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Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York:
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from Iulia Trombitcaia  Iulia.Trombitcaia at unece.org via lists.iisd.ca

Dear colleagues,

UNECE has just published the third Environmental Performance Reviews of two countries: Georgia and Belarus.

Both reviews cover air, water, waste, biodiversity and the integration of environmental considerations into a wide number of sectors (energy, forestry, transport, tourism, health, etc.).

Both reviews reflect the successes and challenges for these countries in the achievement of MDGs, and we very much hope that the recommendations of the reviews will assist these countries in developing their national agendas for the achievement of SDGs.

The publications can be found here:

3rd Environmental Performance Review of Georgia:
 www.unece.org/index.php?id=42309 (in English)

3rd Environmental Performance Review of Belarus:
 www.unece.org/index.php?id=41226 (in English and Russian)

Yours,
Iulia Trombitcaia, UNECE

……………………………………………………………………………………….
Ms. Iulia TROMBITCAIA
Environmental Affairs Officer
Environmental Performance Review Programme
UN Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Telephone: 0041-22-917 3332
Telefax: 0041-22-917 06 21
E-mail:  iulia.trombitcaia at unece.org
 www.unece.org/env/epr.html

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 4th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

24 March 2016
Insurance for an uncertain climate

IIASA studies point out The application of insurance as a mechanism to help vulnerable people adapt to the impacts of climate change is gaining international support. Experts support the idea but warn of potential problems.

In December, negotiators at the Paris climate meeting adopted insurance as an instrument to aid climate adaptation.

Earlier in the year, the leaders of the G7 pledged to bring climate insurance to 400 million uninsured individuals in poor countries by 2020.

In a new article in the journal Nature Climate Change, experts from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Deltares and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis welcome these developments, but also lay out the difficulties that policymakers will face in turning the ideas into action. They warn that ill-designed and poorly implemented insurance instruments could fail to reach the goals of negotiators, or worse, prove detrimental to the very people they are intended to protect.

Swenja Surminski, Senior Research Fellow the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science led the article. She says, “Poor communities are much more impacted by extreme weather such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves. Rather than ad-hoc and unpredictable payments after these events, insurance approaches can be set up in advance of these impacts, and be more efficient and provide better support to these vulnerable people”

Bayer was one of the first to propose insurance as a mechanism to reimburse people for the impacts of climate change, and to examine the potential benefits and trade-offs of such policies. She says, “With the new momentum we have for these policies, we now have the opportunity to put the right insurance systems in place.”

While insurance could provide funding to help people in need, the researchers point out several ways that such mechanisms could fail:

Any new insurance scheme in developing countries needs to overcome difficult challenges, including lack of risk data, limited financial literacy, and weak financial infrastructure;
Insurance for the poor will only be viable if it is linked to adaptation and risk reduction efforts that reduce the underlying risk factors including climate-resilient infrastructure, adapted agricultural practices, and early warning systems; otherwise climate insurance will be short-lived and far from cost-effective;
Traditional insurance is an expensive mechanism with high transaction and capital costs, making premiums far higher than expected losses. This suggests that adaptation funds might be better spent on other types of safety net rather than on buying insurance cover from international insurance markets;
Insurance will need high levels of subsidies or other forms of support to render it affordable and to avoid shifting responsibility on to those who are the least responsible for climate change, the least able to shoulder the premiums, and in many cases the least able to reduce their losses.

In order to avoid these problems, the researchers argue, policymakers should consider climate insurance as part of a wider adaptation strategy rather than in isolation or as an alternative to adaptation.

Surminski points to her recent reviews of insurance schemes in developing countries and says, “When installing an insurance scheme, climate change and other factors contributing to the risks need to be taken into account. Insurance needs to be coupled to adaptation efforts to deal with these risk factors, otherwise climate insurance will be not be sustainable nor cost-effective.

Laurens M. Bouwer from Deltares, another coauthor, adds, “What is critical for any adaptation or insurance scheme is that we understand current and future risks from extreme weather sufficiently, in order to make the right decisions. Here, the experience and tools for risk assessment can help.”

Reference
Surminski, S., Bouwer, L.M. & Linnerooth-Bayer, J. (2016). How insurance can support climate resilience. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2979

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From our friend Jay Hauben of Columbia University – Hi,

Many peoples get spirit from celebrating the changes of season. The Jewish people celebrate the start of a new year with the coming of fall and the harvest. Many people in Asia celebrate a new year with a Spring Festival just before the coming of spring and the time for planting. People in the Persian tradition celebrate the new year called Norooz at the Spring Equinox. This year Norooz falls on March 20.

Ronda and I send you warm greetings for Norooz and for the whole year to come. May all of us learn from nature a way of renewing our lives, seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good.

Norooz is celebrated as the start of a new year by 350 million or more people worldwide. It is an ancient Zoroastrian celebration and was spread by the first Persian Empire established by Cyrus The Great over 2,500 years ago, around 550 BC. A later Persian empire even included parts of what is now the western Xinjiang province in China. That area was within the Sassanid Empire’s borders, around 450 A.D. Even today people there still celebrate Norooz.

Last year, after I sent out my Norooz greeting, a Korean friend answered that people in Asia consider every human being part of great Nature as is every tree or bird or even the wind. He said they try not to conquer Nature rather keep intact as a part of our body. I heard from a friend in Japan that it is also a Japanese tradition to celebrate the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. A friend in Norway told me that “Nowruz – is deeply indo-european, it is New (in Norwegian Ny), the word rooz or ruz has rich associations in the direction of (new/re) birth, flowering, (spring out), in slavic languages rodzenia, rust (birth, growth). We need some of that in the world now, the Arab Spring did not quite get as far as I had hoped.”

An Iranian friend wrote to me. “We spell it No Ruz (New Day) but the double “o” is OK too- When in Iran everything closes and people picnic everywhere for 13 days, even stopping by the side of a main highway and pitching a colorful tent. Iran is certainly a major player as the most stable country in the region and has always had the respect of its neighbors-well, most of them…”

A neighbor in Manhattan wrote, “I love nature [when it’s not violent] and do learn from it when i can. unfortunately, we city-folks are not immersed in it; the little i see is from my window: the birds, the sky, the amazing view of the snow-filled trees, and central park; we all must go there soon.”

A friend in China responded to my Norooz message, “How nice to learn about the Norooz and the Zoroastrian religion of so many people of the earth village. I like definitely as you said: the way of life seeing the light instead the dark and uniting with all that is good. But to our common misfortune, there are always the powers who see the world as a neighborhood to control and to fight with rather than to respect and live in peace.” A friend living in Thailand observed that “Nature is pure and simple, human politics is complicated and insane.” And wished me and Ronda Happy Norooz.

Also, one of my cousins wrote to me that he is “familiar with the fact that many civilizations celebrate the solar equinox, which was and still is the start of renewing (spring and planting), the new yearly start of fertility, both plant and animal alike.” He reminded me that Jewish people celebrate Passover at this time and Christians celebrate Easter. It shows me that we people everywhere are really more the same than different.

Last year Ronda and I attended the UN celebration of Norooz. It consisted of short speeches and videos from twelve nations: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The theme of all the speeches was that Norooz reconnects humans and nature every year. That we all should learn from nature to renew our lives. That Norooz transcends ethnicity and religion and geography. The spirit of Norooz is good neighborliness. Translated into international diplomacy that means respect for cultural diversity and national sovereignty. I found such statements valuable even though I agree with my friend in China that there are dominant nations who see the world as a neighborhood to control not to respect.

Ronda and I hope you are and can stay well and that Spring will make everyone’s life a bit easier and more pleasant.

Happy Norooz, Happy Easter! Happy Passover!
Happy Spring!

Take care.
Hello from Ronda.

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


The idea driving the protests is that climate change can be blunted only by moving to renewable energy and capping any growth of fossil fuels.

The New York Times – Environment

Environmental Activists Take to Local Protests for Global Results

By JOHN SCHWARTZ – MARCH 19, 2016

READING, N.Y. — They came here to get arrested.

Nearly 60 protesters blocked the driveway of a storage plant for natural gas on March 7. Its owners want to expand the facility, which the opponents say would endanger nearby Seneca Lake. But their concerns were global, as well.

“There’s a climate emergency happening,” one of the protesters, Coby Schultz, said. “It’s a life-or-death struggle.”

The demonstration here was part of a wave of actions across the nation that combines traditional not-in-my-backyard protests against fossil-fuel projects with an overarching concern about climate change.


Activists have been energized by successes on several fronts, including the decision last week by President Obama to block offshore drilling along the Atlantic Seaboard; his decision in November to reject the Keystone XL pipeline; and the Paris climate agreement.

Bound together through social media, networks of far-flung activists are opposing virtually all new oil, gas and coal infrastructure projects — a process that has been called “Keystone-ization.”

As the climate evangelist Bill McKibben put it in a Twitter post after Paris negotiators agreed on a goal of limiting global temperature increases: “We’re damn well going to hold them to it. Every pipeline, every mine.”

Regulators almost always approve such projects, though often with modifications, said Donald F. Santa Jr., chief executive of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America. Still, the protests are having some impact. The engineering consultants Black and Veatch recently published a report that said the most significant barrier to building new pipeline capacity was “delay from opposition groups.”

Activists regularly protest at the headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, but there have also been sizable protests in places like St. Paul and across the Northeast.

In Portland, Ore., where protesters conducted a “kayaktivist” blockade in July to keep Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs from leaving port, the City Council passed a resolution opposing the expansion of facilities for the storage and transportation of fossil fuels.

Greg Yost, a math teacher in North Carolina who works with the group NC PowerForward, said the activists emboldened one another.

“When we pick up the ball and run with it here in North Carolina, we’re well aware of what’s going on in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island,” he said. “The fight we’re doing here, it bears on what happens elsewhere — we’re all in this together, we feel like.”

The movement extends well beyond the United States. In May, a wave of protests and acts of civil disobedience, under an umbrella campaign called Break Free 2016, is scheduled around the world to urge governments and fossil fuel companies to “keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.”

This approach — think globally, protest locally — is captured in the words of Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist and a scholar in residence at Ithaca College who helped organize the demonstration at the storage plant near Seneca Lake: “This driveway is a battleground, and there are driveways like this all over the world.”

The idea driving the protests is that climate change can be blunted only by moving to renewable energy and capping any growth of fossil fuels.

Speaking to the crowd at Seneca Lake, Mr. McKibben, who had come from his home in Vermont, said, “Our job on behalf of the planet is to slow them down.”

He added, “If we can hold them off for two or three years, there’s no way any of this stuff can be built again.”

But the issues are not so clear cut. The protests aimed at natural gas pipelines, for example, may conflict with policies intended to fight climate change and pollution by reducing reliance on dirtier fossil fuels.

“The irony is this,” said Phil West, a spokesman for Spectra Energy, whose pipeline projects, including those in New York State, have come under attack. “The shift to additional natural gas use is a key contributor to helping the U.S. reduce energy-related emissions and improve air quality.”

Those who oppose natural gas pipelines say the science is on their side.

They note that methane, the chief component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas in the short term, with more than 80 times the effect of carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.

The Obama administration is issuing regulations to reduce leaks, but environmental opposition to fracking, and events like the huge methane plume released at a storage facility in the Porter Ranch neighborhood near Los Angeles, have helped embolden the movement.

Once new natural gas pipelines and plants are in place, opponents argue, they will operate for decades, blocking the shift to solar and wind power.

“It’s not a bridge to renewable energy — it’s a competitor,” said Patrick Robbins, co-director of the Sane Energy Project, which protests pipeline development and is based in New York.

Such logic does not convince Michael A. Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Saying no to gas doesn’t miraculously lead to the substitution of wind and solar — it may lead to the continued operation of coal-fired plants,” he said, noting that when the price of natural gas is not competitive, owners take the plants, which are relatively cheap to build, out of service.

“There is enormous uncertainty about how quickly you can build out renewable energy systems, about what the cost will be and what the consequences will be for the electricity network,” Mr. Levi said.

Even some who believe that natural gas has a continuing role to play say that not every gas project makes sense.

N. Jonathan Peress, an expert on electricity and natural gas markets at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that while companies push to add capacity, the long-term need might not materialize.

“There is a disconnect between the perception of the need for massive amounts of new pipeline capacity and the reality,” he said.

Market forces, regulatory assumptions and business habits favor the building of new pipelines even though an evolving electrical grid and patterns of power use suggest that the demand for gas will, in many cases, decrease.

Even now, only 6 percent of gas-fired plants run at greater than 80 percent of their capacity, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, and nearly half of such plants run at an average load factor of just 17 percent.

“The electricity grid is evolving in a way that strongly suggests what’s necessary today won’t be necessary in another 20 years, let alone 10 or 15,” Mr. Peress said.

Back at Seneca Lake, the protesters cheered when Schuyler County sheriff’s vans showed up. The group had protested before, and so the arrests had the friendly familiarity of a contra dance. As one deputy, A.W. Yessman, placed zip-tie cuffs on Catherine Rossiter, he asked jovially, “Is this three, or four?”

She beamed. “You remember me!”

Brad Bacon, a spokesman for the owner of the plant at Seneca Lake, Crestwood Equity Partners, acknowledged that it had become more burdensome to get approval to build energy infrastructure in the Northeast even though regulatory experts have tended not to be persuaded by the protesters’ environmental arguments.

The protesters, in turn, disagree with the regulators, and forcefully.

As he was being handcuffed, Mr. McKibben called the morning “a good scene.” The actions against fossil fuels, he said, will continue. “There’s 15 places like this around the world today,” he said. “There will be 15 more tomorrow, and the day after that.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IIASA study assesses land use impacts of EU biofuel policy

Laxenburg Austria, 16 March 2016 – The indirect impacts of biofuel production on land use change and greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union vary widely depending on the type of biofuel, according to a study published last week.

{The Study Argues – this is our insert}
Biofuel policy in the European Union has been under scrutiny for several years, with intense debate around its efficiency in reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Indeed, biofuel production can take up agricultural land otherwise used for food and feed, and lead to land use conversion elsewhere that would offset some of the climate benefits of the policy, a problem known as indirect land use change. In a new study for the European Commission in partnership with the sustainable energy consultancies Ecofys and E4tech, IIASA researchers have now brought more precise insight to the topic, showing the different levels of impact that different biofuels have on land use change and the climate.

The study revisits the impacts of biofuels consumed in the European Union and is the most comprehensive comparison to date of land use effects across feedstocks. It provides the first analysis, in a consistent modeling framework, of both conventional (or first-generation) biofuels, produced from food crops such as vegetable oil, and advanced (or second-generation) biofuels, produced from residues or energy crops such as grasses, forestry residues and cereal straw.

IIASA researcher Hugo Valin led the modeling for the study. He says, “First generation biofuels have been criticized in the past due to their indirect land use change impact, which our study confirms. But by looking at a much broader range of biofuel options, we clearly show that not all biofuels are equal.”

On one end of the spectrum, the study shows that certain types of vegetable oils, such palm or soybean oil, can lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also shows that impacts of ethanol feedstocks are relatively lower than for biodiesel, in particular for high yielded crops such as sugar beet or maize. And on the other end of the spectrum, second generation crops, included for the first time in the analysis for the EU, showed a good performance overall with in several cases net negative emissions.
{This part is a very wise conclusion with which we can completely agree – our insert}

The study also included mitigation scenarios which showed that promoting agricultural expansion on European land compared to the rest of the world would help reducing the impacts in the short run. However, in the long run, the most efficient policy for limiting land-based greenhouse gas emissions would be a better control of agricultural land expansion globally, through policies to preserve forests and other natural ecosystems which can sequester large amounts of carbon including peatlands in Southeast Asia.

The study also included an in-depth analysis of uncertainties in the scenarios to better inform stakeholders. While in some cases uncertainties can be large, the study clearly indicates how impacts of different policy orientations compare.

Valin says, “It’s impossible to remove all uncertainties in such an analysis, but the real value of this study is that it helps decision makers to better anticipate the potential implications of the option they choose. Models help to develop a common understanding of what the problems at stake are and how to mitigate them. In the context of biofuel policies this is especially true, as modeling illustrates the trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions, food consumption, land occupation, agricultural income, and other issues.”

More information
Ecofys: Report quantifies land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU

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We, at SustainabiliTank, find some problems with above study based on our own experience.

Years ago – end of seventies-beginning of eighties – we published via US Congressional hearings about land use and industrial liquid biofuels production. Our argument was that agriculture in industrialized countries is managed by government policy. This was clearly true in the US, and I was approached by the newly formed Brussels based EU Agriculture Commissioner who was interested in that analysis of policy for the EU States as well.

The argument was that the various Departments of Agriculture support the price of food commodities by limiting their production or simply put – by paying farmers NOT TO PRODUCE or keep land out of production. My argument was to use that land – the so called SET-ASIDES – for the new industry of liquid biofuels and stop non-production-subsidies. I went so far as to calculate that for the US I could PRODUCE ETHANOL FROM CORN THAT WAS NOT GROWN AND PAY FOR IT WITH MONEY THAT WAS NOT SPENT. That testimony caused – because of request from Members of Congress – to my being hired as a consultant by the Office of the Comptroller General Of the United States – the US GAO – the General Accounting Office – in order to have them check out those arguments. Surely they found that there was a base for my arguments. They also found that the reduction of the quantities of agricultural commodity produced was much smaller then expected because, naturally, the farmer kept out of production the worst parts of their land. The funniest part was that agricultural corporations would switch the non-production claims from one commodity o another contingent on which ‘asides” provided higher subsidies that year – one year it could have been historic corn, but another year it could have been a claim of not growing wheat.

Whatever, at least for the EU and the US – the “set aside” policy is just public money dished out to the large farming industry for no good purpose and the concept of “hunger in China” just did not hold water. Environmentalists in this context did rather play up to the big oil and farming interests rather then my perception of reduction of dependence on petroleum. Surely, this is different when replacing natural forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil with oil- producing palm trees in the tropics. In those cases the damage to the environment is real. But not when we talk about the vast already deforested agricultural expances of Europe and America. Further, it is clear to us that in a globalized world – producing those commodities in smaller farms overseas, and subsistence farming, would save CO2 emissions that occur in the transport of those commodities originating in highly agriculture-industrialized economies – albeit this means lower take in the industrialized countries, lower need for food production by industrialized countries, and a parallel gain in employment by therural sector in non-industrialized countries we usually define as Developing Countries.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


As our readers must have realized by now – we are posting a series of columns focusing on activities in Vienna, Austria, that are of value to the global network intent to support Sustainability for all.

After having decided that global agreements chased by the UN Headquarters in New York are just pipe dreams. All we can hope for is this network of individual country promises that in their sum-total can answer needs like a decrease in CO2 presence in the atmosphere while not forgetting goals of poverty reduction, energy, climate, security, or equity. We were grateful to President Obama when we realized that this was his thinking as well, and the Paris2015 Outcome – that some insist on calling the Paris Agreement – does in effect constitute the answer to our needs – but only if a “verification of progress” system is put in place.

We looked around and realized that most energy related UN affiliates are headquartered, or at least have a foot, here in Vienna. So I started this series of articles. The more I looked at this – the harder it became writing it – this because of the richness of material – literally daily I am involved in activities, or at least get material that all relate to these topics.

In this last posting I take the advantage of an exceptional boon – the fact that again Vienna was declared the most livable city in the World. This can clearly help. Would you not rather want to live in the best city in the World?

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Besides the city of Vienna, among the first 31 out of the 230 cities with ranking by Mercer, we find a total of 8 cities from German speaking Europe; further 8 assorted cities from other Western Europe (Copenhagen, Geneva, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Brussels, Helsinki, Oslo); New Zealand/Australia account for 9 cities, Canada for 4 cities, Singapore that this year dropped to only 26th place, and highest ranked US city – San Francisco – at 28th place.

Paris is at 37th place, London at 39, New York and Tokyo are at 44-45.

Dubai is at 75th place, Abu Dhabi at 81, Taipei at 84.

First Developing Country city is Durban, South Africa, 86th place.

Buenos Aires, first Spanish speaking South American city is at 93rd place.

Tel Aviv is at 104th place, Brasilia at 106, Muscat, at 107, Tunis at 113.

Beijing, first city in China, is at 118th place. Istanbul at 122.

Mexico City is at 127th place, Riyadh at 164, Moscow at 167, Tehran at 203, Damascus at 224, and at bottom 230 Baghdad.

What are your conclusions from looking at the above?

Is it not so that you would rather like to live in Western Europe – in Vienna and surrounding countries? In Australia, New Zealand and Canada? Would you contemplate on reasons why some of the richest countries’ capital-cities are low on the list?

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I will proceed now to review some of the most resent activities that occurred in the city of Vienna that were rooted with the city itself and not with organizations from afar planted here or organizations formed here in response to needs afar.

In our series we posted so far about: The IAEA Headquarters, The SE4All Headquarters The Outer-Space UN affiliates, The Laxenburg Palace based IIASA, and the Kommunalkredit Public Consulting Group that works with the Austrian Foreign Aid office connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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

Let us look now first at cultural life – and I will go after two amazing shows that just opened:

DER KONGRESS TANZT – “The Congress Dances” – an amazing Operetta that opened at the VOLKSOPER on the Guertel.

The Historical facts are that the Congress of Vienna (German: Wiener Kongress) was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815.

The Congress was intended to organize the post-Napoleon Europe and through that – the World. In many ways this was an attempt to create an overarching EU. All came except Napoleon who was left behind on his exile-island.

It was said that instead of being in session this Congress danced. The Congress of Vienna was the first of a series of international meetings that came to be known as the Concert of Europe, which was an attempt to forge a peaceful balance of power in Europe. It served as a model for later organizations such as the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations in 1945.

Covering the lighter side of this Congress Erik Charell used some of the songs from a Con ference-time operetta and produced a film that was released in 1931. Recently, Richard Heymann extracted some of the music from the film, added some of his own, and with the help of conductor and arranger Christian Kolonowiits recreated the operetta that was released now in 2016. This because Vienna celebrated in 2015 the 200th anniversary of the Vienna Congress. This operetta, a parody of the Congress, approached gingerly by the Volksoper, is now the newest “must see” in Vienna.

The BURGTHEATER on the Ring, premiered this week Peter Handke’s – DIE UNSCHULDIGEN, ICH UND DIE UNBEKANTE AM RAND DER LANDSTRASSE (Those Without Guilt, I and the unknown on the edge of the country road) – a masterpiece of modern theater in the celebrated hall of classicism.

Handke (born in 1942 – the war years – his mother resettled in the village Griffin in 1948 after leaving the DDR) was a young Austrian writer (novelist, playwright and political activist) who believed that at the beginning there was the word. Handke’s first play was PUBLIKUMSBESCHIMPFUNG (Talking Rough to the Public) that automatically made him a sensation in Germany – Austria was too small for him those days. Back those years we saw his work and works by the German Hans Magnus Enzensberger at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – the old Brooklyn Opera House. Handke’s luck was that He was recognized by the German Director Claus Peyman who staged that first play and since then another 10 plays by Handke. Handke gained international attention after an appearance at a meeting of avant-garde artists belonging to the Gruppe 47 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Landstrasse, stage work by Karl-Ernst Hermann, has a vague autobiographical content and ia all played out on the county road that connects his village Griffin with a neighboring village and in itself becomes a stage for the locals and the World at large. It reminds one of Martin Luther who already then saw the importance of taking reality to the streets – this for him a direct connection between humans and God. For Handke, this is not God but human truth. The simple staging – a broad white ellipse winding to a distant corner – is the path where the action walks by and we peep in on it. This is modern poetic theater at its best – a good place to relax when trying to deal with the World’s woes.

The action is not specific but rather full of hints and you get out really what you want to see. The hints include totaliarism – quite clearly a reminder of the villages Nazi past, butb then there are aspects of budding love and perhapse unanswered love and bitterness – but also hope for a better world.

I started with Vienna’s high locally centered life – but then there are musical events, not just Staatsoper and the Philharmonic, but locally produced musical events where Austrians play foreign folks to perfection. We just enjoyed evenings sponsored by the Austro-American Society with Irish and Mexican music. The Irish evening was held in a typical Austrian pub, and the Mexican and American event was at the organization’s Club rooms where the manager, an Austrian, is loved by all – an ideal American host.

But, the purpose of our Vienna series is not just to say that Vienna is the most livable city in the World – but that I contend that work with global scope can be performed right here – so let us look also at local organizations that can be enrolled in support of global activities – and the first to be mentioned is “the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA).” You will find there a department that deals with all global topics you may be interested to work on. Also, the city hosts many NGOs and great Think Tanks to work as local NGOs – sometimes connected to one of the many active Universities.

One such institution is “the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM).” I will mention the Presentation of last night by Professor Dr. Shalini Randeria, the IWM Rector, titled “Precarious livelihoods, disposable lives, and struggles for citizenship rights.” Dr. Randeria, from India, holds chairs at Budapest, Berlin, Zurich, and Vienna Universities. She has published widely on the anthropology of globalization, law, the state and social movements. Her presentation last night was the Keynote address at a IIASA and Forum Alpbach meeting at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on the occasion of the IIASA meeting called to formulate a “World in 2050″ Programme.

The Academy of Sciences public event – “Human Capital, Geopolitical Complexities, and Our Sustainable Future” had two panels (I) The release of a book by Professor Wolfgang Lutz – “Who Survives? Education Decides the Future of Humanity.
and (II) “Human Capital, Geopolitical Conflict, and Sustainable Development Goals.”

Panel II – Chaired by Professor Pavel Kabat, Director General of IIASA – had:
– Ambassador Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Director-General Section VII-Development, Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign-Affairs.
– Professor Dirk Messner, Co-Chair, German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)
– Professor Carlos Nobre, President Brazilian Federal Agency for Support an Evaluation of Graduate Education. Brazilian Member of the Board of IIASA.
– Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chair of the Leadership Council and Advisor to the UN Secretary-General; Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University.
– Dr. David Wilkinson, Director, Institute for Systems, Informatics and Safety at the Joint Recearch Center, European Commission.

While the first panel dealt with education as an imperative if one wants to take advantage of the SDGs and in effect achieve the wished-for results, he second panel touched upon the topics that are the framework for the program-in-construction for the year 2050 and on tis we will deal separately.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Overview of Research at IIASA

IIASA uses advanced systems analysis to conduct policy-oriented research into the most pressing areas of global change – energy and climate change, food and water, poverty and equity – and their main drivers

Futuristic IIASA study for “The 2011-2020 Research Plan” distinguished three major global problem areas facing humanity today where concentration and intensification of research by IIASA scientists is most likely to yield the most productive results.

These three global problem areas were defined as:

Energy and Climate Change
Food and Water
Poverty and Equity

The work is supported by research into the drivers of the transformations taking place in our world – population, technology, and economic growth.

All IIASA research is policy-relevant and geared toward provision of robust solutions to the challenges of international, regional, and national policy and governance.

The methodology used at IIASA since the foundation of the Institute in 1972 are advanced systems analysis. Both methodology and data are constantly updated and refined in-house to respond to emerging research needs.

Now IIASA – since March 2015 IIASA is studying the WORLD till 2050. March 7, 2016 till March 9 2016, IIASA hosts the Second Annual Workshop of the World in 2050 (project TW12050). IIASA’S PARTNERS in this project are: the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN, the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC), and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
The first meeting of this project – March 10-12, 2015 was deemed a great success.

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that were approved by the UN General Assembly, September 2015, are the guidelines to and from this IIASA project.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


SE4All WATER-ENERGY-FOOD NEXUS.
The very important WEF NEXUS for SUSTAINABILITY that links the Paris 2015 Outcome and the SDGS.

Theme of a meeting sponsored this week by the Hungarian Mission to Austria and to the UN offices in Vienna.


Water-Energy-Food Nexus – Responding to Emerging Needs and Opportunities.

Date: February 22, 2016
Host & Location: Hungarian Embassy, Bankgasse 4-6, 1010, Vienna, Austria.

Background:
In September 2015, world leaders formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets which are aimed at
stimulating action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for a more equitable and
sustainable world. The strong linkages between the SDGs underlines the notion that progress on each
goal will be critical for progress on others, with increasing understanding for the implementation
of the SDGs through an integrated framework that demands close collaboration at all levels of governance.
As a result, the water-energy-food nexus (WEF NEXUS) has emerged as a crucial policy and governance approach for
integrated planning and implementation of the SDGs.

AGENDA

10:00 –10:05 Welcome remarks: H.E. Ambassador Karoly Dan

10:05– 0:45 Setting the Scene
– Background and scope of the workshop, approach, expectations and potential outputs/outcomes –
Mr. Paul T.Yillia, SE4All
Presentation: The cross-cutting nature of the SDGs – emerging opportunities for operationalizing
the water-energy-food nexus (WEF NEXUS) – Prof. András Szölösi-Nagy

10:45–12:45 Session I: Discussion Session on partner experiences
Session Chair: Mr. Olivier Dubois, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
Co-Chair of the SE4All High Impact Opportunity (HIO) on the WEF NEXUS
– What are the realities, needs and challenges in the countries partners operate?
– How can the SE4All Nexus HIO respond to the needs and challenges?

14:00 –15:30 Session II: Discussion Session on identifying emerging opportunities
Session Chair: from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ);
Co-Chair of the SE4All High Impact Opportunity on the WEF NEXUS
– What opportunities are emerging on the WEF NEXUS
– Presentation: SE4All initiative on Technical Assistance Programme to Strengthen Inter-sector Coordination
(TAPSIC) – Mr.Paul T. Yillia, SE4All
– Exploring the possibility to develop a concrete framework to anchor emerging opportunities within o the SE4All Nexus HIO

15:45-17:45 Session III: Synthesis of Sessions I & II – Developing key elements for action
Session Chair: Mr. Martin Hiller, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP)
– Mobilizing resources – exploring the possibility of a call for funding
– Mobilizing additional partnerships, including the private sector, civil society and the public sector
– Key message from the workshop (short communication)

17:45–18:00 Closing remarks – Ms. Rachel Kyte, SRSG & CEO, SE4All

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The SDGs are retaken and enhanced 2001 Johannesburg agreed-upon Millennium Development Goals plus SUSTAINABILITY – that comes from the Rio1992 Conference. These were brought to universality at Paris2015.

The SDGs teach us that Sustainability is an issue for both – Developed and Developing countries – and the Sustainable Development topic, when focused only as a need of Developing Countries – was an easily explainable failure that wasted twenty years of our time. The key is – “No One is to be Left Behind” and this, to pay attention to what goes on right now before our eyes, includes even the migrants. The subject is not open to experts only anymore – it includes Civ il So ciety at large.

Thursday, February 25, 2016, while others went to separate meetings organized with the Ambassadors to Vienna of Romania, Hungary, or Moldova – I preferred the meeting of the SID that under the leadership of retired Austrian Ambassador Thomas Nowotny brought to a panel discussion Ambassador Sylvia Meier-Kajbic now with the Austrian Foreign Office where she is in charge of te division tat takes care of Austrian Foreign Aid, and Mag.Norbert Feldhofer of the office of the Austrian Chancellor Fischer, where he also covers Foreign Aid issues. Thomas Nowotny, in the 1960s was secretary to Chancellor Kreisky and since was involved in various aspects of human and economic sides of political science.

BMEIA and the Chancellor’s office have officially a 0.7% of the GDP to use for Foreign Aid. Now the idea is not to use this as a give-away but rather as a catalyst to help needy countries develop their own taxation system and channels of funding based on local sources and on the legions of their expatriate citizens who are capable to repatriate funds and invest in their own countries. The SDGs have thus a possible new effect on worldwide Foreign Aid programs. In Austria this amounts to a changed use of ADA funds. While campaigning for the continuation of foreign aid activities, it is therefore important for SID to refocus on how those funds are spent. Also, it is important to link the Paris 2015 Outcome to the SDGs – this because both areas of activity serve the same purpose – the creation of Sustainable Societies.
We did not her much of tis kind of thinking at above panel.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

ESPI is the European Space Institute headquartered in Vienna.

Since September 2007 they have a large Autumn Conference in September in Vienna, Austria. This year they will have the 10th such conference.

The creation of ESPI followed a decision made by the Council of the European Space Agency (ESA) in December 2002. The Institute is conceived as an Association under Austrian law and is based in Vienna, Austria. Its Certificate of Foundation was signed in November 2003 by representatives of its Founding Members the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). Its statutes were signed in September 2005 and updated two years later in 2007.

The Institute is funded and supported by its two Founding Members and its regular Members. The latter include various institutions drawn from European agencies, operators and private companies. The European Commission recently became a member. ESPI is governed by a General Assembly, which supervises the Institute, lays down its budgetary and administrative rules, and approves the annual work programme. The ESPI Advisory Council supports the Secretariat by providing medium-term orientations with respect to the research and network activities of the Institute.

Peter Hulsroj is the Director of ESPI since 2011 till. Before that he was with ESA (the European Space Agency – 2008-2011 – Director of Legal Affairs and External Relations. Before that – 2004-2008 – Legal Adviser, Preparatory Commission, The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, Vienna (Austria).

Dr. David Kendall is a retired employee of the Canadian Space Agency having held senior positions including as the Director General of Space Science and Space Science and Technology. He is also a faculty member of the International Space University based in Strasbourg, France.

Dr. Kendall has been appointed now as the next Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space – Chair of UN COPUOS, 2016-17.

These two gentlemen were joined by Austrian Senior Foreign Service Official former Austrian Foreign Minister – Ambassador Peter Jankowitsch – who was involved in the Vienna based international Space programs and now is also Vice President of the UNA-Austria – they formed February 24th 2016 a panel on “Space Policy in an European and Global Context.”

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs was initially created as a small expert unit within the United Nations Secretariat to service the ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 1348 (XIII) of 13 December 1958. The unit was moved to work under the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs in 1962 and was transformed into the Outer Space Affairs Division of that Department in 1968.

In 1992, the Division was transformed into the Office for Outer Space Affairs within the Department for Political Affairs. In 1993, the Office was relocated to the United Nations Office at Vienna. At that time, the Office also assumed responsibility for substantive secretariat services to the Legal Subcommittee, which had previously been provided by the Office of Legal Affairs in New York. Questions relating to the militarization of outer space are dealt by the Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva.

What causes me to post this column was a statement by Peter Hulsroj, who acted as chair of the panel, who said in his introduction that now, after the Paris2016 meeting, we will see an opening of doors between Civil Society and Space. Also, Austria and ESA are members of the Think Tank ESPI that is based right here in Vienna.

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity: for peace, security and development. The Committee was tasked with reviewing international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, studying space-related activities that could be undertaken by the United Nations, encouraging space research programmes, and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.

The Committee was instrumental in the creation of five treaties and five principles of outer space. International cooperation in space exploration and the use of space technology applications to meet global development goals are discussed in the Committee every year. Owing to rapid advances in space technology, the space agenda is constantly evolving. The Committee therefore provides a unique platform at the global level to monitor and discuss these developments.

The Committee has two subsidiary bodies: the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, and the Legal Subcommittee, both established in 1961. The Committee reports to the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly, which adopts an annual resolution on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. The outgoing chair was Austrian, the new chair is the Canadian – Dr. David Kendall.

One of the treaties is the moon treaty. Also agreed, like in the Law of the Sea treaty, are statements that cover the resources that are part of the Outer Space and that can not be appropriated by any particular State – these belong to all humanity. The fact that all those offices relating to Outer Space are now in Vienna is a legacy of the Cold War time when Vienna was regarded as a neutral city between East and West. Austria, Romania and Brazil were always part of the bureau of the Committee.

UNISPACE I, held from 14 to 27 August 1968, was the first in a series of three global UN conferences on outer space held in Vienna, which focused on raising awareness of the vast potential of space benefits for all humankind. The Conference reviewed the progress in space science, technology and applications and called for increased international cooperation, with particular regard to the benefit of developing nations. The Conference also recommended the creation of the post of Expert on Space Applications within UNOOSA, which in turn led to the creation, in 1971, of the “UNOOSA Programme on Space Applications.” Throughout the 1970s, the Programme implemented trainings and workshops, using space technology in such diverse areas as telecommunications, environmental monitoring and weather forecasting, remote sensing for disaster mitigation and management, agricultural and forestry development, cartography, geology and other resource development applications.

The report of UNISPACE I Conference, which was attended by 78 Member States, 9 specialized UN agencies and 4 other international organizations, is part of the Report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, document A/7285

UNISPACE II (or UNISPACE 82) was held from 9 to 21 August 1982, attended by 94 Member States and 45 intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. UNISPACE II addressed the concerns of how to mantain the outer space for peaceful purposes and prevent an arms race in outer space as essential conditions for peaceful exploration and use of outer space. The Conference focused on strengthening the United Nations’ commitment to promoting international cooperation to enable developing countries to benefit from the peaceful uses of space technology. UNISPACE II led to strengthening of the UNOOSA Programme on Space Applications, which increased opportunities for developing countries to participate in educational and training activities in space science and technology and to develop their indigenous capabilities in the use of space technology applications. UNISPACE II also led to the establishment of regional centers for space science and technology education, which are affiliated to the UN and focus on building human and institutional capacities for exploiting the immense potential of space technology for socio-economic development. UNISPACE II Report, Vienna, 9-21 August 1982 (A/CONF.101/10 and Corr.1and 2)

Rapid progress in space exploration and technology led to UNISPACE III conference, held from 19 to 30 July 1999. Attended by 97 Member States, 9 UN specialized agenices and 15 international intergovernmental organizations, UNISPACE III created a blueprint for the peaceful uses of outer space in the 21st century.

UNISPACE III outlined a wide variety of actions to:
Protect the global environment and manage natural resources;
Increase the use of space applications for human security, development and welfare;
Protect the space environment;
Increase developing countries’ access to space science and its benefits.
Ambassador Peter Jankowitsch was the host country chair of UNISPACE III

UNISPACE III concluded with the Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development (Vienna Declaration), which contained 33 recommendations as elements of a strategy to address new challenges in outer space activities.
UNISPACE III Report,Vienna 19-30 July 1999 (A/CONF.184/6)

Five years after the last major international conference on outer space, UNISPACE III, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) reviewed the implementation of the 33 recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (A/59/174). See the implementation of UNISPACE III recommendations in UNISPACE III+5 report, A/59/174

These days, much of the work of the COPUOS deals with information about space debris and the trajectories of satellites and human activities in Space. The key words are the three “C”s – “Congested,” “Contested,” and “Competitive.” The uses of space are not just military, but many activities involve areas like education and medicine with China and India having become large participants. 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty, and a year later – 2018 – there will be the 50th anniversary of UNISPACE I and there will be a new UNISPACE to focus on the 2018 – 2030 years and bring te Space activities in line with the two UN tracks established in 2015 with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the so called PARIS AGREEMENT – the Outcome of Paris2015 – that made 2030 a target year. A conference will be held in Dubai – November 2017 = in order to plan for this future enhancement of reliance on Space technologies. Now it is not governments alone who are actors in Space. Some 15.000 companies, one third of them American, are involved in Space already. Optical fibers are being replaced by reliance on Space.

This brings me back – both to the potential of Vienna as a main hub for post-Paris Sustainability Actions, and the involvement of Civil Society and Private enterprise, and private funding, for Space Activities – this as corollary to the introduction by Mr. Hulsroj.

At Q&A time I remarked that Civil Society was already part of the review of legalities and possible uses of Outer Space.
In effect I had personal involvement in this.

In the run-up to UNISPACE II, an NGO leader from Bombai (now Mumbai), Dr. Rashmi Mayur, approached Dr. Noel Brown, then Head of the New York office of UNEP, and myself, then representing at the UN the New York Branch of the Society for International Development (SID) – thst it would be important to have an NGO led session with environment applications.
Those were the days we fought for the introduction of biomass and biofuels as a benign source of energy for development.
We set our eyes at the technologies of Remote Sensing for Biomass Inventory taking. That was basically a subjec dominated by the US, so we decided to try to have also a session on the Soviet experiments with growing vegetation, algae and bacteria, in a laboratory as part of the Space Vehicles.

Given the go, I approached NASA after talking to the US delegate and was told – not interested. But then after I got the Soviet OK and their promise that they will make available the academichian who was in charge of the experiments in the Space Lab, I returned to NASA – and this time got finally also their OK.

The Session was called BIOMASS AND OUTER SPACE, the morning half was dedicated to the Soviet work in Outer Space, and the after-noon to work with Remote Sensing from Space combined with high flying planes and mapping and quantifying vegetation cover. In effect, allow me to say that this is exactly the kind of work that will be done now following Paris2015 and the SDGs – this for tracking food production, water and energy topics – and back then this was already then – a Civil Society pushed topic.

To summarize, we hope therefore that the Vienna based Outer Space offices will help in developing here in Vienna the monitoring tools for those individual country promises, that in their totality were defined as the Paris Agreement. Indeed, with each passing day we discover new Vienna based institutions that can be brought into a cooperative mode.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From IAEA Headquarters, The UN enclave in Vienna, Austria, February 23, 2016, a dramatized look at what are the true reasons behind disasters in energy technologies – nuclear energy plants, oil drilling platforms, and methane production.

The IAEA Conference of 22-26 February 2016 was titled: “International Conference on Human and Organizational Aspects of Assuring Nuclear Safety – Exploring 30 Years of Safety Culture.”

I was visiting the VIC (Vienna International Center) – the UN enclave – for a completely different reason – and havig had some free time I snooped around what was going on in the M Conference building thsat was occupied by a large IAEE meeting and I saw on a desk in the hallway upon three cards announcing SAFETY WORKSHOPS. One titled FUKUSHIMA which was clearly very appropriate to the subject matter of the conference and thus did not arise my interest – but it was very different with te other two cards. one was titled NIMROD and the other DEEPWATER.

NIMROD is about an in flight refueling accident that happened September 2, 2006 in the sky over Afghanistan, and DEEPWATER is about the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig operated by Transocean that on April 20, 2010, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, near the Mississippi River Delta, United States, referred to as the BP Oil Spill.

Now this conference started to talk to me. In one of the papers I picked up I read: “WHAT IS SAFETY CULTURE?” and the explanation that followed – “In some circumstances when a severe event happens, analysis has indicated that the safety margins had been eroding stedily for years. This can result from people gradually accepting declining conditions in safe work practices, and ignoring the risks brought on by this decline that may have unnoticeably drifted towards prioritizing other concerns over safety. Risks might have been played down because ‘nothing has happened’ which can eventually lead to a severe event occurring.”

Seeing my interest, a gentleman at the desk started to talk to me. It turned out he was Tim Bannerman, the Director of the London based “akt – Learning & Development Specialists” company that dramatizes/ enacts events. “akt” has delivered conferences, training and workshops throughout the world. See www.aktproductions.co.uk/

On SAFETY they say: “We operate in a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, construction, nuclear, road, rail, airports, distilleries, facilities management, shipping and local government. We use a range of behaviour-based and research-based techniques, with a focus on understanding the psychology of at risk behaviours. All our plays and workshops focus on behaviour and consider the impact of human factors on safety.”

To me it became immediately clear that in its self-defence the nuclear energy industry will try to show that great risks are also part of the fossil fuel industries – so here we have also a demonstration of extreme events that are not connected to nuclear reactors. I said to Mr. Bannerman that I am no friend of either the oil industry nor the nuclear power industry, and he asked me – why do you not come to our presentation late in the day – and I am glad I did.

The event I attended was about the DEEPWATER case. The dramatization made it clear that Transocean, the company responsible in the operation of the BP operation in te Gulf of Mexico was involved just four months earlier in a near miss on a rig operated by them in the North Sea, and seemingly nothing was learned by them from that case leading to what the US authorities described later as a reckless disregard for safety.

The IAEA event can best be described as a safety workshop and in the room were many psychologists and behavioral scientists. The dramatization was there to show the human elements this in time decreasing safety vigilance and there was no way not to see that this is a company culture driven evolution. Eventually – if an accident can happen – it eventually will happen. The fact it did not happen yet just increases its chances to happen eventually because of a company driven evolving lack of vigilance. Sure – this does not include fail-safe evoluations like the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. That is a totally different issue that weighs on the oil industry. Sure, the IAEA that employs an engineering trained psychologist, Dr. Helen Rycraft, is making aware reactor operators of this danger in laxness of safety vigilance.
That is clearly one of the main responsibilities of this international organization, and pointing out that this industry is not the only devil in energy is quite appropriate. When I was asked as part of the Q&A segment of this workshop what I learned from the dramatization – I did not hesitate saying that te way out is to leave both industries – oil and nuclear – and look instead for safer technologies – the likes of soar a nd wind. Also, I mentioned my observation of what happens in the check-out lines at the Vienna Hoffer discounter super-markets. There the company pushes the checkout girls to work fast by actually monitoring the number of openings of the cash-registers – and surely – the check-out people make mistakes.
I have to read the slip as I find many times wrong charges. Clearly – also in the Fukushima and Deepwater cases – when analyzed the true blame is with the management that is not present on location.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless. Dawn Stover wonders: What if we could see carbon pollution in the air and water?

Seeing (pollution) is believing: ow.ly/YHEtd

Janice Sinclaire
Communications Director

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
U.S.A.
T. 773.382.8061
C. 707.481.9372
F. 773.980.6932E.
 jsinclaire at thebulletin.org

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23 February 2016,

SEEING (POLLUTION) IS BELIEVING.

by Dawn Stover — stover.jpeg

of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. IT IS THREE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT!
Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin.

The snow has melted along the roads in my rural community, revealing a surprising number of beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash in the roadside ditches. This is a sparsely populated area, yet I drive past mile after mile of terrestrial flotsam and jetsam. Most of it, I suspect, is jetsam—the stuff that is deliberately thrown overboard.

It probably won’t be long before some disgusted (or enterprising) neighbors start tackling this mess. Most of the cans and bottles can be redeemed for a five-cent deposit or put into bags for free curbside recycling. The worst thing about this roadside pollution is also the best thing about it: We can see it. That makes it easy to clean up.

Imagine if carbon pollution was as recognizable as a Bud Light can. What if, every time you started up your car or boarded an airplane or sliced into a Porterhouse steak, a sour-smelling beer can was ejected from your vehicle or pocket? Pretty soon there would be cans lining every highway and tarmac, and coal-fired power plants would literally be buried under them. But even this foul onslaught of aluminum might be less damaging than the 40 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (plus other greenhouse gases) that humans are dumping into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans every year, raising the temperature of our planet. Unfortunately, carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless, which makes it easier to ignore. If we were dumping 40 billion metric tons of aluminum into the air and sea annually—the equivalent of 2,800 trillion beverage cans—surely we would do something about that.

Air quality alert. One of the reasons China is getting serious about clean energy is that the air pollution in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities has become intolerable at times. The visibility gets so poor that flights are sometimes canceled because of smog, and residents are frequently forced to don masks when venturing outdoors—where the air quality can be worse than an airport smoking lounge. The pollution sometimes reaches all the way to California.

“The air in Los Angeles used to be like Beijing,” a California-based colleague recently reminded me. Los Angeles still has some of the most contaminated air in the United States, but the situation has improved significantly since 1970—when President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Congress passed the first of several major amendments to the Clean Air Act, empowering the federal government to regulate air pollutants.

The EPA’s new Clean Power Plan—announced in 2015 but challenged in court by 27 states and currently on hold pending a judicial review—would do for carbon pollution what the Clean Air Act did for smog in an earlier era. This time around, though, many elected officials can’t see what the problem is. Literally.

Making the invisible visible. Instead of implementing a carbon tax or federal limits on power-plant emissions, maybe we just need to add a smelly dye to all fossil fuels—something like the red colorant that is added to fire retardants so that pilots can see where they have sprayed, or the rotten-egg-like chemical that is injected into natural gas so that homeowners can detect gas leaks before they become life-threatening. Instead of subjecting airlines to proposed new emissions limits, we’d simply see a hideous red contrail every time an airplane flew overhead. Standing on the beach, we’d see a red tide—the carbon dioxide absorbed by the North Atlantic alone has doubled in the past decade. And the smell of the recent enormous methane leak from a ruptured pipeline in southern California would pale in comparison to the collective stench emitted by fracking operations and thousands of fossil-fuel-burning power plants. On the plus side, we’d be able to see trees and other plants sucking up carbon, which might make us think twice about turning forests into pallets.

This is only a thought experiment, of course. We shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to realize that the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion are bad for our health. Most of us know better than to breathe from our car’s tailpipe or leave the garage door shut with the engine running. That’s how you kill yourself, after all. And yet we think nothing of dumping copious amounts of exhaust into the air that everyone breathes. It’s out of sight and out of mind.

Turning a blind eye. Although greenhouse gas emissions aren’t visible, their climate impacts are. It’s not hard to see melting glaciers, wilted crops, and storm surges—or to find photographs, charts, and other images showing how quickly our planet is changing. And yet, as President Barack Obama remarked during a press conference on February 16, “There’s not a single candidate in the Republican primary that thinks we should do anything about climate change, that thinks it’s serious.” That’s a problem, said Obama, because other countries “count on the United States being on the side of science and reason and common sense.”

How can Marco Rubio not see the impacts of rising sea level in Florida? How did Donald Trump miss the meaning of Hurricane Sandy, a bellwether for the type of extreme events that scientists say will become more common and more severe as global warming continues? Where was Ted Cruz when Texas was enduring devastating heat, drought, and wildfires—or the deadly floods that followed? All of the GOP candidates, including self-professed climate change “believer” John Kasich, are turning a blind eye to the decades of scientific research that place the blame squarely on human activities, and it’s possible that even a putrid red haze would not move them.

There will always be some people who are willfully ignorant and inconsiderate and lazy, who toss their trash out the window and leave it for others to pick up. The rest of us can stand around shaking our heads, or we can pull on our gloves and do something about this dreadful mess. Unfortunately, the past two centuries’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions is like a heap of discarded cans and bottles that are already hopelessly bent, broken, and ground into the mud. This carbon buildup will have consequences for Earth’s climate and sea level for tens of thousands of years to come.

That’s no excuse to put off spring cleaning, though. Climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, but rapid and aggressive action would keep the worst impacts of global warming to a minimum. It’s more important than ever to make drastic reductions in carbon dumping, and get serious about reforestation and other cleanup measures. These are the Bud Light cans we can still get our hands on.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: Umang Jalan  umang at cseindia.org via lists.iisd.ca

In the last few years, countries like India that import a majority of their oil, have made considerable gains in reducing their fiscal and trade deficits. In India, the low prices have afforded the government an opportunity to decrease subsidies and increase excise duties on major crude oil distillates i.e. diesel and petrol. These increases in excise duties have been classified by the government as a progressive carbon tax. The revenue from the increased excise duty was estimated at around Rs. 70, 000 crores (US$ 10 Billion) for FY2015-16 in last year’s budget. However, oil prices have since gone down further and various increases in excise duty have been announced, which will increase this revenue. It would be interesting to note whether this year’s budget has provisions for spending this revenue in a climate-aware manner.

According to the government, there is a de-facto “carbon tax” on petrol and diesel at US$ 140 (per tonne of CO2) and US$ 64 respectively. This is much higher than the internationally agreed price of carbon—US$ 25-35. The increase in excise duty however has not led to any measurable reduction in demand from FY2014-15 levels, as they have been coupled with a corresponding reduction in global oil prices—keeping the net price of petrol and diesel low. This begs the question—will such a tax survive an eventual increase in oil prices?

The revenue from the carbon tax has also not been spent in a climate-aware manner. For example, a portion of the excise duty has been allocated as road cess. This could perhaps be used to modify urban mobility in a more sustainable manner, by improving public transport. This is part of a larger pattern of government expenditure, that does not take into account the systemic changes that would be needed to move to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy.

Tax on Carbon to Carbon Tax

According to the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, India has the 17th highest climate risk index in the world between 1994 and 2013. In recent times, there has been a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of climate-related events in India. Although all of these cannot be directly attributed to climate change, the trend of increasing climate impacts is something the government should take notice of and act upon. The following are a few ways in which government expenditure can be made climate-aware:

As mentioned above, investment in transport-related infrastructure can take into account its long-term health and demographic impacts. A focus of transport spending in road infrastructure although important should be complemented with expenditures on improving the quality and scale of the country’s urban public transport systems.

In light of the high climate risk reported in the above study and the recent increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events seen in India, expenditure on risk reduction activities like early warning systems should be increased. Such funding could be focused towards areas that are particularly prone to such events. Such expenditure would include more efficient use and dissemination of meteorological data through awareness initiatives and better communication infrastructure.

There can be changes to the trade policy to include favourable trade terms for low carbon goods and technologies. The methods and infrastructure available for evaluating goods and technologies that would be eligible for such terms could be established and streamlined. Perhaps, there could be better co-ordination between organisations like the Indian Patent Office (IPO), which also seeks to expedite patent queries for green technologies (as part of the new national Intellectual Property Rights policy) in identifying eligible technologies.

Similar expenditures have been listed in India’s recently submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), which estimates that India will need US$ 206 billion (at FY2014-15 prices) between 2015 and 2030 for implementing adaptation actions in agriculture, forestry, fisheries infrastructure, water resources and ecosystems. Perhaps, India can use the “good fortune” of extended periods of low global oil prices to compensate for some of these expenses.

The article was published on www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/all-t…

Regards

Umang Jalan

———————————-
Umang Jalan
Research Associate
Climate Change Programme
Centre for Science and Environment
41, Tughlaqabad Institutional Area
New Delhi-India
Mob:9818610944

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From mailing by  tdebienassis at worldbank.org via lists.iisd.ca – that is the Climate Listed readers of IISD:

Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation (PAF) will host a series of informational consultations and webinars in the coming weeks to provide an update on its upcoming second auction. The auction date and bidder application package will be released in the next few weeks and all recipients of this email will be informed of the application process and deadlines.

These events will provide an overview of the auction’s eligibility criteria, parameters, and timeline, as well as the steps required to participate in the auction. Attendees will also have the opportunity to receive direct answers to their questions regarding the second auction.

The events take place March 2016 at the following locations:

Zurich March 9, New Delhi March 16, Bogota March 18, Sao Paulo March 21, Washington DC March 28,

and via two Webinars on March 23 – one in the morning and another one in the evening.

Please visit the events page on the PAF website.  www.pilotauctionfacility.org/cont…)

Should you have any further questions, please feel free to send an e-mail to  paf_secretariat at worldbank.org.

If you wish to receive updates from the PAF, please subscribe using these contacts.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In the last hours of the last day of COP 21 – December 12, 2016 – the PARIS AGREEMENT was born. In effect this was a compilation of individual countries statements of what they are ready to do in order to decrease their GHG emissions in the hope that the sum-total of these promises will somehow limit the warming of the planet by only 2 degrees or even by only 1.5 degrees. Everybody understood that the sum total of the promises in those papers does not suffice to achieve the stated goals. Nevertheless, the so called agreement was indeed a great achievement as it puts a limit to work of 24 years since the 1992 first Rio Conference on Sustainable Development.

French President Francois Holland – via his Prime Minister Laurent Fabius let the raucous diplomats know that lights will be closed at the set time for the Conference end and thus got them to terminate the debate and declare that what they had was an agreement.

Very well – this ends the introductory effort to tackle the problem of global warming that causes climate change, and now we are free to start putting flesh on these bare bones that came out of the Paris negotiation rooms.

With the end of the conference, the French leadership was passed to the French Minister of the Environment Mme Segolene Royale as from now it will be viewed as a technical problem to be addressed by more technical people – not by fighting politicians as ib was perceived in the past. The main issue is now how to involve private financing in order to achieve the goals and targets that were set up in the Paris meeting.

Also the UN mechanisms that were set up are not needed anymore. In effect much of the personnel will eventually be let go and instead new mechanisms established – the verification mechanisms to see if the countries live up to what they voluntarily promised to do – and perhaps could be induced to do more as what they promised is still a far cry from what is needed.

The UN’s top climate diplomat, Christiana Figueres, has said she would not accept an extension of her appointment which finishes this summer – she will leave her post in July.

Looking to the future – others move into the breach, and only two months after Paris we just had an interesting international meeting in Vienna on finding financial routes to start implementing some of the things that were left without an indication of follow up procedure.

The meeting was held under the leadership of Kommunalkredit Public Consulting attached to a bank that deals with the Austrian Foreign Aid programs as operated by the Life Ministry and other government offices with experience of working with private enterprises active overseas.

The first day dealt with policy, but much more important in our opinion was the second day that was built around two sessions “LEVERAGING PRIVATE FINANCE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION AND ADAPTATION.”

Twenty years of providing foreign aid did really nothing to help reduce the impact of climate change and now the foreign aid spigots have dried up. On the other hand, it has become clear that doing the right things for the environment is actually good business – so the way is to provide inducements that activate private enterprise. Investors can be found also in developing countries to participate with outside investors.

The Day was started by Tobias Grimm from Munich Reinsurance Co. who is a Senior Project Manager for Geo Risks – read losses from tings like Climate Change. They provide money for immediate recovery from extreme events.

He was followed by Angelika Frei-Oldenburg from the German European Bank GIZ Gmbh (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit). The Germans have joint projects in Morocco, Bsangladesh, Central America and Rwanda.
They deal with the opening of a path for private money going into adaptation projects and openly acknowledged thatthey have more questions then answers. This led me to summarize the topic as follows:

“WE HAVE OPPORTUNITY RATHER THEN RISK WHEN WORKING WITH ADAPTATION – THE IDEA IS TO BE DIFFERENT FROM BUSINESS AS USUAL.”

GIZ thinks of the need to create new products or to reallocate resources – the search is for how to bundle theideas and look at efficiencies in adaptation measures. As an example she told us bout a medium size Moroccan fishery tht suffered from loss of fishing stock and was moved to look at a recycling facility.

Felicity Spors, Sr. Carbon Finance Specialist at the Climate and Carbon Finance Unit of the World Bank Group, is working currently on Methane and Climate Change Mitigation and a Pilot Auction Facility. This as a new tool to get investments in private auctions.

Martin Berg from the European Investment Bank in Luxemburg looks at blending Capital markets with public funds.
His product could be Green Bonds. He was talking of markets that could move to 12.6 Billion Euro – 104 projects in 41 countries.

Adrien Couton from Dalberg Advisers Cosultancy working with MSME (Micro, Small, and Medium Companies) that he clusters in groups. He was previously Chief Executive Officer of Naandi Water, the largest … Sanitation and Agriculture portfolios and as a consultant for the World Bank’s Water.

Clemens Ploechl who works now on Crowd Funding to Combat Climate Change. He ges many small funds via te internet in order to bundle these funds abd achieve an important goal. We understand that most people do not expect rurn on their money and eventually are happy to write them off if the important good cause was helped indeed.

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


The Slow Violence of Climate Change.

By Sara Nelson, Jacobin

19 February 16

at READERS WRITE
readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…


The spectacle of international climate negotiations shows that climate justice won’t come through existing institutions.

he Paris Agreement, achieved December 12 at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21), has been heralded as a “turning point for humanity” and “a new type of international cooperation.” In his remarks to the General Assembly following the close of COP21, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it “a triumph for people, the planet, and multilateralism.”

More critical voices have pointed to the “wrinkles” that mar the agreement, while influential climate scientist James Hanson has dismissed it as “just worthless words.” Most commentary falls in a middle ground, viewing the agreement as an important, if faltering, step in the right direction: even if we’re not entirely happy with what has been achieved, that something was achieved at all signals a “political will” for change.

But the drama and significance of the COP as an event isn’t primarily about the emergence of an agreement. The history of international climate negotiations — with the exception of the spectacular failure at Copenhagen — boasts a long line of Outcomes, Accords, and even Protocols. Throughout, emissions have continued not only unabated, but at an accelerated pace.

Bolivian president Evo Morales remarked on this uncomfortable truth at last year’s COP20 in Lima, when he admonished delegates for having little to show for over two decades of climate change negotiations other than “a heavy load of hypocrisy and neocolonialism.”

The COP as an event, then, does not simply represent the failure to contend with the ongoing catastrophe of climate change. Its very process perpetrates what Rob Nixon calls the “slow violence” of climate change.

Nixon uses this term to describe how contemporary imperialism transfers its toxic byproducts to peoples and ecosystems at the peripheries of the global economy, challenging us to recognize imperial violence in the cumulative, attritional, and mundane forms of death and disease that do not resolve into moments of spectacular destruction.


Climate change, for Nixon, is the ultimate expression of slow violence, a “temporal and geographical outsourcing” of environmental devastation to the most vulnerable populations and to future generations, a “discounting” of lives and livelihoods that cannot prove their worth in economic terms.

But if climate change is “slow violence” in terms of its cumulative effects, it is equally slow in its execution — and nothing illustrates this quite so effectively as the trudging pace of international negotiations.

Geopolitical power operates here in decidedly non-spectacular ways, through the procedural minutiae of negotiations over subtleties of wording. The drama of urgency around the production of an outcome distracts from the reality of negotiations as a long process of strategic refusal, whereby wealthy countries deny their historical responsibility for global emissions and thereby lock in catastrophic climate trajectories.

Rather than heralding the success of an agreement or rejecting it outright as a failure, we should attend to the COP as an instance of slow violence in action.


Saving Tuvalu

Unlike previous efforts, the substance of the Paris agreement is based on individual countries’ voluntary emissions targets, which each nation was encouraged to submit in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs.

The voluntary nature of these targets is the result of, among other things, the fact that a binding treaty including quantified emissions targets would need to be ratified by the US Congress.

Given political realities in the US, seeking legally binding emissions targets would have effectively excluded at least one of the world’s largest emitters. (During COP21, presidential hopeful Ted Cruz convened a congressional hearing on climate change entitled “Data or Dogma?”, in which he claimed that “for the past eighteen years . . . there has been no significant warming whatsoever” and that CO2 is “good for plant life.”)

The fact that quantified emissions targets were off the negotiating table in Paris sat in tension with growing pressure to establish a global limit for temperature rise. Whereas the 2-degree Celsius threshold identified at Copenhagen has long been the marker separating “acceptable” levels of warming from catastrophic ones, a new limit was asserted by a coalition of vulnerable countries and civil society groups in a mantra that reverberated through the COP halls: “1.5 to stay alive.”

If 2C was a political compromise more suited to northern latitudes, the 1.5 threshold aimed to move vulnerable nations from the peripheral vision of the international system to its focal point. As Tuvalu’s environmental minister proclaimed in his national statement, “If we save Tuvalu, we save the world.”

But things don’t look good for Tuvalu. According to a recent United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report, the current national commitments, if realized, would add up to a 2.7 degree increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels — well beyond the “acceptable” range for any part of the globe. Moreover, the large majority of developing countries’ national commitments are at least partially conditional upon international climate finance.

The substantive political problems of the COP therefore concerned whether and how developing countries will be provided with the financial support to respond to climate change; whether the most vulnerable countries will be entitled to compensation for loss and damage suffered as a result of climate impacts; and how the international community will contend with climate-induced displacement.

All these issues hinge on the crucial notion of “differentiation.” This principle, put forth in Article 3 of the UNFCCC, establishes the differential responsibilities of developed and developing nations regarding climate change, based on industrialized countries’ historical responsibility for causing global warming as well as their far-greater capacity to respond to it.

Based on this historical responsibility, developed countries have a legal obligation under Article 4.3 of the UNFCCC to provide developing countries with the resources necessary to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.

But while it is the cornerstone of the Convention, the notion of differentiation is something that developing nations cannot take for granted. The US and other wealthy countries have pushed for a reinterpretation of differentiation based on current emissions rather than historical ones, a move that would shift a large part of the burden to BRIC countries.

At the COP, all these problems of responsibility and obligation play out through the nuances of the text. Through all manner of minor turns of phrase and strategic omissions, rich countries continually seek to delink decisions from the provision.

Meanwhile developing countries are continually reinserting textual references to the Articles of the convention where this principle is enshrined. Up until the penultimate draft, the problem of whether the agreement would “be implemented on the basis of . . . common but differentiated responsibility” or would merely “reflect” this principle remained unresolved, although the US had been forced to back off its proposal to delete the relevant article altogether.

Should and Shall

The COP is a massive logistical and infrastructural endeavor that requires transportation, catering, security, and information services for 22,000 registered participants, where everything from lighting to menu design is a diplomatic affair.

Because the very process of negotiation is itself subject to negotiation, trying to keep up with the COP can be a disorienting experience. There is an established schedule of side events, press conferences, and “High-Level Segments,” but the time, location, and details of access to the negotiations themselves are in constant flux.

The confusion of the schedule is not just annoying for observers — it also bears geopolitical weight. During the second week of the COP, many developing nations with fewer delegates complained that they struggled to locate the “informal” discussions and “bilaterals” that COP President Laurent Fabius has convened in order to sort out particularly sticky political problems in the text, undermining their participation in the agreement.

Although Fabius has been praised for avoiding the backroom process that undermined the Copenhagen agreement, the problem of transparency is consistently raised by developing countries through debate over when, where, and how meetings should be conducted.

Inside the meeting rooms, the pace of events is markedly slower. The working documents are the product of years of negotiations, inaugurated by the Durban Platform in 2011, all of which have led up to the promise of a global agreement for the post-2020 period and an agenda for pre-2020 action in Paris. Lack of consensus is depicted by a succession of nested brackets, resulting in grammatically tortured constructions like this:

[[Developed country Parties [and other developed country Parties included in Annex II to the Convention][and Parties in a position to do so] [should take the lead and]][All Parties in a position to do so] [shall][should][other] provide [support][[new and additional] financial resources] to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation [as well as addressing loss and damage] [and others in a position to do so should complement such efforts].]

The weight of global futures that bears on each nuanced shift in language is more, apparently, than the text can withstand. Developing countries strongly favor that climate finance be “provided” by developed countries through public funds, whereas developed countries push for such resources to be “mobilized,” opening the door for private capital to fulfill the bulk of climate finance obligations.

In the final moments leading up to the agreement, the US threatened to back out altogether when a “should” was replaced with a more-legally-binding “shall,” a change that was quickly chalked up to a technical error.

Similarly, the seemingly innocuous afterthought urging “others in a position to do so” to “complement such efforts” carries particular import, as it would include rapidly industrializing nations such as China and India among those responsible for financing the mitigation and adaptation efforts of the rest of the developing world — a proposition that for these countries disavows the West’s historical responsibility for squandering the global “emissions budget.”

Much of the substance of differentiation comes down to the question of “climate finance,” or who will pay for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For many countries, the answer to this has been emissions markets. Through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), developed countries with binding emissions reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol can “offset” their emissions by purchasing credits from offsetting projects in developing countries, where the cost of mitigation is cheaper.

Criticisms of the CDM for its failure to actually deliver on mitigation are nothing new, whether due to outright fraud or to the inherent flaws in emissions accounting. Equally ubiquitous are documented cases of the land- and resource-grabbing that often accompanies offsetting projects, especially those involving forest offsets. The CDM, as many have argued, is essentially a big loophole designed to enable developed countries to meet their emissions targets on paper without actually investing in infrastructural changes back home.

But since the market essentially collapsed from lack of demand in 2012, arguments in favor of the program have become even less tenable. Offset prices of one to three dollars per metric ton of CO2 undermine the whole economic logic of carbon markets, which is to “internalize” the cost of emissions and thereby provide a disincentive to emit (managing director of the IMF Christine Lagarde recently suggested that an economically efficient price for carbon would be far higher, around $30 per ton).

It was clear in Paris that the emissions trading industry had high hopes that the carbon markets might be revived in a new agreement. At a business-focused side event, Jeff Swartz, Director of Policy for the industry group International Emissions Trading Association, described the group’s lobbying efforts leading up to COP21, which included proposing specific wording for the agreement to delegates in 90 countries.

Whereas the current geography of carbon trading is a fragmented patchwork of regional and national markets, each with their own accounting and verification procedures, the Paris agreement could open the door for new international standards that would enable carbon to circulate seamlessly in globally-integrated markets. “Business wants rules,” Swartz said; it is up to governments, he argued, to create the necessary conditions that will expand foreign investment in climate finance and enable carbon to become a truly “fungible” commodity.

With Brazil and India among those pushing hardest for an expansion of emissions trading, the issue hardly marks a binary division between “developing” and “developed” countries; Patrick Bond recently wrote that “with regard to both world financial markets and climate policy, the BRICs are not anti-imperialist but instead subimperialist.” Nonetheless, the expansion of market-based climate finance such as carbon trading serves developed countries by shifting the burden of climate finance off of their public coffers and onto private markets.

At a COP side event on climate finance, a speaker from the Kenyan government demonstrated the extent to which some developing countries are overhauling their policy infrastructure in order to attract much-needed climate finance in all forms. Outlining Kenya’s “Elaborate Climate Finance Readiness Strategy (ECFRS),” he argued that developing countries need to establish legal, institutional, financial, and reporting frameworks that will make them as “attractive” as possible to the private capital flowing into climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The state’s role, the Kenyan speaker argued, is to provide the accounting frameworks, institutional support, and regulatory environment necessary to “liberate” the private capital flowing through a tangled network of financial channels.

This mandate that the developing state contort itself to the demands of private climate finance was countered by the speaker’s colleagues on the panel. The climate justice activist Mithika Mwenda pointed out that the whole point of climate finance is to support those necessary activities that don’t produce a return on investment.

Likewise, Mariama Williams of the South Centre, a consulting group that assists developing nations in international negotiations, was clear that “Climate finance arises out of one fact: historical responsibility.” This alone distinguishes it from voluntary development assistance.

In practice, however, this distinction is not so simple. According to the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative, with some monies going through public budgets, some through national climate funds, some through designated international funds, and some through private markets, tracing the flows of climate finance — and where they ultimately end up — is near impossible.

As Williams pointed out, the very confusion of climate finance flows is a strategy on the part of developed countries to overrepresent their contributions to developing countries. Moreover, as Mwenda described, developed countries tend to direct funds to institutions that they dominate, such as the World Bank, rather than the more democratic funds that serve the Convention.

In this light, the $248 million pledges heralded at COP21 for the Least Developed Countries Fund are not so much a boon as a belated acknowledgement that while billions are reportedly flowing into climate finance, the funds dedicated to making these resources available to the most vulnerable countries remain empty.

This is why developing countries pushed so hard for the qualifier “new and additional” to be added to the text on climate finance — it’s an attempt to ensure that climate finance means more than just a redirection of existing development assistance.

As the environmental minister of Tonga — one of the planet’s most climate-vulnerable nations — explained in his address to the COP, the country is already spending 30 percent of its overseas development assistance on climate change adaptation. Unless the climate finance promised for developing countries comes on top of existing development assistance, it effectively means that these countries will be sacrificing long-term development goals to the demands of basic survival.


Loss and Damage

Across town at Paris’s Grand Palais, the corporate perspective on climate finance was represented at the COP21 Solutions exhibit. Dubbed “The Climate Experience,” the exhibition by major energy, transportation, and beverage corporations sparked a protest in which activists were forcibly removed for calling out the environmental and human rights violations of companies participating in the event.

Inside the Grand Palais’s art nouveau pavilion, a display by the transnational energy, water, and waste management corporation Veolia invited the visitor to “Voyage to the land of +2C” through a set of white curtains. Inside, rather than submerged coastal cities and devastating droughts, the land of +2C was a “circular economy” powered by methane, in which the currency was the “price of carbon.”

Across the pavilion, on a stairway constructed in a form of a glacier, visitors donned goggles to embark on a virtual reality tour of Evian’s sustainability solutions while chickens pecked in the grass of a tiny barnyard maintained by the French oilseed industry group Avril.

Of course “The Climate Experience” for much of the world’s population bears little resemblance to corporate techno-futures of biofuels and cradle-to-cradle plastics. For most, that future is better articulated through the Paris agreement’s language of “loss and damage.” Loss and damage recognizes the limits of adaptation, beyond which affected countries and populations should be subject to some kind of redress for the loss.

But how and by whom this redress should take place is not easy to answer. Climate change is a “threat multiplier” that compounds existing stressors, making the “climate-induced” elements of loss and damage difficult to extricate from the social and political ones.

An average of 26 million people have been displaced annually by natural disasters since 2008, compounding the existing refugee crisis that promises to become still more dire. What exactly counts as “loss and damage” in this instance is hard to pin down, given the tendency for the slow violence of climate change to flip into the fast violence of conflict. In his address to the COP, for example, Al Gore drew a narrative line from drought-induced grain shortages in Russia to the food riots and self-immolation that helped to catalyze the Arab Spring in Tunis.

Yet the language of loss and damage has been crucial for developing countries and activists hoping to pry open a space for the possibility of compensation from high-emitting countries for the impacts of climate change — what some have referred to as climate reparations. Loss and damage compensation would transform the general acknowledgement of historical responsibility into a principle of liability.

However, the complexities of climate change as a form of slow violence make meeting the narrow demands of liability in most legal contexts extremely difficult. Nevertheless Friends of the Earth has argued that existing principles of international law barring states from causing environmental harms outside of their borders could provide a basis for loss and damage liability.


In Paris, loss and damage was a red line issue for both vulnerable countries and high-emitters. Vulnerable countries insisted that loss and damage from both “slow onset” and “extreme” events be acknowledged as an issue distinct from adaptation, and pushed for the establishment of a “climate change induced displacement facility” to coordinate migration and planned relocation. Meanwhile the US threatened to back out altogether if the text allowed for liability, and insisted that a waiver be added that explicitly barred this possibility.


Performing Justice

As negotiations stretched on in midnight-to-5 AM meetings, there was a general sense of drama around the possibility of collapse. In the final hours of negotiations, COP President Laurent Fabius warned that Paris must not become “Copenhagen with more police.”

But US brinksmanship notwithstanding, there was always going to be an agreement. As Fabius made clear in his plea to delegates in the final hours, a failure to come out with something would have compromised “the very credibility of multilateralism and the international community as an entity able to respond to global challenges.” The reality is that the COP’s function as a performance of international consensus is probably too important at this juncture for even the least-cooperative nations to let it fail entirely.


What, then, was accomplished in Paris?


The final agreement is a stripped-down compromise text that has lost much substantive detail, but in which some crucial provisions remain. Language on human rights, gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, and the need for a just transition — the product of years of work on the part of civil society groups and indigenous movements — have been relegated to the preamble of the text, weakening their legal import.


The temperature goal also falls in a middle ground, with a commitment to staying “well below 2C above preindustrial levels” and a promise to “pursue efforts” to keep it below 1.5. The legal structure of the agreement itself — based on non-enforceable voluntary emissions reductions — makes these targets purely rhetorical.

Differentiation is less strict than in some previous agreements (like the Kyoto Protocol), but it cuts through the entire text. Article 2, in a somewhat awkward compromise, asserts that “The Agreement will be implemented to reflect [my emphasis] equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.” This overarching statement — which the US wanted to delete entirely — is an important gain for developing countries.

The section on finance, now in Article 9, clearly states that “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.”

It also “encourages” other Parties to do so voluntarily, to the apparent satisfaction of India and China who had strongly resisted being subject to the obligations of the major historic emitters in the West.

But the $100 billion promised in the decision text accompanying the agreement is actually a figure that was already negotiated eight years ago in Cancun; its presence in this text is simply testament to the unceasing work of activists and developing country parties to prevent the US and other rich countries from backsliding on this promise. It is also a number that pales in comparison to the $500 billion spent annually on fossil fuel subsidies, which receive scant mention in the agreement.

Moreover, the crucial details surrounding the $100 billion figure — primarily the provision that these monies be “new and additional,” that they be grant-based, and that they come primarily from public coffers — have evaporated, and the Article encourages the “mobilization” of resources “from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels.” Giving substance to this, Article 6 establishes a new mechanism for cooperation on “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” — newspeak for emissions trading.

The agreement gives loss and damage its own section separate from adaptation, makes permanent the Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage (established in 2013 and previously set to expire in 2016), and establishes a task force to address climate displacement.

In place of liability or compensation, however, the text prioritizes insurance-based solutions for vulnerable populations. As a final nail to the issue of reparations, the US has succeeded in gaining a general waiver that “Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”

Thus what has really been accomplished at the COP is the slow, careful work by which rich countries refuse to substantively accept their historical responsibility (and that of the corporations whose agendas they support) for the environmental devastation that threatens lives and livelihoods, and the very existence of many nations, around the globe.

Each strategic delay, each subtle weakening of language, each return to the passive voice reduces our capacity for collective action, helping to lock in irreversible climate change that condemns many nations to wholesale extinction. This is the banal, bureaucratic work of slow violence.

But this is work that is far from complete. Developing countries have fought successfully and made significant gains in this process; indeed, since the 1972 Stockholm Convention on the Environment that helped to inaugurate the Third World Forum, international environmental politics has been an important arena in which formerly Third World countries have asserted national sovereignty.

In regard to climate change, however, the uneven geography of vulnerability intersects with that of geopolitical power, such that it is the most vulnerable countries who can least afford the hardline negotiating strategies that might undermine an agreement.

On the other hand, “non-outcomes suit the powerful,” by substituting the “performance of care” for substantive policy. Speaking for the Caribbean community, Barbados admonished delegates that the failure to acknowledge these uneven capacities and vulnerabilities constituted a “benign neglect” that would condemn island nations to “certain extinction.” In this context, climate change is not simply an unintended byproduct of colonial history, but an ongoing act of imperial violence.

Looking at the COP as a process of slow violence raises questions about the meaning of climate justice in the context of the UN system. In her coverage of Israel’s 1962 prosecution of Nazi SS commander Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt reflected on the basic juridical problem at the heart of the trial: to what extent could criminal law provide justice for the kind of “administrative massacre” perpetrated by the German state bureaucracy?

In the final paragraphs of her postscript to the trial report, Arendt distinguished between the notion of individual guilt and the fact of political responsibility, which “every government assumes . . . for the deeds and misdeeds of its predecessor and every nation for the deeds and misdeeds of its past.”

“It is quite conceivable,” she argued, “that certain political responsibilities among nations might some day be adjudicated in an international court; what is inconceivable is that such a court would be a criminal tribunal which pronounces on the guilt or innocence of individuals.”

Based on the process in Paris, such an institution would not be the UNFCCC, either. Through the principle of differentiation based on historical emissions, the UNFCCC establishes this notion of political responsibility as the basis for an international legal framework for contending with climate change. Nevertheless, the reality of international negotiations means that it falls far short of holding Parties accountable to this in practice.

If justice requires the capacity to judge, to allocate responsibility for wrongdoing, how is climate justice to be achieved in an institution that requires the consent of those who bear the lion’s share of that responsibility? What does the promise of a “just transition,” relegated now to the non-operative preamble of the text, mean without the ability to enforce that justice?

The lesson from COP21, as a political process and spectacle, is not only that our international institutions remain woefully inadequate for facing the structural violence that underpins modern life. Arendt highlights how the performance of justice, by failing to confront its own limitations, risks perpetuating the atrocities it seeks to address. The COP21 was nothing if not such a performance, in which the language of “climate justice” was invoked by heads of state and delegates from rich countries and poor alike.

The ongoing violence of climate change demands that, rather than seeking justice in an institution fundamentally incapable of delivering it, we confront the question inspired by Nixon. How do we create institutions that hold actors responsible for “a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all”?

The Paris Agreement is not an outcome to be celebrated or rejected, but a series of foot- and handholds along a path that remains a steep climb.

The presence of loss and damage, the up-front acknowledgement of differentiation, the mandated reporting and updating of national contributions every five years, and the mention of a 1.5 Celsius temperature limit all provide imperfect tools with which to demand state policy that would make the targets meaningful.

All of these tools, as Kate Aronoff has noted, are the results of years of struggle, and all of them will continue to be grasped by activists at the forefront of that struggle. As Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental law, put it:

It’s simply easier [if the mention of human rights is] in the operative text; but I can tell you, lawyers like me, and lawyers around the world, will be taking those existing rights, they’ll be taking this preamble, and they’ll be taking every word of this text against any party who tries to block human rights.

Because it’s international in scope, the agreement can provide a common point of gravity among a diversity of local movements on the front lines of the struggle to keep fossil fuels in the ground, to address climate-related displacement, and to prevent land grabbing under the guise of sustainable development.

Much of this will have to happen at the national or sub-national level, as it is in domestic law where the goals articulated in the INDCs will or will not take legal form. With the recognition that “the legalities standing in the way of justice” demand that environmental activists, labor unions, indigenous movements, and coalitions of climate-vulnerable peoples continue to take climate justice into their own hands, the Paris agreement may provide a framework for strengthening existing solidarities and forming new ones.

[ THE CONCLUSION OF THIS ARTICLE IS IN OUR OPINION: }

There is a danger, however, that the COP process itself, in its attritional slowness, will drain vital energy and resources from efforts to build more effective climate justice institutions. Without rejecting the international process as simply dysfunctional, we should be wary of how its particular functions can absorb and redirect activist energy that might be better spent elsewhere.

As Sarah Bracking and M. K. Dorsey caution, “having an inflated and not very well proved faith in the ability for supranational structures to change our future . . . detracts from efforts to build it ourselves in the everyday now.” In these efforts, the Paris Agreement might be one more tool in the shed, but only if it is taken up with the understanding that the institutions capable of delivering on climate justice are yet to be built.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This last Sunday, the venerable Austrian jewel – THE BURGTHEATER – once more lived up to the Brechtian concept of an ideal Theater as an arena for Ideas. Let me confess that I am not innocent when it comes to this. Back in the sixties and seventies I was part of a team that was running THE THEATER FOR IDEAS in the West Village of Manhattan, and in the summers – out of a summer house I shared in East Hampton on Long Island, the State of New York. Shirley Broughton, a former dancer and Brechtian theater person, from the days Brecht exiled himself from Nazi Germany and was active in the US,
picked up the idea after Bertolt Brecht returned to East Berlin. With the help of some family foundations she established this institution that at its best was described as a play-ground for the cream of New York intelligentia. For the 1965-1966 season, THE THEATER FOR IDEAS was awarded an OBIE Special Citation “for encouraging exploration in dramatic literature and music and providing a forum for thought in the theater.” It is the 11 am Sunday debates at the Burgtheater that remind me now of those old days.

Under the general topic of DEBATING EUROPE – and under the leadership of the Editor of DER STANDARD – Alexandra Föderl-Schmid – and with support from the ERSTE FOUNDATION and the IWM (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen – The Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna), The Burgtheater organized a debate on the topic “Wozu brauchen wir TTIP? – What for do we need TTIP? – “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” – a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US.

The Chair of the panel was Ms. Shalini Randeria, Rector of IWM in Vienna and Research Director and Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva.

The Panel (in seating order) included Mr. Peter-Tobias Stall, professor of public international law at the Georg August University of Göttingen; Ms. Eva Dessewffy, lecturer at the Department of European Integration and Economy-Right at the Danube University in Krems, Austria and Consultant with the Labor-Unions Headquarter, Austria; Mr. Franz Schellhorn, Head of the liberal-economy think-tank Agenda Austria and previous Economy-Journalist for Die Presse; Mr. Lutz Guellner, a German, the new elected Head for Communication in the Trade Office of the European Commission, Brussels; Ms. Petra Pinzler, in September 2015 she published a volume on un-free-trade under the domination of big companies and government officials – “Der Unfreihandel. Die heimliche Herrschaft von Konzernen und Kanzleien” (Rowohlt) – a critical review of the European Trade policy with an analysis of the rights, democracy and economy aspects of the Free-Trade planned programs such as TTIP, CETA und TISA.

As we see – the panel was well balance and all points of view present – from the self justifying European Commission and the liberal economist to the strict guardians of labor rights and honest analysts of what it means for Europe to allow itself to be dominated by American business interests based in very different legislature then any of the EU member states. So, I see no sense in repeating here the arguments, and I will now rather point out why a deal between two un-equals is just not to the Europeans’ interest.


The two un-equals are a United States – united under the banner of pure capitalism that rejects the niceties of social and environmental aspects in running the economy. This American Democracy gives people the right to earn money with money. This naturally leads to concentration of wealth and to more power to the wealthy.


On the other hand, the European Democracy has evolved as a Social Democracy that uses taxes in order to provide services to the citizens. True, Europe is not as united as it ought to be and the individual states are pursuing the social democracy goals with different levels of enthusiasm. It is the old established democracies that are better off, and have thus more advanced social norms – with some of those that more recently freed themselves from totalitarian systems lagging behind and being more susceptible to US charms.


The European Commission as such, seemingly as well, has allowed itself to be dragged into secret negotiations with the US super-business and this seems completely unacceptable to the labor unions and the environmentalists that judge correctly the immense danger from losing protective laws – laws that protect the people and the environment from the power of immense money grab and loss of judicial cover.


The goal of an economy ought to be SUSTAINABILITY rather then GROWTH – the charms of FREE-TRADE can mean that a Country with lower protective legislation – or no protective legislation at all – can by overriding in name of agreed upon expediency – simply wipe away the protection that so painstakingly has been established in a more advanced social state, that night evaluate sustainability more then the immediate financial gain that destroys the environment, lowers quality of life, and is responsible for health problems.

To be sure – I do have a personal story on this. Back in the seventies, the US decided finally that the health problems created by combustion of lead-contained gasoline where not worth the profits of the petroleum refinery – and leaded gasoline was outlawed. So what? The company that produced the Tetra-Ethyl-Lead – the compound that was used by the refiners – created a daughter company in Canada, and under THE FREE TRADE NAFTA agreement moved to export this to California where the petroleum industry was happy to buy it from them. Under NAFTA they just tried to over-ride US law. And what do you know, the US government said they had no legal means to stop this. They cannot close the border to poison because that would unravel NAFTA. California had to pay off that company to get them to desist from exporting the stuff – plain extortion on an international level. A story that should be known to all those European TTIP dreamers. What made things worse was the fact that by then there was proposed an alternative to lead – low percentages of ethanol mixed to the gasoline did provide the octane boost need to replace the lead compound – but refiners did not want this solution.

The opposition to TTIP in Austria is clear in the unwillingness to accept transnational legal system that is intended to override the Austrian and European legislation. That is clear.

Austria is fighting genetic engineering technologies and requires clear information about content of food and other products – any decrease in this sort of safeguards imposed by someone with less stringent rules is unacceptable.

Social and ecological achievements by Austria and the EU cannot be rolled back for sake of profit – that is clear.

Most countries including the EU, the US, and Canada, have accepted the 8 minimum-agreed-norms of the ILO – such as the right to collective agreements – to unionize and have an agreement; no children’s work; no forced labor; non-discrimination of any kind. Above all – no secrecy allowed. Democracy is based on transparency.

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Hoping I will get another hint to something about Europe, I went to see the Burgtheater project “Hotel Europa oder Der Antichrist” (Hotel Europe or the Anti-Christ) fashioned freely after a novel written by Joseph Roth with further inputs from other pieces and correspondence.

Moses Joseph Roth (1894 in Brody, eastern Galicia, Austria-Hungary – died in 1939 in Paris exile having committed suicide with excess drinking) was an Austrian writer and journalist.

This piece deals with someone coming back after World War I to the gates of Europe. It is possible to see in this theater event the slide to World War II. The one point I found in the direction I was looking to is Roth’s equalizing Hollywood and Hitler. Could we say that I saw there the danger from an excess that dehumanizes us? Maybe.

Whatever – this was very good theater and the four actors looked like Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph dressed as Hotel bell-hops. I guess – a bow to Mr. Roth living in hotels in exile from his Austria.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 18th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


From the shelf to the bin: food waste and the culture of rush.

Diana Moreno 18 January 2016
openDemocracy, UK


A third of all food that’s produced in the world is thrown away as ‘waste.’ What’s going on?

From the shelf to the bin: food waste and the culture of rush
Diana Moreno 18 January 2016

A third of all food that’s produced in the world is thrown away as ‘waste.’ What’s going on?

Food ‘waste’ waiting to be thrown away. Credit: Diana Moreno. All rights reserved.

Shortly after signing my contract as a store assistant for a well known low-cost German supermarket company, I came across a nasty reality that seemed not to bother the rest of my colleagues: every day, at a sleepy four o’clock in the morning, a random employee has to do the “waste inventory.”

This consists of scanning all the products that can’t be sold anymore, one by one, and then throwing them out into a blue container. The resulting mountain of food is impressive—around seventy bakery items, a hundred pieces of fruit, and fifteen trays of meat. Over two hundred food items start the morning at the bottom of the garbage container, every single day.

But that’s not the most surprising thing. The real scandal is that very few of these items need to be thrown away at all.

Of course, the expiry dates of food have to scrupulously obeyed, but most of the reasons for throwing things away have nothing to do with protecting our health. Instead, we get rid of items just because they’ve lost their label, or because the package is broken, or because they’ve been left outside the fridge. In the frenzy of a regular work day, employees don’t have time to scrutinize every corner of the store, searching for items that a neglectful customer has left out of place on a shelf, or that they themselves may have forgotten somewhere.

As a rough calculation, I’d say that food that’s unfit for consumption accounts for less than half of what is thrown away. While doing the waste inventory I can see it, but the ‘waste’ is valued at only 300 Pounds or so—less than one per cent of the store’s daily income.

What happens to it? I ask the delivery guy where he takes the food.

“To the incinerator” he replies. “Why, are you hungry?”

If you’re able to imagine one ton of food and then multiply it by a hundred million you get the exorbitant amount that’s wasted in Europe every year, according to a report from the European Parliament. At the global level, the FAO calculates that this comes to 1.3 billion tons per annum, or a third of all food that’s produced. I can see a tiny part of this nonsense, day by day, in my shop.

What’s going on? At the heart of the problem is a basic lack of care, brought on by a culture of rushing, speed, and busyness—lots of people, scanner sounds, the noise of coins and trolleys—everything in a hurry. In shops like mine, everything is meant to be this way. The tills are designed for customers to be there for as little time as possible so that more people can be processed in the same number of minutes.

In some ways the till is the perfect symbol of modern slavery: immersion in this small metal cage implies an average of six hours a day sitting and doing mechanical and monotonous scanning-and-packing work with one 30-minute break. Greetings and goodbyes are identical, mechanical, pronounced a hundred times per day: the same jokes, the same comments.

Customers can pay with a new system called ‘contactless payment’ that works by simply touching a credit card to the machine. “They do that so we can spend quickly… and more,” an elderly customer says to me wisely. No time for conversations. I serve 20 people every ten minutes. That means 60 every half an hour, 120 per hour, and around 500 during a standard shift—giving each customer 30 seconds to chat. It feels kind of disturbing to interact with 500 different people during six hours without ever having a conversation.

Rushing also means that things get dropped. Glasses are broken, yogurt is scattered, or an egg from the box is broken when you’re trying to stack it up in the crammer stand. So that means throwing the whole carton away. And when the day is close to an end, tiredness sinks in. The more tired we are, the less we care.

Interiorizing this culture of rush makes everybody feel annoyed when something doesn´t work—for example when items pile up, plastic bags are difficult to open or barcodes won’t scan. Or when the cashier forgets a code or the customer takes too much time packing everything into their bags, exasperating the rest of the queue. Almost without noticing, I´ve adopted a way of serving that pressurizes costumers to leave over time. When did I and my colleagues start behaving this way? None of us know.

Some mention the ‘pressure’ of the long queue, or the customers’ comments that encourage you to be quicker. Or the manager´s instructions that force you to speed up if there’s a long line or to close the till and do something else if it’s not busy, in order to avoid a single minute of inactivity. Bosses also encourage us to speed up by giving a prize to the fastest cashier every month. As an experiment, I reduce my speed and soon I’m pressured to scan faster in order to ‘hit the store´s target.’ By the end of the shift, rushing has burrowed its way deep into my bones.

Do things have to be this way? Isn’t there an alternative? I want to believe that there is.

Barely two hundred meters along the street from where I work is another smaller shop called hiSbe. It calls itself an “ethical supermarket, independent and community-run,” and it has the aura of something more organic and environmentally-friendly. I go inside to take a look.

The shop looks less busy and less crowded with people and items. There are four employees with smiles that don’t look forced. Prices and quality are not reduced as much as on the crowded low-cost shelves that I’m used to stacking. Its claim to put “workers and suppliers before benefits” may not be a pose after all.

One of hiSbe’s commitments is “refusing to throw away any food that can be eaten.” How do they accomplish that I wonder? Here’s what I find out: they reduce the price of any surplus goods before the delivery of new stock; they minimize packaging and sell stuff by weight; they give items away for free like eggs which are about to expire; and they don’t discriminate against ‘ugly vegetables’ that aren’t the standard size and look.

Above all, things are done well and carefully and without rushing. It’s a small shop without too many customers, so there’s more time for chatting. Less rushing means that things aren’t dropped or broken so frequently or forgotten somewhere out of the fridge. “We barely throw any food away at the end of the day,” one worker confirms to me.

This isn’t an isolated example. There are a growing number of citizen initiatives which are fighting against unjustified waste like the ‘dumpster diving’ movement, or the Real Junk Food Project in Brighton—a food bank that uses items discarded by local supermarkets. In Lisbon, the Frutafeia co-operative campaigns against standardization in foodstuffs, especially vegetables, while Berlin’s ‘social fridges’ offer self-service food for free to people who are homeless.

In the current dominant system of food consumption and the culture of rush, a daily mountain of edible food that’s thrown into a bin is not considered a failure—it’s simply one of the many consequences of doing business as usual.
To reverse that process, we all have to put our shopping into question.

This is a shorter version of a longer piece
please see - www.opendemocracy.net

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

DIA-CORE project has the pleasure to announce the DIA-CORE Regional Workshop“Best Practice Policies To Finance Renewable Energy”, to be implemented on the 29th of January 2016, in Vilnius, Lithuania, hosted by Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI).

Main aim of the DIA-CORE Regional Workshop is to present and analyze the current policy performance and financial conditions for RES investments, as well as renewable energy support schemes in the region.

To download Workshop’s Agenda and info:  diacore.eu/news-events/events/ite…

For more information about the workshop stay tuned at the event’s webpage!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In a letter to all IISD readers of the Clean Energy List, Ms. Victoria Healey, the Project Leader at US NREL writes:

A representative from the Clean Energy Solutions Center (Solutions Center), Ms. Victoria Healey, will attend the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly and the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, from January 16-21, 2016. Under the joint IRENA and Solutions Center Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN), Ms. Healey will be available to meet individually with government representatives, government affiliated practitioners, and policymakers seeking clean energy policy, program, regulation, and finance technical assistance. The REPAN was established to help developing countries to design and adopt clean energy policies and programs that support the deployment of clean energy technologies, and to identify design, and implement finance instruments that mobilize private and public sector capital, and formulate clean energy investment strategies. This support is provided free of charge. To schedule an appointment, please contact Victoria Healey at  nrel.gov.


Consultations during the IRENA General Assembly will occur at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island in a location to be determined. During the WFES the 1-on-1 consultations will take place at the IRENA networking area located in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

About the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network, the Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center, and the Clean Energy Solutions Center:

The Clean Energy Solutions Center and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) joined forces in 2013 to launch the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN)—a collaboration that leverages both organizations’ resources by coordinating a global network of experts and practitioners to help countries design and implement renewable energy policies and programs. To learn more visit cleanenergysolutions.org/expert/…

The Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center of NREL assists governments and practitioners with identifying appropriate finance mechanisms and designing and implementing policies to reduce risk and encourage private sector investment; helping to achieve the transition to clean energy at the speed and scale necessary to meet local development needs and address global challenges. The CEFSC is an expanded and dedicated resource that is part of the Clean Energy Solutions Center, a Clean Energy Ministerial initiative that helps governments design and adopt policies and programs that support deployment of clean energy technologies.

signed:
Victoria Healey,
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Leader for the Clean Energy Solutions Center

To learn more about how these initiatives can assist in meeting countries’ clean energy objectives, please visit cleanenergysolutions.org and finance.cleanenergysolutions.org…, and follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/CleanEnergySolu… and Twitter twitter.com/Clean_Energy_SC

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