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Oil giants in anticipation of sanctions lifting for Iran return

Dimitris Giannakopoulos

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1Foreign energy giants, which have been waiting for return to the Iranian market, now have a real chance to restore their activity in the Islamic Republic.BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s largest oil producer Eni are awaiting a lifting of the sanctions against Iran in order to assess the feasibility of participation in oil and gas projects in the country.”For us, Iran is a huge gas province so it would be good to be there – in conventional gas – at the right terms,” Shell’s financial chief Simon Henry said in London according to Press TV.Though Shell is interested in returning to Iran, Henry said that the company did not expect any quick, easy deals.”Anybody who thinks that we are going to suddenly swan in and end up with great contracts that make a difference within 12 months, I think is a little naive. It’s not going to be easy, it will take time,” the energy news provider Platts quoted Henry as saying. Despite Shell’s long-term activities in Iran’s upstream projects, including in South Pars, the firm pulled out of the world’s largest gas field’s Phase 13 development in 2008. Shell also operated Iran’s Soroush and Nowruz oilfields in the Persian Gulf at a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day. An outstanding debt to the tune of $2.3 billion remains unpaid by the company to Iran since 2012.

2Baku, Moscow focus on military cooperation. Azerbaijani and Russian high-ranking officials have discussed the military cooperation between the two countries.Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister and Zakir Hasanov, the Azerbaijani Defense Minister met on August 1 during latter’s visit to Moscow, Azerbaijani defense ministry reported.”I am very pleased that you have found time to take part in the opening ceremony of Army games. Hopefully, your team will show good results,” RIA Novosti quoted Shoigu as saying at a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart.During the meeting, the Azerbaijani and Russian defense minsters exchanged views on topical issues of regional security, as well as on the state and prospects of military cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan.

3Russia is Preparing the 4th Open Innovations Forum 2015. From October 28 to November 1, 2015, Moscow will host for the fourth time the annual Open Innovations Forum – the largest event in Russia that focuses on technology entrepreneurship and innovation-driven development. For the first time Open Innovations 2015 will comprise a five-day international professional congress and a popular exhibition for general public performed as Technology Show. The forum, centered around the main topic of Humanity in the Center of the Technological Revolution, will last for five days. Each day will be devoted to one of five specific spheres of the human life, dramatically changing under the impact of technologies – productivity, habitat, education, health and entertainment.

4Turkmenistan completing gas pipeline construction for Europe. The ‘East-West’ gas pipeline, under construction in Turkmenistan, will link major gas reserves, creating conditions for Turkmen fuel exports to world markets, said the ‘Neutral Turkmenistan’ newspaper Aug. 1. ‘East-West’ is over 800 kilometers long and has a capacity of 30 billion cubic meters a year, said the pipeline is being built by the divisions of the Turkmen state concerns, Turkmengaz and Turkmennebitgazgurlushyk. The pipeline starts at the ‘Shatlyk’ gas compressor station in the Mary province, and then, running westerly through the Mary and Ahal provinces, it will be connected to the ‘Belek’ gas compressor station in the Balkan province.

5Will gas become divisive point between Russia and Turkmenistan? “Gas sphere was one of the strategic areas of partnership between Turkmenistan and Russia until recently. Turkmenistan transports its gas to Russia via the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline that was constructed during the Soviet period and monopolized by Russia’s Gazprom company. Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources said in mid-July that Gazprom Export LLC (100-percent subsidiary of Russia’s Gazprom company) doesn’t pay the remaining money for the actually delivered Turkmen natural gas, without explaining the reason. Later, the world media reported citing the sources close to Gazprom that the company has filed a lawsuit in Stockholm Court against Turkmenistan’s Turkmengaz company demanding to revise the prices in the gas supply contract” [Azernews]

6Azerbaijan’s cooperation with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will create new opportunities for the country, Hikmet Hajiyev, the spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said on July 30.”Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is multi-vector, and in this respect the country is further expanding cooperation on bilateral and multilateral bases,” he noted. Hajiyev also noted that in this context, it is possible to highlight Azerbaijan’s observer status in the Arab League, African Union, Organization of American States, and other regional and international organizations, which creates even greater opportunities for the country to develop relations with multilateral organizations and their member states.

7Kazakhstan seeks to reclaim historical role as the crossroads of East and West. “as more and more of its manufacturers move inland, China is looking to develop trade from the west, following the tracks of the fabled Silk Road and once again making Xian the gateway to Europe. While shipping by sea takes about five weeks, the new Silk Road train can deliver goods from China to Europe in three weeks. It’s more expensive than sea freight, but the shorter transit time often makes it worthwhile for multi-national companies dependent on global trade. Railway officials in Kazakhstan told me the goal now is to optimize the inland route and reduce costs so the new Silk Road becomes even more viable for businesses” [Times of Oman]

8The Iran deal and South Asia. “India likes to regard itself as a rival of China for influence in Central Asia and has been making hectic plans to catch up with its northern neighbour. To match China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative for a network of infrastructure and energy projects to link China with Europe and the Middle East over land and by sea, Delhi has revived plans for a transit corridor to Europe and Russia through Iran. India has labelled it as the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC). It includes transport by rail, road and sea from Mumbai to Moscow via Bandar Abbas in Iran, with options for connectivity with Turkey and countries in Eastern Europe. Not surprisingly, given the availability of other more viable existing and planned transit routes between Asia and Europe, the INSTC has gained little traction so far” writes Asif Ezdi for thenews.com.pk

9Kazkommertsbank JSC (“KKB”), one of the largest banks in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, sold its 99.86 percent stake, representing 1,497,946 common shares, in “Subsidiary of BTA Bank “London-Almaty” Insurance Company” JSC July 21 2015, the press service of the bank said. The stake was earlier transferred to KKB in line with the Agreement on the simultaneous transfer of assets and liabilities between KKB and BTA.The value of the stake was based upon an independent appraisal prepared by international audit company. Earlier, Kazkommertsbank JSC received “Subsidiary of BTA Bank “London-Almaty” Insurance Company” JSC from BTA Bank JSC within the framework of the agreement on the simultaneous transfer of assets and liabilities.

10A delegation from Azerbaijan, to be led by the Minister of Economic Development, is slated to arrive in Tehran on Monday to consolidate bilateral relations and discuss implementation of previously accorded joint projects in the energy sector.”We are presently hashing out organizational affairs such as setting the date for the working group’s first meeting as well as specifying its agenda of activites,” the deputy head of Azerbaijan’s State Agency for Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources Jamil Melikov.The Azeri officals have voiced their willingness for Iran’s partnership in Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project to transfer sour gas from Iran’s South Pars field to EU markets.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine. follow @DGiannakopoulos

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Environment

Microplastic pollution is everywhere, but not necessarily a risk to human health

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A woman fetches water in Pakistan. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

Tiny plastic particles known as microplastics are “everywhere – including in our drinking-water”, but they are not necessarily a risk to human health, UN experts said on Thursday.

In its first summary of the latest research into the impact of the tiny plastic pollutants on humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that they have been found in marine settings, waste and fresh water, food, the air and drinking-water, both bottled and from a tap.

Frequently, microplastics are defined as less than five millimetres long, according to WHO.

Its report notes that the particles most commonly found in drinking-water are plastic bottle fragments.

“Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health. “We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking-water.”

According to WHO’s findings, microplastics larger than 150 micrometres (a micrometre is a millionth of a metre) are unlikely to be absorbed in the human body, while the uptake of smaller particles is likely to be limited. 

Absorption of microplastic particles “including in the nano-size range may, however, be higher”, the WHO report continues, before cautioning that available data in this “emerging area” is extremely limited.

Asked by journalists about how levels of plastic pollutants differ between tap water and bottled water, WHO’s Jennifer de France from WHO’s Department of Public Health, replied that bottled water “in general did contain higher particle numbers”.

Nonetheless, Ms. France also cautioned against jumping to conclusions, owing to the lack of available data.

“In drinking water in general, often the two polymers that were most frequently detected were polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene,” she said. “Now these polymers – the polyethylene terephthalate – is often used in producing bottled water bottles, and polypropylene, is often used in producing caps. However, there were other polymers detected as well, so more studies are needed to really make a firm conclusion about where the sources are coming from.”

While citing the handful of available studies into the absorption of microplastics and nanoplastics in rats and mice, which showed symptoms including inflammation of the liver, WHO’s report insists that people are unlikely to be exposed to such high levels of pollutants.

Drinking-water contamination: a million lives lost each year

A much more clearly understood potential threat than microplastics is exposure to drinking-water contaminated by human or animal waste, said Bruce Gordon, from WHO’s Department of Public Health, highlighting a problem that affects two billion people and claims one million lives a year.

One way that Governments can tackle this problem is by putting in place better waste-water filtration systems.

The move would reduce microplastic pollution by around 90 per cent, the WHO official explained, before noting that the report had touched on people’s wider concerns about how to live more sustainably and waste less.

“Consumers shouldn’t be too worried,” Mr. Gordon said. “There’s many dimensions to this story that are beyond health. What I mean by that is, if you are a concerned citizen worried about plastic pollution and you have access to a well-managed piped supply – a water supply – why not drink from that? Why not reduce pollution. Of course, there are times when you need a water bottle when you’re walking around, but please reuse it”, he emphasized.

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Brazilian stakeholders of UNIDO-GEF project trained on biogas

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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC), and the International Center of Renewable Energy (CIBiogás) trained members and partners of the Steering Committee of its GEF Biogas project on the biogas value chain in Brazil – a renewable source of energy produced from the decomposition of organic waste generated by various enterprises, such as farms and restaurants.

“The potential use of biogas arises from the need to pursue sustainability in agribusiness; at the same time, it represents an opportunity for local economic development”, said UNIDO Project Management Specialist Bruno Neves. “Organic waste generated by the Brazilian agricultural production can result in economic, social and environmental gains as the benefits of biogas production can both be internalized by producers and be made available in the form of thermal energy, fuel and electricity”.

Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA); the Ministry of Environment (MMA); the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME); the Ministry of Planning, Development and Management (MP); the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE); the Energy Research Company (EPE); the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC); the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP); Itaipu Binacional and the German cooperation agency (GIZ) participated in the training.

“The main objective of the training was to raise the awareness of ministries and important institutional agents about the need to make rules around renewable energy generation more flexible”, said CIBiogas CEO Rodrigo Regis. “Today, Brazil is very dependent on diesel and we have a growing demand for energy, which biogas can partly supply in a decentralized way, and can develop a new economy for the country, thereby generating jobs, income, development and progress”.

The training included a visit to the Itaipu hydroelectric dam and to a demonstration unit supported by CIBiogas: with a breeding of five thousand pigs, the farm is capable of generating 770 cubic meters of biogas per day, resulting in savings of over US$1,000 per month in energy costs.

“The development of biogas is one of MCTIC’s strategic priorities”, said Rafael Menezes, Coordinator of Innovation at the Ministry’s Secretariat for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The Brazilian potential for biogas and biomethane production is underexplored; we have to create public policies and a favorable environment so that we can increasingly tap into this potential”.

The GEF Biogas project “Biogas Applications in Brazilian Agroindustry” foresees local and federal actions to stimulate the sustainable integration of biogas in the national production chain. It is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and aims to expand the production of renewable energy and strengthen national technology supply chains in the sector.

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The workplace equality challenge

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This year’s G7 French presidency has chosen the theme for the Biarritz Summit well. ‘Combating inequality’ is indeed one of the key challenges of our time. 

The theme of combating inequality strongly aligns with the International Labour Organization’s mandate for social justice, as articulated most recently by our Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work  adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2019 . The G7 presidency’s intent for the Biarritz Summit to reaffirm the G7 members’ commitment to respond to global challenges through collective action further provides important support for the declaration’s call for stronger multilateralism to confront the issues facing the world of work.

The G7’s labour and employment track, known this year as the G7 Social, furthered the overarching theme of France’s presidency by concentrating on four goals: further integrating international labour standards into the multilateral system, supporting access to universal social protection systems, supporting individuals through digital transformation and its impact on the future of work, and promoting occupational equality between women and men. Because these themes are integral to the Decent Work Agenda, they provided the ILO with an opportunity to engage deeply with G7 members, not only by providing technical inputs on each of them but also by participating during the discussions.

In the context of the G7 Social’s focus on the rapid changes in the world of work, France highlighted the importance of the ILO’s centenary by welcoming Work for a brighter future, the report of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work. It also emphasised the critical role played by the ILO in the multilateral debate on economic and social policy, and the importance of the ILO’s groundbreaking new international standard on violence and harassment in the world of work.

The communiqué  adopted by labour and employment ministers when they met in Paris on 6–7 June 2019 reflects the work of the G7 Social through an ambitious set of goals:

A call to action to reduce inequalities in a global world, including a multilateral dialogue and coordination for the reduction of inequalities and a commitment to promoting responsible business conduct in global supply chains;

Commitments in favour of universal access to social protection in the changing world of work;

Commitments to empower individuals for the future of work; and,

Commitments to ensure gender equality in the world of work.

The ministers’ communiqué and the ILO’s Centenary Declaration have many strong points of convergence that reveal key areas of focus for the future of work.

The economic and social link

Both instruments stress the need to strengthen multilateralism. The G7 communiqué emphasises the inseparability of economic and social policies to reduce inequalities. This finds its counterpart in the Centenary Declaration’s recognition of the “strong, complex and crucial links between social, trade, financial, economic and environmental policies”, which leads to a call for the ILO to play a stronger role in broad policy dialogues among multilateral institutions. The communiqué and the accompanying G7 Social Tripartite Declaration reaffirm and implement the G7 members’ commitment to social dialogue as the means of shaping the future of work we want.

Similarly, just as the G7 communiqué stresses that social protection, in line with ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors , “is instrumental in shaping the future of work”, the Centenary Declaration calls on the ILO to “develop and enhance social protection systems, which are adequate, sustainable and adapted to developments in the world of work”. Both instruments draw from the Report of the Global Commission, which underscores the importance of social protection systems to support people through the increasingly complex transitions they will need to navigate the changing world of work in order to realise their capabilities.

The G7 communiqué’s call for empowering individuals hinges on the need to “adapt labour market support and institutions to provide decent working conditions for all platform workers” and “underline[s] the importance of harnessing the potential of current changes to create high-quality jobs for all”. Addressing new business models and diverse forms of work arrangements, the Declaration, for its part, directs the ILO’s efforts to “[harness] … technological progress and productivity growth” to ensure decent work and “a just sharing of the benefits for all”. Both documents draw on prior work of the ILO to call for a transformative agenda for gender equality through a broad range of policies, including by closing persistent gender gaps in pay and participation in the labour market. Both instruments recognise the persistent challenges of informality.

As the ILO begins our second century, we are preparing our next programme and budget to respond to the key priority areas identified in the Centenary Declaration. We look to the G7 summit to provide an important boost for the ILO’s efforts to bring that about, and by so doing to provide our own contribution to the G7 priority of combating inequality.

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