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Turkmenistan prepares large gas breakthrough in Europe

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

1The West has long been waiting for this step, lobbying for the idea of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline as a part of the Southern Gas Corridor, hoping to take away the convenient instrument of pressure on Europe, that is, Russian gas from the Kremlin’s hands.However, previously, Turkmenistan wasn’t ready for an open confrontation with Russia and to start major gas deliveries to the West. Meanwhile, selling almost all of its gas to China, Ashgabat found highly risky, as both the single customer, and the single seller meant constant dependence. And today, Ashgabat has an opportunity to get away from that dependence on the buyer, and to diversify its supplies to the West” Elmira Tariverdiyeva – [Trend.az]

2Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks political comeback. Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a political campaign ahead of February’s parliamentary elections in what could prove a challenge to the moderates behind a landmark nuclear agreement reached last month. Few expect a rerun of Ahmadinejad’s surprise victory in the 2005 elections, which kicked off an eight-year presidency marked by confrontation with the West, incendiary rhetoric toward Israel and refusal to compromise on the disputed nuclear program.[Associated Press]

3Russia, together with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, will hold two joint naval exercises in the Caspian Sea by the end of 2015, Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Viktor Chirkov said Monday.Between August 3 and 11, the Caspian Sea is hosting the open naval competitions Caspian Cup-2015 and Caspian Derby-2015, as part of the International Army Games.”We are planning to hold at least two international naval drills in the Caspian Sea before the end of 2015,” Chirkov said at the competitions’ opening ceremony. He added that one of the exercises would be tripartite, with the participation of the Russian Caspian Flotilla, the Azerbaijani Navy and the Kazakh Navy. The second round of naval drills will involve only the Azerbaijani and Russian forces.

4Iran offers Azerbaijan to supply oil to Gulf. Iran stands ready to carry out the swap deliveries of Azerbaijani oil to the Persian Gulf, the Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said.He made the remarks August 4 in Tehran addressing a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev.Zanganeh said that oil can be transported from Iran’s Caspian port of Neka via a pipeline (with a capacity of 500,000 barrels per day) to the Tehran Oil Refinery.“Instead, Azerbaijan will get oil on the southern borders of Iran,” said Zanganeh.

5The construction of a $US10 billion ($A13.74 billion) gas pipeline stretching from Central to South Asia is set to begin in December, Pakistani officials said on Monday after meeting with a delegation from Turkmenistan.Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have long planned the ambitious project to meet growing energy needs in the three South Asian countries but administrative issues and unrest in Afghanistan have so far delayed its realization. But the project is politically complex, requiring cooperation between at least four governments, and logistically challenging, as the pipeline would pass through areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan plagued by Taliban and separatist insurgents.

6Sweden has expelled a Russian diplomat and Moscow has retaliated by throwing out a Swedish diplomat.A Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Russian’s activities had not been in accordance with the Vienna Convention, a diplomatic code of behavior.But he did not disclose any details, nor did he say when either expulsion occurred.Sweden has been highly critical of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and increased military activity by Russian planes and vessels in the Baltic Sea region has intensified regional tensions.

7Russia: Gazprom, A Behemoth No More.”It was not too long ago that Gazprom, the state-controlled energy conglomerate, was one of the Kremlin’s most potent geopolitical weapons. But those days now seem like a distant memory: Gazprom is a financial shadow of its former self.The speed of Gazprom’s decline is breathtaking. At its peak in May 2008, the company’s market capitalization reached $367.27 billion, making it one of world’s most valuable companies, according to a survey compiled by the Financial Times. Gazprom’s deputy chair, Alexander Medvedev, repeatedly predicted at the time that within a decade the Russian energy giant could be worth $1 trillion.That prediction now seem foolhardy” [EurasiaNet]

8Iran’s Ambassador to India has told the country’s media that Tehran is eager to cooperate with New Delhi in mega connectivity projects in the region. Gholamreza Ansari has specifically cited an agreement between the two countries over the development of Iran’s southeastern port of Chabahar as a key connectivity project. “India can be always part of any big ticket projects in Iran,” Ansari told The Times of India in an exclusive interview.Asked about the possibility of reviving the Iran-Pakistan- India gas pipeline project, the envoy said it was up to India and Pakistan to sort out their differences.

9Elections in Donetsk and Russia’s New Conflict-Freeze Model. “Holding an electoral mandate, but fronting for Russia, the authorities of Donetsk and Luhansk could then be seated at the table with Ukraine’s central government, to negotiate an “internal” Ukrainian constitutional settlement. That would introduce an entirely new paradigm of “conflict freeze” in Europe’s East. For the first time in the 25-year history of those conflicts, Moscow and the main Western chancelleries are urging the aggressed country—Ukraine in this case—to authorize elections in the territory under Russian military and secessionist control, then bargain with the predetermined winners of those elections” [Jamestown]

10Research Report: Coffee in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a nation of tea drinkers and drinking coffee is not a normal habit. Despite this, the interest in coffee increased over the review period with Kazakhstanis traveling more and getting to know other cultures and their cuisines better. The westernisation of Kazakhstani culture has also created a noticeable move towards coffee drinking. The increasing number of foreigners in Kazakhstan has had a positive effect on sales of coffee as well. [Fast Market Research]

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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After stalling last year, renewable power capacity additions to hit double-digit growth in 2019

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After stalling last year, global capacity additions of renewable power are set to bounce back with double-digit growth in 2019, driven by solar PV’s strong performance, according to the International Energy Agency.

The IEA expects renewable capacity additions to grow by almost 12% this year, the fastest pace since 2015, to reach almost 200 GW, mostly thanks to solar PV and wind. Global solar PV additions are expected to increase by over 17%.

Last year was the first time since 2001 that growth in renewable power capacity failed to accelerate year on year, largely due to a Chinese government policy change. This highlights the critical role of governments for the deployment of renewables and the need to avoid sudden policy changes that can result in strong market volatility.

Renewables have a major part to play in curbing global emissions and providing universal access to affordable, secure, sustainable and modern energy. Renewable capacity additions need to grow by more than 300 GW on average each year between 2018 and 2030 to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario.

“These latest numbers give us many reasons to celebrate: Renewable electricity additions are now growing at their fastest pace in four years after a disappointing 2018,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “We are witnessing a drastic decline in the cost of solar power together with strong growth in onshore wind. And offshore wind is showing encouraging signs.”

“These technologies are the mainstays of the world’s efforts to tackle climate change, reduce air pollution and provide energy access to all,” Dr Birol said. “The stark difference between this year’s trend and last year’s demonstrates the critical ability of government policies to change the trajectory we are on.”

The cost of solar PV has plunged more than 80% since 2010, making the technology increasingly competitive in many countries. The IEA estimates that global solar PV capacity additions will increase to almost 115 GW this year, despite a slight decline in China, the world’s largest market. This is set to be the first year that solar PV additions have surpassed 100 GW and the third year in a row that they account for more than half of global renewable additions.

The softness in the Chinese solar PV market is being offset by faster expansion in the European Union, led by Spain; a new installations boom in Vietnam as developers rush to complete projects before incentive cuts; and faster growth in India and the United States. Japanese solar PV developers are also expediting the commissioning of projects to meet deadlines for higher incentives.

The pace of acceleration in the Chinese solar PV market remains the biggest uncertainty for the IEA’s 2019 estimates. China’s policy transition from feed-in tariffs to competitive auctions resulted in relatively slow solar PV deployment in the first half of 2019. But installations in the second half of the year are expected to accelerate with the completion of the first projects linked to large-scale auctions and the emergence of projects that rely far less on incentives to compete with other power sources.

The rebound in renewables is also supported by higher onshore wind growth, which is expected to rise 15% to 53 GW, the largest increase since record deployment in 2015. In the United States, project developers have accelerated deployment before the phase-out of federal production tax credits. In China, lower curtailment levels have unlocked additional growth in several provinces this year, enabling faster expansion.

Offshore wind growth is expected to be stable at around 5 GW in 2019, led by the European Union and China.

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Liquidity Crisis Weighs on An Already Strangled Palestinian Economy

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Palestinian Authority (PA) faces a financing gap that could exceed US$1.8 billion for 2019 driven by declining aid flows and the unresolved transfer of taxes and import duties collected by Israel on behalf of the PA (clearance revenues), according to a new report released today by the World Bank. 

The report highlights the financing gap that has forced the PA to accumulate debt from domestic banks, and build up arrears to employees, suppliers and the public pension fund, creating large liquidity challenges for the economy. The Palestinian economic monitoring report will be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on September 26, 2019 in New York, a policy-level meeting for development assistance to the Palestinian people.

“The outlook for the Palestinian territories is worrisome as drivers of growth are diminishing and the severe liquidity squeeze has started to affect the PA’s ability to fulfill its responsibilities of paying its civil servants and providing public services,” said Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza. “With the right actions and collaboration between the parties, the situation could be reversed and bring relief to the Palestinian people, its economy and living standards.”

Overall revenue received in the first half of 2019 was half the amount in the same period last year mainly due to a 68 percent drop in clearance revenues. The PA has rejected the transfers of all clearance revenues due to deductions by Israel of US$138 million per year. As a result, the PA has taken a number of steps to cope with the loss of liquidity including fully using its borrowing capacity from domestic banks and paying only 60 percent of salaries to its employees while protecting those that make NIS2,000 per month (US$ 550) and below.

The retroactive transfer of fuel taxes made by the Government of Israel in August 2019 is expected to enable the PA to manage till the end of 2019 with reduced spending, while continuing to accrue arrears to employees, and private sector suppliers. Transferring to the PA the responsibility for fuel taxes that comprise about a third of total clearance revenues would be a partial help, but a more comprehensive agreement needs to be reached covering the mechanism and nature of Israeli deductions from clearance revenues going forward. 

Growth in the Palestinian territories is estimated at 1.3 percent in 2019. This forecast is largely due to a slight improvement in Gaza of 1.8 percent growth, after a dramatic 7 percent decline in 2018. Reflecting the liquidity squeeze, growth in the West Bank is expected to slow in 2019 to the lowest level over the last five years at 1.2 percent.  As the PA, businesses and households exhaust their options for coping with the liquidity crisis, a recession is forecasted for subsequent years in the absence of an agreement that restores the normal flow of these revenues.

 “While the regular flow of clearance revenues is an immediate priority, for sustained economic expansion, steps need to be taken to reduce access and trade barriers. Work also needs to be done to enhance the business environment for Palestinian businesses. Coordinated efforts and support by all parties could offer better economic prospects for Palestinians,” added Shankar.

Progress can be made by expanding the pilot of door to door transport (a single movement of cargo on one mode of transport) through the West Bank crossings; completing the negotiations over electricity purchases between Palestinian and Israeli electricity companies; and revising the dual use goods system. Internally, reforms to improve the business climate are critical, including finalizing the revised Companies Law before the end of the year; and completing the institutional reform at the Palestine Land Authority to improve the efficiency and transparency of land administration. 

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New Study Offers Pathways to Climate-Smart Transport

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A two-volume study laying out a pathway to a low-carbon and climate-resilient transport sector in Vietnam was released at a workshop on Addressing Climate Change in Transport, held in Hanoi today.

This analytical work comes at a critical time when the Government of Vietnam is updating its Nationally Determined Contribution on reducing carbon emissions and set out its next medium-term public investment plan for 2021-2025.

“A resilient transport system is critical to the continued success of Vietnam’s economy, which relies heavily on external trade and seamless connectivity,” said Ousmane Dione, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam. “We hope that the findings and recommendations of this new report will help Vietnam in its efforts to achieve a resilient and sustainable transport sector.

The first volume demonstrates that by employing a mix of diverse policies and investments, Vietnam can reduce its carbon emissions in the transport sector up to 9 percent with only domestic resources by 2030, and 15-20 percent by mobilizing international support and private sector participation.

Currently, the transport sector contributes about 10.8 percent of the total CO2 emissions. In a business-as-usual scenario, these emissions are projected to grow at an annual rate of 6-7% to nearly 70 million tons CO2e. The most cost-effective measures to boost the resilience of the transport sector include shifting traffic from roads to inland waterways and coastal transport, deploying stricter vehicle fuel economy standards, and promoting electric mobility.

The second volume provides a methodological framework to analyze critical and vulnerable points of the transport network, and presents a strong economic case for investing in building the climate resilience of Vietnam’s transport networks. A vulnerability assessment looks at the potential impact of different hazards on the transport corridor or network, and the criticality assessment considers such questions as which links and routes along transport networks are the most critical for the unimpeded flow of transport across a particular transport network.

The study identifies systemic critical issues and hazard-specific, high-risk locations in Vietnam’s transport network. Considering climate change, it is estimated that 20 percent of the network is most critical in terms of its exposure to future disaster risks. Meanwhile, road failures can result in very high daily losses of up to US$1.9 million per day, while railway failures can result in losses as high as US$2.6 million per day.

To prepare for the increasing intensity and frequency of extreme hazards due to climate change, it is imperative to make investments to overhaul existing road assets to higher climate-resilient design standards.

Given the vulnerability of land-based transport, a shift to waterborne transport offers a good resilience strategy. A 10-percent shift in that direction could reduce climate risks by 25 percent, according to the report.

This report is a collaborative effort among the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport, the World Bank and Deutsche Gesellschaft für InternationaleZusammenarbeit GmbH (German Development Cooperation GIZ) under the commission by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). It is sponsored by the Australian Government through the Australia-World Bank Group Strategic Partnership in Vietnam – Phase 2 (ABP2) program.

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