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Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history

Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history

Stephen Peake, Senior Lecturer, The Open University in Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history, gives us a pretty realistic image of the prevailing situation of unsustainability throughout the world.


In shouting “system change not climate change”, young people understand that the 3-4℃ warmer world we’re headed for would be far more painful, costly and disruptive than any short-term costs or inconvenience we face from taking rapid, bold action.

But the who, what, when, where and how of systems change can seem overwhelming. How do we transform a society whose fossil fuel habits have been entrenched for decades?

The next step is to get smarter in telling governments precisely what we want. System change doesn’t need to be daunting, or politically difficult. We just need to focus on the pinch points that will allow us to rapidly replace fossil fuel technologies. Here are six steps to decarbonising the system for good.

1. Stop wasting energy

We could power the planet two times over with the energy we waste burning fossil fuels each and every day. Even our most modern gas-fired power stations still waste around 40% of the gas they burn. The poor design of our transport systems, buildings, and appliances also waste vast amounts of energy.

It is possible to dramatically reduce this wastage, and therefore our global energy consumption, within decades. Roughly 70% of global energy consumption is not subject to mandatory efficiency standards – there’s huge untapped potential in merely regulating energy efficiency more effectively.

Shifting away from thermal power to renewables eliminates the vast quantities of gas that ends up as thermal waste heat. We can also design and retrofit buildings to capture and conserve energy, shift to public transport, and invest in energy efficient circular economies.

Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history

Electricity demand will skyrocket as we replace fossil fuels – so we need to be careful not to waste it. Riccardo Annandale/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

These two elements are interlinked. The more we reduce our energy consumption, the faster our renewable energy systems will be able to replace fossil fuels. This will help the one billion people who still don’t have access to mains electricity, and the nearly three billion that still cook on open stoves with wood and cattle dung – as well as the additional two billion people who will be joining the human population by 2050.

2. Tax greenhouse gases

We waste energy because it’s far too cheap. Prices are key to changing behaviour and investment decisions. We need to raise the price of fossil fuels so that polluters pay. Governments could introduce a US$100 per ton CO₂ tax now, rising as necessary to limit global heating below dangerous levels.

Such taxes, combined with the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, could raise trillions of dollars for governments to put to great use. We could spend this money on accelerating climate action – improving energy efficiency, scaling renewable energy, and restoring natural habitats.

3. Make local public transport free

Our private car culture has devastating impacts on society and the planet – even if they’re electric.

We can change the travel patterns of every generation to come. As well as massive investment in safe walking and cycling routes, we should campaign to make local public transport free.

We also need to reduce how much we fly. A business class round trip from London to New York can cause as much global heating as a year’s worth of a flexitarian diet. We should learn to fly only as last resort, and invest the money we save to connect with people and places in other ways.

Of course, many people are already doing this. Roughly 1% of people in England take 20% of overseas flights – so we should pressure governments to introduce a frequent flyer levy that makes sure that those who pollute the most pay the most.

4. Quit trading cheap stuff

Much of the stuff we buy isn’t fit for purpose. Many clothes are made with fabric so thin that they only last a few months, while electronics are often designed to fail after a few years.

Climate crisis: six steps to making fossil fuels history

How often has this happened to you? icedmocha/Shutterstock

These poor quality products waste energy and carbon, and pollute our environment when we inevitably throw them away. We need strong new regulations based on life cycle analysis that prevent companies from selling substandard stuff in search of profit.

We also don’t need half the things we’re encouraged to buy in the first place. While its governments that are responsible for implementing system change, and corporations that pollute the most, people still have power – even beyond voting or marching. As well as governments strongly regulating advertising, we can choose to stop contributing to a consumer culture.

5. Planetary diet, rewilded grasslands

The livestock industry currently accounts for about 15% of global emissions. It’s also an inefficient use of land – meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use 83% of the world’s farmland, despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories.

To redress this balance and cut emissions, we can shift to a diet rich in vegetables and grains, where sustainable meat is an occasional treat. Carbon taxes could also cover meat and dairy production, with funds used to help farmers transition as the global grazing stock falls.

For example, we could subsidise farmers to rewild newly freed up grasslands. This would create new valuable carbon sinks, and help threatened wildlife recover.

6. Keep shouting for a new political economy

We need to give our political leaders the courage to make bold decisions. Above all we must ask for specific things of our political leaders – and direct our energies towards those that will make the biggest difference. We must be clear in our demands for a new low-carbon political economy that makes fossil fuels history and renewable energy the future.


Click here to subscribe to our climate action newsletter. Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn’t.The Conversation

Stephen Peake, Senior Lecturer, The Open University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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A Grand Coalition to Tackle Climate Change

A Grand Coalition to Tackle Climate Change


Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA), writes in this article dated November 28, 2019, that The world needs a grand coalition to tackle climate change before suggesting that “Today, this mission is more urgent than ever.” The IEA already warned us that clean energy would be insufficient to meet growing demand, hence the picture above.


Steam rises from the chimneys of the coal power plant of RWE Power, one of Europe's biggest electricity and gas companies in Neurath, north-west of Cologne, Germany in this picture taken March 3, 2016
There are no simple solutions for curbing global emissions Image: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

More than 40 years after the International Energy Agency (IEA) published the first edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO), the report’s overarching aim remains the same – to deepen our understanding of the future of energy. It does so by examining the opportunities and risks that lie ahead, and the consequences of different courses of action or inaction. The WEO analyses the choices that will shape our energy use, our environment and our wellbeing. It is not, and has never been, a forecast of where the energy world will end up.

This year brings many changes. I would like to highlight two in particular. First, we have renamed the ‘new policies scenario’ as the ‘stated policies scenario’, making more explicit our intention to hold up a mirror to the plans and ambitions announced by policy-makers without trying to anticipate how those plans might change in future.

Second, the sustainable development scenario – which provides a strategic pathway to meet global climate, air quality and energy access goals in full – has been extended to 2050 and set out in greater detail. This delivers sharper insights into what is required for the world to move in this direction.

Have you read?

What comes through with crystal clarity in this year’s Outlook is that there are no simple solutions to transform the world of energy. Multiple technologies and fuels have a part to play across all sectors of the economy. For this to happen, we need strong leadership from policy-makers, as governments hold the clearest responsibility to act and have the greatest scope to shape the future.

It is also clear to me that the world urgently needs to put a laser-like focus on bringing down global emissions. This calls for a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is committed to tackling climate change. The sustainable development scenario is tailor-made to help guide the members of such a coalition in their efforts to address the massive climate challenge that faces us all.

A Grand Coalition to Tackle Climate Change
A lot less brown, a little more green. Image: IEA

The IEA is already acting on the insights contained in the Outlook. For instance, our analysis shows that the pace of energy-efficiency improvements is slowing, but the potential for efficiency improvements to help the world meet its sustainable energy goals is massive. This has led us to set up a high-level Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency to recommend how progress can be rapidly accelerated through new and stronger policy action. (We are seeking your input on this subject in our online survey.)

This year’s Outlook underscores the crucial importance of Africa to the future of energy, and of energy to the future of Africa. In June 2019, the IEA and the African Union Commission co-hosted a first joint ministerial summit in Addis Ababa, bringing together high-level government representatives and other stakeholders to advance a positive, collaborative agenda for IEA engagement.

We are also acutely aware that while the ongoing transformation of the electricity sector is full of promise, it also has implications for the stability and reliability of power grids around the world. In response, we have introduced new initiatives, including co-organising with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy the first Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables in Berlin in October 2019 and undertaking a major new report on electricity security.

Another important issue is that global emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are rising alongside CO2. This is why we recently launched a new online methane tracker to monitor the problem and identify ways to tackle it.

These are just four examples of how the World Energy Outlook provides strategic guidance to the energy community and results in real-world initiatives and solutions. The goal of this year’s Outlook, once again, is to provide energy decision-makers with the data and objective analysis that they need to pursue a more secure and sustainable future.

Today, this mission is more urgent than ever.

Future of Energy Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis

You can read more about the World Energy Outlook 2019 here.

Adaptation to Climate Change in the MENA Region

Adaptation to Climate Change in the MENA Region


The World Bank in its “Adaptation to Climate Change in the MENA Region” predicted that this region being particularly vulnerable to climate change, it should do more to adapt to water scarcity and heat and adjust all institutional mechanisms to deal with these environmental constraints. Environmental awareness in the Arab world posted on The Arab Weekly of 17 Novembre 2019 is a good illustration of this latest trend.


Lebanon was the country with the strongest concerns about climate change in general, followed by Tunisia and Egypt.

Adaptation to Climate Change in the MENA Region
Emiratis light candles to mark Earth Hour near Burj Khalifa in Dubai, March 23, 2013. (Reuters)

Climate change is a global emergency that respects no borders but results from a recent survey revealed that, when it comes to convincing MENA populations to come to grips with the crisis, substantial barriers remain.

Recent data gathered by Arab Barometer, a nonpartisan research network that has conducted opinion surveys across the region since 2006, indicated that a strong majority of respondents said they were “very concerned” about water and trash pollution (70% and 66%, respectively). Both issues are immediate problems that MENA residents must often deal with directly and can see with their own eyes daily.

However, when it came to more abstract or long-term environmental issues, such as climate change and air quality, fewer survey respondents said they were very worried (35% and 44%, respectively).

Opinions showed no significant variations across age and gender groups. However, more educated and affluent respondents expressed slightly stronger concerns about climate change in general.

The survey uncovered dividing lines geographically: Residents in rural areas were more likely to view climate change as a “very serious” problem than those living in urban environments.

Lebanon was the country with the strongest concerns about climate change in general, followed by Tunisia and Egypt, but national differences on specific issues were the starkest. Air quality was considered a “very serious” problem for 57% of respondents in Libya but only for 25% of those surveyed in Kuwait.

The survey adds credence to the argument that a region-wide effort must be made to build awareness about climate change.

Urban resilience critical to combating climate change

Urban resilience critical to combating climate change

AMEinfo produced this essay titled Urban resilience critical to combating climate change impact on Middle East cities on November 5, 2019.

The subject being a hot one all around the MENA, Sharjah Architecture Triennial has shown the way by addressing climate change last summer.

Urban resilience critical to combating climate change

New research by AESG outlines key Urban Resilience design principles and best-practices and provides insight to enable cities to better mitigate the impact of climate change.

  • 68% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050
  • There is a proven correlation between increases in urbanization and climate change
  • Therefore, it is imperative for governments, city planners and developers to future-proof their cities by investing in urban resilience programs

With 68% of the world’s population expected to live in urban areas by 2050 and a proven correlation between increases in urbanization and climate change, it is imperative for governments, city planners and developers to future-proof their cities by investing in urban resilience programs. AESG, an international Specialist Consulting, Engineering and Advisory firm, has released a new research article which presents clear guidance on urban resilience concepts and best practices. The company intends for this report, titled ‘Urban resilience: A look into global climate change impacts and possible design mitigation’, to aid governments, city planners, engineers, architects and developers in building resilient cities that can better tackle the urban challenges resulting from climate change.

Saeed Al Abbar, Managing Director at AESG advocates the need for a concerted effort by these stakeholders to mitigate the climate change impact on cities through better urban planning. “While the effects of climate change can be detrimental, a large majority of these can be alleviated by strengthening interdependent infrastructure systems and ensuring resilience on infrastructure, policy and economic basis,” he said.

“Building resilience in cities is essential to not only make populations and infrastructure less susceptible to damage and loss but to also make them more agile to the unpredictable nature of climate change impacts. We are at a pivotal moment in human history, and the actions we take today will bear a profound impact on the security and quality of life, of us, and our future generations,” he added. 

Read: GCC’s $80 Billion investment in Water Sustainability

The report, developed by AESG’s qualified team of sustainability, environmental and planning experts, stresses that achieving urban resilience necessitates planning a city at a macro-level, understanding interdependencies of its systems and implementing solutions to mitigate the anticipated risks. In addition to reporting the key climate-related threats that cities today face, the article expertly analyses the innovative locational, structural and regulatory approaches being implemented globally to address a myriad of urban challenges.

Briefly summarizing the insight and guidance detailed in these best practices, Al Abbar said. “For city and municipal governments, resilience implies planning development, providing safe and affordable infrastructure and services, regulating building design and construction, regulating hazardous activities, influencing land availability and construction requirements, encouraging and supporting household and community actions to reduce risk, and finally, putting in place effective disaster early warning, preparedness, and response systems.”

Interview: Smart utilities will bring major cost savings and sustainability to the region

A first in a planned series of urban resilience themed reports by AESG, the article focuses on showcasing the extent of the problem on a global level while recommending mitigation measures that could be incorporated from planning all the way through operation and maintenance. ‘Urban resilience: A look into global climate change impacts and possible design mitigation’ is available to download from https://aesg-me.com/urban-resilience-a-look-into-global-climate-change-impacts-and-possible-design-mitigation/

Alternative Transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan

Alternative Transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan

Taking a bite out of the opportunity in the alternative transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan. So, Egypt’s Halan is keen to dominate the Ride-Hailing Space for Two And Three-Wheelers. Let us read more on that if you please. But before we do so here is Codatu’s intro to their essay on the matter two years ago.

Greater Cairo (GC) is the largest urban area in the Middle East and one of the most populated cities in the world. The urban growth patterns of the metropolitan area reveal a fragmented city of heterogeneous parts that developed unplanned over the years. GC public transport network offers a large variety of means of transportation throughout three governorates but its lack of efficiency is forcing more and more people to use private cars. The extreme density of the urban fabric and the widespread congestion on the road network end up making the city’s livability very difficult.

Pamella de Leon, Startup Section Editor, on October 29, 2019, wrote in Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media the following.

Egypt's Halan Is Keen To Dominate The Ride-Hailing Space For Two And Three-Wheelers

Aside from private cars, taxis, and other four-wheeled vehicles, a ubiquitous sight on the streets of Cairo (and in other parts of the MENA, as well as the world at large) are the three-wheeled tuktuks and two-wheeled motorcycles to navigate daily traffic- and taking a bite out of the opportunity in the alternative transport market is Egypt-born startup Halan. The ride-sharing app for tuktuks, motorcycles, and tricycles -a first in the region- was launched in November 2017 in underserved communities in Cairo where roads tend to be too narrow for cars, and provided a cheaper alternative to cars and buses.

It grew across Giza, Alexandria, Minya, Luxor and Qalyubia governorates, and expanded to Sudan in 2018. It also offers on-demand logistics solutions to support large organizations and small businesses alike in their distribution and supply chain. Founded by Mounir Nakhla and Ahmed Mohsen, the former had the lightbulb moment when the idea was proposed to him by one of Gojek’s seed investors.

After meeting Nadiem Makarim, the CEO of Gojek, a startup that has been dubbed Indonesia’s first unicorn venture and has grown as an on-demand tech company for the transport, payment, and food sector, Nakhla was inspired from its success, and saw potential for a similar impact in Egypt. With Egypt’s population of more than 100 million, internet penetration, fast-growing sales of smartphone devices and a growing use of mobile apps, all the elements were positive, he notes.

“Transportation is one of the fastest ways of acquiring customers by solving a real need, and we wanted to be the app of choice for the underserved,” he says. “Egypt has north of 700,000 tuktuks already operating as taxis, and just over 1.5 million two-wheeler vehicles, used for both personal transportation and for delivery services, and this is where Halan comes in.”

Halan team

As part of the startup’s efforts to organize the market and ensure safety, Nakhla says they also have a meticulous screening process when recruiting drivers. Besides offering convenience to customers, Nakhla says they also provide incremental business for their drivers, and thus increase their incomes.

The founder and CEO is no stranger to working with Egypt’s mobility scene and underserved communities- he co-founded Mashroey, an Egypt-based light transport financing business, and Tasaheel, an Egypt-based micro-financing venture, which Nakhla says, has served more than 1 million customers combined. And the rest of the founding team are veterans in the transport field too: co-founder and CTO Ahmed Mohsen has published several papers in IEEE on AI, was part of the founding team and a shareholder in SecureMisr, a security consultancy company in Egypt, and founded MusicQ and CircleTie.

Plus Mohamed Aboulnaga, Careem’s former Regional Director and Fawry’s Business Development Manager, joined as co-founder and COO. They also have key members who have worked previously with Uber and Ghabbour Auto, which has resulted in a team that is comprised of “technically very competent, passionate, creative, results-driven individuals with a high work ethic. Each one with a unique strength, that when brought together make for an unrivalled team.”

After launching in 2017, Nakhla says that the company was doing around 50,000 rides by March 2018, and they closed their Series A round in the same year in a round co-led by Battery Road Ventures Holdings (BRVH) and Algebra Ventures. As for their funding, Nakhla put in 20% of the seed capital and raised the rest from Raouf Ghabbour, founder of GB Auto, as well as BRVH.

According to Nakhla, Halan has so far raised single-digit millions in total, and are currently in the process of their Series B funding round. The company’s business model involves taking a percentage of the ride fare as commission. Currently serving more than 100,000 customers, Halan has exceeded 10 million rides and operates in around 20-25 cities in Egypt and Sudan. As for its on-demand logistics offering, Halan is currently partnering with prominent names in the fast-food industry, including McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardees, and many more. The startup has also been recently awarded Fastest-Growing Mobility Solution in the Market during the second edition of the E-Commerce Summit in September this year.

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Related: UAE App CAFU Brings The Fuel To Wherever You (And Your Vehicle) May Be

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Rebuilding Syria – without Syria’s oil

Rebuilding Syria – without Syria’s oil

The picture above is that of the country before the war. Will it ever return to that state, wonder most of us?

Compare US pillaging with Russia-Iran-Turkey’s active involvement in a political solution to normalize Syria or Rebuilding Syria – without Syria’s oil all as per PEPE ESCOBAR.

Rebuilding Syria – without Syria’s oil

What happened in Geneva this Wednesday, in terms of finally bringing peace to Syria, could not be more significant: the first session of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.

The Syrian Constitutional Committee sprang out of a resolution passed in January 2018 in Sochi, Russia, by a body called the Syrian National Dialogue Congress.

The 150-strong committee breaks down as 50 members of the Syrian opposition, 50 representing the government in Damascus and 50 representatives of civil society. Each group named 15 experts for the meetings in Geneva, held behind closed doors.

This development is a direct consequence of the laborious Astana process – articulated by Russia, Iran and Turkey. Essential initial input came from former UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Now UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen is working as a sort of mediator.

The committee started its deliberations in Geneva in early 2019.

Crucially, there are no senior members of the administration in Damascus nor from the opposition – apart from Ahmed Farouk Arnus, who is a low-ranking diplomat with the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

Among the opposition, predictably, there are no former leaders of weaponized factions. And no “moderate rebels.” The delegates include several former and current parliament members, university rectors and journalists.

After this first round, significantly, the committee’s co-chair, Ahmad Kuzbari, said: “We hope that our next meeting could take place in our native land, in our beloved Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited capital in history.”

Even the opposition, which is part of the committee, hopes that a political deal will be clinched next year. According to co-chair Hadi al-Bahra: “I hope that the 75th anniversary of the United Nations next year will be an opportunity to celebrate another achievement by the universal organization, namely the success of efforts under the auspices of a special envoy for political process, who will bring peace and justice to all Syrians.”

Join the patrol

The committee’s work in Geneva proceeds in parallel to ever-changing facts on the ground. These will certainly force more face-to-face negotiations between Presidents Putin and Erdogan, as Erdogan himself confirmed: “A conversation with Putin can take place any time. Everything depends on the course of events.”

“Events” seem not to be that incandescent, so far, even as Erdogan, predictably, releases the whiff of a threat in the air: “We reserve the right to resume military operation in Syria if terrorists approach at the distance of 30km to Turkey’s borders or continue attacks from any other Syrian area.”

Erdogan also said the de facto safe zone along the Turkish-Syrian border could be “expanded,” something that he would have to clear in minute detail with Moscow.

Those threats have already manifested on the ground. On Wednesday, Turkey and allied Islamist factions launched an attack against Tal Tamr, a historic Assyrian Christian enclave 50km deep inside Syrian territory – far beyond the scope of the 10km patrol zone or the 30km “safe” zone.

Poorly-armed Syrian troops pulled out under fierce attack, and with no apparent Russian cover. The Syrian military on the same day issued a public statement calling on the Syrian Democratic Forces to reintegrate under its command. The SDF has said a compromise must be reached first over semi-autonomy for the northeastern region. Thousands of residents in the meantime fled farther south to the more protected city of Hasakeh.

Two facts are absolutely crucial. The Syrian Kurds have completed their pull out ahead of schedule, as confirmed by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. And, this Friday, Russia and Turkey start their joint military patrols to the depth of 7km away from the border, part of the de facto safe zone in northeast Syria.

The devil in the immense details is how Ankara is going to manage the territories that it now actually controls, and to which it plans to relocate as many as 2 million Syrian refugees.

Your oil? Mine

Then there’s the nagging issue that simply won’t go away: the American drive to “secure the oil” (Trump) and “protect” Syrian oilfields (the Pentagon), for all practical purposes from Syria.

In Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – alongside Iran’s Javad Zarif and Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu – could not have been more scathing. Lavrov said Washington’s plan is “arrogant,” and violates international law. The very American presence on Syrian soil is “illegal,” he said.

All across the Global South, especially among countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, this is being interpreted, stripped to the bone, for what it is: the United States government illegally taking possession of natural resources of a third country via a military occupation.

And the Pentagon is warning that anyone attempting to contest it will be shot on sight. It remains to be seen whether the US Deep State would be willing to engage in a hot war with Russia over a few Syrian oilfields.

Under international law, the whole “securing the oil” scam is a euphemism for pillaging, pure and simple. Every single takfiri or jihadi outfit operating across the “Greater Middle East” will converge, perversely, to the same conclusion: US “efforts” across the lands of Islam are all about the oil.

Now compare that with Russia-Iran-Turkey’s active involvement in a political solution and normalization of Syria – not to mention, behind the scenes, China, which quietly donates rice and aims for widespread investment in a pacified Syria positioned as a key Eastern Mediterranean node of the New Silk Roads.

Allies, Investors, Protesters press for Change in Lebanon

Allies, Investors, Protesters press for Change in Lebanon

Lebanon pushed to the brink, faces reckoning over graft after allies, investors, protesters press for change in the country as per Jonathan Spicer, Tom Perry and Samia Nakhoul, Reuters News in this ECONOMY‘s article dated 21 October 2019.

Demonstrators hold Lebanese flags as they gather during a protest over deteriorating economic situation, in Beirut, Lebanon October 18, 2019.
Demonstrators hold Lebanese flags as they gather during a protest over deteriorating economic situation, in Beirut, Lebanon October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT – Lebanon is closer to a financial crisis than at any time since at least the war-torn 1980s as allies, investors and this week nationwide protests pile pressure on the government to tackle a corrupt system and enact long-promised reforms.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri‘s government on Thursday hastily reversed a plan, announced hours earlier, to tax WhatsApp voice calls in the face of the biggest public protests in years, with people burning tyres and blocking roads.

The country – among the world’s most indebted and quickly running out of dollar reserves – urgently needs to convince regional allies and Western donors it is finally serious about tackling entrenched problems such as its unreliable and wasteful electricity sector.

Without a foreign funding boost, Lebanon risks a currency devaluation or even defaulting on debts within months, according to interviews with nearly 20 government officials, politicians, bankers and investors.

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said in a televised speech on Friday that he gave a paper at an economic crisis meeting in September saying Lebanon needed “an electric shock”.

“I also said that what little remains of the financial balance might not last us longer than the end of the year if we do not adopt the necessary policies,” he said, without describing what he meant by financial balance.

Beirut has repeatedly vowed to maintain the value of the dollar-pegged Lebanese pound and honour its debts on time.

But countries that in the past reliably financed bailouts have run out of patience with its mismanagement and graft, and they are using the deepening economic and social crisis to press for change, the sources told Reuters.

These include Arab Gulf states whose enthusiasm to help Lebanon has been undermined by the growing clout in Beirut of Tehran-backed Hezbollah, and what they see as a need to check Iran’s growing influence across the Middle East.

Western countries have also provided funds that allowed Lebanon to defy gravity for years. But for the first time, they have said no new money would flow until the government takes clear steps toward reforms it has long only promised.

Their hope is to see it move towards fixing a system that sectarian politicians have used to deploy state resources to their own advantage through patronage networks instead of building a functional state.

A crisis could stoke further unrest in a country hosting some 1 million refugees from neighbouring Syria, where a Turkish incursion in the northeast this month has opened a new front in an eight-year war.

“If the situation remains, and there are no radical reforms, a devaluation of the currency is inevitable,” said Toufic Gaspard, a former adviser to Lebanon’s finance ministry and former economist at its central bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“Since September a new era has begun,” he added. “The red flags are large and everywhere, especially with the central bank paying up to 13% to borrow dollars.”

The first reform on Beirut’s agenda is one of the most intractable: fixing chronic power outages that make private generators a costly necessity, a problem many see as the main symbol of corruption that has left services unreliable and infrastructure crumbling.

Hariri, in a televised speech to the nation, said he had been struggling to reform the electricity sector ever since taking office. After “meeting after meeting, committee after committee, proposal after proposal, I got at last to the final step and someone came and said ‘it doesn’t work’,” he said.

Presenting the difficulties of implementing reform more widely, Hariri said every committee required a minimum of nine ministers to keep everyone happy.

“A national unity government OK, we understand that. But committees of national unity The result is that nothing works.”

Underscoring the pressure from abroad, Pierre Duquesne, a French ambassador handling so-called CEDRE funding, is traveling to Lebanon next week to press the government on the use of offshore power barges, a banker familiar with the plan said.

Duquesne wants the barges included in the electricity overhaul plan, the person said, requesting anonymity.

Duquesne could not immediately be reached for comment.

The contents of the 2020 budget will be key to helping unlock some $11 billion conditionally pledged by international donors under last year’s CEDRE conference. But a cabinet meeting on the budget set for Friday was cancelled amid the protests.

‘TAX INTIFADA’

Hariri’s government, which includes nearly all of Lebanon’s main parties, had proposed a tax of 20 cents per day on calls via voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) used by applications including WhatsApp, Facebook FB.O and FaceTime.

In a country fractured along sectarian lines, the protests’ unusually wide geographic reach may be a sign of deepening anger with politicians who have jointly led Lebanon into crisis.

Fires were smoldering in central Beirut, where streets were scattered with glass of several smashed shop-fronts. Tear gas was fired on some demonstrators.

The newspaper an-Nahar described it as “a tax intifada”, or uprising. Another daily, al-Akhbar, declared it “the WhatsApp revolution”.

“With this corrupt authority, our kids have no future,” said protestor Fadi Issa, 51. “We don’t just want a resignation, we want accountability. They should return all the money they stole. We want change.”

As confidence has faded and dollars have grown scarce, new cracks have emerged between Lebanon’s government and its private lenders, according to several of the bankers, investors and officials who spoke to Reuters.

After years of funding the government with the promise of ever higher rates of return, the banks – sensing the country is approaching collapse – are pressing for it to finally deliver reforms to win over donors.

Most said Lebanon would likely feel more economic and financial strain in the months ahead but avoid haircuts on deposits or a worst-case sovereign default.

Yet Beirut’s years of failure to deliver reforms and the new determination among its traditional donors to press for them has left even top officials, bankers and investors divided over whether a devaluation is in store for the Lebanese pound.

“You need a positive shock. But unfortunately the government thinks reforms can happen without touching the structure that benefits them,” said Nassib Ghobril, head of economic research and analysis at Byblos Bank.

Lebanon must promote reforms to increase capital inflows, he said.

“We can’t keep going to the Emirates and Saudis. We need to help ourselves in order for others to help us.”

CLOCK TICKING

This month, Moody’s put Lebanon’s Caa1 credit rating under review for a downgrade and estimated the central bank, which has stepped in to cover government debt payments, had only $6 billion-$10 billion in useable dollars left to maintain stability.

That compares with some $6.5 billion in debt maturing by the end of next year.

The central bank says its foreign assets stood at $38.1 billion as of Oct. 15.

An official told Reuters Lebanon has only $10 billion in real reserves. “It is a very dire situation that has five months to correct itself or there will be a collapse, around February,” he said.

Hariri’s government may have only a few months to deliver fiscal reforms to convince France, the World Bank and other parties to the CEDRE agreement to unlock $11 billion in conditional funding.

The head of regional investments for a large U.S. asset manager said Lebanese officials are privately saying a plan that addresses short- and long-term electricity shortages will be announced before year-end, after which the government will raise tariffs.

But critics say no concrete steps have been taken despite energy ministry statements that the plan is on track.

Hariri left Paris last month with no immediate cash commitment after visiting French President Emmanuel Macron. Likewise this month he left Abu Dhabi empty-handed after meeting Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Lawmakers in Beirut struggled to explain what happened in Abu Dhabi after Hariri claimed the United Arab Emirates had promised investments following “positive” talks.

EYES ON HEZBOLLAH

Investors, bankers and economists say at least $10 billion is needed to renew confidence among the Lebanese diaspora whom for decades have underpinned the economy by maintaining accounts back home.

But so far this year, deposits have shrunk by about 0.4%.

The government has sought a smaller cushion from Sunni Muslim allies to buy some time. But to secure funding from the UAE or Saudi Arabia, Beirut would likely have to meet conditions meant to weaken Shi’ite Hezbollah’s hand in Lebanon’s government, said several sources.

Hezbollah, which faces U.S. sanctions, is seen to be gaining more control over state resources by naming the health minister in January after last year’s elections brought more of its allies into the legislature.

Some say Saudi Arabia, UAE and the United States are motivated to hold out on Beirut as part of their wider policy seeking to weaken Iran and its allies which have been fighting proxy wars with Gulf Arab states on several fronts.

“Their tolerance of Iran and Hezbollah has lowered significantly. The ‘Lebanese exception’ is gone,” said Sami Nader, Beirut-based director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs.

“The balance has tilted and we are now at odds with our former friends because Hezbollah now has the upper hand politically.”

The former regional head at a major Western bank put it bluntly: “People have lost patience with the corruption in which a frozen Parliament with no authority is simply divvying up the pie among politicians.”

“But at the end of the day the Lebanese political class usually succeeds in convincing allies that they should not let the system collapse and bring civil war again,” he added.

WANING TRUST

Lebanon, straddling the Middle East’s main sectarian lines, was historically the region’s foreign-exchange hub into which deposits flowed, especially since 1997 when its currency was pegged to the dollar at 1,507.5 pounds.

But after a reckoning in August and September in which the cost of insuring Lebanon’s sovereign debt surged https://tmsnrt.rs/2MORZfM to a record high, things have changed.

Depositors, including the diaspora drawn by rates much higher than in Europe or the United States, are pulling funds in the face of Lebanon’s swelling twin deficits, inability to secure foreign funding, and unorthodox central bank efforts to attract dollar inflows.

Among Lebanon’s 6 million citizens, trust has worn thin.

Depositors can no longer easily withdraw dollars, and most ATMs no longer provide them, forcing people to turn to so-called parallel FX markets where $1 is worth more than the official peg.

“I am with the protesters,” said Walid al-Badawi, 43. “I have three children, I am a taxi driver, I work all day to get food for my kids and I can’t get it.”

Gaspard, the central bank’s former research head, said foreign exchange was easy even through Lebanon’s 15-year civil war. There was also always a balance of payments surplus – until 2011 when deficits began to grow, reaching $12 billion last year.

LOST RESOLVE AT BANKS

Three events precipitated the crisis of confidence that for years seemed inevitable: a series of central bank efforts since 2016 to keep growing deposits with rates of more than 11% on large deposits; a public sector pay hike last year that raised the budget deficit to more than 11% of GDP; low oil prices in recent years that have weakened Gulf allies.

In a report on Thursday, the IMF described Lebanon’s position as “very difficult,” adding “substantial new measures” are needed to protect it and reduce large deficits.

As dollars have dried up, banks have effectively stopped lending and can no longer make basic foreign-exchange transactions for clients, one banker said.

“The whole role of banks is to pour money into the central bank to finance the government and protect the currency,” he said. “Nothing is being done on the fiscal deficit because doing something will disrupt the systems of corruption.”

The resistance from banks has been subtle but telling given their central role in financing the government.

When Beirut proposed a $660 million reduction in debt service costs in its 2019 budget, banks never signed up to the idea. They have also been less enthusiastic about subscribing to Eurobonds including a planned $2-billion issuance later this month, officials said.

Without reform, “banks agree we can no longer support the public sector,” said Byblos Bank’s Ghobril.

(Reporting by Jonathan SpicerTom Perry and Samia Nakhoul; Additional reporting by Yara Abi Nader and Ellen Francis in Beirut and John Irish in Paris; Editing by Hugh Lawson) ((jonathan.spicer@reuters.com; Reuters Messaging: jonathan.spicer.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net @jonathanspicer))

Ministerial Council for Housing and Construction in UAE

Ministerial Council for Housing and Construction in UAE

Arab Council for Housing and Construction endorsed the preparation of an Arab Strategy for Housing
and Sustainable Urban Development, whereas the League of Arab States (LAS) General Secretariat gives special
attention to developing strategies and programs of actions to achieve sustainable development in the Arab States, with the technical support of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat). More recently this 36th Ministerial Council for Housing and Construction in UAE proceeded along and part of the above strategy as reported by Emirates News Agency.

الإمارات تستضيف الدورة 36 لمجلس وزراء الإسكان والتعمير العرب

UAE hosts 36th session of the Arab Ministerial Council for Housing and Construction

  • الإمارات تستضيف الدورة 36 لمجلس وزراء الإسكان والتعمير العرب

DUBAI, October 6, 2019 (WAM) — The UAE today hosted the 36th session of the Arab Ministerial Council for Housing and Construction.

The meeting was attended by Arab ministers of housing and construction, as well as Victor Kisob, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Kamal Hassan Ali, Assistant Secretary-General Head of Economic Affairs, League of Arab States, and representatives of Arab, regional and international organisations.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the third round of the Arab Ministerial Forum on Housing and Urban Development held on 7th and 8th October.

The session began with the announcement of the UAE taking over the council’s presidency from Bahrain for its next session in 2019-2020. Its participants then discussed the main challenges facing the housing and urban development sectors in the Arab region, and other topics related to housing, most notably the Arab Housing Conference, Arab Housing Day, and the Award of the Council of Arab Ministers of Housing and Construction.

The meeting also discussed the cooperation between UN-Habitat, the forum, and relevant regional groups and foreign countries.

Bassem bin Yaqoub Al Hamar, Minister of Housing of Bahrain, thanked the UAE, represented by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme, for its hospitality and reception.

Dr Abdullah bin Mohammed Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development, welcomed the ministers and delegations participating in the session and forum, stating, “In 1975, the Arab ministers of housing and construction held their first meeting in the UAE. After 44 years, I am pleased to welcome you to your second country and wish you a pleasant stay.”

“I also hope that the meetings will yield outcomes that will help make positive changes to our housing and urban development sectors, which are the basis of overall development, happiness and quality of life,” he added.

WAM / Hazem Hussein / MOHD AAMIR

Why the Middle East Is More Combustible Than Ever

Why the Middle East Is More Combustible Than Ever

Robert Malley in this article titled The Unwanted Wars published in September / October 2019 of Foreign Affairs gives some answers to this question that has been marauding everyone for millennia. Why the Middle East Is More Combustible Than Ever, would, sarcasm apart, be a good start to try to understand the multi-layered mess of all past and passing powers. Here are some excerpts of the article.

Why the Middle East Is More Combustible Than Ever
Rifles and rifts: Houthi rebels in Sanaa, Yemen, December 2018 Hani Al-Ansi / Picture Alliance / dpa / AP Images

The war that now looms largest is a war nobody apparently wants. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump railed against the United States’ entanglement in Middle Eastern wars, and since assuming office, he has not changed his tune. Iran has no interest in a wide-ranging conflict that it knows it could not win. Israel is satisfied with calibrated operations in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza but fears a larger confrontation that could expose it to thousands of rockets. Saudi Arabia is determined to push back against Iran, but without confronting it militarily. Yet the conditions for an all-out war in the Middle East are riper than at any time in recent memory. 

A conflict could break out in any one of a number of places for any one of a number of reasons. Consider the September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities: it could theoretically have been perpetrated by the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group, as part of their war with the kingdom; by Iran, as a response to debilitating U.S. sanctions; or by an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq. If Washington decided to take military action against Tehran, this could in turn prompt Iranian retaliation against the United States’ Gulf allies, an attack by Hezbollah on Israel, or a Shiite militia operation against U.S. personnel in Iraq. Likewise, Israeli operations against Iranian allies anywhere in the Middle East could trigger a regionwide chain reaction. Because any development anywhere in the region can have ripple effects everywhere, narrowly containing a crisis is fast becoming an exercise in futility. 

When it comes to the Middle East, Tip O’Neill, the storied Democratic politician, had it backward: all politics—especially local politics—is international. In Yemen, a war pitting the Houthis, until not long ago a relatively unexceptional rebel group, against a debilitated central government in the region’s poorest nation, one whose prior internal conflicts barely caught the world’s notice, has become a focal point for the Iranian-Saudi rivalry. It has also become a possible trigger for deeper U.S. military involvement. The Syrian regime’s repression of a popular uprising, far more brutal than prior crackdowns but hardly the first in the region’s or even Syria’s modern history, morphed into an international confrontation drawing in a dozen countries. It has resulted in the largest number of Russians ever killed by the United States and has thrust both Russia and Turkey and Iran and Israel to the brink of war. Internal strife in Libya sucked in not just Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) but also Russia and the United States.

There is a principal explanation for such risks. The Middle East has become the world’s most polarized region and, paradoxically, its most integrated. That combination—along with weak state structures, powerful nonstate actors, and multiple transitions occurring almost simultaneously—also makes the Middle East the world’s most volatile region. It further means that as long as its regional posture remains as it is, the United States will be just one poorly timed or dangerously aimed Houthi drone strike, or one particularly effective Israeli operation against a Shiite militia, away from its next costly regional entanglement. Ultimately, the question is not chiefly whether the United States should disengage from the region. It is how it should choose to engage: diplomatically or militarily, by exacerbating divides or mitigating them, and by aligning itself fully with one side or seeking to achieve a sort of balance.

ACT LOCALLY, THINK REGIONALLY

The story of the contemporary Middle East is one of a succession of rifts, each new one sitting atop its precursors, some taking momentary precedence over others, none ever truly or fully resolved. Today, the three most important rifts—between Israel and its foes, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and between competing Sunni blocs—intersect in dangerous and potentially explosive ways.

Israel’s current adversaries are chiefly represented by the so-called axis of resistance: Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and, although presently otherwise occupied, Syria. The struggle is playing out in the traditional arenas of the West Bank and Gaza but also in Syria, where Israel routinely strikes Iranian forces and Iranian-affiliated groups; in cyberspace; in Lebanon, where Israel faces the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Hezbollah; and even in Iraq, where Israel has reportedly begun to target Iranian allies. The absence of most Arab states from this frontline makes it less prominent but no less dangerous.

Why the Middle East Is More Combustible Than Ever
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near the Syrian border in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, March 2019 Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

For those Arab states, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been nudged to the sidelines by the two other battles. Saudi Arabia prioritizes its rivalry with Iran. Both countries exploit the Shiite-Sunni rift to mobilize their respective constituencies but are in reality moved by power politics, a tug of war for regional influence unfolding in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and the Gulf states.

Finally, there is the Sunni-Sunni rift, with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE vying with Qatar and Turkey. As Hussein Agha and I wrote in The New Yorker in March, this is the more momentous, if least covered, of the divides, with both supremacy over the Sunni world and the role of political Islam at stake. Whether in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, or as far afield as Sudan, this competition will largely define the region’s future. 

Together with the region’s polarization is a lack of effective communication, which makes things ever more perilous. There is no meaningful channel between Iran and Israel, no official one between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and little real diplomacy beyond rhetorical jousting between the rival Sunni blocs.

Read more on the original document.

Good economy helps with climate change

Good economy helps with climate change

BREAKINGVIEWS of September 25, 2019, post by Edward Hadas holds that Good economy helps with climate change, adding that “In many dimensions, the overall global economic situation is better than it has ever been.”

16-year-old Swedish Climate activist Greta Thunberg departs after speaking at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019.

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) – Climate change is an urgent concern for heads of state gathering at the General Assembly of the United Nations this week. As young climate activists such as Greta Thunberg have made clear, this challenge will outlast the political lives of everyone gathered in New York. It is easy to become gloomy, but economists can bring some comfort. Three positive trends can help the world tackle man-made warming.16-year-old Swedish Climate activist Greta Thunberg departs after speaking at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019.

The first is rising prosperity. In many dimensions, the overall global economic situation is better than it has ever been. Take life expectancy. This is a basic index of prosperity because longer lives are a sign of the availability of many of modern life’s essential goods and services.

The news is good. Globally, infants born in 2015 can on average expect to live for 71.7 years. That’s 6.6 years longer than those born two decades earlier, according to Our World in Data, which aggregates the latest available numbers. The gains have been largest in poorer countries. Life expectancy has risen by 8.3 years in India and 15.7 years in Ethiopia, compared with four years in Japan and a 2.8-year gain in the United States.

The spread of more comfortable lifestyles in the poorer parts of the world not only leads to longer lives. It also typically adds to the climate challenge, since increased prosperity tends to require the emission of more climate-warming greenhouse gases.

However, more educated, healthier and richer people living in societies with more economic resources are also much better equipped to cope with the difficulties caused by warming. The average number of annual deaths worldwide caused by natural disasters has been lower this decade than in the 1970s, according to Our World in Data, even though the global population is almost twice the size.

The resilience matters, because the world has not yet found any technically and politically plausible way to do much more than gradually slow the rate of warming. The wait for breakthroughs will be a lot less painful if people have the resources needed to change agricultural practices or move to more suitable places.

The second comforting economic trend is technological. The world has not lost its inventive momentum, despite dire predictions from economists such as Robert Gordon of Northwestern University. The most recent successes involve telecommunications. Our World in Data reports that since 2000, the number of internet users in the world has risen from 413 million to 3.4 billion. Penetration of mobile phones has increased from 12% of the world’s population to 104% over those years.

These revolutions required developments in the relatively new field of electronic engineering. The challenges of climate change require a revision of older technologies, particularly energy production and storage. The scientists, industrialists and planners seem to be coming up with the goods. Solar and wind power are becoming viable economic alternatives for coal-fired and gas-fired plants, while batteries are becoming efficient enough for electric-powered cars to become a big business.

Even with these breakthroughs, the global use of greenhouse-gas emitting hydrocarbons is very unlikely to decline quickly, because the world still relies so much on these energy sources. They accounted for 93% of energy production in 2016, and their use had increased a 1.4% annual rate in the preceding decade, according to Our World in Data.

Engineers, industrialists and governments can work together to reverse this trend. They can also explore carbon capture and other more exotic ways to manipulate the atmosphere. Despite the pervasive pessimism, the historical record suggests that the chances of success are high.

The third economic support is that the population boom is coming to an end. The number of people in the world is 4.7 times higher than in 1900, but women now have an average of 2.5 children. That is not far above the 2.1 at which the population would eventually stabilise.

Actual stability requires the high birth rates which are still prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa to follow the global pattern of falling as prosperity rises. Ethiopia is a good example of how fast things can change. The average woman there had seven children 20 years ago. Now she can expect 4.3.

The downward demographic shift raises various problems, such as funding retirements. For climate change, however, it is an unmitigated positive. Slower population growth leads to fewer energy users and less energy-intensive expenditure on new housing and its related infrastructure.

These economic trends will help the fight against climate change. Unfortunately, there is one necessary and powerful economic force which is not pointing clearly in the right direction.

Governments have to play the central role in organising the response to climate change. Only the political authorities have the scale and clout needed to mobilise existing economic resources and create new ones around the world.

The clout is there, but the will often seems to be weak. The contrast between the earnest and ambitious enthusiasm of the young climate action protesters and the cynical platitudes of many of the political leaders gathered in New York is striking. Economists can line up with the new generation.