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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 31st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Two Parties Are (Still) Not The Same On Climate Change
March 30, 2016

by Bill Scher, of www.ourfuture.org


It may be that Hillary Clinton is not as progressive as Bernie Sanders. And it may be that Donald Trump holds some positions, such as opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that hold sway with economic populist.

But when it comes to the climate, there’s no debate. Clinton and Sanders are on the side of addressing climate change, and the Republican candidates are on the side of doing nothing.

I’ve written before about the nuances that separate the two Democratic candidates’ position on climate: Sanders proposing more ambitious goals and Clinton offering a more politically pragmatic approach.

And I’ve written about how Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are outright climate science deniers, while John Kasich merely refuses to give up coal.

With Trump you could never be completely sure if what he says yesterday will be consistent with what he says today. But he has been consistent for a long time about climate change: in 2013 and 2014 he declared global warming a “hoax.” He said in 2012, inaccurately of course, that, “wind farms are hurting the country” and “solar, as you know, hasn’t caught on because, I mean, a solar panel takes 32 years — it’s a 32-year payback.”


Now Trump and Cruz have filled out a survey for the fossil fuel-friendly American Energy Alliance in which they line up perfectly with right-wing orthodoxy on energy issues.


They oppose Obama’s Clean Power Plan to limit emissions from power plants. They oppose calculating the social cost of carbon emission when determining the cost of government regulations. They oppose subsidies for renewable energy. They oppose a carbon tax.


Sanders and Clinton have their differences, but their differences are over how best to combat climate change, not whether to do it at all.


Perhaps some day, we’ll have a Republican Party that accepts science so we can debate with their leaders the finer points of how to contain carbon emissions. But that day is not today.

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

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

From our friend Jay Hauben of Columbia University – Hi,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.
Hello from Ronda.

###

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


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

The New York Times – Environment

Environmental Activists Take to Local Protests for Global Results

By JOHN SCHWARTZ – MARCH 19, 2016

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She beamed. “You remember me!”

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

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

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

###

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

IIASA study assesses land use impacts of EU biofuel policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————-

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

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

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

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

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

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

by Emmanuel Karagiannis
Middle East Quarterly – Spring 2016 (view PDF)
 www.meforum.org/5877/shifting-eas…

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

The exploitation of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean has drawn together hitherto estranged states.

In August 2013, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel signed onto the “EuroAsia Interconnector” project, which would install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable (illustrated above) to connect their power grids and to be a means by which “three nations … [can] enhance their growth and prosperity” and build a “bridge of friendship between our nations.”

The Eastern Mediterranean is changing fast with its estimated 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas reserves (the equivalent of 21 billion barrels of oil) already having an impact on regional patterns of amity and enmity.[1] With Israel and Cyprus well underway to becoming gas exporters, the problematic Israeli-Lebanese and Cypriot-Turkish relationships have been further strained. At the same time, energy cooperation has been the driving force behind the nascent Greek-Cypriot-Israeli partnership, manifested in rapidly growing defense and economic cooperation. Clearly, the development of energy resources and their transportation will have far-reaching geopolitical implications for the Eastern Mediterranean and its nations.


The Strategic Significance of the Gas Reserves

Natural gas is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, currently accounting for 22 percent of total global energy consumption.[2] It is both affordable and more environmentally friendly than other commercially feasible options, resulting in an increasing demand even in an era of dropping oil prices. That demand seems likely to be met in large part by the newly discovered gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Israel has the potential to become an important regional producer of liquefied natural gas. Its Tamar field, with estimated reserves of 9.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf), came online in 2013 while its Leviathan gas field (above), with a potential of 16 tcf, is slated to be ready for production in 2017.

Israel, for one, has the potential to become an important regional producer.[3] Its Tamar field was confirmed to have estimated reserves of 9.7 tcf while its Leviathan gas field has the potential of producing up to 16 tcf.

Meanwhile, in November 2011, U.S.-based Noble Energy announced a major gas discovery south of Cyprus: The Aphrodite field was estimated to contain 7 tcf. In February 2013, a seismic survey south of Crete indicated that rich hydrocarbon resources may soon be found in Greek waters. Most recently, the Italian company Eni announced the discovery of a huge gas field off the coast of Egypt.

For reasons of geographical proximity, these Mediterranean energy resources concern first and foremost the European Union—the world’s third largest energy consumer behind China and the United States.[9] While oil is still the dominant fuel, accounting for 33.8 percent of total EU energy consumption, natural gas comes in second at 23.4 percent.[10] The Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves have three distinct advantages for European governments (and companies) and are thus viewed by them as a strategic priority. First, due to their smaller sizes and populations, the needs of Israel and Cyprus are relatively low and most of their gas could be exported. Second, Eastern Mediterranean gas could partly cover Europe’s energy needs and thereby decrease its dependence on an increasingly volatile Russia. Finally, since both Israel and Cyprus lack the capital and the offshore drilling technology to develop gas reserves on their own, foreign energy companies have identified them as investment opportunities that could generate significant financial returns.

As the Middle East implodes, security of energy supply has become an important policy objective for the EU. Indeed, there is a consensus among European governments that new initiatives are needed to address energy challenges. The EU is already directly involved to some extent in Eastern Mediterranean energy affairs because Greece and Cyprus are member states while Turkey is a candidate for membership and has a customs union with the EU. Although the governments of the EU and Israel are often at odds politically, economic relations between Jerusalem and Brussels are close and multifaceted.

The development of Israeli and Cypriot gas fields could help strengthen Europe’s energy security. Currently, European countries import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from politically unstable countries such as Nigeria and Algeria. But the Eastern Mediterranean could serve as a third gas “corridor” for Europe, alongside Russian gas and the southeast European pipelines for Azeri gas. The Italian Eni company, the British Premier Oil, and the Dutch Oranje-Nassau Energie have clearly shown interest by bidding in the second round of licensing for natural gas exploration in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ),[11] a sea zone prescribed by the United
Nations over which a state has special rights.

The U.S. administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.

Given the prominence of the Middle East for U.S. energy policy, it is hardly surprising that the gas finds in Israel and Cyprus have drawn Washington’s attention as well. Although the U.S. is likely to become the largest gas producer in the world as a result of increased use of shale gas, the administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.[12] Within the private sector, the American company, Noble Energy, has played a leading role in the exploration process; it has a 40 percent stake in the Leviathan fields, a 36 percent stake in Tamar, and a 70 percent stake in Aphrodite.

Not surprisingly, these discoveries have attracted Moscow’s interest as well due to a potential, adverse impact on its gas exports to European markets. Russian energy companies, which often act as the Kremlin’s long-arm, are particularly active in the region. In February 2013, for example, Gazprom signed a 20-year deal with the Israeli Levant LNG Marketing Corporation to purchase liquefied natural gas exclusively from the Tamar field.[13] Then in December 2013, the Russian company SoyuzNefteGas signed an agreement with the Assad regime to explore part of Syria’s exclusive economic zone. One month later Putin signed an investment agreement with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to develop gas fields off the Gaza Strip.[14]


Warming Israeli-Greek Relations

Despite past support for the Palestinians, newly-elected Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (left) of the left-wing SYRIZA party, here with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has sought to strengthen ties with the Jewish state. Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean and energy-consuming Europe while Israel is now poised to become a major natural gas producer. Thus, Greece and Israel share significant energy interests.

Energy considerations have a long history of influencing the course of relations between states, and the new gas discoveries are no exception to this rule, affecting Israel’s relations with both Greece and Cyprus.

Greek-Israeli relations have been frosty for decades. The postwar Greek governments typically followed a pro-Arab foreign policy in order to protect the large Greek community in Egypt, secure Arab support on the Cyprus dispute in the United Nations, and maintain access to cheap Arab oil.[15] While there was de facto recognition of the Jewish State in 1949, legal recognition needed to wait until 1990 under the right-wing Mitsotakis government. But the formation of a Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership in the mid-1990s provoked a strong backlash with Athens reverting to its pro-Arab policy.[16]

This policy, too, has changed with the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalk?nma Partisi, AKP) in Turkey since the early 2000s. With Athens alarmed by Ankara’s growing regional assertiveness, and Jerusalem disturbed by the new regime’s fiercely anti-Israel approach, Greek-Israeli relations improved rapidly with the two countries signing a string of agreements in the fields of security, energy, trade, and tourism, and exchanging official visits at the ministerial, presidential, and prime-ministerial levels.[17] In March 2012, the air-naval exercise Noble Dina, involving U.S., Israeli, and Greek forces, was conducted in the Aegean Sea while, a month later, a joint Greek-Israeli air exercise was held in central Greece. Most recently, Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos stated that “[Greek] defense planning should take into account friends and allies who seek defense cooperation in the region. And I clearly mean eastward toward Israel.”[18]

Athens’s new Israel policy has been largely unaffected by the frequent change of governments in recent years. The last three prime ministers before the current one—George Papandreou (2009-11), Loukas Papadimos (2011-12), and Antonis Samaras (2012-15)—all met with Israeli officials and concluded agreements, all the more striking given the political and ideological differences among them: Papandreou is a moderate, left-of-center politician; Papadimos is known as a liberal technocrat, and Samaras, a right-wing politician.

In the wake of the economic crisis that has roiled domestic Greek politics and the austerity measures that the EU has sought to impose on Athens, Greeks took to the polls in January 2015 and brought to power the left-wing SYRIZA (Greek acronym of the Coalition of the Radical Left) party, in coalition with the small, right-wing party, the Independent Greeks. This caused considerable alarm in Jerusalem as many senior SYRIZA officials have strong pro-Palestinian sympathies: European Member of Parliament Sofia Sakorafa, for one, is a self-proclaimed friend of Hamas while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has participated in pro-Palestinian rallies. In late December 2015, the Greek parliament passed a non-binding resolution recommending recognition of “Palestine” as a state.

And yet, the SYRIZA-led government has not distanced itself from Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias identified Turkey as a source of threats[19] while Minister of Defense Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, harbors strong pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli views.[20] In late November 2015, Tsipras visited Israel and, yet again, on January 27, 2016, together with six members of his cabinet when they held a joint meeting with the Israeli government.[21] So it seems likely that the Greek-Israeli partnership will continue.

Athens is seeking bids for an Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe.

Beyond common concerns about Turkey’s intentions, Athens and Jerusalem share significant energy interests. Both countries want to implement the 1982 U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to facilitate the exploration and exploitation of the seabed;[22] and both maintain that the Eastern Mediterranean could be unilaterally developed through its division into exclusive economic zones of 200 nautical miles. In contrast, Ankara has not signed on to UNCLOS and favors a settlement in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean that would take perceived Turkish interests into greater account.

Moreover, Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean, including Israeli fields, and energy-consuming Europe, and Greeks see the country as a hub for bringing Eastern Mediterranean gas to European markets. In March 2014, Athens announced an international tender for a feasibility study of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe via Crete and the mainland.[23] While the proposed pipeline would be rather expensive and pass through disputed waters, Russian intervention in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine has given new momentum to the project as the EU looks for alternative sources of natural gas.[24] The European Commission has included the proposed pipeline in its list of “Projects of Common Interests” that could receive financial support.[25]

If Jerusalem and Nicosia decide to opt for liquefaction of their gas resources, then Greek-owned shipping could also play an important role in transporting liquid gas to the international market. During his visit to Israel in November 2015, Tsipras stated,

One of the main issues in our discussions today was [sic] the opportunities arising in the fields of energy in the Eastern Mediterranean … We are examining ways to cooperate in research, drilling, and the transportation of gas from Israel to Europe.[26]

While energy is not the sole factor contributing to the improvement of bilateral relations, it has certainly played a crucial role in the convergence of Greek and Israeli interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Jerusalem and Nicosia

The development and exploitation of Eastern Mediterranean energy resources have also given a boost to Israeli-Cypriot relations. Despite geographical proximity, the two countries have largely ignored each other for years. For most Israelis, Cyprus is either the site where Holocaust survivors were forcibly interned by the British (1946-49) as they sought refuge in mandatory Palestine or the closest place where couples unable or unwilling to contract a religious marriage in Israel are able to enter into a civil marriage.

For its part, Nicosia traditionally took a pro-Arab line in diplomatic settings that differed little from neighboring Greece; and just like in Greece, the AKP-induced chill in Turkish-Israeli relations had a warming effect on Cypriot-Israeli relations. In March 2011, Israeli president Shimon Peres hosted his Cypriot counterpart, President Demetris Christofias, who reciprocated this hospitality in November. Both sides came to view each other as potential counterbalances to Turkey’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cypriot defense minister Dimitris Iliadis signed an agreement on the “Mutual Protection of Confidential Information” in January 2012 with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak,[27] and a month later, Netanyahu paid a visit to Nicosia, the first ever by an Israeli prime minister, to discuss energy and defense cooperation. According to press reports, the Cypriot navy is planning to buy two Israeli-manufactured hi-tech offshore patrol vessels in order to patrol its exclusive economic zone.[28]

The energy dimension of the nascent Israeli-Cypriot relationship is particularly strong. Nicosia has announced plans to build a liquefied natural gas plant in its Vassilikos industrial area to process its gas. Since the current gas finds are not large enough to make this multi-billion dollar project economically viable, Nicosia has suggested to Jerusalem that the two countries pool their gas reserves to form a single producing unit. In 2013, Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis declared:

[W]e feel that through a close collaboration with Israel, we will be able to be a major player in the world energy market, something that might be too hard for each country to achieve individually.[29]

The future of the Israeli-Cypriot partnership will also depend on the export route of the Israeli gas. Jerusalem has examined a number of options for the optimum utilization of its gas fields but probably prefers to export gas westward in order to improve its relations with European countries.[30] From the Israeli perspective, energy cooperation with Greece and Cyprus could build a new web of alliances with the EU that would help Jerusalem to break out of its increasing geopolitical isolation. The Netanyahu government even lobbied on behalf of Greece in Europe and the United States for an economy recovery plan.[31] In late March 2012, during an energy conference in Athens, then Israeli minister of energy Uzi Landau spoke of “an axis of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel and possibly more countries, which will offer an anchor of stability.”[32] In August 2013, the three countries signed an agreement to install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable to connect their power grids—the first of its kind to connect Europe and Asia.[33]

Most recently, in December 2015, a series of trilateral consultations was held in Jerusalem in which a set of issues were taken up and discussed, with energy development topping the list. The parties agreed to further promote trilateral consultations and to meet on a regular basis, beginning with a meeting of their heads of state in Nicosia on January 28, 2016.[34]
Lebanon, Cyprus, and Israel

While revenues from the sale of oil and gas can bring wealth and prosperity to societies, they also have the potential to upset regional balances of power. In the Eastern Mediterranean, where countries have been locked in conflicts over territory for decades, gas discoveries seem likely to increase the stakes. Contested ownership of gas resources has, in fact, destabilized already strained relations between Israel and Lebanon as well as between Turkey and Cyprus.

Although a delimitation agreement between Lebanon and Cyprus was signed in January 2007, the Lebanese parliament has refused to ratify it to date, and Hezbollah declared the agreement

null and void because the Lebanese side that signed it had its official capacity revoked … The sea, like land, is a one hundred percent legitimate Lebanese right, and we shall defend it with all our strength.[35]

When in December 2010, Nicosia signed an agreement with Jerusalem demarcating their maritime borders, Beirut accused both states of violating its maritime rights.[36] The following year, in a televised speech marking the fifth anniversary of Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel, the group’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened Israel with a strike against its energy infrastructure:

We warn Israel against extending its hands to this area and steal[ing] Lebanon’s resources from Lebanese waters … Whoever harms our future oil facilities in Lebanese territorial waters, its own facilities will be targeted.[37]

These are not hollow threats. Hezbollah has the military capacity to attack Israel’s offshore gas platforms should it choose to do so. The 2006 war revealed that its vast arsenal of missiles and rockets includes Chinese-manufactured C-802 anti-ship missiles (range 75 miles) and Zelzal-2 rockets (range 125-250 miles).[38] For its part, the Israeli navy is acquiring at least two 1,200-ton patrol-class vessels, along with additional unmanned aerial vehicles and missile-armed, remote-control gunboats.[39] In this way, Jerusalem seeks to deter possible raids from Lebanon. The protection and exploitation of gas reserves is thus seen by the Israeli leadership as a matter of national security.
Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel

The relationship between Turkey and Cyprus is yet another example of a long-standing conflict with few prospects of imminent resolution, and the AKP’s rise to power has only exacerbated the situation.

Turkey’s strongman, Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdo?an (left), seen here at the World Economic Forum, Davos, in 2009, publicly berating Israel’s then-president Shimon Peres for alleged Israeli misconduct, has managed to alienate—and alarm—Eastern Mediterranean neighbors with frequent outbursts and occasional saberrattling. This has led Cyprus, Israel, and Greece, the area’s potential energy producers and transporters, to seek closer ties that would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

In Erdogan’s increasingly paranoid worldview, the possible economic and diplomatic revival of Cyprus as a result of gas development poses a clear and present danger to Turkish national security. In September 2011, Ankara signed a continental shelf delimitation agreement with the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” and shortly afterward, the Turkish state oil company (TPAO) started its first drilling near the occupied Cypriot city of Famagusta.

While Ankara has invited foreign companies to explore its Mediterranean coast for energy resources, only the Royal Dutch/Shell has thus far expressed interest.[40] In late October 2014, a Turkish research vessel entered the Cypriot EEZ to collect seismic data. Nicosia viewed this as a violation of its sovereign rights, since it had already licensed parts of its EEZ to foreign energy companies.[41]

Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation.

The energy factor has also internationalized the “Cyprus Problem,” creating a new point of friction between Ankara and Jerusalem. The Turkish government did not anticipate the rapid improvement of Israeli-Cypriot relations and fears that the bilateral cooperation will not be limited to the energy sector. Even before this development, Erdo?an had threatened Jerusalem over its gas exploration initiatives, warning that while “Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean…[it] will not be owner of this right.”[42] For its part Jerusalem has not remained passive, requesting Cypriot permission for the use of the Paphos air base by Israeli fighter jets.[43] In early November 2015, the two countries conducted the second Onisilos-Gideon military exercise in the western part of the island.

The internationalization of the “Cyprus Problem” extends well beyond the region. Chinese companies have already bid for gas exploration and liquefaction projects in the Eastern Mediterranean and are negotiating an agreement with the Cypriot government to purchase LNG by 2020. Consequently, Beijing has closely followed the Cyprus peace negotiations.[44]


An Engine for Conflict Resolution?

The Eastern Mediterranean energy boom has helped warm traditionally chilly bilateral relationships between some countries while aggravating already strained relations with others. Can it also become an engine for promoting regional cooperation?

While the last few years have seen a great deal of saberrattling out of Ankara, the likelihood of a military confrontation between Cyprus and Turkey, or Israel and Turkey, seems small. The construction and operation of energy infrastructure (e.g., pipelines, refineries, natural gas plants) is a costly business requiring political stability, and Ankara may not wish to undermine its role as an energy transit state. Indeed, Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation that covered, among other items, the laying of a natural gas pipeline between the two countries. This would allow Turkey to reduce its energy dependence on Russia (relations with which have worsened following the downing of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015) as well as to open up a new market for Israel’s natural gas projects off its coast.[45]

In addition, Ankara has offered to build a “peace pipeline” to transport Cypriot gas to European markets via Turkish territory.[46] Nicosia has not rejected this plan provided there is a resolution to the “Cyprus problem,” including the reunification of the island and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the northern section. This bolsters the argument, advanced by the U.S. State Department among others, that gas profits could contribute to the island’s unification as both Greek and Turkish Cypriots would have major additional incentives to accept a peace deal.[47] It is no coincidence that the special representative for regional energy cooperation for the newly-established State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources is based in the U.S. embassy in Nicosia.[48]

This optimism is rooted in the long-held, liberal view of international relations positing that economic benefits resulting from energy transportation can help resolve political conflicts. Yet if history offers any guide, an economic boom attending hydrocarbons exports can just as often lead to ethnocentrism and economic nationalism as to goodwill and shared prosperity. The production of large quantities of oil and natural gas in the North Sea, for example, has strengthened Scottish nationalism and may eventually lead to Scotland’s secession from the United Kingdom. Likewise, the Clinton administration’s promotion of a “peace pipeline” to carry Azerbaijani oil through the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to the Turkish market failed because Armenia did not wish to make the necessary territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.[49] Then again, in 2004, Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili floated the construction of a Russian-Georgian oil pipeline through the breakaway republic of Abkhazia to facilitate a solution to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, only to be rebuffed by both Russia and Abkhazia.[50] The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline had the same fate in 2009 when the Indian government announced its decision not to participate in the project for security reasons.[51]

Evidently, such pipelines have failed to materialize because states were neither willing to surrender territory nor comfortable depending on hostile neighbors in return for possible economic benefits. Those who envisage the prospect of a “peace pipeline” positively affecting the current negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots for the resolution of the “Cyprus Problem” may find themselves seriously disappointed.
Conclusion

The new substantial gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean are rapidly transforming regional orientations. Energy interests have brought Israel closer than ever diplomatically to Cyprus and Greece and have played an important role in the apparent thaw in Israeli-Turkish relations. At the same time, energy has generated new tensions between producing countries and countries that feel excluded from the regional natural gas development opportunities. Relations between Turkey and Cyprus as well as between Israel and Lebanon, poor at best, have come under further strain.

U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region.

Undoubtedly, U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region. However, this will only be possible if there is a resolution to the ownership issue that can accelerate the pace of private investment in the regional gas industry.[52]

Without a region-wide legal agreement, energy companies may not be able to secure the necessary funding to develop and implement gas projects. Washington, which enjoys good relations with all Eastern Mediterranean countries, could act as a broker in hosting multilateral regional talks to defuse tensions and promote mutual understanding between countries in the region.

Emmanuel Karagiannis is senior lecturer at the department of defense studies, King’s College, London, and author of Political Islam in Central Asia (Routledge, 2010) and Energy and Security in the Caucasus (Routledge, 2002).

[1] “Natural Gas Potential Assessed in Eastern Mediterranean,” U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Communication, Reston, Va., Aug. 4, 2010.

[2] “International Energy Outlook 2013,” Office of Communications, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington, D.C., July 25, 2013.

[3] Brenda Shaffer, “Israel—New Natural Gas Producer in the Mediterranean,” Energy Policy, Sept. 2011, pp. 5379-87.

[4] Haaretz (Tel Aviv), Aug. 13, 2009.

[5] “Israel and its natural resources: What a gas!” The Economist, Nov. 11, 2010.

[6] Cyprus Mail (Nicosia), Oct. 4, 2013.

[7] Kathimerini (Neo Faliro, Gr.), Feb. 27, 2013.

[8] BBC News, Aug. 20, 2015.

[9] “Total Energy Consumption, 2014,” Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2015, Enerdata, Grenoble, accessed Jan. 15, 2016.

[10] EU Energy Market in 2014 (Luxemburg: Publication House of the European Union, The European Commission, 2014), p. 6.

[11] “Second Licensing Round—Hydrocarbons Exploration,” Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia, accessed Dec. 29, 2015.

[12] Middle East Online (London), Aug. 6, 2013.

[13] RIA Novosti (Moscow), Feb. 26, 2013.

[14] Ed Blanche, “Enter the Bear,” The Middle East, Mar. 2014, pp. 29-30.

[15] John Sakkas, “Greece, Arab World and Israel: A Troubled Triangle in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Defensor Pacis (Athens), Mar. 2007, pp. 95-104.

[16] Amikam Nachmani, Turkey-Israel Strategic Partnership (Raman Gan: The BESA Center for Strategic Studies, 1999), pp. 1-10.

[17] The Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2010.

[18] The Times of Israel (Jerusalem), Feb. 11, 2015.

[19] Sigma Live (Nicosia), Nov. 30, 2015.

[20] The Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2015.

[21] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Israel and Greece hold Government-to-Government Consultation,” Jan. 27, 2016.

[22] “Israel’s Candidature for IMO Council 2014-2015,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 9, 2013.

[23] Reuters, Aug. 10, 2014.

[24] New Europe (Brussels), Mar. 11, 2014.

[25] “Projects of Common Interests,” The European Commission, Brussels, Oct. 14, 2013.

[26] Kathimerini, Nov. 25, 2015.

[27] Today’s Zaman (Istanbul), July 3, 2012.

[28] Cyprus Mail, Dec. 18, 2013.

[29] Hürriyet (Istanbul), May 9, 2013.

[30] Simon Henderson, “Natural Gas Export Options for Israel and Cyprus,” German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2013.

[31] The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 6, 2011.

[32] Kathimerini, Mar. 28, 2012.

[33] Cyprus Mail, Aug. 9, 2013.

[34] Joint Statement: Second Political Consultations at the level of Secretaries General of Israel, Greece and Cyprus MFA’s—17/12/2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nicosia.

[35] Al-Akhbar (Beirut), Oct. 27, 2012.

[36] YNet News (Tel Aviv), July 10, 2011.

[37] The Daily Star (Beirut), July 27, 2011.

[38] BBC News, Aug. 3, 2006.

[39] United Press International, May 23, 2013.

[40] Hürriyet, Nov. 23, 2011.

[41] The Guardian (London), Nov. 10, 2014.

[42] Simon Henderson, “Turkey’s Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches,” Policywatch, no. 1844, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Sept. 13, 2011.

[43] The Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2012.

[44] Li Guofu, “China: An Emerging Power in the Mediterranean,” in Daniela Huber, et al., eds., The Mediterranean Region in a Multipolar World: Evolving Relations with Russia, China, India, Brazil, (Washington, D.C.: The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2013), pp. 11-9; “Will Cyprus Become a New Investment Heaven for China?” China Radio International (Beijing), Oct. 31, 2013; Chinese ambassador Liu Xinsheng, interview, Cyprus Mail, Jan. 5, 2015.

[45] The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 18, 2015.

[46] Hürriyet, May 27, 2013.

[47] Sigma Live, July 24, 2015; Ethnos (Athens), Mar. 29, 2012.

[48] Cyprus Mail, Feb. 9, 2012.

[49] John J. Maresca, “A Peace Pipeline to End the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” Caspian Crossroads, Winter 1995, pp. 17-8.

[50] George Anjaparidze and Cory Welt, “A Georgian-Russian Pipeline: For Peace or Profit?” Eurasianet (New York), Mar. 8, 2004.

[51] The Hindu (Chennai, Madras), Nov. 25, 2013.

[52] James Stocker, “No EEZ Solution: The Politics of Oil and Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Middle East Journal, Autumn 2012, pp. 579-97.

###

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

Dear Pincas,

We wish to send you the warmest Nowruz greetings on behalf of everyone at the American Iranian Council. Nowruz is the first day of spring, which begins on March 21. We wish you a healthy and happy 1395 (Iranian calendar year), and we hope that this Nowruz will usher in better US-Iran relations.

Last October, the American Iranian Council became 25 years old. What a challenging quarter century! Congratulations to all AIC administration, supporters, and sponsors for the 25th AIC anniversary and for our collective tenacity and accomplishments in a hostile environment and tough time. When we began dreaming and preaching better US-Iran relations in 1990, not even a small minority of Iranians and Americans believed in our project. We had entered a highly taboo field.

Today, we can claim a total reversal of that figure: a large majority of the people in Iran and beyond now think that the goal of an improved US-Iran relationship is a noble one, and that its time has long past. What a sea change! Our world has always been changed by vision and ideas, not propaganda.

Even more satisfying is that while celebrating our quarter century of work, we witnessed a historic nuclear accord that we hope will last and grow into a springboard for better US-Iran relations. As it is said, dreams come true, but only if you keep dreaming and working hard for their realization. That is what we at AIC have done.

The Council is a community of believers, thought leaders and practitioners. We pioneered the marketplace of ideas for better understanding, opposed all forms of sanctions, and rejected war in any form including coercive diplomacy. We offered a platform for dialogue and never wavered in our support for diplomacy.

This consistency of position over a quarter century is what sets us apart from the organizations and individuals who today claim to support diplomacy and nuclear negotiations. We are also unique for our unparalleled accomplishments in US-Iran relations.

Indeed, for over two decades, major developments in US-Iran relations happened at an AIC platform or through the mediation of the Council. We also published helpful policy papers including the AIC Whitepaper, which became a roadmap for the Obama Administration’s outreach to Iran.

Let us then celebrate the AIC at 25. In that direction, we plan to become even more active and effective as a thinker and policy developer for all parties involved. As in the past, we will also maintain our non-partisan position and help conceive unifying ideas for the common interests of all involved.

With your help, 1395 (2016) could be the year diplomacy will help resolve other matters in US-Iran relations, just as it did in the case of the nuclear dispute. Benevolent individuals such as you fund our programs—we have never taken money from governments. Your tax-deductible contribution of $100 or any amount that is right for you to the AIC during this season of giving will help the Council implement the following established programs:

– The US Congress: Organize four educational roundtables with congressional leaders and staffers.
– Iran and the Nuclear Accord: Publish a major analytical document and several shorter analyses in Farsi showing why the nuclear deal is in Iran’s national interest and economic well?being.
– Saudi Arabia and Iran: Coordinate a major policy conference on Iran-Saudi relations and help formulate a regional security structure involving Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors.
– Economic Relations with Iran: Organize an informative conference on legalized business, compliance frameworks, and trade prospects.

Best regards and Happy New Year!

Senator J. Bennett Johnston (Rte.)
Chairman

Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi
President

The American Iranian Council

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From:  mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1…

What voters say: A Fox News poll released earlier this month found that registered voters want Obama and Senate leaders to “take action to fill the vacancy now” by a margin of 62% to 34%. A Pew Research Center poll released Monday found a majority of Americans (56%) say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy, with 38% saying they should not hold hearings until the next president takes office. Much more from CNN’s Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Tom LoBianco.

Obama restarts Gitmo political fight with a blueprint for closure:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility after delivering his plan to Congress to achieve a goal that has long eluded his presidency. Much more on the specifics from CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Elise Labott.

This morning, President Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty and nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to be the next Supreme Court justice, citing his lengthy experience on the D.C. Circuit Court, respect among his peers and colleagues—including bipartisan praise from many senators—and his real world experience.

Chief Judge Garland has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. He has been a public servant for almost his whole career, notably leading the investigation and prosecution after the Oklahoma City bombing. Garland has been on the D.C. Circuit court—often called the second-most important court in the country—for almost two decades and has served as Chief Judge of the Court since 2013. He was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit in 1997 with a 76-23 vote. Many Republican Senators still in office today voted for Garland including: Sens. Hatch, Inhofe, McCain, Roberts, Coats, Cochran, and Collins.

Before ever hearing the name of a nominee, Senate Republicans promised to refuse to even meet with the nominee, hold a hearing, or take a vote, vowing to ignore their constitutional duty. Since news broke of Garland’s nomination, a small group of Senate Republicans have broken with party leadership and said they are willing to meet with Garland. Those senators should push their leadership to call the entire senate to do its job and consider the nominee.

But before Senate Republicans vowed to obstruct the nomination process, many had positive things to say about Garland. In fact, just last week Sen. Hatch said, President Obama “could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.”

The Senators are being paid for reviewing the nominee and giving a clear YES or NO verdict on his joining the Supreme Court. Saying they do not intend to do so is a plain act of sedition or if you prefer – insurrection against a sitting US President. This is unacceptable and demands clear steps by the President. No place here for political games – or the institution of the Presidency will be harmed.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 16th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Independent of the UK – News – World – Asia

Royal Brunei Airlines’ first all-female pilot crew lands plane in Saudi Arabia – where women are not allowed to drive
‘As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it’

Serina Sandhu
Tuesday 15 March 2016
268 comments

The first ever all-female flight deck crew for Royal Brunei Airlines has operated a plane from Brunei to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Although it was a milestone for the airline, the pilot crew touched down in a country where women are still not allowed to drive a car.

To mark Brunei’s National Day, which celebrates the country’s independence, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew flight BI081 to the Middle Eastern country on 23 February 2016.

The occasion came just over three years after Captain Czarena became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia. She told The Brunei Times in 2012: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation.”

“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it,” said the captain, who completed her initial pilot training at the Cabair Flying School in Cranfield.

And Royal Brunei Airlines is committed to getting more women into the industry as it currently offers an Engineering Apprentice programme to both males and females.

But the airline’s landmark voyage also highlighted the restrictions women still face in Saudi Arabia. Although there is no law that prohibits women from driving, it is a rule imposed by conservative Muslim clerics.

The first ever all-female flight deck crew for Royal Brunei Airlines has operated a plane from Brunei to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Although it was a milestone for the airline, the pilot crew touched down in a country where women are still not allowed to drive a car.

To mark Brunei’s National Day, which celebrates the country’s independence, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew flight BI081 to the Middle Eastern country on 23 February.

The occasion came just over three years after Captain Czarena became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia. She told The Brunei Times in 2012: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation.”

“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it,” said the captain, who completed her initial pilot training at the Cabair Flying School in Cranfield.

Royal Brunei Airlines is committed to getting more women into the industry as it currently offers an Engineering Apprentice programme to both males and females.

But the airline’s landmark voyage also highlighted the restrictions women still face in Saudi Arabia. Although there is no law that prohibits women from driving, it is a rule imposed by conservative Muslim clerics.

In recent years, women have used social media to protest against being forbidden from getting behind the wheel.
The Women2Drive campaign has nearly 18,000 “likes” on Facebook and asks women to post images of them driving.

The first ever all-female flight deck crew for Royal Brunei Airlines has operated a plane from Brunei to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Although it was a milestone for the airline, the pilot crew touched down in a country where women are still not allowed to drive a car.

To mark Brunei’s National Day, which celebrates the country’s independence, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy, Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin flew flight BI081 to the Middle Eastern country on 23 February.

The occasion came just over three years after Captain Czarena became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia. She told The Brunei Times in 2012: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation.”

“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it,” said the captain, who completed her initial pilot training at the Cabair Flying School in Cranfield.
Read more

And Royal Brunei Airlines is committed to getting more women into the industry as it currently offers an Engineering Apprentice programme to both males and females. Anti-women laws that still exist in 2016

In recent years, women have used social media to protest against being forbidden from getting behind the wheel.

The Women2Drive campaign has nearly 18,000 “likes” on Facebook and asks women to post images of them driving.
The world’s 15 most powerful women in 2015

In December 2014, Loujain al-Hathloul was detained after she tried to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Maysa al-Amoudi, a friend who turned up to support her, was also detained. Both were released after more than 70 days in custody.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director for Human Rights Watch said at the time: “After years of false promises to end its absurd restrictions on women, Saudi authorities are still arresting them for getting behind the wheel.

“The Saudi government’s degrading restrictions on women are what bring shame to the country, not the brave activists standing up for their rights.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 15th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Oregon Becomes First State in Nation to Sign Bill That Phases Out Coal, Ramps Up Renewables

By Ben Jervey, DeSmogBlog

15 March 2016

The Oregon legislature just put another nail in the coffin of the coal era.

On Friday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law one of the most ambitious and sweeping pieces of energy legislation in the country’s history, one which will eradicate the use of coal for electricity generation entirely within two decades.

The pioneering law makes Oregon the first state in the nation to legislate a ban on coal for the electric supply, while also mandating that utilities provide half of their electricity from new renewable sources by 2040.

Add those new renewables to Oregon’s existing hydropower resources and, in less than 25 years, the state’s electric sector will be between 70 and 90 percent carbon-free, one of the cleanest energy portfolios in the country.

Currently, coal supplies roughly 30 percent of the state’s electricity.

“Knowing how important it is to Oregonians to act on climate change, a wide range of stakeholders came to the table around Oregonians’ investments in coal and renewable energy,” said Gov. Kate Brown. “Working together, they found a path to best equip our state with the energy resource mix of the future. Now, Oregon will be less reliant on fossil fuels and shift our focus to clean energy. I’m proud to sign a bill that moves Oregon forward, together with the shared values of current and future generations.”

In Blue Oregon, Nick Abraham of Oil Check Northwest described this remarkable coalition of groups that came together to push for the law, an alliance that included ratepayer advocates, green groups and the utilities themselves.

“CUB believes that this a big victory for utility customers. Coal is a huge financial risk and we are mitigating this risk by moving away from coal and investing in clean energy instead,” said Bob Jenks, executive director of the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon, the ratepayer advocacy group.

Still, the legislation was fought tooth and nail by clean energy opponents in the state senate, particularly Republican Ted Ferrioli (who, according to Abraham, “takes tens of thousand from oil, gas and coal companies” every year). But, again, the utilities impacted by the law support the measure.

“Our company has been reducing reliance on coal generation and expanding our renewable energy portfolio for the past 10 years as market forces, regulation and evolving customer preference continue to drive change in the way electricity is generated and delivered,” stated Stefan Bird, president and CEO of Pacific Power. “This landmark legislation allows us to effectively manage Oregon’s transition to a clean energy future in a manner that protects customers from cost impacts, ensures grid reliability and allows us to meet all of our responsibilities to the communities we serve.”

This sentiment was echoed by Jim Piro, president and CEO of Portland General Electric, the state’s largest electric utility.

“The path forward was forged through a collaborative process where we all tried to balance stakeholder needs,” said Piro in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Public Utility Commission and all of our stakeholders to implement this policy in a way that benefits the environment, manages price impacts for our customers and ensures that the reliability of the electric grid is not compromised.”

Clean energy advocates who fought for passage of the bill are celebrating. “Oregon had a clear choice to make: do we want to power our homes with coal or with clean energy? Today it is clear we chose clean,” said Oregon Environmental Council Executive Director Andrea Durbin in a press release. “Kissing coal goodbye and doubling renewable energy will give Oregon some of the cleanest power? in the country, delivers clean energy for all Oregon families and re-establishes our state as a leader in green.”

It will also effectively clean up the grid in neighboring states. Because of how the utilities procure their power, the impacts of the law will be felt throughout the whole northwest, as Noah Long and Angus Duncan explain on NRDC’s Switchboard:

“Although one-third of Oregon’s electricity today comes from coal-fired plants, the only in-state facility was already slated to retire by 2020. However, the two affected utilities supply power to Oregon from coal facilities they own in Utah, Wyoming and Montana. By ending Oregon’s investments, the market for dirty energy will shrink—which should speed the retirement of those aging plants.

“At the same time, the law doubles the amount of energy from new renewable resources that Pacific Power and Portland General Electric must provide to their Oregon customers. Therefore, the utilities will be obliged to look first to wind, solar and other clean energy sources—and not new base-load natural gas turbines—to replace those aged coal plants.”

Many state and national clean energy advocates have upheld the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan as a precedent setting model for other states to follow.

“This landmark climate legislation puts Oregon on a bold new course,” said Kristen Sheeran, Oregon director of Climate Solutions. “Moving away from coal and oil toward clean, renewable electricity raises the bar for clean energy in other states.”

Indeed, no other state has yet legislated an end to coal-powered electricity. (Though Hawaii and Vermont do boast electric grids that already operate free of coal).

The renewable energy standards that the transition plan mandates put Oregon amongst the small handful of states that have renewable standards of 50 percent of more. Hawaii, again a leader, will require a full 100 percent by 2045; California and New York now both require 50 percent within 25 years; Massachusetts is demanding a 1 percent annual increase indefinitely, until it reaches the full electric portfolio.

Now, given the state’s mandate to scrap coal from its electric mix, if the “thin green line” of Cascadia activists can continue to block coal exports from the state’s ports, Oregon can effectively bid adieu to coal entirely.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 13th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Markets – NPR

The U.S. Is Pumping All This Oil, So Where Are The Benefits?

March 12, 2016 5:00 PM ET

The U.S. has joined Saudi Arabia and Russia as one of the world’s top oil producers. But the benefits that many forecasters predicted have not materialized.

In 2015 – Russia produced 10.3 millions of barrels of oil per day; Saudi Arabia 10.1 mb/d; and the US 9.4 mb/d.

The U.S. has ramped up oil production so dramatically that it’s joined Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s third largest producer.

Since this surge began in 2008, American production rocketed from 5 million barrels a day to nearly 10 million barrels a day at the high point last year.

More importantly, oil analysts confidently predicted that a tide of benefits would flow as freely as the oil now coming out of the ground.

First, the U.S. economy would get a boost that would include a renaissance in manufacturing. Second, the U.S. would be far less dependent on the vagaries of foreign energy producers. And third, America could shrink its footprint in the volatile Middle East.

Yet none of this has happened. Why not?


Forecast No. 1: An Economic Boost

The boom, fueled by shale oil fields in places like North Dakota, was supposed to turbo-charge the economy. Energy would be abundant and cheap. Consumers would have more money to spend on other stuff.

And that’s all true. You see it in places like convenience stores. When it costs drivers less to fill up the tank, they buy more soda. Good for Coke. Good for Pepsi.

But many forecasters failed to see the other side of the equation. More American companies and workers are now linked directly or indirectly to the oil industry, and they get hurt when prices go down.

“Actually, oil has become more important to the U.S. economy because of this almost doubling of U.S. oil production,” said Daniel Yergin, the author of best-selling books on the industry, including The Prize and The Quest.

Americans used to worry only about high oil prices, he noted. But now the country needs to consider what happens when prices go down.

“You have people working all across the United States that are in effect part of the supply chains. So when the oil price goes down, and companies cut spending, this reverberates in Illinois, Ohio and many other states,” said Yergin, who is vice chairman of the economics firm IHS.

The U.S. economy has grown steadily since the 2008-2009 recession. But that growth has been modest compared to previous recoveries. Since oil prices crashed in the summer of 2014, going from more than $100 a barrel to around $30 today, the economy has continued at roughly the same pace.

So what’s the overall impact of cheap oil? Yergin describes it as a “titter-totter.” Some gains here, some losses there, but overall, pretty neutral.


Forecast No. 2: Energy Independence

U.S. imports have dropped dramatically, but this really hasn’t set the U.S. free in the ways anticipated.

All this new American oil contributes to the current worldwide glut and the low prices. And neither the U.S. nor any other country wants to be the one that cuts back and sacrifices its own production for the greater good.

“Someone has to cry uncle,” says oil analyst Steve LeVine, who writes for Quartz and teaches at Georgetown University. “The conventional wisdom is that American shale oil producers will be the ones. And they are in trouble.”

The reason is cost. Saudi Arabia and other low-cost producers still make a profit when oil is $30 a barrel. Much of the U.S. production is relatively high-cost, and many companies are losing money at the current price.

Every day, world production of oil exceeds demand by more than 1 million barrels. Many countries are running low on places to store the excess.

In the U.S., that place is Cushing, Oklahoma, home of huge and rapidly filling storage tanks, LeVine says.

Some 500 million barrels of oil are in storage around the world, says LeVine.

“That’s the largest volume in storage since the Great Depression,” he notes, adding that some forecasters are predicting that if storage runs out, oil could go below $20 a barrel.


Forecast No. 3: U.S. Pulls Back In The Middle East

Forecasters also argued that more U.S. oil would mean a reduced American need to resolve conflicts in the Middle East. Oil was, after all, the main reason the U.S. was drawn into the region decades ago.

But here’s the catch: Cheap oil can destabilize Middle Eastern countries that depend almost entirely on oil revenue.

Consider Iraq. It’s desperately short of cash as it fights the Islamic State and tries to stay current on salaries to millions of government workers.

President Obama pledged to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he has withdrawn the large contingents of U.S. large ground forces. Yet in Obama’s final year in office, the U.S. is still engaged in three regional wars — Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria — and dealing with instability throughout the region.

All the forecasts looked at the potential upside of more American oil, but never fully factored in the downside.

—————–
Greg Myre is the international editor of NPR.org. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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


Amirahmadi says parliamentary elections “engineered” to increase regime legitimacy

March 09, 2016.

What do these elections represent for Iran’s future?

Hooshang Amirahmadi: We must distinguish the Parliamentary elections from those of the Assembly of Experts. The Assembly, though an important institution, is more stable and the elections did not significantly alter its composition. Its function is to appoint and supervise the Leader of the Revolution but that will come only after the current Leader passes away. The Assembly will not be in a position to challenge Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current Leader. Nor will the Assembly change the institution of Leadership in any meaningful way in a post-Khamenei Iran unless political instability were to follow his death. The institution will remain unchanged in its core governance belief (guardianship of the jurists) as long as the Islamic Republic survives as an Islamic regime. However, far into the future, I guess, change will also come to this institution but that is less relevant to the country at present or in the foreseeable future.

In sharp contrast, Parliament has been more relevant to the nation’s ongoing life and has been less stable. It used to be a more powerful and meaningful institution than it has become in recent times. The elections were “engineered” to produce a centrist Parliament more in tune with the new direction of the Islamic system for accommodation with the West and less political rivalry at home. What it will actually mean to Iran’s future will depend on what happens next. For example, will the Rouhani Government be able to improve Iran’s economy in the immediate future, and particularly to increase employment for the youth and income for the less fortunate social groups? And will it deliver on its promise of more political and social openings for the educated middle class? If yes, then the elections’ impact will be most likely lasting. If not, then Iran will most likely go back to a more hardened domestic and international politics. In the latter case, the “hardliners” will again take over the state including the Parliament, something that happened at the end of the reformist President Khatami reign in 2005. It must be noted that the hardliners are still in the country and they will surely regroup and fight back, this time from inside the “revolutionary” institutions, and, of course, from the streets as they did under the Khatami presidency.

One thing is certain: in the foreseeable future, this election will not lead to widely acceptable reformed politics in Iran where the secular population is excluded from political participation. More than 80 percent of Iranians are politically secular. In sharp contrast, it may indeed produce a more subtle repressive domestic political situation as the Islamic regime may open to the West but tighten its grip on the population in fear of losing control. The number of those arrested under the pretext of being friendly to “Western penetration” has significantly increased in recent months. The election will not help the Rouhani government to improve the Iranian economy on time for the next presidential elections either. The country’s economic woes are just too huge and complicated to be resolved in a matter of less than two years.

Bottom line: Khamenei allowed the engineered election (as he did in 2013 with the presidential election) in the hope of improving Iran’s economy, more effectively controlling domestic politics, and reducing the external threat to the survival of his Islamic system. The perceived external threat emanates from a highly radicalized Middle East region where Islamic radicals like ISIL have made states highly unstable, and where animosity to the Iranian regime has significantly increased as has proxy wars between Iran and its Arab neighbors, Saudi Arabia in particular. Another source of concern for Tehran is the US presidential elections, which most likely will produce a more hostile government in Washington than the current administration of Barack Obama.

Iran is certainly very nervous these days and a centrist Parliament is to increase regime legitimacy internationally and reduce tension at home and aboard. Unless Rouhani delivers, if only partially, on its economic and political promises, he may lose the support of Mr. Khamenei and the working people of Iran. The JCPOA gave Iran some extra cash (which is being unwisely spent) but it also led to a perception of Iran as a weak state as Tehran “surrendered” to American pressure during the nuclear negotiations and its main ally in the region, Syria, became a “failed state.” Unfortunately, perception is reality in international relations, and any time in the past Iran has been perceived weak, its neighbors have challenged it as in the immediate post-revolution when Saddam Hussein invaded the country. The new Saudi challenges to Iran’s strategic depth in the region is a reflection of this perceived weakness in Tehran. Iran must make sure that this perception changes as otherwise the country will not be able to move forward in its economic and political plans.
What do you think of the new Parliament, which is described as a more “friendly” one for President Rouhani?

HA: There is a certain exaggeration regarding the new makeup of the Parliament just elected. First, the coalition of reformists, centrists and pragmatist (RCP) still remain in the minority (about 110 seats out of 290). The rest are “independents” (about 20) and conservatives (about 160). As a whole, however, this parliament will be more amenable to working with Rouhani but, as I mentioned above, the Parliament is not as powerful as it used to be and cannot always help if the matter at hand is not tasteful to the hardliners in revolutionary institutions (largely powerful unelected institutions). Rouhani may use the Parliament for whatever purpose he wishes for but he must also deliver results as otherwise, everything will fall apart again. The elections have raised expectations higher for a better economy and a more open politics. It is doubtful if these two can be delivered on time to keep all in good order.
What led the electorate to vote for a majority of reformists and moderate conservatives?

HA: The election tactics that the RCP used helped them to make certain gains. They entered the race as a “coalition,” that is, they voted as a group and for pre-set lists of candidates, and they put pressure both on the people to vote and on the system to allow them to run. More significantly, the coalition included “moderate” conservatives and certain questionable elements of the regime (e.g., three former intelligence ministers). Besides, while many reformists had been “vetted” as unqualified by the Guardian Council, there still remained a large group of “qualified” conservative candidates acceptable to the reformists in the coalition. Despite all these, their gains remained limited when compared to their gains some 16 years ago when they took over the Presidency and later on the Parliament.

Thus, as I said, there is a certain misunderstanding as to what happened in these elections. The hardline conservatives still control the Parliament but they are less hardline than their previous cohorts. This means that the Parliament as a whole will act more centrist than before but only if the conservative elements are convinced that the government policies do not open doors for uncontrolled foreign “penetration” and that the economy improves while the values of Islamic system are preserved. This is a tough balancing act to maintain. Khamenei is critical to the functioning of the Parliament as he can indeed direct the deputies to move to any direction he wishes. Besides, there is the Revolutionary Guards and other revolutionary institutions, including the Judiciary and the Friday Prayers, who have significant control over what goes on in the country.
What do you think of the fact that some hardliners such as Kazem Jalali, Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kerman, Ayatollah Mohammad-Ali Taskhiri, Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri and Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi ran on the reformists and moderates lists?

HA: The reform movement as we knew it is now dead in Iran. I mean the movement that made Khatami President and took over the Parliament in the 1997-2005 period. The movement died when President Ahmadinejad took over. The protest in 2009 (Green Movement) put the final nail in its coffin. Since then, reformist are divided and demoralized and many of their original leaders have fled the country. Other leaders, including Khatami, who has remained in the country, persona non grata, has concluded that the original movement was too radical for the Islamic Republic to accommodate, that it is currently too weak to challenge the status quo, and that the movement must redefine itself in more social terms (not just political), needs to broaden its base to include moderate conservatives, bring to its side individuals trusted by the system (particularly by the Leader), and move slowly and creepingly. The inclusion of the above personalities reflects this new thinking of “normalization” versus “democratization.” This is a thinking that I would not call reformist; it is better defined as “moderationist.”
Do you think that happened because the Guardian Council vetted so many reformist and moderate candidates?

HA: There was certainly practical consideration in including such individuals in the coalition with the reformists, but I believe a more fundamental reason is the fact that the original reform movement failed and the leaders were forced to redesign the movement, both ideologically and organizationally. However, in rethinking the reform movement, they essentially threw it out of the window in favor of a centrist approach that has no ideology or organizational character. Indeed, the original reform movement is now being melted down into a broader “regime maintenance” movement. It must also be noted that the original reform movement was left-leaning, while the current “moderationist” movement is right-leaning.
Do you think the electorate was aware of this?

HA: Let me begin by saying that the Islamic Republic has over the years highly dampened the “Iranian dream,” making people expect but increasingly expect less of its leaders. This trend has also been accompanied by almost total elimination of the traditional Iranian nationalism. The JCPOA was a major contributor to these trends. Indeed, the post-JCPOA Iran is less of a dreamer and much less of a nationalist nation. It is in this context that the presidential elections in 2013 and the parliamentary elections in 2016 took place. The electorate in Iran was also divided in these elections along rich-poor lines, with richer strata mainly voting for the RCP coalition while most in the poorer population stayed with the conservatives. The rich and most middle class people are happy with the JCPOA and look to the West as a source of new wealth and other opportunities. It must also be noted that participation in these elections was not as high as many previous elections. Indeed, the participation rate of 62 percent was much less than the participation rate (72 percent) for the presidential elections in 2013.

In Tehran, the participation rate was even lower (50 percent) and largely concentrated in northern Tehran where the well-to-do middle and upper middle class live. Indeed, less than 35 percent of southern Tehranis, largely poor, working class, and petty shopkeepers, participated in these elections. Outside Tehran, the so-called reformists were not as popular as in northern Tehran, with even some large cities, like Esfahan, electing predominantly conservative candidates. As I mentioned above, the composition of the coalition was not acceptable to all reformists and the less fortunate population did not participate in high numbers because they no longer believe that the Rouhani government represents their best interest. They see his government s representing the rich. This tendency of the current government in Tehran is well reflected in its spending policy and the purchases it is making in the West with the cash it earned from the JCPOA.
What do you think of the fact that the hardliners mentioned above ran on the reformists and moderates’ lists?

HA: Ahmadinejad isolated a good number of the so-called hardliners and as a result they were gradually pushed towards the moderates. These conservatives still dislike the reformists but they opportunistically joined the RCP coalition so that they could win. I must also mention the fact that during the negotiations over the JCPOA, many “Principalists” or conservatives realized that the Leader has changed policy in favor of opening to the West and moderating factional rivalries at home. Indeed, during the nuclear negotiations, Khamenei took sides with Rouhani and only gave revolutionary lip service to hardliners who opposed the deal. Those opportunist conservatives who did not care about principles, changed sides and embraced the current policy to stay in power. Their reason to join in a coalition with the reformists was opportunistic and an election ploy.

Amirahmadi says “elected officials are still underdogs; power remains concentrated among hardliners”
March 04, 2016

In an interview with Al Jazeera America, AIC’s President Hooshang Amirahmadi discussed the recent parliamentary elections in Iran and their implications. Amirahmadi said the Iranian Parliament is becoming more moderate, but not influential. He said “elected officials are still underdogs; power remains largely concentrated among hardliners.” The most significant political bodies in Iran will always remain in the control of hardliners, such as the Supreme Leader. There is little the parliamentary elections can actually do in affecting Iran’s foreign and domestic policies. In response to whether or not Iran will become more open to the West, considering the success of the nuclear accord, he said “it depends.” If Iran feels secure, it will assume a tougher position. On the other hand, if Iran believes it is under pressure, it will be more open to improving its relations with the West.

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


The stakes are high. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on 2016 Presidential Elections
- The Risk I Will Not Take.

March 7, 2016 5:00 PM EST
By Michael R. Bloomberg

Americans today face a profound challenge to preserve our common values and national promise.

Wage stagnation at home and our declining influence abroad have left Americans angry and frustrated. And yet Washington, D.C., offers nothing but gridlock and partisan finger-pointing.

Worse, the current presidential candidates are offering scapegoats instead of solutions, and they are promising results that they can’t possibly deliver. Rather than explaining how they will break the fever of partisanship that is crippling Washington, they are doubling down on dysfunction.

Over the course of American history, both parties have tended to nominate presidential candidates who stay close to and build from the center. But that tradition may be breaking down. Extremism is on the march, and unless we stop it, our problems at home and abroad will grow worse.

Many Americans are understandably dismayed by this, and I share their concerns. The leading Democratic candidates have attacked policies that spurred growth and opportunity under President Bill Clinton — support for trade, charter schools, deficit reduction and the financial sector. Meanwhile, the leading Republican candidates have attacked policies that spurred growth and opportunity under President Ronald Reagan, including immigration reform, compromise on taxes and entitlement reform, and support for bipartisan budgets. Both presidents were problem-solvers, not ideological purists. And both moved the country forward in important ways.

Over the last several months, many Americans have urged me to run for president as an independent, and some who don’t like the current candidates have said it is my patriotic duty to do so. I appreciate their appeals, and I have given the question serious consideration. The deadline to answer it is now, because of ballot access requirements.

My parents taught me about the importance of giving back, and public service has been an important part of my life. After 12 years as mayor of New York City, I know the personal sacrifices that campaigns and elected office require, and I would gladly make them again in order to help the country I love.

I’ve always been drawn to impossible challenges, and none today is greater or more important than ending the partisan war in Washington and making government work for the American people — not lobbyists and campaign donors. Bringing about this change will require electing leaders who are more focused on getting results than winning re-election, who have experience building small businesses and creating jobs, who know how to balance budgets and manage large organizations, who aren’t beholden to special interests — and who are honest with the public at every turn. I’m flattered that some think I could provide this kind of leadership.

But when I look at the data, it’s clear to me that if I entered the race, I could not win. I believe I could win a number of diverse states — but not enough to win the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency.

In a three-way race, it’s unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress. The fact is, even if I were to receive the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, victory would be highly unlikely, because most members of Congress would vote for their party’s nominee. Party loyalists in Congress — not the American people or the Electoral College — would determine the next president.

As the race stands now, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience.

I have known Mr. Trump casually for many years, and we have always been on friendly terms. I even agreed to appear on “The Apprentice” — twice. But he has run the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears. Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, appealed to our “better angels.” Trump appeals to our worst impulses.

Threatening to bar foreign Muslims from entering the country is a direct assault on two of the core values that gave rise to our nation: religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. Attacking and promising to deport millions of Mexicans, feigning ignorance of white supremacists, and threatening China and Japan with a trade war are all dangerously wrong, too. These moves would divide us at home and compromise our moral leadership around the world. The end result would be to embolden our enemies, threaten the security of our allies, and put our own men and women in uniform at greater risk.

Senator Cruz’s pandering on immigration may lack Trump’s rhetorical excess, but it is no less extreme. His refusal to oppose banning foreigners based on their religion may be less bombastic than Trump’s position, but it is no less divisive.

We cannot “make America great again” by turning our backs on the values that made us the world’s greatest nation in the first place. I love our country too much to play a role in electing a candidate who would weaken our unity and darken our future — and so I will not enter the race for president of the United States.

However, nor will I stay silent about the threat that partisan extremism poses to our nation. I am not ready to endorse any candidate, but I will continue urging all voters to reject divisive appeals and demanding that candidates offer intelligent, specific and realistic ideas for bridging divides, solving problems, and giving us the honest and capable government we deserve.

For most Americans, citizenship requires little more than paying taxes. But many have given their lives to defend our nation — and all of us have an obligation as voters to stand up on behalf of ideas and principles that, as Lincoln said, represent “the last best hope of earth.” I hope and pray I’m doing that.

———————-

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
David Shipley at  davidshipley at bloomberg.net

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your conclusions from looking at the above?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 9th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Court Allows Nigerian Communities Struggling From Oil Spills to Sue Shell in the Netherlands

By Raven Rakia, Grist

March 9, 2016


This week, two fishing communities in Nigeria got permission from a United Kingdom court to sue Shell in the Netherlands, the company’s home country. The lawsuit sets a rare precedent for the victims of environmental catastrophes in the global south to be able to hold the company at fault responsible in its home country.

The villages currently taking Shell to task in the U.K., Ogale and Bille, are hardly the first to suffer from oil contamination. Spills have devastated the fishing communities around the Niger Delta. Between 2008 and 2014, 48,000 tons of Shell’s oil spilled into the delta, according to The Wall Street Journal. Shell has blamed the oil spills on thieves, but accepts responsibility for cleaning them up.

The spills have destroyed local ecosystems and in turn, the livelihoods of the people who depend upon them, many of whom are farmers or fishermen. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told Bloomberg News devastation from the spills that destroyed many people’s way of life had led some to resort to crimes.

So why is it so important that Shell be sued at its home base, and not in the country where its damage was done? In 2013, the energy giant was already sued in Nigerian court by the community of Bodo — also on the delta — and found liable for a landmark $77 million in damages, which will go to over 15,000 residents and to redevelop the area. However, even that much money may not be enough to remedy the devastation to Nigeria’s delta communities.

A year after the suit was settled, many of the residents of Bodo are left with unfinished homes. This week, Bloomberg News reported on the current state of Bodo a year after Shell paid millions of dollars to the community:

While Royal Dutch Shell Plc paid 55 million pounds ($77 million) in compensation last year, residents have spent almost all of it and can’t finish their new homes. Standing at the waterfront, Christian Kpandei, a 56-year-old pastor, surveys the row of unfinished houses near the bank.“This is why they are crying,” said Kpandei, who led the compensation campaign against Shell. “There’s no money again.”

The allocation of funds has caused some disagreements. While some residents prefer direct cash payments, Shell and NGOs like the Ogoni Solidarity Forum claim that the money should go to companies and government entities that would clean up the spills, but there’s reasonable skepticism around how the money would actually be spent.

Despite Shell’s promises to clean up oil spills, an Amnesty International report that was published last November revealed that four oil spills had not been cleaned up yet — despite Shell claiming otherwise:

In 2011 the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) exposed massive levels of pollution caused by oil spills from Shell pipelines in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta. UNEP also exposed how the damage done to the environment and people was exacerbated by the company’s failure to clean up the spills properly. In response, Shell promised to clean up sites identified by UNEP and improve its response to future spills.


Yet in field investigations at four of the spill sites UNEP identified as highly polluted in 2011, Amnesty International and CEHRD found all four remain visibly contaminated in 2015, even though Shell says it has cleaned them. The investigation demonstrates this is due to inadequate clean-up, and not new oil spills.


At one of the locations, Shell’s Bomu Well 11, researchers found blackened soil and layers of oil on the water, 45 years after an oil spill took place – even though Shell claims to have cleaned it up twice, in 1975 and 2012. At other sites, certified as cleaned by the Nigerian regulator, researchers found soil and water contaminated by oil close to where people lived and farmed.

Let’s hope that the judge in the current lawsuit orders an inspector to oversee the spill cleanups, at the very least. If you ask me, Shell should be responsible for both cleaning up the sites and paying reparations to the many residents who now have no way of making a living. These disasters happen in developing countries all the time, but the companies that cause them are rarely held responsible in their home jurisdiction. This lawsuit may break that pattern and push corporations to think twice before doing all their dirty work far from home.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 8th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Gregory Benchwick  gregory.benchwick at undp.org
UNDP Climate Innovations Network


Building resilience with climate information and early warning systems
March 2016 Newsletter

Across The Last Mile
The Last Mile Workshop in Zambia promises to be an excellent opportunity for learning and finding novel solutions to reach end users and potentially save lives. We’ve put together an all-star lineup of speakers, interactive sessions and plenty of time for sharing to create an engaging learning environment. Sessions span the wide breadth of innovative territory that is the Last Mile, with panels focused on everything from communications to commercial market opportunities. Here are some top speakers, resources and innovative enterprises that you can expect to interact with at the workshop.
Highlighted Speakers  undp-cirda.blogspot.com/2016/03/a…) | Event Details  adaptation-undp.org/projects/cird…) | Mobile App  guidebook.com/g/Lastmile/?ref=ba…) | Climate Action Hackathon  www.adaptation-undp.org/climate-a…)

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ECONET IN ZIMBABWE
In Zimbabwe, the market-leading telecommunications provider EcoNet Wireless is packaging and distributing valuable information such as farming tips, health advice, weather information and mobile banking options to engage with rural customers, build brand loyalty, and support the overall image of the company. EcoNet will present its EcoFarmer platform in the Zambia Last Mile Workshop.
Learn More  undp-cirda.blogspot.com/2016/02/e…)

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LEAPFROGGING TECHNOLOGY
Africa is ready for a next-generation of weather and climate information solutions. The goal of the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) is to install 20,000 on-the-ground sensing stations across the African continent, providing high-tech automated weather stations that will produce rainfall, temperature, and other critical data with robust redundant sensors and real-time cell-phone uplink.
Learn More  undp-cirda.blogspot.com/2016/02/l…)

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SCALING UP CLIMATE SERVICES IN MALAWI
A recently approved project supported by the UNDP and funded through the Green Climate Fund is providing new opportunities to scale up the use of climate information and early warnings in Malawi. The innovative $11 million project focuses on building weather- and climate-related services and has the potential of reaching approximately 2 million people, providing farmers, fishers and communities impacted by a changing climate with the information they need to protect lives and build livelihoods.
Learn More  undp-cirda.blogspot.com/2016/03/s…)

Contact:
Bonizella Biagini
Programme Manager
UNDP Programme on Climate Information for Resilient Development in Africa (CIRDA)
<bonizella.biagini@undp.org>

The Programme on Climate Information for Resilient Development in Africa (CIRDA) connects ideas, people and technology to build resilience to climate change in 11 African Countries. This UNDP adaptation and resiliency programme is funded through the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Country Fund. www.undp-alm.org/projects/cirda

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Precautionary Principle: Governance of Innovation and Innovations in Governance – CEU/EEA summer school.

from: Anton Shkaruba March 5, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Applications are now open for the 2016 Summer School: “The Precautionary Principle: Governance of innovation and innovations in governance”. It will be held in Budapest (Hungary) from June 26 to July 2, 2016.

The course is co-organised by Central European University (CEU), Median S.C.P., and the European Environment Agency (EEA) as the first event of its EEAcademy.

The purpose of the School is to explore challenges and possible ways forward for the effective and appropriate application of the precautionary principle in sustainability governance, in particular in such an uncertainty-prone area as climate change. It will bring together a solid and diverse group of scholars and practitioners with expertise on the precautionary principle, risk assessment, vulnerability and adaptation management, health research, science and technology studies, the governance of innovation, environmental governance, and long term transitions to sustainability.

The School is designed as a strategic knowledge and experience sharing course at the intersection between a research-oriented course and a professional development course, dedicated to collaborative exploration and learning. It will provide intensive research training, but also allow for policy discussions in a variety of sector and contexts and, through a knowledge co-creation approach, help to identify and find solutions to course-related issues in the participants’ research, policy, and business application fields.

We aim to achieve a mix of participants and faculty from a variety of backgrounds (including both researchers and practitioners from public bodies, NGOs and business) and research interests related to the Course.

Participants from public institutions, business, public institutions and research are encouraged to apply.

Application deadline is April 1, 2016. For more information on the Summer School, including a detailed course description and application instructions please visit: www.summer.ceu.hu/precautionary-2…

For the organising team,
Sybille van den Hove & Anton Shkaruba

———————————————————————————————
ANTON SHKARUBA
Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Research Associate, PhD

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

President Obama meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in September 2015 at the Oval Office. On January 1, Saudi Arabia executed 4 individuals who engaged in non-violent protest for democracy and human rights in the Kingdom. Behind the president and King Salman sits a bust of the champion of non-violent protest, Martin Luther King Jr. (photo: AP)
(under the photo by AP heading the original article)


US Ties to Saudi Kingdom Are Beheading Democracy: An Interview With the Son of an Executed Political Prisoner.

By Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News
 mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1…

26 February 2016


Saudi Arabia opened 2016 with a tragic, yet increasingly common event for the Kingdom, a mass execution.
In the words of Amnesty International, “Saudi Arabia’s authorities demonstrated their utter disregard for human rights and life by executing 47 people in a single day.”

According to the British rights organization Reprieve, Saudi Arabia has had one of the world’s highest rates of execution for over ten years. Many of these executions occur after unfair trails and may be carried out by the barbaric means of beheading, public crucifixion, stoning, or firing squad.

All 47 individuals executed on January 1 were accused of being terrorists. However, four of those executed were involved in Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring protests. These four remained strictly nonviolent in their calls for greater democracy and rights in the Kingdom.

Despite being a major US ally, Saudi Arabia has an atrocious human rights record. The Kingdom is intolerant of any dissent and harshly represses any critics. The Kingdom has also banned all public gatherings and demonstrations since the Arab Spring erupted in 2011.

One of these four political prisoners executed was the well-known Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr. Al-Nimr was a powerful and articulate critic of the Saudi government and royal family.

Amnesty International stated that Sheik al-Nimr’s execution showed that Saudi officials were “using the death penalty in the name of counter-terror to settle scores and crush dissidents.”

Reader Supported News spoke with Sheik al-Nimr’s son, Mohammed al-Nimr, just a few weeks after his father’s execution.

Mohammed described his father as someone who believed in the same values as Americans and who wanted all people to have basic things like democracy, freedom, justice, dignity, and human rights.“He was a peaceful man who demanded change in my country because he wouldn’t tolerate any tyranny. He always spoke for the oppressed against the oppressors.”

Mohammed said his father guided Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring protesters in the way of nonviolence. “He demanded peaceful change in the form of democratic elections and he also demanded basic human rights.”

Despite the Saudi government labeling him a terrorist, Mohammed said, “My father was always a strong supporter for peaceful change. He always asked people to be peaceful and not to fall into violence. I never saw my father with a weapon. He once told a protestor, you are right to demand your rights, but don’t engage in even the smallest forms of violence like throwing rocks at riot police.”

Mohammed’s father was first arrested in 2012. A security vehicle rammed into his car, security personnel dragged him out of the car, then finally opened fire on him, striking him 4 times.

When Sheik al-Nimr woke up in the hospital his upper chin was broken and two teeth were missing. “My father underwent an operation to remove the bullets, but the hospital intentionally left one bullet in his thigh to cause him pain.”

Due to his injuries, Sheik al-Nimr suffered an enormous amount of pain, which prevented him from sleeping properly for an entire year. Sheik al-Nimr was also held in solitary confinement for almost four years, the entire time he was imprisoned.

I asked whether the US reached out to help free his father, who believed in democracy, nonviolence, and justice, the very values America claims to stand for. But Mohammed said the US never reached out to him. “They know about the case, but they didn’t do enough to stop the execution.”

In the days after Sheik Nimr’s execution, the White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the White House had “raised concerns” with the Saudi government that executing Sheik Nimr al-Nimr could heighten sectarian tensions.

Mohammed said this is the US government’s way of saying they did their part. “But that’s not enough. You don’t just warn them. He was a peaceful man. The US should have demanded his release and done all they could to stop the execution from happening.”

When asked if he had a message for the American people, Mohammed said, “Your security is in danger. As long as your government supports the Saudi regime, which has a lot of money to support terrorism all over the world, your security is in danger.”

“This Saudi regime supported the Taliban, and the result was al Qaeda. Then the Saudi regime supported the rebels in Syria, and the result was ISIS.”

“Where does the money for all these terror groups come from? It’s the Saudi government’s oil money. The Saudi government pretends to fight terrorist ideology, but their ideology is the root of terrorist ideology. For example, 15 of 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudi. Why is that? Because that’s what they teach people in school.”

“So my message for American citizens is look out for your safety. You don’t want more 9/11 attacks, you don’t want more Paris attacks. That’s what this regime supports, even if the regime shows another face.”

When asked what his father would think of the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran that followed his father’s execution, he said, “I believe if my father was here he would not agree to the attack in Tehran. As I said, he was a peaceful man and would never encourage violence.”

Mohammed said his father’s execution left an enormous impact on him. “My father was really a friend to me. He was a great father and I will have a deep sadness for the rest of my life due to his loss. I know he’s in a better place right now, but the painful thing is that I’m never going to see him, or hear his voice with new words about freedom, justice, dignity and humanity.”

When asked how he planned to attain justice for his father, Mohammed said, “I will make the whole world hear his voice. Make the whole world know what he stood for and what he demanded and not the picture the Saudi government is trying to paint of my father.”

“He was not a violent man. He was just someone who wouldn’t tolerate any tyranny and any oppression against anyone. He would stand up for anyone who is oppressed.”

Paul Gottinger is a staff reporter at RSN whose work focuses on the Middle East and the arms industry. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or via email.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

BEYOND DIESEL – March 17, 2016
 mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1…


In 2015, the revelations that Volkswagen deliberately attempted to cheat emissions tests on diesel vehicles rocked the industry automotive industry.

Cleantech Investor invites you to a morning event in London, sponsored and hosted by Marks & Clerk, to review the implications of “Dieselgate” for the future of the automotive industry.

The revelations that Volkswagen deliberately attempted to cheat emissions tests on diesel vehicles rocked the industry last year. This event will aim to identify the opportunities opening up as a result of the scandal, addressing questions such as:
Is diesel dead?
Who will be the winners from Dieselgate?
What are the investment opportunities emerging out of the scandal (for example, emissions mitigation solutions or alternatives to diesel such as gas, battery electric and hydrogen vehicles)?

Expert speakers will include:
Karl Markus Doerr – Managing Director, Ricardo Strategic Consulting;
Jane Thomas – Global Sales Manager, Emissions Analytics;
Kerry-Anne Adamson – Founder, 4thEnergyWave
Dennis Hayter – Vice President, Government & External Programmes, Intelligent Energy;

The event will also include investment presentations by companies in the ‘automotive cleantech’ sector which are seeking funding. Companies presenting will include:
Tevva Motors (innovative electric van company);
Zapinamo (movable electric vehicle charging technology developer);
Rotovane (low carbon petrol engine technology based upon a high power exhaust energy system).

Note that accredited investors may attend for free.
Please register on the Cleantech Investor platform as an investor and/or contact them if you wish to be considered for a free delegate pass.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)



If we don’t confront climate change, we won’t end poverty
Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

The Paris Agreement, coal and Ms. Meier

February 2016

As received from Marion Vieweg —  marion.vieweg at current-future.org via lists.iisd.ca

Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.

Curious? Read the full story at: current-future.org/index.php/25-b…
Best regards,

Marion

And here it is:

Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.

One of the successes of Paris is the joint commitment to a complete change in our energy systems. The common goal to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” provides a strong political signal. It also calls for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” This will only be possible with a swift transition towards a fully decarbonized energy system.

To achieve the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, all sectors will need to contribute. Here are a number of reasons, why this discussion focuses on the electricity sector and specifically on coal-fired power generation:

Electricity is currently the largest emitting part of the energy sector in most countries;
Over 40% of global electricity is produced with coal, with a total increase of coal production from 3 Gt in the 1970s to over 8 Gt in 2014[1];
The long investment time frames in the sector call for swift action to avoid missing the GHG goals or generating stranded assets;
Coal mining and power generation often dominates the economic structure in the region, leading to specific challenges.

Up to now, the impressive growth in renewable electricity generation has mostly addressed additional demand from growing economies. Renewable technologies instead of fossil fuel power plants formed part of new capacity built. For most countries event this is already a challenge. In 2014, only 45% of new power production capacity added globally came from renewable sources. In 2012 the World Resources Institute estimated that 1,199 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1,401,268 MW were being proposed globally. These numbers highlight the magnitude of the challenge. Even in Germany, home to the famous ‘Energiewende,’ new coal-fired power plants are in planning[2].

If we are taking the Paris Agreement seriously, then we need to not only satisfy additional demand with zero-carbon technologies, but need to start changing existing generation systems. To some extent, this can happen ‘naturally’ by closing down coal fired power plants at the end of their technical lifetime and replacing the capacity with renewable technologies. But in most countries, including Germany, this will not be enough, given the number of plants that went online in the last years and will go online in the next few years, and which have a technical lifetime well beyond the 2050s.

So why should Ms. Meier care?

Ms. Meier lives close to the Polish border in one of the three main lignite mining areas in Germany. Lignite has been mined in the area since the 1850s. The first power plant went online in 1894. Open pit mining has dramatically transformed the landscape and relocated a multitude of villages and towns. The region delivered the bulk of the energy fuelling the economy during the existence of the GDR. The sector has been the foundation of the economy for over a century and is deeply engrained in the regional identity. Today, only around 8,000 people actually work in the sector in the area, compared to more than 10 times as many in 1989. Still, salaries in the sector are significantly above average and make an important contribution to the local economy. Ms. Meier has a part-time job in a small engineering firm. Her husband works in one of the coal mining operations, as did his father and grandfather. They are afraid to lose their jobs if the mining and coal power generation ends, and wonder if their two children will have a future in the area or if they, like so many others have already done, will need to move away.

Economic studies show the benefits of renewables and energy efficiency technology to society. They are important and demonstrate the benefits to society as a whole. However, they rarely take a more detailed look at the regional and local level. This is where it starts to get difficult: The new jobs they create may or may not be in the same regions and may or may not require similar skills to those jobs that are lost. From an economic perspective at the national level this may not matter – from a societal, political and regional perspective it does. It also changes how we need to communicate, support and steer the transition.

Ms. Meier’s employer is member of a local initiative that promotes the continuation of lignite mining and power generation in the area. He is afraid that the closing of the lignite operations will damage overall economic activity, making his business unprofitable, causing his 15 employees to lose their jobs. The initiative runs a website, lobbies politicians and organizes public events. This is one of the many examples how fear creates resistance to change.

Many, who are directly affected, like Ms. Meier, fear for their jobs and well-being. Others fear for their profits while some just feel generally insecure of what this change will mean for their lives. In total, this often leads to a situation where decisions to close down old power plants or mines or not approving new ones will politically be impossible. We need to recognize that these fears are legitimate and that we need to address them seriously, appropriately and with respect – without compromising on the final goal: a full decarbonisation of the electricity sector.

If we don’t take the legitimate fears of people like Ms. Meier, her husband and the millions like them around the world seriously, Paris will fail to deliver.

Clear political signals for a phase-out of coal-fired power generations are only a first step. Politicians will find it difficult to send those signals, with strong local opposition rooted in fear. To overcome this and create a positive dynamic we need to consider five principles:

Build strong stakeholder coalitions at the regional level, involving everybody affected and all interest groups to define realistic phase-out scenarios: Yes, it is hard, but there is no way around talking WITH rather than AGAINST each other. A lot of time, energy and resources are currently used on all sides to generate biased information to inform public and politicians to promote individual vested interests. All sides need to work together and agree on basic facts that allow to start discussing SOLUTIONS rather than PROBLEMS.

Facilitate stakeholders to create an individual vision for a development that works in the given context: The solutions will, by necessity, be individual and different for each affected region. It is essential that all interest groups and stakeholders in a region define the vision as well as the steps required to get there. This allows tapping their detailed knowledge and experience, this way creating realistic pathways and ensuring ownership and commitment in implementation.

Tailor support instruments to the individual vision: The standard solution for policy-related structural change is to create a fund. This is a bit like creating a working group, when you are not sure what else to do, and then hope they come up with something useful. Money for required changes is certainly an important element to support regions. It will, however, not be effective, if not used in a targeted way and with a clear and realistic vision to guide activities. Additional support may be required, depending on the vision, including changes in the legal and regulatory framework or cooperation with other regions.

Learn from experiences: Structural change is not a new phenomenon. Especially the coal-mining sector has seen multiple changes over the last century due to economic shifts, through mines being mined out or becoming economically unviable. While these processes were often slow and thus easier to adjust to, some were rapid, like the changes in economic structure in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. But also other sectors have seen major changes, resulting in whole regions needing to readjust. The textile industry in large parts of Europe is one example for similar large-scale structural change that affects whole regions. We need to look at experiences made with such processes within the sector, but also learn from other sectors and across borders. The fundamental challenge of re-orienting the economy in a region remains the same. We need to look more closely at what worked, what didn’t and – most importantly – why.

Develop new business models together with utilities and customers: Utilities and companies operating coal mines and coal-fired power plants are naturally opposed to phase-out plans, as it promises to cut profits and requires changes to well-established activities. We need to acknowledge that these companies provide work for a lot of people and electricity to important parts of our societies. Their expertise on the functioning of the electricity system is vital for ensuring stable systems. We need to make them part of the solution, with a clear vision on their future role in a new system. This requires to let go of cherished stereotypes on both sides and the will to overcome differences to create something new and better for the benefit of all.

Germany, as all other countries, is only at the starting point of this new road. Globally, we need to start changing existing systems, not only adding on some renewables. A recent proposal to bring all stakeholders together in a coal ‘round table’ for Germany is a good starting point. If this process can also manage to address the regional challenges posed through the required structural change in a bottom-up process that involves all stakeholders, it has the potential to become a role model for other countries and regions that are facing similar problems globally.

If we take all concerns seriously and invite stakeholders to help shape their future rather than only react and block, we might – just – make it in time to prevent the worst effects of climate change and make the Paris Agreement a lasting success.

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

Overview of Research at IIASA

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

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

These three global problem areas were defined as:

Energy and Climate Change
Food and Water
Poverty and Equity

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

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

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

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

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

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