Friday 27 February 2015

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Sustainable Dev.


EU renewables shortfall to be put out to tender?

Posted by on 16/02/15

How can you make sure you hit an EU-wide binding target for renewable energy, if you don’t have binding targets at the national level?

It’s a problem Commission officials have struggled with since the 2030 climate and energy targets were agreed by EU leaders last October.

Heard in Europe hears tell that one renewable energy company has come up with a solution – putting the shortfall out to tender.

Imagine the EU doesn’t look like making the binding 27% of renewables across the Union because member states aren’t being forced to hit their non-binding national target of at least 27%.

In that case, a body – most likely the Commission – will open up the remaining percentage to bids from renewable companies across the EU.

It will select the best offers, and through that process make sure the EU meets its green commitments.

We understand that this idea is being looked at by officials, but our sources tell us “it is extremely early days”.

Indeed, no one at the Commission was prepared to go on the record about the plan at this stage.

Confidence in the Commission’s ability to fight climate change through market mechanisms remains shaky, following the failure of its EU’s Emissions Trading System.

ETS was meant to be a cornerstone of the fight against climate change. But the market for emissions allowances collapsed after a huge surplus of the permits was handed out.


Photograph courtesy of Russell Smith. Published under a Creative Commons license.

Mobility matters

Posted by on 09/02/15

That the title of this post has a certain truth in it is undisputable. Flexibility has always been a high good, not only because of our daily commute and work related trips, but also for all of our private movements. The ability to participate online in an event, even in our daily work (i.e. telecommuting), saves us a lot of travelling, but in spite of this, the necessity to travel in person will always be there.


Are we (stuck in) the traffic?

There are a few major modes of transport available for our everyday choice to accomplish a trip between A and B. However, one thing is common whether people drive a car, use public transportation, make their way by bicycle or simply walk: A certain dissatisfaction by people using those modes is always noticeable. You might recall such situations when you got stuck in the traffic jam with your car or an unabashed biker nearly hit you, the pedestrian, while both of you used the shared (walk – cycle) pathway. Many of those dissatisfactions are justified by circumstances and some are even justified by scientific evidence. The author of this blog post takes a closer look on the space which is given to different modes of transport in three international cities.

What can ‘sustainability’ bring?

Sustainable mobility is one of the important pillars in Horizon 2020, the EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme in 2014-2020. Other funds like EUREKA clusters, Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI) and Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) are also available to boost sustainable transport all over Europe. But some of you might have actually wondered what the practical value of past and present sustainable mobility projects is and if it really changed conditions for us as the recipients!

The sector of cycling certainly takes only a small portion within the entire sustainable mobility range. Yet, it is a very popular element when it comes to changing conditions and making (urban) passenger transport more sustainable. Many projects have been implemented and efforts have been taken in Europe and all around the world by local authorities, private institutions and voluntary associations to improve cycling conditions and engage people in cycling. Below you will find two examples among a multitude of past and present projects in the sector:

  • The EU project Catch MR which was undertaken back in 2012 has led to significant improvements regarding the cycling infrastructure in and around the city of Budapest.
  • Active sustainable mobility policies from the city of Koprivnica under the EU CIVITAS initiative has yield great support of the local society for cycling and walking.

Designed for all of us

Now it’s our turn to respond to such kinds of projects and share those endeavours. I am sure that if we look around in our village, town or city we will find (at least sections of) suitable cycling paths and/or infrastructure. Why not considering such sections for a bicycle ride and trying to integrate them into one of our trips? Cycling is not only beneficial for a more pleasant and liveable environment but it brings about very attractive health benefits as well.


Fighting addiction to smoking and fossil energy

Posted by on 27/01/15

Mankind is exposed to two mortal addictions: smoking and burning fossil energy.

In recent years Europe and other industrialised countries have started coming to grips with them while emerging countries have seen both addictions worsen.

Germany is a case in point for a successful campaign against the two plagues.

Within two decades the number of cigarettes sold has halved from 150 to 76 billion. This stunning development is attributable to civil society campaigns and a doubling of excise taxes.

People have progressively realised that smoking is mortal. Advertising for cigarettes has been prohibited. Teenagers can no longer admire their film stars smoking on the screen. Smoking has been made practically impossible within closed doors; after initial opposition from bar and restaurant owners everybody now seems happy with non- smoker establishments. Non-Smoking has become “cool”.

Something similar is  happening with fossil fuels. Becoming “green” has become fashionable, and massive public financial support has reinforced this trend. Talking about technologies for improved heating insulating buildings has become common. Germany, Denmark and Spain, have become the trend setters

But it has taken three decades to see positive results, which is normal considering the complexities of the challenge.

We should draw three lessons from these developments:

  • It is possible for societies to liberate themselves from their addictions.But it takes political will and a lot of time and effort to do so.
  • Only a combination of social “persuasion” and financial incentives will do the job. Citizens have to understand why they should burn less fossil energy and stop smoking
  • Heads of government should reflect on these simple lessons when doing their homework for the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015.

Brussels 27.01.2015 Eberhard Rhein


Governments must hurry and tax ultra-cheap oil

Posted by on 25/01/15

International oil prices have declined to $ 50/barrel, levels not seen for years; but governments fail to neutralise these ultra-low prices by raising excise taxes. They seem to be much more interested in pleasing consumers than in seizing the opportunity for reducing their budget deficits and fighting climate change.

This is irresponsible! Have governments completely stopped being guided by long-term concerns. Are they no longer able to be flexible?

Why have we not heard calls from IEA or OCDE to resort to higher oil taxation?

Why does the UN in charge of the December Climate Conference in Paris remain silent? Should a rise or the introduction of excise taxes on gasoline, diesel and heating fuels not a be a simple “contribution” against climate change which it has invited all governments to submit before the Paris Climate Conference ?

Why has the EU Commission not recommended member states to raise their taxes ?

If it takes so long to decide on a simple excise tax, how long will it take governments to take more complex action against climate change?

In a rapidly changing world, governments must learn to act much faster than last century!

Brussels 25.01.2015 Eberhard Rhein

All aboard? Paris climate deal must address aviation and shipping

Posted by on 22/01/15

By Andrew Murphy, Transport & Environment’s aviation policy officer

The latest round of climate talks concluded in Lima last month with a sense that some of the basics have been agreed to set the foundations of a global agreement in Paris next year.

While the final outcome fell short of expectations, all parties seem to have accepted in principal the need to curb their emissions to keep an increase in global temperature below 2C.

However, the two international sectors, aviation and shipping – the emissions of which have not been allocated to parties – seem to be the exception. Together, international aviation and shipping emissions account for 5.3 per cent of global CO2 emissions – equivalent to being the sixth largest nation state CO2 emitter. A failure at Paris to recognise the need for these sectors to contribute to keeping within the 2 degree target would be remarkable.

Parties to the Kyoto Protocol were unable to reach agreement on how to address emissions from these sectors, and instead delegated responsibility to the UN agencies responsible – the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for shipping and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for aviation. Progress by both bodies since then has been painfully slow. ICAO is working to a 2016 target date to agree a global market-based measure (MBM) based on carbon neutral growth to take effect in 2020. The IMO has agreed a design efficiency standard for new ships but has no overall reduction target and is not even discussing one. In this regard, two developments at Lima may be significant.

The first is that countries re-iterated that by, March 2015, they all should ideally submit an INDC (Intended Nationally Defined Contribution) – which would include information on how each country will limit its greenhouse gas emissions. All 190 countries that are part of the UNFCCC process are encouraged to outline what action they will take. We can then compare these commitments – developed and developing – with what the ICAO and IMO has pledged to do.

The second is that the annex of the negotiation text for a new climate deal includes a reference to net zero emissions of carbon by 2050. This proposal was supported by many countries. It is uncertain if this reference will survive negotiations over the final text to be agreed in Paris, but it sends a clear signal to businesses and governments about the path we are on.

So far aviation and shipping commitments fall well short of complete decarbonisation by 2050: international shipping is expected to increase its emissions by up to 250 per cent by 2050, according to its own report released earlier this year. Discussions at the IMO on any MBM have been frozen for three years and the organisation and industry seem to think they have a licence to grow their emissions.

International aviation is growing three to four per cent per annum and could see its emissions increase 400 per cent between 2006 and 2050. The global MBM that ICAO is discussing will at best offset emissions above a 2020 baseline but whether such offsets represent real emissions reductions is a fundamental question hanging over the whole process. A major gap seems to be developing between the ambition of the UNFCCC and its 190 members on the one hand, and the IMO and ICAO on the other hand.

Though international aviation and shipping managed to escape serious attention in Peru, a number of states called for their inclusion by requiring the Paris agreement to cover all global GHG emissions. Member states in both ICAO and IMO should recognise that momentum is shifting behind a meaningful agreement in Paris and they should act to ensure the ambition of the aviation and shipping sectors matches that of the rest of the world.

Boeing and Embraer deepen sustainable biofuel collaboration

Posted by on 20/01/15

Boeing and Brazilian aerospace firm Embraer announced the opening of a joint centre for sustainable biofuel research in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil. Through this centre, the companies will coordinate and jointly fund research at Brazilian universities and other institutions, with a special focus on how to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in Brazil.

The collaboration will be led by Boeing Research & Technology-Brazil (BR&T-Brazil), one of Boeing’s six international advanced research centers. Boeing also has active biofuel-development projects in the United States, Middle East, Africa, Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and Australia. Globally, more than 1,600 passenger flights using sustainable aviation biofuel have been conducted since it was first approved for use in 2011.

“Boeing and Embraer, two of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, are partnering in an unprecedented way to make more progress on sustainable aviation biofuel than one company can do alone,” says Donna Hrinak, president of Boeing Brazil and Boeing Latin America.

When produced sustainably, aviation biofuels can reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 80 per cent compared to conventional jet fuel. On the EU policy side, Boeing urges the new Commission and European Parliament to focus on policy measures that can support aviation biofuels development and commercialisation.


The Real Value of Arctic Resources

Posted by on 18/01/15

By Nina Jensen, Secretary General of WWF-Norway

As the annual Arctic Frontiers meeting starts in Tromso Norway, much of the talk and media coverage will once again be centred on Arctic resources. This is usually code for oil and gas development in the Arctic, and the potential geopolitical conflict over the exploitation of these resources. This focus is entirely misguided.

The Arctic’s most significant renewable resources are ice and snow. The ice and snow in the Arctic reflect significant amounts of the sun’s energy. As we lose that reflective shield, the Arctic absorbs more solar energy. A warming Arctic warms the entire planet, causing billions of dollars’ worth of avoidable damage, displacing millions of people, and throwing natural systems into disarray. We continually undervalue the critical role of the Arctic is shielding us from wrenching change. Instead, we ironically look to it as a source of the very hydrocarbons that are melting away the Arctic shield.

Apart from the question of whether we should be developing hydrocarbon resources anywhere in the world, let us look at the question of specifically developing them in the Arctic, which in many cases means the offshore Arctic, under the ocean.

We know there are no proven effective methods of cleaning up oil spills in ice, especially in mobile ice. Even without ice, the effects of a spill in Arctic conditions will linger for decades. Oil from the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska still pollutes beaches, more than 25 years later. We know that drilling for oil in the offshore Arctic is extremely risky – just look at the mishaps that Shell has encountered in the last couple of years in its attempts to drill off the Alaskan Coast. So there is a high risk of mishap, and no proven effective method of cleaning up after such a mishap. No matter what the price of oil, $50 or $200 a barrel, is it worth the risk?

We do not need to make the same mistakes in the Arctic as we have made elsewhere. We can instead use the Arctic as a proving ground for greener, cleaner technologies. Tidal power, wind power, hydro power, all have potential in the Arctic. The Arctic, with its smaller population centres is ideal for smaller scale technologies to produce such renewable power.  Such local power generation can create local jobs, and make Arctic communities more self-sufficient, able to withstand the fluctuations in price of petroleum-based fuels that will eventually bankrupt them.

This message is not just coming from WWF. If you look at the US government plans for its chair of the Arctic Council starting later this year, it also recognizes the value of replacing fossil fuels with community-based renewable power sources – it also just put the valuable fishery of Bristol Bay off limits to oil and gas development. So it’s not just NGOs and Arctic peoples who are questioning the value of fossil fuels in the Arctic, versus the real value of the Arctic to the world – as a regulator of our global climate.



Culture, ethics & information understimate factors of economic development

Posted by on 12/01/15

The situation

In the Economic policy measures , especially in the last years, it has been given a lot of emphasis to some impediments that block both the development policies and the employment . Among the referred obstacles appears: adverse international economic situation , safety , inefficient infrastructure, quality of public administration , labor flexibility , fair tax policy . Against this situation , trying to emulate the successes achieved in other Western countries , the measures put in place by some other Governments, have been focused primarily on quantitative measures, underestimating the capacity to react to these measures of the social system respect that one of other Western countries.

Basically it was said, ” in the USA, Holland, England , or in some areas of these countries , the stress of some economic variables , in a hypothetical “conventional” development econometric model, have led to results in terms of growth and has allowed to improve the competitiveness of the system … So … let’s do it ..! ”

Some Governments did it ..or tried to do it … . but the results did not come and for some countries .. even today the situation , unfortunately, is not better than that one of five years ago.

Indeed .. in front of a positive increase in the number of small businesses and thus in front of an employment in small businesses sector, for aexample.. our country Italy, suffered a decrease in employment in large companies, an increase in the social conflict and a significant decrease of the competitiveness in international rankings . A deterioration , the last, very serious in our economy as it incorporates a structural and not cyclical deterioration which will impact on the future of our country. The same situation happen in other weak countries of Eurozone … and .. imagine in other weak countries !!!

Think that the competitiveness of enterprises and social development in a country or in a particular “weak” Area , can be implemented only through the emulation of successful economic policies implemented in other countries, is not only true, but it hides oversimplified and outdated economic thinking.

The phenomena of particular European or American regions economic policy success, which certainly constitute an unequivocal reality to look at, to learn about and be inspired , we must not forget that in these places has been possible thanks to a civil confrontation among the parts, thanks to a civil social context , thanks to a ” cultural infrastructure ” of IDEAS and MENTALITY ‘ , thanks to an intense policy of developing Human Resources , thanks to a strong attention to’ Ethics in Business and in Politics.

These “qualitative ” factors that has been built in these places out from grueling political mediations, out of a systemic inattention and tolerance of lawlessness and injustice environment, like any other factor of production , have been constitute a fundamental Asset ,, let’s say a “Treasure ” of inestimable importance for regional development and local business competitiveness , especially in the long period .

Cultural Infrastructure , Ethics and Information are the new strategic factors of development

Today it’s therefore required , if you do not want to persevere in the failure of “conventional” economic policy measures , to develop and support a new model of economic development that takes into account in its simulations also new variables such as ” Cultural infrastructure” , Ethics and other qualitative factors … the weight of these “social” variable have gained a more and more importance and considerable value respect the most popular economic variables such as ” taxation “, ” wage flexibility ” and so on.

This is mainly becouse the accelleration in the last years of an incredible Worldwide sophistication of the Economic development process.

Do overshadowing these variables (ie, consider the factor ” cultural infrastructure ” and the Ethics, as only words to brush up in opportunistic speeches of circumstance or as values to try to give depth to a political party program ) and therefore not support their huge function generating mechanism of development, in a modern design statement , not only will lead to attempts to invalidate economic policy (and thus wasting resources and time ), but will lead to a further deterioration of another fundamental crucial component of development : the expectation of economic operators and the credibility of the country.

Politics responsibilities

A crucial role in this game must be played by Politics, by Politicians and then by the Government, the government parties and all political parties in general, which should start to give an example. The “traditional” parties can not fail to notice the credibility gap they have created around them, both at national and international level , for reasons related to the problem of justice, of corruption that since the fall of ideologies seem to constitute a fisiological condition to get vote .. The Political Parties seems not capable any more to select ruling class especially at intermediate level becouse the need to favourite clientelism and corporative interest . The parties and therefore Politics are dependent too much from the vote system and from corporative interests that are not any more helpful to the satisfation of general interest of the countries and of the worldwide economy .

Negative expectations , doubts , and this loss of credibility and trust in the political institutional apparatuses are now a strong weight deterring factors for the development as they not only undermine the possibility of emersion of all qualitative economic components of the ” cultural infrastructure, but also cut business relations with more efficient components of the social system, with international partners , and in fact encourage the emersion and entrenchment in the social system of all the other qualitatively negative components ( dishonesty, corruption, corporatism, not professionalism, improvisation , subculture etc. .. etc. .. ) , closing the single countries in a negative vicious circle of pauperization.

These considerations, which affected public opinion and newspapers and television on and off and only during some election campaign , assume today a greater value as greater is the level of the modernization and communication of the country to which they refer becouse also the higher level of influence that (either directly or indirectly foreign investors ) lead also and above all on our productive system and enterprises.

For these reasons, the combination Ethics and Politics can no longer be considered only as an object of electoral campaingn debate , but it should be seriously considered as a “fundamental” and strategy factor to include in a model of economic development .

Basically the Politics today must be made more seriously than in the past because it is not only the political decision (ie the one that determines the address of the strategic choices made by the government in different sectors) but it is mostly the Ethics embodied by political class and by the government that make the difference to gain positive effects on the long term economic development .

Francesco Totino

Rome, April 7, 2003

ps i wrote these remarks ages ago .. but still nothing happens

3 lessons learned from an 8-year battle for cleaner fuels in Europe

Posted by on 12/01/15

By Nusa Urbancic, Transport & Environment‘s energy programme manager.

We live in a world where governments struggle to address climate change. Scientific advice on what needs to be done to stop warming our planet is very clear: stop burning fossil fuels. Even the rather conservative International Energy Agency (IEA) agrees: we need to leave more than two-thirds of proven oil reserves in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. It would seem logical that we start with the dirtiest and costliest oil, euphemistically dubbed ‘unconventional oil’. But logic does not always guide political decisions – they are often more about power, influence and how many bucks someone has to oil the lobbying machine. The Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) – a EU law devised to reduce the carbon footprint of transport fuels – is the latest victim of the power of vested interests over science and the common good.

We have worked on the FQD from the start and have always seen it as a smart piece of legislation. This is a law that could have been a technology-neutral way of bringing cleaner fuels to market without picking winners. Policymakers would only have to ensure that the carbon footprint of different fuels was aligned with the best available evidence and then let the market decide which fuels are worth investing in and which ones should be left in the ground. The scientific advice was unquestionable: the knowledge available was robust enough to label the significant variations in the carbon intensity of different fossil fuel sources, including higher values for fuels such as coal-to-liquid, tar sands, oil shale and gas-to-liquid.

Once again, the call of the scientific community fell on deaf ears: following almost eight years of heavy-handed lobbying by Canadathe US and oil majors, in October 2014 the Commission re-tabled a diluted proposal that fails to discourage oil companies from using and investing in the world’s dirtiest oil.

The European Parliament tried hard but failed to veto the watered-down proposal. Now EU countries can finally implement a law that was enacted in 2009 – it’s noteworthy that this was the last unimplemented law of the 2008 Climate and Energy package proposed by the first Barroso Commission. The result is rather poor: emissions from ‘unconventional’ fuels will not be properly accounted for, while the other critical part of the law – how we account for indirect emissions from biofuels – is still being discussed by the Parliament and the Council. In a perfect world, the FQD would follow the best available science and enable fuel suppliers to make their choices based on the true environmental impacts of fuels. In practice, we will probably see some ‘unconventionals’ coming to Europe and loads of unsustainable biofuels to meet the FQD’s 6% reduction target.

We take three key lessons from the lobbying battle:

1. The technology-neutral approach failed due to the massive amount of lobbying

First and foremost, the passing of this law marks the failure of the technology-neutral approach, which used to be quite a holy grail for the Commission. The technology-neutral approach looks great in theory: politicians just set targets, do not pick winners, all that needs to happen is for the science to get the numbers right and the market will do the right thing. But real life works with imperfections. It was impressive to see the amount of ‘evidence’ that was fabricated by businesses and third countries, chiefly Canada, to muddy the scientific waters. In a nutshell, they argued that either unconventional oil values or ILUC values were not the “right ones” or that there are other sectors that are equally bad or, in some cases, worse (for example, Russian oil). The Commission, who should have been the guardian of science, failed to defend its own research and impact assessment and caved in to special interests. This makes it very difficult for the Commission to publicly defend its technology neutrality. We think that the Commission should learn from the oil industry’s utter refusal to clean up their products. Much more emphasis should be placed on electrification of transport in combination with renewable electricity sources, which are truly domestic and truly sustainable – a no-regret option.

2. Trade deals threaten environmental legislation

The FQD is the first casualty of negotiations of free trade agreements with Canada (CETA) and with the US (TTIP). These negotiations have given these countries and their respective oil industries additional venues to influence the outcome of the FQD. While Canada was very candid about its intentions, stating publicly that it will not hesitate to defend its interests in front of the WTO, US officials were much more subtle. They publicly said that they were only concerned about the transparency of the process, but we have the evidence that they played a much dirtier game behind the scenes, pushing for the FQD to be weakened. The Commission dropped the ball because of this pressure, and not because the original proposal would have been too costly or too difficult to implement. It clearly shows that much more public scrutiny is needed on how trade negotiations impact on the democratic right of countries to regulate.

3. More democratic decision-making is needed

The peculiarity of the comitology procedure and the immense power that it gives to the Commission made it very difficult for progressive member states and the Parliament to improve the proposal. Once the Commission decided to weaken the FQD, the only thing the other two institutions could do was to veto it – with the risk of never getting anything better out of the Commission. There is a case to make this process more democratic – after all we are deciding on the future of the planet and not just a small technical issue, as is often the case in comitology. The same conclusion could apply to the process that led the Commission to unilaterally scrap the decarbonisation target for fuels post-2020 in its communication on 2030 climate and energy framework. They first got rid of the target and then used this decision to argue for weaker implementing measures until 2020.

How to move ahead

Perhaps it is too early to proclaim technology neutrality as dead. It is now up to the new Commission to decide whether they will revive the FQD after 2020 or not. In any case, there are some no-regrets measures that they can and should take. These are: an aggressive push for the electrification of transport; tougher efficiency standards for all vehicles; and finalisation of the reform of the biofuels policy including the phase-out of high-ILUC biodiesel. On oil it is clear that demand should be curtailed – transport is Europe’s biggest client for oil companies – and that the most polluting unconventional oil should stay in the ground. Reporting trade names in the FQD is the first step in this direction, but it should be strengthened and made mandatory in a way that oil companies are accountable for what they place on the market. With the commitment of at least a 40% domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by 2030, transport will have to cut its GHG emissions aggressively and there is no space for ever-dirtier fossil fuels in this equation.

Slowing population growth works against climate change

Posted by on 05/01/15

World population is expected to increase by one third until the middle of the century, from 7.3 to to 9.5 billion. This is bound to have a negative impact on climate change. Population will essentially continue growing in poor countries whose green house gas emissions are presently close to zero.

According to the “Lima Accord” all countries are committed to communicate their plans for reducing emissions before the end of March 2015.

For most African countries it would not make much sense to submit energy-related programmes, as their per capita emissions are minimal – generally far less than one ton. Their optimal contribution to the global fight against climate change should rather consist of lowering their excessive population growth.

Lowering population growth is in their interest. It facilitates necessary investments in health, education and socio-economic infrastructure and helps reducing structurally high unemployment.

It requires little public investment except for girl schools and medical teams for distributing contraceptives or sterilisations. External help, especially from the UN and the EU which has far too long ignored demography, should be available to all governments willing to tackle their population issue. Ethiopia and Rwanda are positive examples of what can be achieved.

The new bottom-up approach to climate change should offer a new opportunity for re-assessing the positive long-term contribution from smaller populations to mitigating climate change.

The UN should therefore invite all countries with fast population growth to also submit population programmes as a valid contribution to minimising climate change.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 30.12. 2014

Energy independence for Ukraine?

Posted by on 04/01/15
By Kaj Embrén Issues of energy efficiency and sustainable energy production may present the greatest opportunity for Kiev to seize control of its own fortunes. European investment can play a crucial role.

2015—Can We Make It Different?

Posted by on 18/12/14

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on where we are compared to where we want to be. A few days ago I came across a post by British MEP, Richard Corbett. He wrote about how the pragmatism of the EU is important for solving problems, but “when we focus exclusively on self-interested arguments, we risk forgetting the underlying motivation for what we do – and this is dangerous.”

Mr. Corbett describes three reasons why this is dangerous, and why we should avoid isolationism. I would like to focus on one particular suggestion that he makes there: “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up [about Europe] for the nonsense they are.”

The problems of self-interest and narrow nationalism that Mr. Corbett points to are definitely on target. And yet, merely pointing out the problem won’t make it disappear. The forces that push for segregation are far greater and deeper than meets the eye, and require a conscious effort on the part of many organizations working in sync to provide a sustainable, long term solution.

Self-interest is at the core of our society. It is the mindset of every society, even social-democratic ones. It is at the foundation of human nature. It is not bad in and of itself, but when idolized and cultivated to an extreme, it becomes nocuous. This is where we stand now on every level—personal, social, national, and international. We’re living in the Me, Me, Me, era, a culture of narcissism. But every therapist will tell you that narcissists don’t see reality for what it is. When the whole of the Western civilization is approaching that state, it is very dangerous indeed.

The cure, therefore, has to include steps toward reversing that trend and establishing a more cohesive society, where solidarity and mutual responsibility are deemed greater than self-promotion. I do subscribe to Corbett’s words that “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are.” And I believe that if we build an education program that gives people a personal experience of social cohesion, we won’t have to worry about narrow-minded nationalism, or any other narrow-minded self-centered approach.

At the ARI institute, we offer such a method, called Integral Education (IE), where people learn to communicate and relate to one another in a completely new way, and on a completely new level. We have implemented it all over the world, from the US to Europe, to the Middle East, and more often than not, in conflict weary societies. The results have been outstanding. Using a few simple rules of discussion, people discover, then cultivate, a new sense of kinship, and wish to preserve it.

The logic behind IE is simple: the world is interconnected and interdependent. Our values, on the other hand, are the complete opposite: self-indulgence, brutal competition, and alienation. By learning the new method of connection among us, we align ourselves with the reality of our lives. This eliminates the conflict between our need to feel superior (due to our ego-prone education) and the interdependent reality of life. When that happens, the “positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are,” as Corbett so nicely put it, emerges by itself, effortlessly.

I encourage you to visit my site, where you will find more information about IE, and please contact me for further discussion about promoting Europe toward a better, more united future.

May 2015 be a year of positive shifts for all of us.


What aviation means for growth

Posted by on 15/12/14

With Boeing’s support, the Euractiv Institute recently held a forum at the European Parliament on why aviation matters in order to draw the attention of EU policy-makers to aviation’s contribution to economic growth and the need for the appropriate policy framework in support of the aviation sector. The event attracted a broad range of stakeholders, including airline personnel, industry associations, aerospace manufacturers, and NGOs.

The forum was hosted by Marian-Jean Marinescu, MEP of Romania, who introduced the conversation by emphasising the contribution the aviation sector makes to job growth and economic mobility. Referring to the Single European Sky II Plus programme — which is currently in the co-decision process between the Parliament and EU member states — he expressed hope it can be completed in the next six months.

Emmanuelle Maire, the head of unit for internal aviation market and airports at the Commission’s Transport Directorate, also discussed aviation’s role in growth, which she called a catalyst for value production, generating 2.7 million direct and indirect jobs. Maire cautioned that aviation is not growing as fast in Europe as it is in other regions and called for the Commission to project an integrated vision for strong hubs, regional airports and airlines in the EU. However, Guillaume Xavier-Bender of the German Marshall Fund warned that the traditional US/EU business model for airlines, airports, and aerospace firms is under pressure from emerging models from the Persian Guld states and Southeast Asia.

Other speakers explored the technological aspects of aviation’s contribution to growth. Aviation is rapidly developing new sustainable biofuel capabilities to reduce the sector’s environmental impact. Jens Nilsson, MEP for Sweden, pointed out that political targets and R&D investment are crucial for new fuels. Boeing’s President for EU & NATO Relations, Brian Moran, discussed how research and new products such as the B787 Dreamliner are addressing challenges associated with emissions and aircraft noise.

Moran called for “smart regulations” and investments to help aviation fulfil its promise of growth. As far as policies are concerned, Hhe urged EU policymakers to continue working through ICAO to develop a global system to address aviation emissions, recognizing that no one country or region can address a worldwide challenge on its own. Moran also stressed that chemical regulations should take into account aviation’s unique ecosystem and high safety standards, that increased policy support is needed to advance aviation biofuel development and commercialisation, and that capacity constraints both on the ground and in the air need to be addressed.

Effective climate policy requires action by governments and people

Posted by on 09/12/14

COP 20, the 20th annual climate conference, has started in Lima in a mood of increasing realism. Those who still believe in containing global warming within two degrees Celsius target are becoming rarer. The issue becomes more and more if Humanity will get away with acceptable conditions of survival or succumb to famine, non-ending natural disasters, tens or even hundreds(?) of millions of climate refugees and conflicts for water and fertile land.

The 20-year history of “combating” climate change has been a succession of “too little, too late”, starting with the Kyoto Protocol that turned into a failure because of its late entry into force and the non-participation of the biggest emitter countries.

For the last 20 years, we have continued to live as if climate change did not exist. The political elites in major emitter countries like Australia, Russia or, until most recently, even USA have continued to simply ignore it, whatever the rising numbers of natural catastrophes across the planet.

No political leader has dared to impose hardship on potential voters, say gasoline prices of €3/litre or electricity rates of €0.15/kWh. Our life has remained as comfortable as ever, with no restrictions on heating, cooling and lightening our homes and using planes or cars as before the climate challenge.

The global “climate policy elite” seems satisfied with the few “positive” developments in 2014, from the bilateral China-USA“deal” with the Chinese promise to peak its emissions latest until 2030 and generate 20 per cent of its energy from non-fossil sources and the US commitment to lower emissions by close to 30 per cent until 2025.

It puts a lot of faith in the bottom-up/top-down approach for the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015, under which each of the 190-odd participant countries is expected to present a strategic road-map for reducing green house gas emissions.

Judging by the response given by China to start reducing emissions latest by 2030 and the more than wary reactions from India,which will become the biggest emitter country in a few decades the outcome from Paris will not have a a positive impact on the global climate in the first half of the21st century. After all, it will have taken the EU from 1990 to 2030 to reduce its emissions by 40 per cent and, if everything works to schedule, 60 years to reduce them by 80 per cent until 2050. And the rest of the world is far behind the EU in terms of preparedness.

Climate scientists have not stopped warning policy makers about the need to go fast. But their calls have gone unnoticed because policy makers have constantly been engaged in more pressing day-to-day issues and have not dared to confront their citizens with painful measures to be taken.

Let us therefore hope that the international community will finally get serious and step up its joint efforts, focusing on mitigation and considering adaptation as the secondary issue. Indeed, if humanity fails to mitigate emissions dramatically financing adaptation will no longer help. We must prevent the natural glaciers storage of the Himalayas from melting instead of financing artificial dams for storing water.

On December 15th, at the end of the Lima Conference, which so far has not been very successful in solving the well-known technical details, we should be better able to assess the chances of success of the crucial meeting in Paris at the end of 2015.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 6/12/2014

Energy access, development and decarbonisation: uneasy bedfellows in the UNFCCC

Posted by on 07/12/14
By Jason Anderson, WWF The UN is a slow grind of thousands of negotiators meeting regularly to hash through minutiae is the world’s biggest intercultural exchange project, creating understanding one coffee break at a time.