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Oil Price Drops Raise Fears of Unrest

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

1Oil, the lifeblood of many countries that produce and sell it, appears to be rapidly turning into an ever-cheaper economic curse.While the price has been declining for months, forecasts have always been hedged with the assumption that oil would eventually stabilize or at least not stay low for long. But new anxieties about frailties in China, the world’s most voracious consumer of energy, have raised fears that the price of oil, now 30 percent lower than it was just a few months ago, could remain depressed far longer than even the most pessimistic projections, and do even deeper damage to oil exporters. [New York Times]

2Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi along with King Abdullah II of Jordan and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Nahyan, in a series of talks starting on Tuesday in Moscow. Putin’s meeting with King Abdullah will pay special attention to the implementation of joint projects, including the construction of the first Jordanian nuclear power plant, according to a statement released by the Kremlin on Monday. Talks with Crown Prince Al-Nahyan, also the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates, will focus on enhancing security and stability in the Middle East and North Africa, in addition to bilateral cooperation in energy and investment.

3New gas field discovered in Turkmenistan. A powerful commercial natural gas inflow was obtained at the ‘Bagly-1’ area in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan’s Mary Province, the Turkmen newspaper ‘Neutral Turkmenistan’ said. According to the newspaper this happened after the first exploration well at the area reached a depth of 4,690 meters. The daily hydrocarbon output at the new field exceeds one and a half million cubic meters. The newspaper said the new field’s prospect can also be judged from its being located a few dozen kilometers away from the gigantic Galkynysh field, which is famous worldwide for its explored and proven natural gas reserves.

4Azerbaijan`s investment potential will be discussed as part of “Milan Expo-2015″ international exhibition on Tuesday.”Invest in Azerbaijan: Business environment and opportunities” event will be co-organized by the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO) and Azerbaijan-Italy Trade Institute (ITAZERCOM).The agenda includes discussions on prospects for cooperation between the two countries in the fields of information and communication technologies, agriculture, chemistry, mechanics, environment, industry and construction.The event will bring together representatives of AZPROMO, Azerbaijan Investment Company, Sumgait Chemical Industrial Park, and Clean City company.

5Kazakhstan’s Air Defence Forces have received five air defence missile systems from Russia according to the press-office of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense.“These S300PS air defence missile systems will be tested during live fire exercise and transferred to military bases of Kazakhstan’s Air Defence Forces to be in operation readiness covering the airspace of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the Commander of Kazakhstan’s AA Troops Nurzhan Mukanov said. The S300PS AA missile systems were given to Kazakhstan free of charge.

6Preparation for the official visit of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammadov to Afghanistan, scheduled for August 27 was discussed at the last meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers in Ashgabat, the Turkmen government reported. The president of Turkmenistan said that the country’s stance is exclusively peaceful settlement of the situation in Afghanistan by taking concrete steps to restore the Afghan economy and social infrastructure, according to the message.All this is proved by large-scale projects initiated by the Turkmen side, such as the construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the construction of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway, which started in 2013.

7Azerbaijan has expanded the investment in the social and economic spheres of the country in January to July, 2015.The investments in the mentioned spheres increased by 3.5 percent as compared with the same period of the past year, according to the report of the Azerbaijan State Statistical Committee.The total amount of investments amounted to 9.37 billion manats (over $8.94 billion), including 58.6 percent of internal investments.The government allocated the largest investments in the field of the construction and installation works for this period, amounting to 74.7 percent of the total volume of investments.

8Ahead of a high-level technical delegation from Iran, the Ministry of Commerce on Monday explored various avenues to enhance bilateral trade to $5 billion in the next five years after lifting of international sanctions against Iran. A delegation from Iran will visit Islamabad on August 25-26 to revive the trade links. Pakistan has a narrow export basket to Iran because 63 per cent of exports comprised of rice alone. Pakistan’s exports to Iran fell to a low level of $43 million in 2014 from $182m in 2010. While Iranian imports fell to $186m in 2014 from $884m in 2010.

9Duda on Top of Russian Threat. Poland sees Russia as a pre-eminent threat. This has been the essence of speeches made by Andrzej Duda, the newly appointed President who has called for additional security guarantees from NATO and has plans to create an anti-Russian bloc within the organization alongside other Eastern European countries. Given Duda’s attitude, it would seem that Russian–Polish relations could deteriorate even further, while tensions in the Baltic–Black Sea Region as a whole will increase sharply. Vadim Trukhachev for RIAC.

10The first lady of Azerbaijan, ISESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva is a very dynamic person with great talents and open-mindedness, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri said in an interview with Trend news agency.“She has always been an advocate of dialogue and positive interaction between cultures,” he said.The ISESCO director general went on to add that Mehriban Aliyeva’s support to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue is a strong factor of its success in achieving its noble objectives.

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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