Archive for the ‘Energy & Environment’ Category

24
Nov

There’s No Clear Solution in Iran

Written on November 24, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Energy & Environment, Middle East, Security

<p>Will we get more than a handshake between John Kerry and <span>Mohammad </span>Javad Zarif?</p>
 Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

In the anticipatory tumult leading up to Monday’s putative climax of the Iran nuclear talks, it’s become easy to forget that there is no truly satisfactory solution to the problem posed by the Tehran regime’s deep desire to reach the nuclear threshold. (The most likely outcome of the talks, I’m hearing this week, is that there will be an agreement to continue talking.)

There are two main camps in the West focused on the negotiations. The first includes the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, much of the U.S. foreign-policy elite and most European governments. This group believes that a negotiated settlement with Iran will more or less guarantee that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and the ayatollahs who will succeed him (Khamenei is not a young man) will never find themselves within easy reach of the bomb. This pro-negotiation camp believes that a treaty could perpetually keep Iran a year away from going nuclear. The more Utopian of these advocates for a negotiated solution think that a nuclear treaty will also spark a process of liberalization inside Iran. The capitalists among them believe — with greater proof than the Utopians — that a treaty will open a large market that sanctions has put off-limits.

The other, opposing, camp, in essence believes that no deal the Iranians would ever accede to would be good enough. This group includes the Israeli government, most Arab governments (the Arabs, not the Jews, are the traditional rivals of Persian Iran), Iranian dissidents (who loathe the cruel and authoritarian Iranian regime) and much of the U.S. Congress. This camp believes that a deal, should it be reached, will enshrine Iran’s right to a nuclear program in international law — an idea it finds an anathema. It thinks that Iran, once sanctions are lifted, will rebuild its economy and then ignore its nuclear obligations. It believes that the Iranian government is probably already cheating and obfuscating in its effort to go nuclear, and will redouble these efforts once a deal is signed. This group thinks that sanctions, combined with the credible threat of force, are the only means to keep Iran from going nuclear.

Both camps make strong arguments. But evidence suggests that each is wrong to think it possesses the foolproof solution to a nuclear challenge. Read more…

Published by Jeffrey Goldberg on Nov. 21 in http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-11-21/theres-no-solution-in-iran

27
Oct

 

Evans Wadongo_21102014 (41)

Written By Matthew Pelton, IE Master in International Relations Student, 2014/2015 Intake

 

Kenyan entrepreneur Evans Wadongo, the Founder and Executive Director of Sustainable Development for All (SDFA), conducted a seminar with the MIR class on Tuesday 21 October.  Mr. Wadongo discussed his entrepreneurial journey from rural Kenya to the world stage, as an accomplished social entrepreneur recognized as a CNN Hero and Schwab Foundational Social Entrepreneur of the Year for the widespread impact of his solar lantern enterprise.  Building off the MIR’s Base of the Pyramid workshop, the session addressed the power of innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa and discussed the changing relations within Africa and between Africa and the world.  The session concluded with interactive Q&A on recent course topics, and MIR student Matt Pelton provided context based on his previous work experiences at the African Leadership Network.

Innovation and Opportunities

As economic growth continues, and the “Africa Rising” story garners attention, there are questions whether social development is following closely behind.  The UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) might provide a different perspective.  The continent’s largest economy, Nigeria, ranks very low (#152 out of 187) based on the most recent HDI data.  As such, there still is a need for African entrepreneurs to create social impact through their businesses.  With foreign aid and government initiatives further removed from the needs and opportunities in local communities, Mr. Wadongo emphasized the significant opportunity to build innovative, local solutions from the bottom up. Using savings from his student loan, Mr. Wadongo developed a simple solution to a widespread problem.  He grew up in rural Kenya and developed eye sight problems at a young age due to kerosene oil.  His solar lanterns are made from recycled materials and provide a sustainable and healthier alternative to more expensive kerosene lanterns.  SDFA’s innovative business model provides solar lanterns on loan to women, who then use their kerosene savings to start businesses that support their households.  SDFA provides capacity-building support to the women entrepreneurs and to the unemployed youth that are trained to build the low-cost lanterns. Africa has become a growing hub for technology entrepreneurs in recent years (World Bank blog), but innovation can be found in sectors beyond technology and energy, such as financial services, agriculture, and education.  Examples provided in the seminar included a nano-lending mobile platform based in Kenya, an organic fertilizer made from bat droppings found in Madagascar caves, and an innovative chain of low-cost African universities, among others.  The continent’s population is rapidly growing, and UNICEF believes the youth population (under 18 years) will grow to nearly 1 billion by 2050.  Entrepreneurship and related education initiatives will play a key role in ensuring that unemployment is minimized through sufficient job creation.  With proper education and job opportunities, youth will be less likely to join rebel groups and extremist terrorism organizations, which recently has become a threat to local and international security.  

Read more…

24
Sep

UN climate summit: China pledges emissions action

Written on September 24, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Energy & Environment, News

 

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli speaks at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, 23 September 2014

China has pledged for the first time to take firm action on climate change, telling a UN summit that its emissions, the world’s highest, would soon peak.

Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli also said China would make its economy much more carbon efficient by 2020. US President Barack Obama said climate change was moving faster than efforts to address it, and the US and China had a responsibility to lead other nations. The summit was the largest high-level climate meeting since 2009. Hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, it aimed to encourage 120 member states to sign up to a comprehensive new global climate agreement at talks in Paris next year. As he closed the summit, Mr Ban hailed the meeting, saying “never before have so many leaders gathered to commit to action on climate change”.

US President Barack Obama walks past a sign before speaking at the Climate Summit at the UN headquarters in New York  (23 September 2014)
Mr Obama said the world needed to follow a new course in the battle against climate change

The UN has previously warned that the impacts of global warming are likely to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible”, leading to problems such as sea level rises, greater flood risks and changes to crop yields. Mr Zhang told the summit that by 2020, China would aim to reduce its emissions of carbon per unit of GDP by 45%, compared with levels in 2005. He said China wanted to have emissions peak “as early as possible”. “As a responsible major country, a major developing country, China will make even greater effort to address climate change,” Mr Zhang said. “All countries need to follow the path of green and low carbon development that suits their national conditions, [and] set forth post-2020 actions in light of actual circumstances.” Correspondents say it is the first time China has said it is willing to take firm action to cut carbon emissions. However, Chinese President Xi Jinping was not at the summit, held before the formal start of the UN General Assembly session.

 Speaking earlier, Mr Obama said that he had spoken to Mr Zhang, with the pair agreeing that the world’s two biggest emitters “have a responsibility to lead”, but that all nations must play a part. The “urgent and growing threat of climate change” would ultimately “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other” issue, he added.
Read more… Published on Sept. 24 in http://www.bbc.com/news/world-29334807
22
May

How Putin Won Big in China

Written on May 22, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Energy & Environment, Op Ed

Done deal.&nbsp;Photographer: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved what Western leaders feared: He has cut a big, long-term deal to supply natural gas to China, a pivot to the East that makes Russia much less vulnerable to whatever sanctions the West might impose.

The gas contract had been 10 years in preparation, mostly because the parties haggled relentlessly over the price. The parameters of the deal made public by Alexey Miller, chief executive officer of Russia’s near-monopoly gas producer, Gazprom, suggest the final price will be roughly $10 per million British thermal units. That is less than Russia may have wished for, but about as much as it makes sense for China to pay. Data from Platts suggest that the weighted average price of gas from Myanmar, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan came to about $10.14 last year. This year, Gazprom expects to export its gas at the average price of $10.62 per million Btu, but traditional consumers in Europe are trying to bargain it down.

Crucially, the deal opens up a major new market in case Europeans make good on their threat to cut their dependence on Russian gas supplies. China has signed up to import 38 billion cubic meters per year, more than its total 2013 pipeline imports (they reached 27.7 billion cubic meters) and about 20 percent of Russia’s 2013 export volume. China can easily take more, too. The country currently gets two-thirds of its energy from coal, which it is eager to replace with gas for environmental reasons. The current gas imports are a drop in the bucket compared with the potential market size.

Two more bonus points: It’s likely that China will help Russia finance the enormous infrastructure investment — estimated at more than $30 billion — required to uphold its end of the deal, and China will probably be paying in renminbi, making the deal safe from any Western sanctions.

A joint statement signed ahead of the deal sounds like an anti-Western pact. Echoing the Russian position on the Ukraine crisis, it contains this thinly veiled invective against U.S. and EU policies:

The parties stress the necessity of respecting nations’ historic heritage, their cultural traditions and their independent choice of sociopolitical system, value system and development path, of counteracting interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, of rejecting the language of unilateral sanctions, or organizing, aiding, financing or encouraging activity aimed at changing the constitutional system of another country or drawing it into any multilateral bloc or union.

Coupled with a spate of smaller contracts and agreements, this is all Putin could have wished for. China apparently sees no downside to strengthening its partnership with Russia. It is getting a reliable source of much-needed energy, calm along a 2,600-mile border and easier terms for companies wishing to invest in Russia’s vast natural resources. As for the West, it is dependent on China to produce its industrial goods and maintain a high level of investment in its public debt. Beijing is unlikely to suffer any political fallout from embracing Putin when he’s a pariah in Western capitals.

Putin, for his part, is virtually assured of coming out a winner from his Crimea adventure. The alliance with China allows him to crawl off into the reeds like a sated crocodile. He is no longer hungry, for the moment, and there is no immediate threat of total isolation. The only problem for him is that China is clearly the stronger partner in the alliance: The Beijing talks were politically much more important for Putin than for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Russia could end up China’s satellite if it does not at least partially rebuild a relationship with the West. That, however, is a problem Putin can deal with later.

 

By Leonid Bershidsky; Published on May 21, 2014

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-05-21/how-putin-won-big-in-china

8
May

gonzalo

 

On Tuesday 6  May, Dr. Gonzalo Escribano , Director of the Energy Programme at the El Cano Royal Institute for International Relations, gave a highly engaging talk on the geopolitics of energy. The first part of his seminar addressed oil and hydrocarbons. MIR students were informed that Saudi Arabia was not only the largest oil producer but also had the largest export surplus in the world. More importantly, they are the only country with a spare capacity of 1,5 mbd to 5 mbd (million barrels a day) which in effect turns them into the “lender of last resort” for oil. If for X reason, Libya or Venezuela decided to cut off their production, Saudi Arabia is the only country that could effectively step in and fill the gap in oil production. This gives them a lot of power and leverage in energy politics as they are the only nation that can provide this public good and essentially stabilize the oil market. The gas market is mostly dominated by Russia and the US with their new shale gas extractions.  In all still 82% of the world’s energy consumption is based on hydrocarbons and renewable energy is but a small part of the mix. This is because renewable energies are still not price competitive and also because most countries do not have coherent energy policies. As long as this is the case, hydrocarbons are here to stay.  In the coming years most of the energy demand will come Asia, mainly from China and India. Dr. Es cribano also discussed energy poverty ( 20% of the world lacks access to electricity) and the fact that there is a tradeoff between protecting the environment and fighting climate change and providing access to energy in developing countries. The UN is trying to reconcile both aspects of sustainable development and growth and have created an initiative called Sustainable Energy for all. To conclude, Dr. Escribano mentioned  a few energy hot spots in the world and focused on Ukraine. Russia is now hesitating between providing energy to Europe or Asia. If it decides to cut off gas from Europe because of the conflict in Ukraine, China will decide that it is not a reliable energy supplier and this could cause tension with Russia’s Asian partners. Putin will have to be very careful and tactical in his energy politics.

Students had many questions for Dr. Escribano and their interest highlighted the importance of energy in geopolitics today.

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