IIASA Policy Brief #15 – January 2017
Resource efficiency of future EU demand for bioenergy.
EU bioenergy demand is set to rise sharply. We examine the impacts on land use,
greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity, both inside and outside the region.
? Increasing demand for bioenergy in the EU means that there is a pressing need to
understand the impacts this might have on land use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
and biodiversity, both regionally and globally.
? In this brief we examine the results of modeled policy scenarios to explore how
these factors are affected.
? All other factors being equal, a scenario where the EU target of an 80% reduction
in GHG emissions by 2050 is met leads to a rise in: wood pellet imports, the amount
of wood harvested from EU forests, and in the area of land used for short rotation
coppicing (fast-growing tree plantations).
? There are clear synergies between conserving biodiversity; protecting unused forests
and avoiding the conversion of natural land; and reducing global GHG emissions from
the land-use sector.
? Restricting the use of land that has high biodiversity value, or high carbon stocks,
means global emissions savings from the land-use sector.
? The results also highlight the importance of examining the global implications of
EU policy. When biodiversity and carbon storage are protected, for instance, EU
land-use emissions increase, although they fall on a global scale. As well as rising
EU emissions, more EU-grown wood that is of sufficient quality to use for other
wooden products is used directly for bioenergy.
? Capping the amount of high-quality wood that can be used directly for bioenergy,
in addition to biodiversity or carbon storage protection, results in even greater
global emissions savings.
The differences in GHG emissions between the basic emissions reduction scenario and the
LAND scenario (which restricts use of areas with high biodiversity and carbon storage)
and the CAP scenario (which also includes restrictions on use of high-quality roundwood).
What is bioenergy?
Although there are various types, in this brief we focus on
bioenergy generated by burning biomass, in this case, plant
matter. Many different types of woody biomass can be used
for bioenergy. Firewood is widely used for domestic heating,
for instance. Larger-scale bioenergy production might use
wood pellets, which are dense, compressed pellets. In the
EU these are mostly made from industrial by-products such as
wood chips, sawdust, or shavings. In this brief we also discuss
the likely increasing use of roundwood, defined here as logs
that are of sufficient quality to be used for wooden products
such as plywood or planks, but are used for energy production
instead. Another source of fuel for bioenergy that may become
increasingly important is short rotation coppices—intensively
harvested, fast-growing tree plantations grown on agricultural
land. Increasing demand for these feedstocks can have
important impacts on land use, GHG emissions, and biodiversity.
Furthermore, globalized trade means that demand in the EU can
affect the rest of the world and vice versa, as has already been
seen, for example, with increased EU imports of wood pellets
from the USA.
The Baseline Scenario depicts the target of a 20% reduction of
emissions in the EU28 by 2020, and runs to 2050, providing a point
of comparison for other policy directions.
In this scenario, increased demand for bioenergy will lead to a
considerable increase in EU production of woody biomass by 2030
(as much as 10% more than in 2010). Industrial by-products, such as
sawdust and wood chips, will become increasingly in demand, and
more land will be used for short rotation coppices (see box: What
is bioenergy?). In addition, harvesting in EU forests intensifies, and
roundwood imports increase. From 2030 to 2050, the EU domestic
production of biomass stabilizes.
EU reliance on imported biomass also increases—in particular wood
pellet imports will rise by 90% by 2030 compared to 2010. Since
estimates suggest that outside the EU a large share of wood pellets
are made from roundwood—and therefore require direct forest
harvesting—these imports may have important consequences for
biodiversity loss and land use change outside the EU.
The EU Emission Reduction Scenario (now updated in the
report: Follow-up study on impacts on resource efficiency of future
EU demand for bioenergy) examines the additional policy target
of decreasing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 in the EU.
As the demand for bioenergy in this scenario rises sharply to meet
GHG emissions reduction targets, there is an increasing need for
all forms of feedstock. The reliance on imported pellets increases
seven-fold from 10 million cubic meters in 2010 to 70 million in
2050, with possibly serious implications for global biodiversity
loss. Short rotation coppices are also expanded to cope with the
stark rise in demand. Large quantities of EU-grown roundwood,
which could otherwise have been used to produce wooden goods,
are also burnt for energy.
These demands also affect land use in the EU, and along with
the increase in coppice plantations there is a rise in forest area
of almost 14 million hectares by 2050 compared to 2010. The
land converted to forest and coppice plantations is generally
natural land, such as abandoned cropland or unused grassland.
As demand for wood as a material and a source of energy grows,
forests become more intensively harvested in the EU, with the
amount of wood harvested reaching a level 12% higher in 2050 than
in 2010. Such intense use of forests is likely to have serious impacts
on European wildlife, hastening biodiversity decline in the region.
Importing wood, exporting pressure
The reliance on imports in the emissions reduction scenario raises
the difficult question of whether the EU will simply export the
problems of land use and biodiversity decline elsewhere. The
Increased EU Biomass Import Scenario investigates what would
happen if this was taken to the extreme, by decreasing the trade
costs in the model. As expected, EU imports of roundwood and
wood pellets are significantly higher than in both the baseline and
the emissions reductions scenarios. While this takes the pressure
off EU forests, as harvests do not increase as fast as they otherwise
would, it exports biodiversity and land-use issues to the rest of the
world. GHG emissions from the land-use sector in the EU fall, but
global land-use emissions are similar to the baseline scenario.
However, it is likely that other countries will also see an increase
for bioenergy demand as they attempt to switch away from fossil
fuels. In a world where countries outside the EU are using their
own biomass resources, rather than exporting them, net EU
imports of wood pellets are 25% lower than without this effect.
In addition, EU roundwood imports decrease by more than 20% in
2050. This requires the EU to substantially increase the amount of
biomass it produces through domestic short rotation coppicing.
Sustainability for the future
One of the major concerns over bioenergy is the amount of land
needed to provide the fuel, and whether this will encroach onto
natural land that is important for biodiversity or carbon storage.
To investigate this issue, researchers used the LAND Scenario,
which restricts biomass harvests in areas with high biodiversity
value, high carbon stocks, or both (HBVCS areas). Under this
restriction, collection of biomass from HBVCS areas in the EU
was limited and the conversion of HBVCS areas was forbidden
all around the world. Because these restrictions were applied
regardless of whether the use of resources was for bioenergy or
not, they had far-reaching effects beyond bioenergy policy.
The restrictions lead to a global reduction in the availability of wood.
EU pellet imports fall, and the use of domestic biomass resources
rises; the amount of EU roundwood combusted directly for bioenergy
is 23% higher in 2050 than in the emissions reduction scenario. This
scenario leads to a net global emissions saving in the land-use sector
of 10 megatonnes of CO2 (Mt CO2) in 2050, compared to the emissions
It is important to bear in mind that the goal of climate mitigation is to
reduce emissions worldwide, not just from the EU. This is highlighted
by this scenario, which shows that while global emissions fall,
emissions from the land-use sector in the EU increase compared to the
emissions reduction scenario (about 4 Mt CO2 higher in 2050). This is
because without protections for biodiversity and carbon storage, the
EU imports large quantities of wood for bioenergy, simply transferring
emissions to other regions.
Another major concern over bioenergy relates to the efficient use
of biomass; burning roundwood that is of high enough quality to
be used for wooden products is a wasted opportunity. After all, if
a tree is used to make a table, at the end of its useful life the table
itself can be burnt and used to produce energy, increasing resource
efficiency. To examine what would happen if a cap was placed on
the amount of roundwood that could be used directly and indirectly
for energy after 2020, a CAP scenario was built.
As a result of the cap, the amount of wood pellets imported into
the EU falls, since a large share of pellets from outside the EU are
made from high-quality roundwood. The resulting gap in fuel for
bioenergy in the EU is filled through use of industrial by-products,
such as sawdust or shavings. The demand for these by-products
increases their market value, meaning that sawmills become more
profitable and their numbers rise. There is also an effect on the
pulp and board industries, which shift towards use of roundwood
as the price of by-products rises.
This roundwood CAP scenario is more effective for climate mitigation
than the LAND Scenario, leading to net global emissions saving
in the land-use sector of around 15 Mt CO2 in 2050 compared
to the emissions reduction scenario; this is, however, more than
compensated by decreased emissions in the rest of the world.
IIASA Policy Briefs present the latest research for policymakers from
IIASA—an international, interdisciplinary research institute with
National Member Organizations (NMOs) in 24 countries in Africa, the
Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. The views expressed herein are
those of the researchers and not necessarily those of IIASA or its NMOs.
This brief is based on the work by forest scientists, economists, and
policy analysts at IIASA, Öko-Institut e.V., Institute for European
Environmental Policy, European Forest Institute, and Indufor Oy. The
consortium was led by Nicklas Forsell, research scholar at the IIASA
Ecosystems Services and Management Program. The research received
funding from the European Commission within the contract ENV.F.1/
ETU/2013/0033 and ENV.F.1./ETU/2015/Ares(2015)5117224.
More IIASA publications are available at www.iiasa.ac.at/Publications
This modeling work stemmed from the EU Reference Scenario
2013, which details the EU energy, transport and GHG emissions
trends to 2050. The assumptions for energy demand for the
Reference Scenario 2013 are estimated using the PRIMES EU-wide
Energy Model. The work described in this policy brief was published
in two waves, the first was published in the Study on impacts on
resource efficiency of future EU demand for bioenergy (ReceBio)
[pure.iiasa.ac.at/14006], and the second in the Follow-up study on
impacts on resource efficiency of future EU demand for bioenergy
(ReceBio follow-up) [pure.iiasa.ac.at/14180].
THE NEW YORK TIMES – SCIENCE
English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch
By TATIANA SCHLOSSBERGAUG. 21, 2016
ASHTON HAYES, England — This small village of about 1,000 people looks like any other nestled in the countryside.
But Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change.
Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.
The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.
But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.
As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.
“We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. “And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.”
One of their secrets, it seems, is that the people of Ashton Hayes feel in charge, rather than following government policies. When the member of Parliament who represents the village showed up at their first public meeting in January 2006, he was told he could not make any speeches.
“We said, ‘This is not about you tonight, this is about us, and you can listen to what we’ve got to say for a change,’” said Kate Harrison, a resident and early member of the group.
No politician has been allowed to address the group since. The village has kept the effort separate from party politics, which residents thought would only divide them along ideological lines.
The project was started by Garry Charnock, a former journalist who trained as a hydrologist and has lived in the village for about 30 years. He got the idea a little more than a decade ago after attending a lecture about climate change at the Hay Festival, an annual literary gathering in Wales. He decided to try to get Ashton Hayes to become, as he put it, “Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.”
“But even if we don’t,” he recalls thinking at the time, “let’s try to have a little fun.”
Sometimes, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases involve guilt-tripping or doomsday scenarios that make people feel as if the problem is too overwhelming to tackle.
In Ashton Hayes — about 25 miles southeast of Liverpool, with a 19th-century Anglican church and a community-owned shop that doubles as a post office — the villagers have lightened the mood.
They hold public wine-and-cheese meetings in the biggest houses in town, “so everyone can have a look around,” and see how the wealthier people live, said Mr. Charnock, the executive director of RSK, an environmental consulting company. “We don’t ever finger-wag in Ashton Hayes.”
About 650 people — more than half of the village’s residents — showed up to the first meeting, Mr. Charnock said. Some in the village were less keen, but little by little, they began to participate.
Some have gone further. When they were looking to build their energy-efficient home and heard about Ashton Hayes’s carbon-neutral project, Ms. Dossett and her husband, Ian, thought it might be the perfect village for them.
They moved from nearby South Warrington and found two old farm cottages, which they converted into a two-story brick house, and installed huge triple-glazed windows, photovoltaic cells on the roof, a geothermal heat pump that heats the home and its water, and an underground cistern to hold rainwater for toilets and the garden.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to think we live in a mud hut,” Ms. Dossett said, sitting on a couch in her warm, well-lit living room.
The Dossetts also have a vegetable garden, grow grapes for wine, brew beer and keep two cows, which mow the lawn and may also eventually become food in a few years. They pay about 500 pounds (about $650) a year for electricity and heating.
The success of the carbon-neutral project seems to have inspired other community efforts in Ashton Hayes. The residents, for example, have built a new playing field with a solar-powered pavilion, which is the home of a community cafe three days a week. They have also put photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the primary school.
Other towns and cities around the world hope to copy Ashton Hayes. Their representatives have contacted the project’s leaders, asking for help in setting up similar initiatives, according to the diary the Ashton Hayes group keeps about the project, chronicling almost everything they have done over the past 10 years.
Eden Mills, a small community in Ontario, Canada, is one of them. Charles Simon traveled to Ashton Hayes in 2007 to learn how to translate their approach to his town, adopting the apolitical, voluntary, fun method.
“Some of the changes are so easy,” Mr. Simon said. “Just put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat.”
Eden Mills has cut emissions by about 14 percent, Mr. Simon said, and has plans to do more. Residents have been working with experts from the nearby University of Guelph, planting trees in the village forest to help absorb the carbon dioxide the town emits, Mr. Simon said.
Janet Gullvaag, a councilwoman in Notteroy, Norway, an island municipality of about 21,000 people, reached out to Ashton Hayes about nine years ago after her political party decided to include reducing carbon dioxide emissions in its platform.
“I think that the idea that Ashton Hayes had — to make caring for the environment fun, without pointing fingers — was quite revolutionary,” Ms. Gullvaag said.
Though her community’s approach is decidedly more political, Ms. Gullvaag said that adopting Ashton Hayes’s mantra of fun had paid dividends: She has seen changes in her community, she said, as people buy more electric cars and bicycles, and convert their home heating from oil to more environmentally friendly sources.
“Whatever you’re trying to do, if you can create enthusiasm and spread knowledge, normally, people will react in a positive way,” she added.
Though deep cuts across the globe are still required to make broader progress, actions to reduce emissions, even by small towns, are a step in the right direction, say experts who study community action on climate change.
“The community-building element of all this has been as important as the environmental impact so far,” said Sarah Darby, a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.
She added that Ashton Hayes was in a good position to take on these kinds of projects — it is a small village of well-off and well-educated people, so simply taking fewer flights each year can have a big effect.
Residents were able to cut emissions by about 20 percent in the first year alone, according to surveys used to calculate carbon footprints that were developed by Roy Alexander, a local professor, and his students.
Some have had even more significant reductions: Households that participated in surveys in both the first and 10th years shrank their energy use by about 40 percent.
Mr. Charnock said he thought the village could get the cuts in its 2006 carbon footprint to 80 percent in the next few years with the help of grant money to buy and install solar panels on the local school and other buildings.
The next thing they have to do, he said, is to get the county government to be as committed to cutting emissions as Ashton Hayes is.
“There’s so much apathy,” Mr. Charnock said. “We need to squeeze that layer of apathy jelly and get it out.”
A version of this article appears in print on August 22, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: An English Village Leads a Climate Revolution.
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.”
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.
IRENA’s two added workshops during World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, that will be held January 16-21, 2016.
from: Virginia Yu
Sun, Jan 10, 2016 at 2:22 PM
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) announces two side events at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE – 1) Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy, 18 January, and 2) Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, 19 January.
1) The Global Atlas for Renewable Energy Workshop on Medium-term Strategy will take place on 18th January, 2016 at ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre) – future home of World Fair 2020), Abu Dhabi. The purpose of this workshop is to gather information and ideas from stakeholders that can feed into IRENA’s development of the medium-term strategy (1-2 years) for the Global Atlas. Workshop participants will engage in a practical discussion around how the Global Atlas can help overcome barriers to renewable energy development, generate ideas for more effective communication on the Global Atlas, and investigate the needs and ideas of data providers.
To register, please send an email to potentials at irena.org by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please read the final event concept note and announcement. Please connect to: www.irena.org
prior to the meeting.
2) The Solar Resource Assessment Workshop for Policy Makers, in collaboration with DLR will take place on 19th January, 2016 at IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.
With this training, IRENA gives an introduction of the capabilities of such tools and how they may be used to improve the design of policies for solar energy. To register, please send an email to carsten.hoyer-klick at dlr.de. We would be grateful to receive your confirmation by 13th January. For further information on the event and location, please see the attached PDF.
IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City | P.O. Box 236 | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Tel: +97124179988 | Mob: +971566161584 | www.irena.org
Solar-Med-Atlas Workshop for Policy Makers.pdf 164K
Solar Resource Assessment for Policy Makers:
Date: Tuesday, January 19th, 2016, 10-16h Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Venue: IRENA Headquarters, Masdar City
Solar resource is “fuel” for solar energy technologies and the availability of accurate solar data is a key parameter in planning solar power systems. Solar resource assessment portals as the Solar-Med- Atlas and the IRENA Global Atlas have been developed to ease access to this data, to improve planning of policies and implementation of solar energy systems.
With this training we want to give you an introduction of the capabilities of such tools and how they may be used to improve the design of policies for solar energy.
There are two ways of thinking about the effects of human behavior on the environment – one that looks at the end results and points at the need to decrease these effects – this way of thinking leads to us dealing with the symptoms of the desease we created. If we can afford the time we ought to take instead a deeper look at the problem and enter a new path for the economy – one that allows for change – a new true Culture Change – that avoids the polluting industry – the air-polluting self imposed dependence on fossil fuels. We can then build a new economy based on using the free energy supplied to us amply by the sun – this after we did our best first – to decrease the use of energy in all our activities.
The first line of reacting to the problem is represented by those trying to benefit from the commerce in carbon credits. The second line of thinking has brought about Jonathan Rosenthal’s New Economy Coalition that brings together all those that can show that by creating higher energy use efficiency and then supplying the remaining needs from renewable energy sources, the whole economy at large, and their own companies in particular, are clear winners.
From a think tank point of view, two particular geographical areas and the particular groups of Nations in those areas, present special possibilities for study.
One such area are the countries of the Arctic Circle Assembly that meet this week in Reykjavik, Iceland d. The second group of nations are the Small Island entities. what these two groups have in common are new reserves of oil that one ought to work hard to keep from developing them. The difference between the two groups of Nations is in the difference in size and their economies.
Global warming has brought about the melting of ice at the two poles and this “uncovering” of the mineral resources at the Arctic region makes it easier to get to these resources – the question opens thus – would these countries be better off leaving these resources untouched as a reserve for future generations?
SIDS nations are small in land but large in sea territory where reserves of oil and gas have been found. These nations live mainly from tourism and the slightest oil spill presents a non-reversible harm to their white sand beaches. The dilemma they have is in a nut-shell the question about the potential temporary help to their development in the immediate term versus their potential loss of a future. How can one figure policies that help the SIDS decide to leave most of these oil reserves underground?
Tomorrow,Thursday October 15, 2015, in Reykjavik, there will be a chance to hear what the organizers of the Paris2015 Global Conference have in mind. Under the guidance of Iceland’s President H.E. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and with H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco at his side, he will have the convener of COP21 of UNFCCC and the Paris2015 event – Ms. Christiana Figueres, and the host of Paris 2015 – H.E. Francois Hollande, President of France, tell the Arctic Circle Assembly audience, and the whole world, the seriousness of the situation that they are tasked to find a solution for. Later in the program the SIDS will have their chance as well. By going to these two special groupings of Nations, the organizers of Paris 2015 have thus a chance to get a hearing at fora that take the subject out of the mostly unreceptive environment of the UN.
12 October 2015
Kuwait calls for coordinated climate action from Arab states
THIS FROM CLIMATE ACTION of UNEP
Kuwait called on Sunday for a coordinated effort among Arab states to support a strong global climate change agreement in Paris in December.
The Gulf nations’ Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs Ghanim Al-Ghanim stressed the importance of transitioning to a green economy.
Ambassador Al-Ghanim was speaking to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) at a meeting of Arab negotiation group for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which began on Sunday in Cairo, Egypt.
The two-day meetings are part of preparations for the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in the French capital from 30 November to 11 December and Al-Ghanim heads the Kuwaiti delegation.
The Kuwaiti delegation at the meetings included representatives for the oil ministry and the Environment Public Authority.
ABOVE IS OF HIGH INTEREST BUT THE FACTS ARE THAT EACH COUNTRY HAS TO PRESENT ITS OWN GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE COMBATING PROGRAM AND SO FAR AS WE KNOW THE OIL PRODUCING STATES HAVE NOT PRODUCED SUCH PROGRAMS. DECIAIMING THE NEED FOR A STRONG AGREEMENT IN PARIS SERVES NO PURPOSE WHATSOEVER. CONTINUING SUCH DECLAMATIONS IS PLAINLY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.
A Department of Management Engineering at UN City in Copenhagen, Denmark is a UNEP Collaborating Centre Advisory on Energy, Climate, and Sustainable Development. They work with SE4All, WRI, and ICLEI – Local Government for Sustainability – as a global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform. They will conduct a webinar September 1, 2015.
Please join us on September 1 as the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator platform hosts a webinar on the opportunities to use building efficiency and district energy in combination to create more sustainable cities.
This webinar of the SE4ALL Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator partnership is jointly hosted by World Resources Institute (WRI), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. Additional information on the webinar is included below and in the attached document.
Please feel free to share information about this webinar with your colleagues and partners. The primary audience for the webinar is local governments, but it is open to a general audience.
Combining Building Efficiency and District Energy for More Sustainable Cities: A Sustainable Energy for All webinar
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is also Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. His books include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth, and, most recently, The Age of Sustainable Development.
NEW YORK –The United Nations will mark its 70th anniversary when world leaders assemble next month at its headquarters in New York. Though there will be plenty of fanfare, it will inadequately reflect the UN’s value, not only as the most important political innovation of the twentieth century, but also as the best bargain on the planet. But if the UN is to continue to fulfill its unique and vital global role in the twenty-first century, it must be upgraded in three key ways.
Fortunately, there is plenty to motivate world leaders to do what it takes. Indeed, the UN has had two major recent triumphs, with two more on the way before the end of this year.
The first triumph is the nuclear agreement with Iran. Sometimes misinterpreted as an agreement between Iran and the United States, the accord is in fact between Iran and the UN, represented by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US), plus Germany. An Iranian diplomat, in explaining why his country will scrupulously honor the agreement, made the point vividly: “Do you really think that Iran would dare to cheat on the very five UN Security Council permanent members that can seal our country’s fate?”
The second big triumph is the successful conclusion, after 15 years, of the Millennium Development Goals, which have underpinned the largest, longest, and most effective global poverty-reduction effort ever undertaken. Two UN Secretaries-General have overseen the MDGs: Kofi Annan, who introduced them in 2000, and Ban Ki-moon, who, since succeeding Annan at the start of 2007, has led vigorously and effectively to achieve them.
The MDGs have engendered impressive progress in poverty reduction, public health, school enrollment, gender equality in education, and other areas. Since 1990 (the reference date for the targets), the global rate of extreme poverty has been reduced by well over half – more than fulfilling the agenda’s number one goal.
Inspired by the MDGs’ success, the UN’s member countries are set to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which will aim to end extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere, narrow inequalities, and ensure environmental sustainability by 2030 – next month. This, the UN’s third triumph of 2015, could help to bring about the fourth: a global agreement on climate control, under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris in December.
The precise value of the peace, poverty reduction, and environmental cooperation made possible by the UN is incalculable. If we were to put it in monetary terms, however, we might estimate their value at trillions of dollars per year – at least a few percent of the world economy’s annual GDP of $100 trillion.
Yet spending on all UN bodies and activities – from the Secretariat and the Security Council to peacekeeping operations, emergency responses to epidemics, and humanitarian operations for natural disasters, famines, and refugees – totaled roughly $45 billion in 2013, roughly $6 per person on the planet. That is not just a bargain; it is a significant underinvestment. Given the rapidly growing need for global cooperation, the UN simply cannot get by on its current budget.
Given this, the first reform that I would suggest is an increase in funding, with high-income countries contributing at least $40 per capita annually, upper middle-income countries giving $8, lower-middle-income countries $2, and low-income countries $1. With these contributions – which amount to roughly 0.1% of the group’s average per capita income – the UN would have about $75 billion annually with which to strengthen the quality and reach of vital programs, beginning with those needed to achieve the SDGs. Once the world is on a robust path to achieve the SDGs, the need for, say, peacekeeping and emergency-relief operations should decline as conflicts diminish in number and scale, and natural disasters are better prevented or anticipated.
This brings us to the second major area of reform: ensuring that the UN is fit for the new age of sustainable development. Specifically, the UN needs to strengthen its expertise in areas such as ocean health, renewable energy systems, urban design, disease control, technological innovation, public-private partnerships, and peaceful cultural cooperation. Some UN programs should be merged or closed, while other new SDG-related UN programs should be created.
The third major reform imperative is the UN’s governance, starting with the Security Council, the composition of which no longer reflects global geopolitical realities. Indeed, the Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG) now accounts for three of the five permanent members (France, the United Kingdom, and the US). That leaves only one permanent position for the Eastern European Group (Russia), one for the Asia-Pacific Group (China), and none for Africa or Latin America.
The rotating seats on the Security Council do not adequately restore regional balance. Even with two of the ten rotating Security Council seats, the Asia-Pacific region is still massively under-represented. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for roughly 55% of the world’s population and 44% of its annual income but has just 20% (three out of 15) of the seats on the Security Council.
Asia’s inadequate representation poses a serious threat to the UN’s legitimacy, which will only increase as the world’s most dynamic and populous region assumes an increasingly important global role. One possible way to resolve the problem would be to add at least four Asian seats: one permanent seat for India, one shared by Japan and South Korea (perhaps in a two-year, one-year rotation), one for the ASEAN countries (representing the group as a single constituency), and a fourth rotating among the other Asian countries.
As the UN enters its eighth decade, it continues to inspire humanity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains the world’s moral charter, and the SDGs promise to provide new guideposts for global development cooperation. Yet the UN’s ability to continue to fulfill its vast potential in a new and challenging century requires its member states to commit to support the organization with the resources, political backing, and reforms that this new era demands.
OXFORD – When the United Nations elects a new secretary-general next year, the world will face a crucial choice. With crises erupting in every region of the world, the need for strong, decisive leadership is self-evident. And yet the selection process for filling important international posts has often been characterized more by political horse-trading than a meritocratic search for the best candidate.
The tools to improve the process are available, and the time is right to ensure their adoption by the UN and other international organizations. A new report by the World Economic Forum and Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government lays out a series of best practices – each one of which has already been implemented by at least one international agency – that can guarantee that leaders are drawn from the most qualified candidates, and that the organizations for which they work are vested with the best possible management practices.
For starters, it is important to professionalize the selection process. For too long, backroom deals among governments have taken precedence over searching for a candidate with the relevant skills and experience. When Pascal Lamy, one of the authors of the report, was chosen to become head of the World Trade Organization, there was not even a description of the job against which his qualifications could be measured.
Once a candidate has been chosen, it is important to set clear performance expectations that can be evaluated annually. Groups like the World Health Organization – which came under fierce criticism during the Ebola crisis – can learn from the 80% of American non-profit boards that have a formal process in place for a yearly evaluation of their CEO.
Ethical standards also need to be strengthened. In April, Spanish police questioned Rodrigo Rato, a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as part of a corruption probe. Not long before that, his successor at the IMF, Dominique Strauss Kahn, faced pimping charges in France.
Putting in place a code that sets out clear standards for identifying conflicts of interest and robust methods for dealing with complaints about a leader’s behavior is crucial. In recent years, allegations of improper behavior have led to resignations by the heads of the IMF, the World Bank, and the UN Refugee Agency.
A leader is only as good as the people who work for him, so organizations must make it a high priority to attract and retain good staff and rid themselves of those who lack professional integrity or competence. Many global agencies are introducing systematic surveys of their employees, but much remains to be improved. Crucially, international organizations must build up the capacity to resist governments’ efforts to protect their underperforming nationals. Performance evaluations should be made public, allowing outsiders to measure progress (or the lack thereof).
Organizations also need to focus more on delivering results and tracking outcomes. For decades, countries borrowing from the World Bank and regional development banks have begged for the loan process to be expedited; most cannot afford to wait more than two years to find out whether a loan has been approved. Halving the time it takes to approve a loan is the kind of operational goal that a good leader can set, and for which he or she can subsequently be held to account.
It is also important to ensure well-structured, systematic engagement with stakeholders and civil-society groups, which is necessary to ensure high-quality and innovative inputs. Adopting an ad hoc approach, as many organizations currently do, frequently yields poor results.
Finally, it is crucial that organizations learn from their mistakes. Fortunately, almost all global agencies have instituted processes for independent evaluation. Less happily, most are still grappling with how to implement lessons learned. Evaluation is important, but it needs to be followed up with strong governance reforms that require leaders to shift incentives and behavior.
Pressure for change is mounting. In November 2014, Avaaz, the United Nations Association, and other NGOs launched a campaign to reform the selection process by which the UN secretary-general is chosen, replacing an opaque process dominated by the permanent members of the Security Council with a transparent one, in which all countries have a say. Among their demands are a clear job description for the role, public scrutiny of candidates, and a shortlist with more than one candidate.
Progress is being made in some agencies. The UN High Commission for Refugees now describes its objectives in its Global Strategic Priorities and evaluates progress toward them annually. And all senior UN officials must file an annual financial-disclosure statement with the organization’s ethics office.
One notably successful agency in this regard is the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has introduced an organization-wide whistle-blowing policy, an anti-corruption and fraud framework, and an office to investigate disclosures. The AfDB will choose a new president in May, and it has not only defined the job clearly; it has also identified eight candidates and asked each to set out their strategy in advance of the election.
The world relies on international organizations to coordinate the global response to a host of critical threats, from pandemics to financial crises. An effective UN leader needs to be able to persuade member states to cooperate, manage the organization well, and deliver results. Without good leadership, any organization – even the UN – is destined to fail.
Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia (1988-1996) and President of the International Crisis Group (2000-2009), is currently Chancellor of the Australian National University.
He co-chairs the New York-based Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect and the Canberra-based Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
He is the author of The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All and co-author of Nuclear Weapons: The State of Play 2015.
MAR 26, 2013 – Project Syndicate
Valuing the United Nations.
MELBOURNE – There is nothing like exposure to smart and idealistic young people to make jaded and world-weary policymakers and commentators feel better about the future. I have just had that experience meeting delegates to the 22nd World Model United Nations Conference, which brought together in Australia more than 2,000 students from every continent and major culture to debate peace, development, and human rights, and the role of the UN in securing them.
What impressed me most is how passionately this generation of future leaders felt about the relevance and capacity of the UN system. They are right: the UN can deliver when it comes to national security, human security, and human dignity. But, as I told them, they have a big task of persuasion ahead of them.
No organization in the world embodies as many dreams, yet provides so many frustrations, as the United Nations. For most of its history, the Security Council has been the prisoner of great-power maneuvering; the General Assembly a theater of empty rhetoric; the Economic and Social Council a largely dysfunctional irrelevance; and the Secretariat, for all the dedication and brilliance of a host of individuals, alarmingly inefficient.
My own efforts to advance the cause of UN reform when I was Australia’s foreign minister were about as quixotic and unproductive as anything I have ever tried to do. Overhauling Secretariat structures and processes to reduce duplication, waste, and irrelevance? Forget it. Changing the composition of the Security Council to ensure that it began to reflect the world of the twenty-first century, not that of the 1950’s? No way.
But I have also had some exhilarating experiences of the UN at its best. The peace plan for Cambodia in the early 1990’s, for example, dragged the country back from hellish decades of horrifying genocide and ugly and protracted civil war. Likewise, the Chemical Weapons Convention, steered through the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, is still the most robust arms-control treaty related to weapons of mass destruction ever negotiated.
Perhaps one experience stands out above all. In 2005, on the UN’s 60th anniversary, the General Assembly, convening at head of state and government level, unanimously endorsed the concept of states’ responsibility to protect populations at risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. With that vote, the international community began to eradicate the shameful indifference that accompanied the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Darfur, and too many similar catastrophes.
What needs to be better understood publicly is just how many different roles the UN plays. The various departments, programs, organs, and agencies within the UN system address a broad spectrum of issues, from peace and security between and within states to human rights, health, education, poverty alleviation, disaster relief, refugee protection, trafficking of people and drugs, heritage protection, climate change and the environment, and much else. What is least appreciated of all is how cost-effectively these agencies – for all their limitations – perform overall, in both absolute and comparative terms.
The UN’s core functions – leaving aside peacekeeping missions but including its operations at its New York headquarters; at offices in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi; and at the five regional commissions around the world – now employ 44,000 people at a cost of around $2.5 billion a year. That might sound like a lot, but the Tokyo Fire Department spends about the same amount each year, and the Australian Department of Human Services spends $3 billion more (with less staff). And that’s just two departments in two of the UN’s 193 member states.
Even including related programs and organs (like the UN Development Program and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees), as well as peacekeeping activities (which involve more than 110,000 international military, police, and civilian personnel), the UN system’s total cost is still only around $30 billion a year. That is less than half the annual budget for New York City, and well under a third of the roughly $105 billion that the US military has been spending each year, on average, in Afghanistan. Wall Street employees received more in annual bonuses ($33.2 billion) in 2007, the year before the global financial meltdown.
The whole family of the UN Secretariat and related entities, together with current peacekeepers, adds up to around 215,000 people worldwide – not a small number, but less than one-eighth of the roughly 1.8 million staff employed by McDonald’s and its franchisees worldwide!
The bottom line, as the youngsters gathered in Melbourne fully understood, is that the UN provides fabulous value for what the world spends on it, and that if it ever ceased to exist, we would have to reinvent it. The downsides are real, but we need to remember the immortal words of Dag Hammarskjold, the UN’s second secretary-general: “The UN was created not to bring us to heaven, but to save us from hell.”
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The Sunday, June 14, 2015 program started with Fareed retelling us the content of his last Friday’s Washington Post column – www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/s… /9ce1f4f8-1074-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1
While some hysteria-builders in Washington are worried about a Saudi nuclear race to follow Iran, Fareed Zakaria tells us clearly that besides drilling holes to get out oil from the ground, the Saudis have actually not proven capability of doing anything else. They just do not have the people nor the education system that leads to knowledge. You can actually conclude that they are hardly a State in the normal sense of the word – though with them having a full treasury they will not fail easily – but clearly not amount to much power either. In effect they are a natural target for ISIS – so let them not bluff us.
The Saudi GDP is based 44% on oil and 90% of their revenues are from oil. Their puritanical reactionary conservative education system puts them at 73rd place in global ranking compared to the much poorer Iran that is placed 44th. Two out of three people with a job are foreigners – hardly a recommendation for capability of doing anything.
Then Fareed brought on Professor Michael Porter of Harvard who makes now a career of talking and writing about America’s unconventional energy opportunity that turned the till-2005 dependence on gas import and till 2008 dependence on oil import – to an economy now that produces $430 billion/year of oil-shale fracking gas and oil products – that he says have reduced the energy bill of an average American family by $800/year and is now being enhanced by secondary industries like the petrochemical industry.
Gas prices are now lower by one third then those in US trading-countries and he contends that even though there are environmental problems with “fracking” these problems get smaller with time as there are new technological developments leading to decrease in pollution. Oh well – this at least reduces the US dependence on Saudi good-will.
To point out some more the effect of oil on developing countries that export the stuff, Fareed brought on a New Yorker journalist who works now in Luanda, Angola, and previously worked many years in Russia. Michael Specter was fascinating in his description of the “Bizarro” World of Luanda where for four out of the last five years Luanda was the most expensive City for the “Expatriates.” The Fifth year they were second to Japan.
With a watermelon selling for $105, a Coke for $10 and a cab-ride of 20 miles costing $450 – this while the working locals make $4/day while after Nigeria Angola is now the second largest oil producer in Africa.
For a saner discussion Fareed brought on Richard Haass – a former official of the Bush administration, Advisor to Colin Powell and president of the New York City based Council on Foreign Relations since July 2003, and David Rothkopf – who worked for the Clinton Administration, Managed the Kissinger Associates, and now is CEO and Editor of the Foreign Policy Group that publishes Foreign Policy Magazine. Interesting, it was Haass who wore a blue tie and Rothkopf who wore a red tie – and to my surprise, and clearly to their own surprise – there was no difference between their positions on the issues.
The main topic was Iraq and they agreed that sending in some more advisers to keep the ongoing losing policy in place makes no sense and never did. Iraq has passed, or was handed, to Iran while the only functioning part of it are the Kurdish evolving State.
The problem is the Sunni part that will eventually be a State as well – but it depends on a change in US position if this will be the ISIS State or a conventional Sunni State. Trying to hold the three parts of Iraq together does not make sense – period.
Oh well – how we got there – ask the Bush family – now we guess – ask Jeb (John Ellis) Bush. and Fareed also pointed a finger at Senator Rick Santorum who wants to be President and says the Pope should not mix the church and science – leave science to the scientists which for him are the Climate-deniers paid by the oil industry.
Fareed pointed out to Santorum that Pope Franciscus happens to be a scientist. He was trained as chemist and worked as a chemist before reentering the seminarium for clerical studies.
This coming week the world might finally get a boost from the Catholic Church as very well described in the New York Times article by Jim Yardley of June 13, 2015: “Pope Francis to Explore Climate’s Effect on World’s Poor.”
On Thursday June 18, 2015, Pope Franciscus will release his most important Encyclical on the theme of the environment and the poor. This follows a meeting May 2014 of the Pope with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accompanied by his Development lieutenants. This could be finally a joined effort for the good of humanity – of faith and true science.
Above is not completely new. Already the last two popes started to investigate the moral choices of development. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI already wrote about the role of industrial pollution in destroying the environment. Francis went further – and on his January 2015 trip to the Philippines expressed his being convinced that global warming was “most;y” a human-made phenomenon. Now he is expected in the September trip to Cuba and New York, to bring the encyclical to the UN General Assembly and encourage the Heads of States to bring the issue to a positive conclusion at the December Climate Convention meting in Paris. The driving force of this Pope is his experience in Latin America with an agenda of poverty and Unsustainable Consumption that reveals ethical issues. He can be expected to reject the American conservative interests underwritten by oil industry interests that send to his doorsteps folks like Marc Morano and the Heartland Foundation with Republican Skeptics found in the US Senate of James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Fareed also mentioned on his program the fact that coincidentally it was June 15, 1215 that King John released the First Magna Carta that was shortly thereafter declared “Null and Void for all validity for-ever” by Pope Innocent II. A new Magna Carta was instituted later and it is the 2025 version that is the basis for the Constitutions of many States – including the USA. Pope Francis’s Encyclical might be viewed by future generations as the Magna Carta for the Earth – we hope the term SUSTAINABILITY will be brought into full focus – so ought to be “sustainable development.”
One last issue of this State of the World program was about the dwindling population in all European States and in many Asian States as well. It is only the USA that is growing – this thanks to immigration and some might say energy autarky?. The subject needs more linking to the rest of the program ingredients and we expect this will be done eventually.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany; Biovision Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland; and Millennium Institute in Washington DC, USA organize, a few days before the May session of the Post?2015 Intergovernmental negotiations on follow?up and review, titled “Follow?up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the SDGs.”
They will address some key issues associated with this topic. The event’s main focus is on the management and governance of natural resources, but the options presented could be further developed and applied to other thematic and cross-cutting areas. It examines options on how to address the conflicting uses and the need for protection of natural resources across and among different goals and targets.
“A High?Level Event on Follow?Up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
12 – 13 May 2015
at the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York, 145 West 44th Street, New York.
This High?Level Event aims at providing a platform for UN Member States, UN organizations, ministries, non-governmental organisations, academia, civil society, and the private sector – to discuss options for follow?up and review mechanisms connecting national, regional and global levels.
“World Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation”, Manchester, UK, 2-4 September 2015: deadline for abstracts extended.
Preparations for the “World Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation” (WSCCA), to be held Manchester, UK, on
2-4 September 2015, are in full swing. Over 200 abstracts from across the world have been received, and further abstracts are
now being accepted until the 30th January 2015.
Organised by Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) and the Research and Transfer Centre “Applications of Life Sciences” of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany), WSCCA entails cooperation with world´s leading climate organisations, such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), World Health Organisation (WHO) the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the International Council of Local Environment Initiatives (ICLE), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Developmentof (ICIMOD), the International Climate Change Information Programme (ICCIP), the United Nations University initiative “Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development” (RCE), and other agencies. The Symposium will be a truly interdisciplinary event, covering some of the key areas in the field of climate change adaptation.
A set of presentations, divided into six main themes will be organised, distributed over parallel sessions dealing with some of the key issues of strategic value in the field of climate change adaptation. These are:
Session 1: Technological approaches to Climate Change Adaptation
Session 2: Implementing Climate Change Adaptation in Communities, Cities, Countries and via Outreach Programmes
Session 3: Funding mechanisms and financing of Climate Change Adaptation
Session 4: Climate Change Adaptation, Resilience and Hazards (including floods)
Session 5: Information, Communication, Education and Training on Climate Change
Session 6: Climate Change and Health
The organisers also welcome suggestions of special sessions, and so far special sessions on “Climate Change in the Artic” and “Climate Change Governance” and others, have been received.
To secure the highest possible quality, all papers are subject to peer-review. Accepted papers will be published in a special issue of the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/pr…
(fully indexed) or at the book “Innovative Approaches to Implement Climate Change Adaptation”.
This will be a further volume of the award-winning book series “Climate Change Management”
published by Springer, which since its creation in 2008 has become the world´s leading book series
on climate change management.
The Symposium will be of special interest to researchers, government agencies, NGOs and companies engaged in the field of climate change adaptation, as well as development and aid agencies funding climate change adaptation process in developing countries. The deadline for abstracts is 30th January 2015. Full papers are due by 30th March 2015.
Transatomic is a MIT spinoff and could save us with Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors that can use wastes from Water Cooled Reactors for useful purpose.
Transatomic Power’s advanced molten salt reactor consumes spent nuclear fuel cleanly and completely, unlocking vast amounts of cheap, carbon-free energy. It solves four of the most pressing problems facing the nuclear industry: ecological stewardship, public safety, non-proliferation, and cost-efficiency. Only an advanced reactor that meets all four goals at once can truly change the nuclear fission game and allow for broad adoption of nuclear power.
This reactor can be powered by nuclear waste because it uses radically different technology from conventional plants. Instead of using solid fuel pins, they dissolve the nuclear waste into a molten salt. Suspending the fuel in a liquid (the mo;ten salt) allows it to be kept in the reactor longer, and therefore capture more of its energy. Conventional nuclear reactors can utilize only about 3% – 5% of the potential fission energy in a given amount of uranium before it has to be removed from the reactor. This design captures 96% of this remaining energy.
Why it’s different
Molten salt reactors are not a new technology – they were originally developed and tested at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In many respects, Transatomic’s reactor is similar to these early designs. It uses similar safety mechanisms (such as freeze valves), chemical processing techniques (such as off-gas sparging), and corrosion tolerant alloys (such as modified Hastelloy-N). These similarities to previous designs allowed Transatomic to build on an established body of research and reduce the uncertainty associated with the design.
The main differences between Transatomic Power’s molten salt reactor and previous molten salt reactors are the metal hydride moderator and LiF-(Heavy metal)F4 fuel salt. These features allow to make the reactor more compact and generate electricity at lower cost than other designs. Furthermore, previous molten salt reactors, such as the Oak Ridge Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, used uranium enriched to 33% U-235.
The newly proposed reactor can operate using fresh fuel enriched to just a minimum of 1.8% U-235, or light water reactor waste.
The above comes with MIT research and was brought to our attention in today’s CNN/GPS program by Fareed Zakaria (August 17, 2014) who had as guest recently graduated PHD student Dr.Dewan.
In effect – Transatomic, is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spinoff intent to commercialize a safer fission nuclear reactor designed to overcome major barriers to nuclear power. For the anti-nuclear folks the design offers to burn up the existing spent fuel from the world’s fleet of nuclear reactors in a design that doesn’t offer a chance for a meltdown. That should be nirvana for those alarmed about atomic energy and weapons proliferation. Dr. Leslie Dewan and coleague Mr. Mark Massie seem to be the young folks who started this MIT offshoot. Dr. Dewan was Fareed Zakaria’s guest on his program – August 17, 2014.
The US has 100 operating nuclear reactors and additional five in construction. China has now 21 nuclear reactors and an additional 86 in construction. Above means that the dangers of nuclear material contaminated water is immense, not just the danger of melt downs – and that is why opponents to water cooled fission reactors are up in arms. Imagine the potential for hope if a method is found to decontaminate that water and even find a positive use for the wastes?
We found an old article by Brian Westenhaus of March 17, 2013 from which we picked:
Russ Wilcox, Transatomic’s new CEO estimates that it will take eight years to build a prototype reactor at a cost of $200 million. The company has already raised $1 million in seed funding, including some from Ray Rothrock, a partner at the venture capital firm Venrock.
The cofounders, Mark Massie and Leslie Dewan, who we met here in April last year, are still PhD candidates at MIT. Yet the design has attracted some top advisors, including Regis Matzie, the former CTO of the major nuclear power plant supplier Westinghouse Electric, and Richard Lester, the head of the nuclear engineering department at MIT.
Ms Dewan Mr. Massie and Mr. Lester of Transatomic Power.
The new reactor design called the Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) so far exists only on paper.
Ray Rothrock says the company will face many challenges. “The technology doesn’t bother me in the least,” he said. “I have confidence in the people. I wish someone would build this thing, because I think it would work. It’s all the other factors that make it daunting.” We’ll get to those daunting factors in a moment.
Background – today’s conventional nuclear power plant is cooled by water, which boils at 100º C a temperature far below the 2,000° C at the core of a fuel pellet. Even after the reactor is shut down, it must be continuously cooled by pumping in water until the whole internal core apparatus is below 100º C. The inability to do that properly is what has caused the problems at troubled plants. Oddly, the nuclear industry and regulatory agencies haven’t come to realize the notion of mixing water and nuclear fuel is the dangerous matter.
The big problems can be solved by using molten salt, instead of water as the coolant, which is mixed in with the fuel. Molten salt has a boiling point higher than the operating temperature of the fuel. That way the reactor has a built-in thermostat – if it starts to heat up, the salt expands, spreading out the fuel and slowing the reactions cooling the thing off.
In the event of a power outage where cooling circulation would stop carrying away the heat, a plug at the bottom of the reactor melts and the fuel and salt mixture flows by gravity into a holding tank, where the fuel spreads out enough for the reactions to stop. The salt then cools and solidifies, encapsulating the radioactive materials.
Ms Dewan now the company’s chief science officer says, “It’s walk-away safe, if you lose electricity, even if there are no operators on site to pull levers, it will coast to a stop.”
She needs only $5 million to prove it, she said.
Technology – Transatomic’s design improves on the original molten-salt reactor by changing the internal geometry and using different materials. Transatomic is keeping many of the proprietary design details to itself, but one change involves eliminating the graphite that made up 90% of the volume of the Oak Ridge reactor. The company has also modified conditions in the reactor to produce faster neutrons, which makes it possible to burn most of the material that is ordinarily discarded as waste.
Here is the comparison that should light up the hearts of the antinuclear crowd. A conventional 1,000-megawatt reactor produces about 20 metric tons (44,000 lbs.) of high-level waste a year, and that material needs to be safely stored for 100,000 years. The 500-megawatt Transatomic reactor will produce only four kilograms (8.8 lbs.) of such waste a year, along with 250 kilograms (550 lbs.) of waste that has to be stored for a few hundred years.
In the presentation the duo projects some warming numbers for both the low cost power and the anti nuclear folks. Conventional nuclear reactors can utilize only about 3% of the potential fission energy in a given amount of uranium before it has to be removed from the reactor. The Transatomic design captures 98% of this remaining energy. A fully deployed Transatomic reactor fleet could use existing stockpiles of nuclear waste to satisfy the world’s electricity needs for 70 years, now through 2083 when about 99.2% of today’s dangerous spent fuel – would be burned away.
Even though the basic idea of a molten-salt reactor has been demonstrated the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) certification process is set up around light-water reactors. NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said for the next few years, the NRC will be focused on certifying the more conventional designs for SMNRs. But he also said that the commission is aware of Transatomic’s concept but that designs haven’t been submitted for review yet. The certification process for Transatomic will take at least five years once the company submits a detailed design, with additional review needed specifically for issues related to fuel and waste management.
The detailed design is years and $4 million more dollars away. Wilcox estimated that it will take eight years to build a prototype reactor – at a cost of $200 million. Low cost power customers and the antinuclear folks might want to coordinate getting the Congress to rewrite the NRC’s procedures to speed things up.
After all, China is reported to be investing $350 million over five years to develop molten-salt reactors of its own. It plans to build a two-megawatt test reactor by 2020.
Great Progress in the establishment of the SLoCaT Foundation
We expect that the SLoCaT Foundation, with the objective to provide support to the SLoCaT Partnership, will be formally established in the coming weeks. Over the last months the SLoCaT Secretariat, overseen by a special Ad-Hoc Committee, developed the governance structure, consisting of a Constitution and a set of By-Laws. The members of the SLoCaT Partnership were asked on two opportunities to comment on the proposed governance structure.
The Board of the SLoCaT Foundation is being established in two phases, with the election of four Board members representing members of the SLoCaT Partnership taking place this week and the remaining three Board members representing the Supporters of the SLoCaT Foundation to be elected in Autumn 2014.
The SLoCaT Foundation will be registered in the Netherlands, while the Secretariat will remain to be located in Shanghai, China. Over the next weeks we will be updating the SLoCaT website to provide more detailed information on the new organizational structure of SLoCaT.
We expect that the SLoCaT Foundation will be formally launched in late September at the sidelines of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit on Climate Change.
High-level Dialogue on Sustainable Cities, Transport and Tourism (HLD) and Global Forum on Human Settlements (GHFS): As a follow-up event to commemorate the second anniversary of the Rio+20 Conference and implement its decisions, the HLD and GHFS aim to support the rapid and effective implementation of the Rio+20 decisions. The objectives of the HLD and GHFS include: providing a platform for information exchange; highlighting proven policies and measures and identifying best practices; facilitating capacity building through exchanges of information; and contributing to the discussions under the post-2015 UN development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. dates: 10-12 August 2014 location: Bogotá, Colombia contact: Carolina Chica Builes phone:+57-1-335-8000email:firstname.lastname@example.org:www.idu.gov.co/web/guest/riomas20
WHO Conference on Health and Climate: This three-day conference, hosted by the WHO, will bring together leading experts in the fields of health and climate change, to discuss: strengthening health system resilience to climate risks; and promoting health while mitigating climate change. dates: 27-29 August 2014 location: Geneva, Switzerland contact: Marina Maiero phone:+41-22-791-2402email:email@example.com:www.who.int/globalchange/mediacentre/events/climate-health-conference/en/
International Solid Waste Association 2014 Solid Waste World Congress: This event will convene under the theme of “(Re)Discovering a New World: Sustainable Solutions for a healthy future,” and is intended to provide the opportunity for the international community to exchange ideas, integrate solutions and develop a common vision for the future of a sustainable and healthy world. dates: 8-11 September 2014 location: Sao Paulo, Brazil phone: +55-11-3056-6000e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org: iswa2014.org/
2014 Climate Summit: This event is being organized by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the aim of mobilizing political will for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC process. date: 23 September 2014 location: UN Headquarters, New York www: www.un.org/climatechange/summit2014/
The twelfth session of the UN Ge, 2014neral Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) took place from 16-20 June 2014, at UN Headquarters in New York. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya, and Csaba K?rösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary, continued in their roles as Co-Chairs of the OWG at the second to last session of the OWG, which is mandated to develop a set of sustainable development goals and targets.
OWG-12 represented the first OWG meeting during which delegates worked primarily in informal sessions. Following opening remarks during a formal session on Monday morning, delegates considered proposed goals 7-17 in informal sessions during day and evening sessions from Monday through Friday. The discussion on goals 1-6 had taken place in “informal-informal” consultations from 9-11 June. The Co-Chairs also presented a set of revised goals, based on the informal-informal discussions, for comment on Monday night. On Tuesday night, the Co-Chairs distributed a new set of targets for proposed goal 1 on ending poverty. However, delegates said they did not want to discuss any revisions until they had a chance to review the complete package of revised goals and targets.
On Friday afternoon, Co-Chair Kamau opened the second formal session of OWG-12, noting that the Group had made “amazing progress” during the week. He announced that there would be another set of “informal-informals” from 9-11 July, to be followed by the final meeting of the OWG from 14-18 July. He said a revised version of the zero draft should be ready by 30 June, and that it will have fewer targets, and be a more refined, balanced and “tighter” document. He expressed the Co-Chairs’ confidence that the OWG will successfully conclude its work on 18 July and agree on a set of goals and targets.
The Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance.”
Mufasa, The Lion King
As OWG-12 opened on Monday, 16 June, OWG Co-Chair Macharia Kamau highlighted a critical challenge for the Group as he presented the “zero draft.” He stressed the difficulty in achieving a balance among the issues and government positions while drafting the 17 goals and 212 targets in that document. Throughout the week, delegates’ discussions revealed the challenge that remains to achieve a balanced, consensus outcome. During OWG-12, many options were presented for each proposed goal and target, and delegates worked to weigh the tradeoffs, formulations and difficult decisions they must make to arrive at a final set of SDGs and targets at the close of OWG-13.
Underlying the SDGs themselves is an overarching goal to promote balanced, sustainable development. Inherent in the definition of sustainable development is the concern that meeting the needs of future generations and reducing poverty depends on how well humans balance social, economic, and environmental objectives—or needs—when making decisions today. It is also known that human activities in a number of sectors, including agriculture, industry, fisheries, urbanization and travel, have disturbed the balance of nature and have threatened species and ecosystems.
During OWG-12, the discussions were framed around balance along different axes: conceptual (between universality and differentiation), temporal (between historical and present responsibilities), procedural (between comprehensiveness and duplication), substantive (among the three pillars of sustainable development), and presentational (between specificity and “crispiness”). This brief analysis assesses the state of the OWG’s deliberations amid the challenges of fulfilling its mandate, given in The Future We Want adopted two years ago, by ensuring the sustainable development goals achieve a delicate balance.
BALANCE BETWEEN UNIVERSALITY AND DIFFERENTIATION
The SDGs are expected to be “global in nature and universally applicable to all countries,” according to Paragraph 247 of The Future We Want. At the same time, their effective implementation requires differentiation in accordance with specific national circumstances. Throughout the week, delegates struggled to find balance between universality and differentiation. This struggle was most apparent during discussions on proposed Goal 12: Promote sustainable consumption and production patterns. Despite the mandate of universality, some delegates said the targets for this goal should be differentiated between the efforts that developed and developing countries should undertake, with many insisting that developed countries have to take the lead. For example, target 12.6 says that “by 2030 at least halve per capita food waste at retail and consumer level, particularly in developed countries and countries with high per capita food waste.” While most recognized that such action would achieve a great deal, some also noted related efforts in developing countries. As some argued, this is in fact a universally relevant goal because there is also a lot of food waste on the production and distribution side in developing countries.
On proposed Goal 13 on climate change, the question of balance between universality and differentiation focused on historical and current responsibilities. Developing countries argued that, if a goal on climate change is to be included in the SDGs, it must be based on the principles under the UNFCCC, and therefore differentiate between the countries that are historically responsible for greenhouse gas emissions (developed countries) and those that are not (developing countries). The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) forms the basis of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, which only mandate that developed countries (Annex I countries) reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. However, as some developed countries note, there are non-Annex I countries whose current emissions are greater than some of the Annex I countries, and there can be no meaningful reduction of CO2 emissions without the participation of all major emitters. Since the SDGs will be in place for 15 years, some argue, a goal on climate change should recognize the scope for further changes in emission profiles and not lock in UNFCCC country groupings from the 1990s.
A third issue relates to the larger issue of CBDR and the legacy of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit “bargain,” according to which developing countries would pursue environmentally sustainable development in exchange for greater assistance from developed countries. This assistance was expected to come in the form of financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building—the so-called means of implementation. Given their disappointment with how this grand bargain played out in the twenty years following the Rio Earth Summit, the Group of 77 and China has been firm during the SDGs negotiations that each goal must have its own designated means of implementation. Some countries went so far as to indicate that absence of MOI could be a deal breaker on the SDGs. Yet, other countries argue that if the SDGs are supposed to be universal, how can the MOI targets focus on differentiated responsibilities among groups of countries, such as Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDS? As the discussion on proposed Goal 17 (MOI) began on Friday, the statements mirrored those that were heard at the beginning of the OWG process, not to mention similar themes that have been heard for over twenty years about the responsibility of developed countries to provide MOI. There appeared to be some progress, however, as several governments across groupings called for an inclusive global partnership for development that involves the public, private and civil society sectors, and addresses the need for triangular cooperation and South-South cooperation.
BALANCE AMONG THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The OWG has faced another recurring question of balance in fulfilling its mandate, this time from Paragraph 246 of The Future We Want: “The goals should address and incorporate in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development and their interlinkages.” What would such a balance mean for each dimension, and how would the balance be embedded in the SDG framework?
For many developing countries, balance should be reflected in the number of goals dedicated to each dimension. One delegate shared his assessment that out of the proposed substantive goals, there are two on the economic dimension, five or six on the social dimension, and four or five on the environment. Developing countries, in particular, expressed concern that currently only two goals are “dedicated” to the economic dimension: proposed Goals 8 (sustainable economic growth) and 9 (industrialization). When some suggested merging these two goals, these countries rejected the notion as it would leave only one “economic goal.” Yet at the same time, one delegation said the three explicitly environmental goals should be consolidated into two, noting that three goals for one theme are too many.
On the other hand, some developed countries have expressed a different vision of balance among the three dimensions of sustainable development, calling for each goal to reflect a “three-dimensional” approach to sustainable development, through targets that address economic, social, and environmental aspects. Regarding the same Goals 8 and 9 that were welcomed by developing countries as ensuring an economic development dimension to the SDGs, developed country delegations critiqued the current drafting of these goals as lacking a vision of inclusive and environmentally friendly growth. Some delegations thought that integrated goals would do a better job at ensuring ministries and UN and other international organizations and agencies work together and get out of their traditional “silos.”
BALANCE BETWEEN WORDINESS AND “CRISPINESS”
Throughout the week, the Co-Chairs urged delegates to achieve “crispiness,” using a term popularized by Co-Chair K?rösi, amid the desire for an all-encompassing yet concrete set of goals. In other words, delegates face the challenge of crafting goals that are clear, coherent, concrete and comprehensive (the four C’s). The quest for this need for balance took on various forms.
First, there was a concern about the titles of the goals themselves in substantive as well as presentational terms. Using the MDGs as an example, observers noted that the wording, formatting and number of MDGs made the goals conducive to iconographic representation and visually compelling packaging that was used in effective advocacy and outreach campaigns. This helped to generate traction within and beyond the development arena. Both Co-Chairs consistently reminded delegates that these goals and targets have to make sense to people beyond the walls of the United Nations and, thus, need to be “crispy”, translatable and easy to understand
The OWG has also recognized that the number of goals to be adopted will be an important consideration. At previous OWG meetings, some, including Jeffrey Sachs and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, called for a set of ten goals—a sort of “ten commandments” for sustainable development. Similarly, others have previously called for twelve goals to allow an equal number of goals for each of the three dimensions of sustainable development. Overall, many speakers at many sessions conceded that the power of the goals will be in focusing international attention on a set of priorities, which would be lost if the list of priorities become too unwieldy. The Co-Chairs tried to reduce the number of proposed goals to 15 and distributed a new suggested list of goals on Monday night, but their effort did not immediately gain traction.
There is still uncertainty about retaining at least three of the proposed goals—10 (reduce inequality), 13 (climate change) and 16 (peaceful and inclusive societies, rule of law and effective and capable institutions)—while strong support was expressed for maintaining the separation among the current Goals 8 (sustainable economic growth and work for all) and 9 (sustainable industrialization), and among Goals 14 (conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas) and 15 (terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity). As a result, it is still not clear how many goals will constitute the final package of SDGs and how they will be balanced.
At the same time, delegates expressed concern about creating strong targets that are action-oriented and measurable. For the first time during the OWG, delegates at OWG-12 seemed to focus on whether proposed targets were achievable and how implementation could be monitored and reported. While some delegates continued to propose new targets, many more noted that certain targets were better placed as indicators, and others should be deleted because they were highly aspirational but not achievable. This has become yet another challenge for the OWG—how to achieve a balance between what they want to accomplish and what can realistically be accomplished by 2030.
TWELVE DOWN, ONE TO GO
With twelve sessions completed, the OWG has only eight days left to complete its work, including the three days of “informal-informal” consultations that will precede OWG-13. As the Co-Chairs noted, the time has come to reach agreement on the final package of SDGs to submit to the UN General Assembly to be taken into consideration as part of the deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda.
With so little time remaining before 18 July—the final day of OWG-13—delegates emerged from the ECOSOC Chamber on Friday evening exhausted from an intense week of work, yet curious about what will happen between now and 18 July. Some wondered how the Co-Chairs will manage the OWG’s final session and related consultations to enable delegates to produce a balanced set of SDGs that are universal, “crispy,” action-oriented, and reflective of the three dimensions of sustainable development. Others asked themselves if OWG members can bridge the North-South divide and create a new framework that truly operationalizes sustainable development and anchors a truly transformative agenda. Still others wondered if the 13 OWG sessions and the Co-Chairs’ careful management of the process will enable governments to arrive at a consensus outcome in an increasingly challenging political environment for multilateral negotiations. In the end, after 18 months, the OWG has just a few days left to show that it can create a package of SDGs that will exist together in a delicate balance.
In the run-up to the 2014 June 4th celebration of Earth Day – which is also the UNEP birthday, the UN Information Service Vienna (UNIS) showed last night the documentary film “CHASING ICE” – by Jeff Orlowski who worked with material supplied to him by The National Geographic.
It was in the spring of 2005 when acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed with a team of heroes to capture visual evidence that the Arctic and an assortment of glaciers are melting as Planet Earth’s Climate is changing – this as the biggest human effect on the physical aspects of the planet.
They did this by setting up cameras to capture on film – on single shots once a month – and on video cameras ongoing calving of the ice. These are actual scenes of mountains of ice disappearing under our eyes and visual evidence of the receding glaciers. The pictures were shown to country delegates at the Climate Convention in Copenhagen – UNFCCC 15.
At the end of the showing, the best panel Austria could offer – discussed the meaning of what we saw, and from the audience the subject was enlarged with observations that in real life today there are factors within the Arctic Circle Council that view positively the melting of the ice caps, as this allows for access to riches of oil, gas, minerals … and the opening up of important navigation channels. On the other hand, Small Island States in the Pacific might just vanish like the glaciers do. All this as the water that originates from the melting ice swells the seas and changes patterns of rains and storms affecting the whole planet.
The members of the panel chaired by Mr. Martin Nesirky,Acting Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna – that discussed the movie – included:
Mr. Harald Egerer, UNEP Vienna – Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention , Mr. Helmut Hojesky, Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Prof. Helga Kromp-Kolb, University of Natural Resources andApplied Life Sciences (BOKU).
Developing countries are now beginning to make active use of the UN’s new global network for climate technology solutions, the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). This constitutes a promising signal that momentum for climate action is building ahead of a new, universal climate agreement in 2015.
So far this year, six countries have submitted eight requests for technology assistance to the CTCN, which is headquartered in Copenhagen.
These include – Afghanistan, Bhutan, Chile, Colombia, Honduras and Pakistan.
The requests for support relate to a broad range of climate action, from renewable energy policies to public transportation, and from biodiversity monitoring to saving mangrove forests for coastal protection.
Welcoming the development, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said:
“Innovation is the engine of development, and replacing current technologies with cleaner, low-carbon alternatives is a vital part of tackling the causes and effects of climate change. The Climate Technology Centre and Network works to accelerate the use of new technologies in improving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries who are dealing with the impacts of climate change on a daily basis.”
According to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the Bonn based UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the growing use of the CTCN is encouraging and now needs the necessary finance.
“As countries work towards a universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015, the CTCN provides yet another foundation upon which optimism and action is being built. For it to fully flourish and provide maximum support to developing country ambitions, the requests for support now need to be matched with the finance required, most notably through swift and sufficient capitalization of the Green Climate Fund,” she said.
Last week, the board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) completed the essential policy requirements to make the fund operational. The GCF was established as a prime global channel to deliver public funds and to leverage private sector finance for developing country climate action.
Meanwhile, the CTCN has put all central requirements for the transfer of technology in place.
Since its launch in late 2013, over 80 countries have established national CTCN focal points (known as National Designated Entities) who work with country stakeholders to develop and relay requests to the Climate Technology Centre’s network of regional and sectoral experts from academia, the private sector, and public and research institutions.
A side event on the progress to date of the Technology Mechanism and the CTCN will be held on the margins of the upcoming Bonn Climate Change Conference on 7 June 2014, 18.30-20.00.
This side event is organized collaboratively by the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the CTCN. It will opened by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and will include presentations by the Director of the CTCN, Mr. Jukka Uosukainen, and the Chairs of the TEC and the CTCN.
About the UNFCCC With 196 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC Parties. For the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. In Doha in 2012, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol adopted an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which establishes the second commitment period under the Protocol. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
About the CTCN The Climate Technology Centre and Network promotes the accelerated transfer of environmentally sound technologies for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. The CTCN quickly responds with potential solutions as well as tailored capacity building in order to transfer valuable knowledge and practical advice from one country to another in order to accelerate the pace of climate technology implementation. The CTCN is the operational arm of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism and is hosted by UNEP in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and 11 independent, regional organizations with expertise in climate technologies.
UN NAMA Registry records first matched support exercize – came up with the cooperation between Austria and Georgia:
(Bonn, 23 May 2014) – A new UN Registry which records and matches offers of support from developed nations to the stated plans of developing countries to reduce and limit greenhouse gas emissions has recorded the first such agreed cooperation between Austria and Georgia.
“This first success highlights the enormous potential of the new registry as a transparent, efficient clearing house that matches financial, technology and capacity-building support from the developed world to the needs developing nations have defined themselves to act on climate change,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The online NAMA Registry was designed and is operated by the UNFCCC Secretariat, at the request of governments, to record both the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) which developing countries choose to enter into the system and also the offered support available for these actions.
Its objectives are to facilitate the matching of finance, technology, and capacity building support with these NAMAs and to serve as a platform for international recognition of the mitigation actions of developing countries.
In the first recorded match in the registry, Georgia has received a grant from the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment, and Water to implement Georgia’s NAMA entitled “Adaptive, Sustainable Forest Management in Borjomi-Bakuriani Forest District”.
“I congratulate Georgia and Austria on entering their information into the registry, thereby debuting this important tool. It is a clear invitation to other countries and organizations to continue to populate the registry and boost the international cooperation between developed and developing countries in reducing and limiting greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ms. Figueres.
With 196 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997
Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC
Parties. For the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, 37 States,
consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the
process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission
limitation and reduction commitments. In Doha in 2012, the Conference of
the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol
adopted an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which establishes the second
commitment period under the Protocol. The ultimate objective of both
treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at
a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate