at least its reduction, should be at the center of tax reform. Why?

 JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, let me put it in a broader context. Our country needs, faces a lot of challenges. We, as you mentioned, 20 million Americans would like a full-time job and can’t get one. We have growing inequality. We have environmental problems that threaten the future of our planet. I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values. But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient. Look at the tax rate paid by that one percent. It’s much lower than the tax rate paid by somebody whose income is lower who works hard for a living, as a percentage of their income.

You know, Warren Buffet put it very -  why should he pay a lower tax rate on his reported income than his secretary? And the interesting thing that he didn’t emphasize was most of his income is in the form of unrealized capital gains.

 

BILL MOYERS: Unrealized capital gains are not taxed as long as the owner keeps them, right, doesn’t get rid of them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. And what’s even worse, if you’re a corporation and you even realize the capital gains but you’re abroad, you don’t bring the money back home, there’s still no taxes.

As long as they don’t bring the money back here, it accumulates, it grows and grows and grows, and they get wealthier. But it’s even worse than that. Because it means that they have an incentive to keep their money abroad.

And what does that mean? They have an incentive to create jobs abroad. And with our trade agreements, they can take the goods that are produced abroad with this tax-free money, bring it back in the United States, basically making it unfair competition with the goods produced by Americans.

 

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. There are several startling statements in your report. This is one of them: “our current tax system encourages multinationals to invest abroad.” And create jobs abroad, as you just said. And yet, these are people who defend their practices by saying, we are the job creators, we’re the job producers. And yet, you say they have an incentive to send jobs abroad.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: The whole discussion of who are the job creators, I think, has been misplaced. You know, what really creates jobs is demand–

 

BILL MOYERS: I spend my money to buy things.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. Americans of all income groups are entrepreneurial. You got people across our income distribution who, when there’s a demand, respond to that demand. But if there’s no demand, there won’t be jobs. Now, the problem is that the people in the one percent have so much money that they can’t spend it all. The people at the bottom are spending all of their income and hardly getting by. In fact, a very large fraction of those in the bottom 80 percent are spending more than their income. And it’s part of the instability of our economy. So, the point is this inequality contribute, to which our tax system contributes actually weakens our demand.

And that’s one of the main messages of my report, which is if we had a more progressive tax system, we could get a more efficient economy. Because there would be more jobs being created.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, these 20 million people I referred to, and you referred to in your report, who are looking for full-time work but can’t find it, if they had that work, they’d be spending their money. They’re not going to send it to the Cayman Islands, right.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. And they’re going to be paying taxes. Because they don’t have the opportunities for tax avoidance that the people who have the Cayman Islands and can use these unlimited IRAs and other ways of tax avoidance. You know, they don’t keep the money in the Cayman Islands because the sunshine makes the money grow better. They put their money there because the lack of sunshine, the way of tax avoidance–

 

BILL MOYERS: Dark money, money in the shadows, money now going into our political process, as you know so well, to reinforce this tax code.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. Reinforce the tax code, which has led America to be the country with the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries.

 

BILL MOYERS: Give us a working definition for the laity of corporate welfare.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, this was an idea that I began talking about when I was serving as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers–

 BILL MOYERS: Twenty years ago.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: –twenty years ago. And everybody was talking about how much money you were giving to the poor people. It wasn’t, if you actually looked at the amount of money, it wasn’t that much. But we said, well, you’re also giving away a lot of money to rich corporations, directly and indirectly. Most of the indirect way is through the tax system. So, for instance, if you give special tax provisions for oil companies, so they don’t pay the full share of taxes that they ought to be paying, that’s a welfare benefit.

Lots of other provisions in our, hidden in our tax code basically help one industry or another, that can’t be justified in any economic terms. And, so, that’s where we coined the term “corporate welfare.” It’s caught on. And because it says it’s a subsidy, but not a subsidy, help going to a poor person, which is where welfare ought to be going, but going to the richest Americans, going to our rich corporations.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, we have a tax code that encourages people to– encourages companies to send their profits abroad, to send jobs abroad, and to reward owners of their company whose money may not come back to the United States?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: It doesn’t make any sense, you might say. And the fact it doesn’t, you know, one of the reasons I wrote the paper was, you know, there’s a lot discussion going on about we have a budget of deficit. And we have to slash this, and slash that, and cut back education, and cut back research, things that will make our economy stronger, cut back infrastructure.

 And I think that’s counterproductive. It’s weakening our economy. But the point I make in this paper is it would be easy for us to raise the requisite revenue. This is not a problem. This is not as if it’s going to oppress our economy. We could actually raise the money and make our economy stronger. For instance, we’re talking about the taxation of capital. If we just tax capital in the same way we tax ordinary Americans, people who work for a job, who pay taxes we pay on wages.

If we eliminate the special provisions of capital gains, if we eliminated the special provisions for dividends we could get, over the next ten years, over, you know, approximately $2 trillion. And those are numbers according to the CBO. And so, we’re talking about lots of money.

 

BILL MOYERS: The figures make sense to me. But the politics doesn’t. Because these are the people, once again, who dominate our system with their contributions to the politicians who then have no interest in changing a system that rewards their donors.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We have this vicious cycle where economic inequality gets translated into political inequality. It gets translated into rules of the game that lead to more economic inequality, and which allow that economic inequality to get translated into evermore political inequality. So, my view, you know, the only way we’re going to break into this viscous cycle is if people come to understand that there is an alternative system out here.

That there is an alternative way of raising taxes, that we are not really faced with a budget crisis. It’s a manmade crisis. You know, when we had the government shutdown, we realized that that was a political crisis. That wasn’t an economic crisis. And the same thing about our budget crisis, you know. It’s not that we couldn’t raise the revenues in a way which actually could make our economy stronger. We can.

If we just had a fair tax system, to tax capital at the same rate that we tax ordinary individuals, if we just made those people in that upper 1 percent pay their fair share of the taxes they got 22.5 percent of the income, well, let’s make sure that they pay a commensurate part of our income tax, if we had taxes that would be designed to improve our environment.

 

BILL MOYERS: You mean by taxing pollution?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Taxing pollution.

BILL MOYERS: Carbon emissions.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: A general principle that we’ve known for a long time, a lot better to tax bad things than good things. Rather than tax people who work, let’s shift some of that burden into things that are bad, like pollution.

BILL MOYERS: You make it sound so easy. And I’m still hung up on your saying, you know, it would be easy to do these things. And yet, if they were easy, why haven’t we done them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, that’s the politics. The fact is that we have a political process that I won’t say is broken, but is certainly not functioning the way we think a democracy is supposed to function, you know. In democracy, supposed to be one person, one vote. And there’s a well-developed theory about what does that imply for the outcome of a political process?

We talk about it, called the median voter. It should reflect the middle, you know. Some people want more spending. Some people want less spending. Some people, you know, so the nature of democracy is compromise. And it’s supposed to be compromise sort of in the middle. But that’s not we have today in the United States. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

 

BILL MOYERS: Let me cite some examples of the biggest tax dodgers. These come from the organization, Americans for Tax Fairness. Citigroup had $42.6 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. Exxon Mobil had $43 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. General Electric made $88 billion from 2002 to 2012 and paid just 2.4 percent in taxes for a tax subsidy of $29 billion, I could go on. Pfizer, Honeywell, Verizon, FedEx, Apple. What goes through your mind when you hear these figures?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, so, many things go through my mind. But, you know, one of the things is how unfair this is, and how angry Americans ought to be about this. I also think of the ethics of the question. If I were a CEO, take of a company like Apple, use the ingenuity of America, based on the internet. Internet was created, in large measure, by government–

 BILL MOYERS: Right.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: –by government spending. They’re willing to take but not to give back. So, there’s really a whole set of problems that concern it, ethics, equity, fairness, resource allocations. What they don’t seem to understand is our society can’t function if these large corporations don’t make their fair share of contributions.

 

BILL MOYERS: Aren’t they likely to say, though, in response, well we do this because the law permits it. This is what the system incentivizes.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well the law does permit it. They use their lobbyists to make sure that the law gives them the scope to avoid taxes. So, this argument, oh, we’re only doing what the law allows, is disingenuous. The fact is they created, their lobbyists, their lobbying helped create this law that allows them to escape taxes, pushing the burden of taxation on ordinary Americans.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, that’s the big impact on people, right. They– somebody has to make up the difference between–

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Somebody has to make up the difference. I mean, we can’t survive as a society without roads, infrastructure, education, police, firemen. Somebody’s going to have to pay these costs.

 

BILL MOYERS: Summarizing what you say in here about your proposal, raise the corporate tax rate, but provide generous tax credits for corporations that invest in the U.S. and create jobs here. Eliminate the loopholes that distort the economy, increase taxes on corporations, the profits of which are associated with externalities such as pollution, reduce the bias toward leverage by making dividend payments tax deductible, but imposing a withholding tax. I mean, these seem so common-sensical that a journalist can understand them. But they don’t get into the debate.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Yeah, well, I hope this paper will help move that along. You notice when you were listing them that these are very much based on incentives. As I said–

 

BILL MOYERS: Your plan is based on incentives?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: On incentives that we’ve created a tax system that has an incentive to move jobs abroad. And what I want to do is create a tax system that has incentives to create jobs. And if you tell a corporation, look it, if you don’t create jobs, you’re taking out of our system, you’re not putting anything back, you’re going to pay a high tax.

But if you put back into our system by investing, then you can get your tax rate down. That seems to me, common sense, particularly in a time like today, when 20 million Americans need a job. When we have so much inequality and this unemployment is contributing to that inequality.

You know, in this, the first three years of the so-called recovery, between 2009 and 2012, 95 percent of all the gains went to the upper 1 percent. So, the American workers are not participating. And the reason they’re not participating is there’s just not enough job creation here at home. And, so, this is a way of trying to incentivize all these corporations who are sitting on all this money abroad to start using some of their huge resources, some of all those benefits that we’ve given them, for the benefit of the American people.

 

BILL MOYERS: You move in circles where you come into contact with the CEOs of these companies, many of whom are deficit hawks, you know. They keep, they’re on committees. They keep testifying in Washington. They call for deficit reduction. What do they say when you make this argument to them face to face, as you’re making it to me?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Most of them are not economists. And most of them are concerned with their corporation’s own bottom line and with their own salary. So, we’ve created a corporate system in the United States where the CEOs’ pay is related to the shareholder value. The shareholder value is related to how little taxes they pay. Because if they get the taxes down, profits look high and people will pay more for their shares.

So, when they’re making an argument for, let’s lower the corporate income tax, let’s lower taxes that I have to pay, let’s expand corporate loopholes, they don’t use those words. But what they’re really saying is, pay me more, because if I succeed in getting Congress to do that, my pay goes up, not because I’ve worked harder.

I haven’t invented something new. I haven’t made my customers happier. I made my company more valuable by succeeding in getting provisions that allow my company to avoid taxes. And then, my shareholder value goes up, and my salary goes up.

 

BILL MOYERS: My conversation with Joseph Stiglitz will continue next week. {and we promise here to post the follow-up as well – The SustainabiliTank.info editor}

 

As if to prove a point, the U.S. House of Representatives, functioning these days as a legislative bordello for corporate America, is moving to extend and make permanent six separate tax cuts for big business. The whole package would come at a cost of $310 billion, virtually wiping out all the deficit reduction from last year. One of those tax credits, for research and development, already has been approved, at a cost over the next ten years of $156 billion. That’s 15 times as much as it would cost to extend unemployment benefits.

 

Did House Republicans offer to renew help for people out of work? Nope. They’re deficit hawks, and they said there’s no money to pay for it. Of course they could just ask their corporate friends to give the tax breaks back. But that would be asking too much, especially on the eve of the fall Congressional elections when secret or dark money from you-know-who will flow into you-know-whose campaigns like….well, like champagne on the company jet.

 

Yet another reminder that you need not impose fraud on people by stealth if you can succeed by law.

 

Next week, more on politics, taxes, and inequality with Joseph Stiglitz.

 

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We already have a tax system that has contributed to making America the most unequal society of the advanced countries. That doesn’t have to be. We can have a tax system that can help create a fairer society— only ask the people at the top to pay their fair share.

 

BILL MOYERS: At our website, BillMoyers.com, we’ll link you to Joe Stiglitz’s white paper for the Roosevelt Institute. You’ll also find a list there of ten corporate tax dodgers whose names and brands we bet you’ll recognize.

 

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

A Solar-backed Currency for the Refugees of Western Sahara.

By Mel Chin | Creative Time | April 30, 2014

 www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/i…

View of Smara, one of the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun.

The HSBC ads at Newark International Airport could not have been more appropriate for my trek to the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. As I ambled through the jet bridge with my carry-on, color-coordinated images of demure North African women met my eyes, accompanied by some facts assembled by the bank—”0.3% of Saharan solar energy could power Europe”—and a self-aggrandizing but, for me, prescient message: “Do you see a world of potential? We do.”

It was the fall of 2011, and I was on a string of flights from North Carolina to Algeria to participate in an ARTifariti convening of international artists presenting human rights–related projects at the Algerian camps and in Western Sahara. During previous gatherings, a New York–based art critic had presented a slide show to international artists and Sahrawi refugees, sharing pieces by activist artists and filmmakers such as Ai Weiwei and Spike Lee. The get-togethers offered a forum to consider artists who might do a project in the camps.

And in the end, the refugees had chosen a Chinese Texan who had spearheaded Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project, an artwork that prompted Americans to draw their own versions of $100 bills (in order to raise awareness of and prevent childhood lead poisoning). Essentially they said, “Bring us the guy with the money.” So I packed my bags and left for the western lands of North Africa.

Mel Chin

Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project in St. Roch, New Orleans. CREDIT: Amanda Wiles, 2009.

At an unknown hour on a starless night, I arrived in the 27 February Camp—one of Algeria’s five Sahrawi refugee camps (named after the date in 1976 on which the Polisario Front declared the birth of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic)—and was led to the home of our host, Abderrahman. As we entered his compound, the seasoned warrior, dressed in a blue darrâa, emerged from a UN tent, unfurled a carpet over the sand, ignited charcoal and began to prepare the customary tea for us. We attempted to translate from Hassaniya Arabic to Spanish to English over tea, getting a taste of enthusiastic nomad hospitality.

That night I heard firsthand the history of the Sahrawi people, who today are divided between Algerian refugee camps and a sliver of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara that they call the “liberated territories.” For nearly four decades, warfare and political powers have trapped more than 150,000 Sahrawis in the camps and separated them from their family members in the liberated territories, which are bounded by the Moroccan wall to the west and Algeria’s border to the east.

When Morocco and Mauritania invaded Western Sahara in 1975 (Mauritania withdrew in 1979), they split up the land and seized the Sahrawis’ natural resources—water, rich fishing grounds and the world’s largest phosphate mine. Now, inhabiting either the arid, landlocked region of Western Sahara or the bare-bones camps of Algeria, the Sahrawi people depend entirely on international humanitarian aid for food, water and medicine. And while Western Sahara has none of the lead-poisoning problems of postindustrial America, its liberated territories have more landmines than any other place on the planet.

Mel Chin

In the tent of Abderrahman and his family. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

In the morning I awoke from this harrowing chronicle in a land of sand and rock that was brutally burnished by the sun—and I can guarantee that there was no bank in sight. I soon learned why the Sahrawi people were so interested in the Fundred Dollar Bill project: they have no currency of their own and deal mostly with Algerian dinars. In response, we created a background template for their currency, printed thousands of blank bills and distributed them through the camps, announcing a design opportunity. After we curated their drawings, the Sahrawis would vote on the designs for what might become their first currency.

The denominations for the currency, called “sollars,” were 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Children and teens drew the 5s and 10s; young adults, the 20s; and of course, the elders, the 100s. But the designs for the 50s would have two adult versions, one male and one female. The survivalist family culture that has emerged from the hostile desert climate has enforced a long-standing code of equality between the sexes. In a region where food is scarce and hot summer temperatures and freezing desert nights can kill, whoever survives the elements must be allowed equal rights in the tribe to barter and represent the family, regardless of religious dictates.

Mel Chin

The children’s school at the 27 February Camp. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

While I was in the camps, I came to understand that the symbolic and therapeutic benefits of designing the first Sahrawi currency with the refugees were not worthy enough goals. The Sahrawi people need a real economy. And to make that happen, the fictional currency I helped the refugees design had to be backed by something real and exchangeable on international markets.

As I mulled over the problem under the blazing sun, I realized that the desert holds the potential to bring Sahrawis economic and political independence—and the leverage necessary to help us all combat climate change.

What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun. The first solar energy–backed currency in the world could bring the Sahrawi people an independent economy and offer a major breakthrough in an environmental quagmire. We would create a new model of banking and currency, free from the dominance of gold and oil, for first-world countries to follow.

And this model would be delivered by the Sahrawi people, who have been waiting for freedom and self-determination for 39 years! By achieving worldwide renown for freeing people from hydrocarbon dependency, the Sahrawi could then barter with the global community for another form of independence: their right to self-determination.

Mel Chin Bank of the Sun Western SaharaFreedom is the concept propelling my action with the Sahrawi people. The sun on this poster for the Bank of the Sun is composed of the Arabic word for “freedom,” repeated 38 times—once for every year the Sahrawis have waited for the right to self-determination (as of last year). CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.

I admit that it was a pretty far-out and grand idea, but I suppose I did see a world of potential in Saharan solar energy, just like the jetway HSBC ad said. I was thinking like a bank.

After getting back from the Tindouf camps, I found myself in Texas, accepting a national award for my efforts in public art and, most likely, boring everyone with crazy talk about a Bank of the Sun in landmine-laced Western Sahara. My friends were more concerned about my diminishing sense of self-preservation than about anything I said—especially after I told them that my trip to Tifariti had been interrupted by the armed kidnapping of three foreign-aid workers from a neighboring refugee camp. They didn’t even entertain my ideas with any questions about how the bank idea could be pulled off.

As with most such gatherings, there was not much left to do after the award ceremony but drink and dance. So, with friends in tow, we honky-tonked through San Antonio, taking over a bar by the River Walk and proceeding to do what had to be done. While taking a break from the floor, I noticed a man about my age sitting at a table with a beer, tapping his feet to the bluesy beat. I had my posse pull him onto the floor. He began to move in a calculated way, like an engineer. Intrigued, I joined him and the party on the floor.

Over the din, I shouted, “What do you do?”

He shouted back, “I’m an engineer.”

“Really?” I asked. “What kind?”

“A solar engineer.”

I challenged Texas style: “So, ever heard of Western Sahara?”

Matter-of-factly he replied, “Yes, we designed a power station for the refugee camps there.”

For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds; the bodies in frantic motion seemed to stand still. I urged him off the dance floor. He told me, in an Australian accent, that he was Dr. Richard Corkish, head of photovoltaic engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Not only that—his colleague had just been in the same refugee camps I had visited, advising on how to power a women’s clinic. It was a profound coincidence, to say the least. We closed the bar, and I left clutching Dr. Corkish’s business card.

For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds.

Since our night on the floor, Dr. Corkish has been an adviser to the Bank of the Sun, which is on its way to becoming a reality. He has assigned students the project as part of his curriculum and counseled us on the design of a modular, pragmatic stand-alone solar power plant in Western Sahara, as well as a cost-effective method for transmitting power. Following Corkish’s methodologies, we could generate more than enough energy for Sahrawi needs, creating a surplus to sell to neighboring countries or even to Europe. By working in the Western Sahara to retool our approach to energy, we would prove that the most advanced methods of solar-power storage and delivery are feasible even in a place with no infrastructure. The most appropriate technology for us all could be built from the sand up.

In February 2013 I discussed the project with Ahmad Bukhari, the Polisario representative to the United Nations, and later with Mohamed Yeslem Beisat, the ambassador to the United States for the Western Saharan people. Skeptical at first, they have both become advisers and creative collaborators.

To make the first Bank of the Sun a reality, we have to find a place where electricity can be generated that is both safe from armed conflict and close enough to someone interested in buying energy. Bukhari suggested placing the stand-alone solar power plant not in the camps but in Mijek, a nomadic outpost in the liberated territories. Mijek continues to be the most likely site because the energy could be sold to Zouérat, a town in northern Mauritania where an iron ore mine needs more power than is available. The Mauritanian ambassador recently confirmed that the country would buy any energy offered. I have started to seek funds for a fact-finding trek, during which I will finally step on the sands of Western Sahara.

Mel Chin

The site and plans for the potential Bank of the Sun. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.

During my time in the Sahrawi refugee camps, I relearned a lesson I picked up in the flood-wracked and environmentally poisoned parts of New Orleans: you are not inspired by tragedy or human suffering—you are compelled.

My brilliant translator, a young man named Mohamed Sulaiman Labat, was born in the camps and has never traveled beyond his host country, Algeria, or the shameful wall of sand and explosives erected by Morocco in Western Sahara. Sulaiman is majestic in his capacity for optimism and his aptitude for imagining alternative futures based on ideas we discussed during my stay. On our last night together, he spoke with me about staring each night into the vast sky above the camps. He then asked, “No disrespect, but why is it so easy for an artist to see our need for justice when the rest of the world can’t?”

A question like that makes you think about what could be and about how our humanity is challenged if we don’t take action to amplify his question—and to force an answer.

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This piece from Creative Time Reports is republished without trying to track down permission. Climate Reports is made possible by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. This series is produced in conjunction with the 2013 Marfa Dialogues/NY organized by Ballroom Marfa, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and the Public Concern Foundation. We hope that the authors will not mind our trying to publicize their very sound dream for a mos reasonable future. The only question is if the world will be enlightened enough to see that the true realists are the dreamers of today.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Here’s what’s going on at the White House today.
The White House, Washington

DAILY SNAPSHOT
Friday, May 16, 2014

Featured
“The Faces of Nearly 3,000 Innocent Souls”Yesterday, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum opened its doors to the families of those who lost their lives in the 2001 attacks, as well as the first responders and recovery workers that helped save the lives of others that day.

“Here, at this memorial, this museum, we come together,” said President Obama. “We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls — men and women and children of every race, every creed, and every corner of the world. … Here we tell their story, so that generations yet unborn will never forget.”

Read more of the President’s remarks at yesterday’s dedication.

Read more about the 9/11 museum dedication ceremony.

 

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National September 11 Memorial & Museum dedication ceremony in New York, N.Y., May 15, 2014.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the National September 11 Memorial & Museum dedication ceremony in New York, N.Y., May 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 

President Obama said that the site is now a “sacred place of healing and of hope.”

“Here, at this memorial, this museum, we come together.  We stand in the footprints of two mighty towers, graced by the rush of eternal waters.  We look into the faces of nearly 3,000 innocent souls — men and women and children of every race, every creed, and every corner of the world.  We can touch their names and hear their voices and glimpse the small items that speak to the beauty of their lives.  A wedding ring.  A dusty helmet.  A shining badge.

Here we tell their story, so that generations yet unborn will never forget.  Of coworkers who led others to safety.  Passengers who stormed a cockpit.  Our men and women in uniform who rushed into an inferno.  Our first responders who charged up those stairs.  A generation of servicemembers — our 9/11 Generation — who have served with honor in more than a decade of war.  A nation that stands tall and united and unafraid — because no act of terror can match the strength or the character of our country.  Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us; nothing can change who we are as Americans.”

In his remarks, the President also told the story of Welles Crowther, a young man who gave his own life in order to save others:

“On that September morning, Alison Crowther lost her son Welles.  Months later, she was reading the newspaper — an article about those final minutes in the towers.  Survivors recounted how a young man wearing a red handkerchief had led them to safety.  And in that moment, Alison knew.  Ever since he was a boy, her son had always carried a red handkerchief.  Her son Welles was the man in the red bandana.

Welles was just 24 years old, with a broad smile and a bright future.  He worked in the South Tower, on the 104th floor. He had a big laugh, a joy of life, and dreams of seeing the world.  He worked in finance, but he had also been a volunteer firefighter.  And after the planes hit, he put on that bandana and spent his final moments saving others.

Three years ago this month, after our SEALs made sure that justice was done, I came to Ground Zero.  And among the families here that day was Alison Crowther.  And she told me about Welles and his fearless spirit, and she showed me a handkerchief like the one he wore that morning.

And today, as we saw on our tour, one of his red handkerchiefs is on display in this museum.  And from this day forward, all those who come here will have a chance to know the sacrifice of a young man who — like so many — gave his life so others might live.”

“Those we lost live on in us,” said the President. “In the families who love them still. In the friends who remember them always. And in a nation that will honor them, now and forever.”

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The President kept his words tight and dignified without mentioning the perpetrators, but we allow ourselves to be more outspoken and remind our readers that the Bin Ladens are products of our insistence on using their Saudi Arabia as a mere oil-source, and do not dare to talk of human rights or other such banalities as democracy. We also would never speak up against religious Islamic Arab racism as long as the Arab world just persists in harming their own. It is only when they step out of line and harm American or Israeli citizens that we wake up – but still continue to buy their oil and gas.

Now, while we mourn the civilized world’s victims “of all races and creeds” as per the 9/11 beast-made cataclysm – our papers talk of a “Black Bin Laden” by the name of Abubakar Shrkau, the boss of the Islamic Terror-group Boko Haram who has it out against the Christian Nigerians – killing them and abducting their daughters. This is no less then a “cleansing” operation in the Islamic World, and the results are clear in the Middle East and are now being extended to Africa – this along the “oil-road” – be it in Sudan or Nigeria.

When will the US and the EU finally realize that energy is not a synonym for oil?

If Climate Change, and now also the fate of the Ukraine are no eye openers – what will ever awaken a dormant US Congress or a dormant EU Parliament that can think only oil and gas?

On 9/11 2001, the day the UN General Assembly was to start their meetings, I was supposed to participate and being inducted at a ringing of the Peace Bell. Obviously, looking at the clouds of dust hovering over down-town, that were visible even at the 42 Street at the UN, the event was postponed by several days, and when held it was more like a wake not an inspiration. I, and everyone involved in this, will never forget or forgive. (PJ)

 

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And from today’s mail from The Council of Foreign Relations:

Crisis in Nigeria

Why One Nigerian Crisis Attracted Notoriety

John Campbell

Boko Haram’s kidnapping of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria has claimed more international attention than any other atrocity of the ongoing insurgency. A Boko Haram warlord’s video claiming responsibility for the kidnapping and threatening to, in effect, sell the girls into slavery appears to have fed the media storm, tying the tragedy to larger issues of human trafficking, child marriage, and girls’ education. Read more on Africa in Transition »

Beating Boko Haram

Isobel Coleman and Sigrid von Wendel

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “secular education is a sin,” has been committing heinous attacks across Nigeria’s north for years, frequently targeting schools. To fight back, Abuja must double down on education even as it rethinks its counterterrorism strategy. Read more on ForeignAffairs.com »

Get Girls’ Education Out of the Crosshairs

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Education has long been in the crosshairs of extremists, but only recently came to light via Boko Haram’s kidnapping of nearly three hundred school girls. More than seventy million school-aged children do not attend elementary school. This statistic will need to change to ensure prosperity, stability, and security. Read the op-ed »

Will the “Civilized World” do anything if the present rage subsides? (PJ)

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

 

 

Europe

 

Kiev Struggles to Break Russia’s Grip on Gas Flow.

 

 

Photo

A natural gas worker in Chaslovtsy, the largest transit point in Ukraine for Gazprom exports to the European Union. Credit Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

 

CHASLOVTSY, Ukraine — As Ukraine tries to contain a pro-Russian insurgency convulsing its eastern region, a perhaps more significant struggle for the country hinges on what happens beneath the ground here in a placid woodland in the far west, on the border with Slovakia.

This is where about $20 billion worth of Russian natural gas flows each year through huge underground pipelines to enter Europe after a nearly 3,000-mile journey from Siberia. It is also, the pro-European government in Kiev believes, where Ukraine has a chance to finally break free from the grip of Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy behemoth.

In an effort to do this, Ukraine has for more than a year been pushing hard to start so-called reverse-flow deliveries of gas from Europe via Slovakia to Ukraine, thus blunting repeated Russian threats to turn off the gas tap.

An agreement signed last week between Slovak and Ukrainian pipeline operators opened the way for modest reverse-flow deliveries of gas from Europe, where prices are much lower than those demanded by Gazprom for its direct sales to Ukraine.

But the deal, brokered by the European Union and nudged along by the White House, fell so far short of what Ukraine had been lobbying for that it left a nagging question: Why has it been so difficult to prod tiny Slovakia, a European Union member, to get a technically simple and, for Ukraine and for the credibility of the 28-nation bloc, vitally important venture off the ground?

Some cite legal and technical obstacles, others politics and fear of crossing the Kremlin, but all agree that a major obstacle has been the power and reach of Gazprom, which serves as a potent tool for advancing Russia’s economic and geopolitical interests, and is ultimately beholden to President Vladimir V. Putin.

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Gazprom not only dominates the gas business across the former Soviet Union, but also enjoys considerable clout inside the European Union, which gets roughly a third of its gas imports from Russia and is itself vulnerable to Russian pressure.

Major Gas Lines

Uzhgorod and Chaslovtsy are the most West-Side dots in above map of The UKRAINE.

All the same, a fog of mystery surrounds the reluctance of Slovakia to open up its gas transit corridor — through which Russia pumps a large portion of its gas to Europe — for large reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine.

Built during the Soviet era to link Siberian gas fields with European markets, Slovak pipelines, according to Ukrainian officials and experts, could move up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas from Europe to Ukraine a year — more than all the gas Ukraine is expected to import from Russia this year.

Instead, the majority state-owned Slovak company that runs the system, Eustream, has offered only a small, long-disused subsidiary pipeline that still needs engineering work before it can carry gas to Ukraine. Once the work is finished in October, Eustream will provide just a tenth of the gas Ukraine has been looking for from Europe. The company says that small amount can be increased sharply later.

Here in Chaslovtsy, in southwestern Ukraine, where technicians from Ukraine’s pipeline company, Ukrtransgaz, and Gazprom monitor the flow of Russian gas into Slovakia, the Ukrainian head of the facility, Vitaly Lukita, said he wondered if gas would ever flow the other way.

“We are all ready here, but I don’t know why the Slovaks are taking so long,” Mr. Lukita said. “Everyone has been talking about this for a very long time, but nothing has happened.”

Andriy Kobolev, the board chairman of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company, said he was particularly mystified by the recalcitrance of Eustream because in 2011 the company had put forward the idea of using spare capacity in its trunk pipelines for reverse-flow supplies to Ukraine.

He said the Slovaks had rejected this option in recent negotiations, citing secret contracts with Gazprom. He added that he did not know what the problem was exactly, because he had not been allowed to see the contracts.

Eustream executives declined repeated requests for interviews. Vahram Chuguryan, the company’s spokesman, declined to comment on the apparent change of heart or on whether it was related to an ownership shuffle in early 2013, when a group of wealthy Czech and Slovak businesspeople purchased a 49 percent stake in Eustream. At the time, Czech news media speculated that they were acting as a stalking horse for Gazprom.

Daniel Castvaj, a spokesman for Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holding, the company that made the purchase, denied Ukrainian assertions that Eustream has sought to limit reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine, describing these as “not only untrue but nonsensical” since the pipeline operator, which makes its money off transit fees, has a strong commercial interest in boosting flows regardless of direction.

He said he was unaware of any 2011 offer by Eustream to use the trunk transit system to deliver gas to Ukraine, but added that such an option has always been technically and legally impossible “without the consent of Gazprom,” which has not been given.

European Union officials, frustrated by months of haggling and worried about possible legal problems raised by Gazprom’s contracts with Slovakia, hailed last week’s modest deal as offering at least an end to the logjam. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, described it as a “breakthrough” but also called it a “first step,” signaling hope that Slovakia may, over time, allow more substantial reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s dependence on Gazprom to heat homes and power factories — it buys more than half its supplies from Russia — has not only left the country vulnerable to sudden price changes, which fluctuate depending on whether Moscow wants to punish or favor the authorities in Kiev, but has also helped fuel the rampant corruption that has addled successive Ukrainian governments.

When Gazprom raised the price of gas to Ukraine by 80 percent last month and threatened to cut off supplies if Kiev did not pay up, Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, blasted Moscow for “aggression against Ukraine.”

“Apart from the Russian Army and guns, they decided to use one of the most efficient tools, which are political and economic pressure,” he said.

   Ukraine Crisis in Maps

By pushing to buy the bulk of its gas from Europe instead of from Gazprom and murky middlemen endorsed by Gazprom, Ukraine hopes to protect what it sees as a dangerously exposed flank from Russian attack.

The best-known of those middlemen, the Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash, was detained in Austria in April and has been fighting extradition to the United States.

“Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told Ukrainian legislators during a visit to Kiev last month. “It would be a very different world you’d be facing today.”

 

Nearly all the gas Washington and Brussels would like to get moving into Ukraine from Europe originally came from Russia, which pumps gas westward across Ukraine, into Slovakia and then on to customers in Germany and elsewhere. Once the gas is sold, however, Gazprom ceases to be its owner and loses its power to set the terms of its sale.

 

Russia is currently demanding $485 per thousand cubic meters for the gas Ukraine buys directly — instead of the price of $268 it offered the Ukrainian government under President Viktor F. Yanukovych before his ouster — while “Russian” gas sold via Europe, which should be more expensive because of additional transit fees, costs at least $100 per unit less.

Russia denies using gas as a political weapon and says all Ukraine needs to do to secure a stable supply at a reasonable price is pay its bills on time and clear its debts, which Gazprom said total $3.5 billion.

Ukraine has already started taking reverse-flow deliveries from Poland and Hungary. But the quantities, around 2 billion cubic meters last year, have been too small to make much of a difference. Only Slovakia has the pipeline capacity to change the balance of forces.

“We have been struggling for a long time to convince them to find a solution,” said Mr. Kobolev, the Ukrainian gas chief. “We have now identified the problem, which was obvious from the beginning — restrictions placed by Gazprom.”

Ukraine’s energy minister, Yuri Prodan, dismissed Gazprom’s legal and technical arguments as a red herring. “I think the problem is political. We don’t see any real objective obstacles to what we have been proposing,” he said.

Opposition politicians in Slovakia, noting that 51 percent of Eustream belongs to the Slovak state, attribute the pipeline company’s stand to the country’s prime minister, Robert Fico, a center-left leader who has sometimes seemed more in sync with Moscow’s views than those of the European Union.

“Fico thinks that it is necessary to be very nice and polite to Mr. Putin,” Mikulas Dzurinda, a former prime minister of Slovakia, said in a telephone interview. “This is the heritage of old communists in a new era: The big guys are still in Moscow,” he said.

At a news conference in April, Mr. Fico insisted that Slovakia was “really ready” to help assist reverse-flow deliveries to Ukraine. But he added, “We naturally protect our own interests” and will not risk punishment by Gazprom for moves that violate Slovakia’s own deals with the Russian energy giant.

Slovakia depends on Gazprom for around 60 percent of its gas supplies and worries that upsetting the Russian company would lead to higher prices for itself or even cuts in supplies.

Alexander Medvedev, the head of Gazprom’s export arm, said he had no problem in principle with reverse-flow supplies to Ukraine but said such arrangements “require the agreement of all parties involved,” including Gazprom.

“Normally, you can’t arrange a physical reverse flow without a new pipeline,” he added, indicating Gazprom’s opposition to the use of existing Slovak pipelines.

Watching over workers in Chaslovtsy as they laid new underground pipes, Ivan Shayuk, a Ukrainian engineer for Ukrtransgaz, shook his head when asked why the scheme was taking so long.

“What is the problem? The problem is simple — Putin,” he said.

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Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague, and Alison Smale from Berlin.

A version of this article appears in print on May 5, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Kiev Struggles to Break Russia’s Grip on Gas Flow.

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comment from: orbit7er

Here is another piece of the farce being pushed by the plutocratic elite in denial of the realities of Peak Oil and Climate Change. To ship…

And you know – the comment is right – it is those that refuse to let Europe move away from the use of gas that keep watch the umbilical cord to Russia is not broken. This umbilical cord to an unpredictable Russia is the undoing of the EU, and EU member-States that stand up for to hang on this umbilical cord are the un-doers of Europe.
Strange, as it might seem, Austria may be one of these European States that like Slovakia take real interest in conserving the is. Our eyes opened up Sunday May 2nd thanks to two articles in the Austrian news-papers:

(a)  “A Pipeline that Splits Europe” by Veronika Eschbacher, in the venerable and historic Wiener Zeitung, and

(b)  “How Russia wants to Renew its Might via Gas” by Guenther Strobl in the respected Business pages of Der Standard

Both articles give the facts about the Austrian National Oil Company OEMV, that is in the process of planing with the Russian Gazprom to build a new pipeline – “The Southern Stream” – that will shoot directly under the Black Sea, from Russia’s Caucasus near Socchi, to Bulgaria’s port at Varna. Then from there go directly through Serbia and Hungar to Austria – the town of Baumgarten on the border with Slovakia. The achievement here is that this line does not touvh the Ukraine, Moldova, Poland or Rumania which are inclined to be most reluctant to stay under the Russian boot.

So where in this is the Austria of the very active young Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz who is laboring at finding an amicable solution in the conflict between The Ukraine and Russia?

Will an Austrian Government that listens to its own Oil Company be so influenced by it that it works against the better interests in Europe – that try to distance themselves from too close relationship with Russia and understand that Energy Independence in Europe means independence of imports of gas – specially if this gas originates in Russia – pipeline A or Pipeline B – there is no inherent difference in this?

The media has yet to explain this, and the politicians running in Austria for the European Parliament have yet to mention it.   Absolutely – not a single politician in Austria has yet had the courage to say that OEMV is not the source of Foreign policy or the guru of futurology and sustainability for Austria, the EU …  for Europe.

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May 5, 2014, at the Wirtschaftsmuseum (the Economy Museum) at Vogelsanggassee 36, 1050 Vienna, Austria, a panel chaired by Dr. Patrick Horvath, included the Editor of the Wiener Zeitung, Mr. Reinhard Goeweil and titled “EU-Elections 2014 – The Role of the Media” gave me the opportunity to raise the importance of the OEMV in Austrian Government policy and the fact that the media just does not point it out. Dr. Horvath, PhD in Social Studies of Communication, is Head of the Union of Scientists dealing with Economic Policy (WIWIPOL) and the panel included as well Mr. Wolfgang Greif (a last minute addition) – Head of the Europe Section at the Employees and the Employers involved in Company Boards and wrote the book on the subject fighting for the right of the Employees to get information about their Companies; Professor Fritz Hausjell of the Vienna University Faculty of Journalism; and Mr. Wolfgang Mitterlehner – Head of Communication at the Viennese Workers’ Union Central Office.

Professor Hausjell pointed out that the Wienner Zeitung is the best provider of information among the Austrian Media and this is something I argue as well, so it made it easier for me to formulate my question by starting with my own congratulation with the paper’s editor right there on the panel. In effect, founded in 1703 under the name “Vienna Diarium” the WZ is worldwide the oldest newspaper still in print(!) (it appears now 5 times a week with Friday and Sunday excluded and carries the official announcements of use in legal Austria); Mr. Goeweil is editor since 2009 and by background a writer on economics.

As excited as I was by the paper’s expose last weekend of the “Southern Stream” pipeline plans intended to keep the Russian gas flowing to Europe under conditions that exclude the Ukraine, Moldova, and Rumania, while using Russian friendly Serbia, and safeguarding the position of Slavic Slovakia – a multibillion project that might become active by 2017, but can kill all development of Renewable Energy in Europe right now, I realized that further involvement in the subject, even by a paper like WZ, will not come as long as even the good people of that paper take for granted the oil lobby arguments that there is not possible to replace the gas because there is not enough sun, wind, hydro-power etc. If nothing else, the Fossil and Nuclear lobbies have numbed the inquisitiveness of even the good media in the EU States, like they did in the US. Why not bring Jigar Shah over here and have him talk of CLIMATE WEALTH?  Why are not more active businesses that stand to flourish ? Are we the only ones to still say YES WE CAN?

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And Vienna is again the Center of Europe!

May 5-6, 2014 the Council of Europe is meeting in Vienna. 30 Foreign Ministers, including those of Russia and the Ukraine, are meeting here under the chairmanship of Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland, the second most popular politician of Norway and a person that has held all possible political positions in Norway and many in all of Europe who is trying to manage the States of all of Europe with the help of the resourceful Austrian Sebastian Kurz.

Norway is not part of the EU and is an outside gas supplier to the EU. Interesting that Mr. Kurz started his meetings on Sunday with meeting first the current Norwegian Foreign Minister – was this a line-up on gas policy? Is that what the New York Times had in mind when publishing their article? Is it all about lining up interests with Russia and Norway so gas continues to flow in those pipelines and The Ukraine pushed aside, isolated and neutralized?

We shall see and so far as Europe is concerned, we will keep a close eye on these developments because in them we see
a make or break not just for the Ukraine but even more important – for the European Energy Policy that some, like the Prime Ministers of Poland and Slovakia, think of as just a gas policy.

 

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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!

 

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