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
1Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said that Iran will not give up its quota in OPEC and its share in world market.Speaking on Iranian State TV Aug. 26, Zanganeh said Iran will raise exports even if the oil prices fall.“The Islamic Republic of Iran will by no means ignore its quota in OPEC and the world oil market. We have no problem with slashing of oil prices on the global market because we can double our oil exports,” said Zangeneh, adding, “We should bypass the tyrannical conditions imposed on our country because maintaining Iran quota in OPEC and world market is among our vital parameters.” He said. Noting that the OPEC members should reconsider current oil production, Zanganeh said to this end, OPEC members have been asked to hold an extraordinary session that will be held if all the 13 members agree to it on consensus. Certain OPEC members do not wish increase in the prices and want to harm other members through low prices as a result of oversupply, he concluded.
2The next meeting of the Working Group on the legal status of the Caspian Sea is scheduled for early September in Moscow, Iran’s special envoy for Caspian affairs, Ibrahim Rahimpur told Trend. Rahimpur said the meeting would discuss the issues on the legal status of the Caspian Sea still uncoordinated by the littoral states.There are two possible solutions to the issue on the legal status of the Caspian Sea: delimitation using a midline modified method or division into five equal parts of 20 percent share.Baku supports defining the Caspian Sea’s legal status based on the sovereign rights of the littoral states, a mutually beneficial partnership, and peaceful negotiations.Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Russia signed an agreement on the delimitation of their respective Caspian maritime borders on May 14, 2003. Azerbaijan, together with Kazakhstan and Russia, agreed on the delimitation of the sea in early 2000. Turkmenistan and Iran, however, have not reached a consensus yet.
3China and Russia: Cyber Cousins but not Cyber Brothers. “There seems to be a strong divergence in perception behind China’s desire to command cyberspace offensively. On the one hand, there is the assumption that this is a natural manifestation of its growing desire to achieve global superpower status. On the other hand, there is the counter-argument that emphasizes China’s own perception to be unable to operate effectively against the United States in a conventional military confrontation. Indeed, many Chinese writings suggest cyber warfare is considered an obvious asymmetric instrument for balancing overwhelming US power” Dr. Matthew Crosston for Modern Diplomacy.
4Putin To Visit China Next Week, Sign 20 Bilateral Deals. Putin will attend celebrations dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the victory of Chinese people over Japan and the 70th anniversary of victory in WWII. The Russian and Chinese leaders also plan to hold negotiations on energy and other issues, and sign more than 20 bilateral documents, many implementing agreements reached during Xi’s visit to Russia in May 2015 and in meetings in Ufa in July 2015.Russia’s Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said cooperation between the two countries has “already become a powerful stabilizing factor of security” in the world.
5Pakistan and Kazakhstan on Wednesday agreed to bolster bilateral ties through enhanced cooperation in trade, economy, energy, science and technology and education for the mutual benefit of two brotherly countries.“As we move forward, we would be taking concrete steps to expand mutual cooperation in diverse fields, including regional connectivity, energy, security, education, culture, and people-to-people exchanges,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing a joint press conference with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The prime minister said the two sides also agreed to strengthen economic cooperation by optimally utilising the existing institutional mechanisms, adding, the bilateral trade between the two countries was not commensurate with the actual potential and needed to be revitalized.
6Kazakhstan Steering through Troubled Waters. “Perhaps, with the exception of multinational oil companies, potential investors are turned off by the many disadvantages there are to investing in Kazakhstan. In addition to being quasi-democratic and geographically landlocked, Kazakhstan’s private sector lacks experience, still has to develop a larger educated workforce, and suffers from global doubt as to its financial ability to follow through on the aforementioned promises. It also doesn’t help that Kazakhstan acts like an autocracy at times in that its government is known for its lack of transparency and has high levels of corruption. It maintains tight controls over the press, lacks diversity, and has an unimpressive civil rights record. Dealing with these political complications would be an inevitable headache for investors” Jeanette “JJ” Harper for Modern Diplomacy.
7The Western flow of Caspian natural gas. Azerbaijan has been a reliable energy partner with the West for more than 20 years now, after the country opened up to international investment and partnership following the restoration of its independence from the Soviet Union. Since 2006, it has pumped nearly a million barrels of crude oil each day through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to Europe, the U.S. and Israel, and much-needed natural gas through the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline.Unlike those pipelines, which were designed and driven by international companies, Azerbaijan itself is now a major player in the Southern Gas Corridor. The corridor will start in Azerbaijan, initially tapping into its giant, Manhattan-size Shah Deniz gas field. Azerbaijan’s state energy company, SOCAR, is also a major stakeholder in the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline and will operate the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline; and its input will also be essential if the Trans-Caspian Pipeline is built. Nasimi Aghayev Azerbaijan’s consul general to the Western United States, based in Los Angeles [Washington Times]
8Azerbaijan to regulate activity of social networks. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications and High Technologies will certify the activity of instant messengers (Viber, WhatsApp, Skype and others) and social networks, Azerbaijani Minister of Communications and High Technologies Ali Abbasov told reports August 27. He said that the negotiations with these companies have already started.“Most of them have reacted positively to this action of the regulatory body of the country, moreover, a number of them render services over the Internet. As a regulatory body, we believe that the companies engaged in mass collection of information in Azerbaijan must work in accordance with the country’s law about the personal data, that is, get a certificate. This certificate is issued by our ministry.”
9Why an Iranian New Deal was Necessary. “Several conceptual and theoretical explanations have been used to highlight key indicators that counteract the effectiveness of sanctions within the Middle East and how the spread of certain ideologies and social practices have impacted the success of international mediations. This microcosm analysis of the various social variables, mostly stemming from historical and political events, supports the need to judge more harshly the long-term efficacy of sanctions. It provides an analysis concerning weapons proliferation within Iran and will question the overall potential success of sanctions against such targeted states” Dianne A. Valdez for Modern Diplomacy.
10Russia Overtakes Botswana as World’s Top Diamond Producer. Canada emerged third in production value, Angola fourth and South Africa fifth. Russia saw its output leap 20% to $3.73 billion, while the value of precious stones rose 19% to $97.47 per carat. Its volume jumped 1% to 38.303 million carats. Botswana saw its diamond value drop 5% to $147.84 per carat as the growth in value of the country’s diamond output remained at $3.65 billion despite a 6% leap in volume to 23.187 million carats.
New ADB Platform to Help Boost Financing for Climate Action
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched a new platform aimed at helping its developing member countries in Asia and the Pacific mobilize funding to meet their goals under the Paris Agreement.
The NDC Advance platform will help countries mobilize finance to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) regarding greenhouse gas emissions that each country has voluntarily committed to under the Paris Agreement. NDCs also describe priority actions for countries to adapt to climate change.
The announcement was made at the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, which is aiming to finalize a rulebook for the Paris Agreement when it goes into effect on 1 January 2020.
The agreement aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C, while aiming for 1.5°C.
“Through their NDCs, our developing member countries have made ambitious commitments to respond to climate change,” said ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Mr. Bambang Susantono. “We need to ensure that countries are able to mobilize the needed financing to deliver on their commitments. NDC Advance will help countries devise investment plans to tap financing from a variety of sources and to implement priority projects effectively.”
NDC Advance is funded through a $4.55 million grant from ADB and will have three aims: providing technical assistance that helps countries better engage with potential sources of climate finance and to make use of innovative finance mechanisms; identifying and prioritizing climate projects; and supporting countries in tracking how projects deliver against their NDC goals.
The new initiative will help propel the climate actions ADB has committed to under its Strategy 2030 program.
ADB earlier this year committed to ensuring that 75% of its operations will support climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030, while providing cumulative climate financing of $80 billion from its own sources between 2019 and 2030.
Egypt: Shifting Public Funds from Infrastructure to Investing in People
Egypt has an opportunity to capitalize on current reforms by enabling more private investment in infrastructure and freeing up public funds for investments in people’s education, health and social protection. This is according to a new World Bank report launched today in Cairo,‘’Egypt: Enabling Private Investment and Commercial Financing in Infrastructure’’, which calls for increasing the public funds available for building human capital by expanding successful energy reforms to other key sectors, such as transport, logistics, water and agriculture.
“Egypt can learn from global experience and gain by increasing the use of private sector finance, management expertise and innovation in commercial infrastructure and agriculture, conserving public sector resources for where they are needed most”, said Clive Harris, Head for Maximizing Finance for Development for the World Bank.
Egypt is now beginning to reap the benefits of its transformative economic reform program. Macroeconomic stability and market confidence have been largely restored, growth has resumed, fiscal accounts are improving, and the public debt ratio is projected to fall for the first time in a decade.
“Egypt has demonstrated that by having a package aimed at reducing economic risks, pursuing sector level reforms and well-prepared bankable projects, large scale foreign and domestic investment can be achieved, This is visible through the US$ 2 billion invested in the largest solar park in the world, Benban, as well as US$ 13 billion in the Zohr field and other natural gas projects” said Ashish Khanna, Program Leader for Sustainable Development at the World Bank.
The report indicates that the action plan to further enabling private investment requires clear policy actions to resolve four cross cutting barriers to private investment – namely better management of land, transparency in Government procurement, efficiency in state owned enterprise and encouraging long term domestic financing. This needs to be complemented with developing projects for private investments with maximum economic impact, like the regional energy hub, logistics corridors, freight transport and agricultural transformation hubs.
The gains from reforms would also free up scarce public resources and allow for them to be re-allocated to investments in the education and health of Egyptians, the country’s human capital. Reforms in the energy sector provide an example of what is possible. The reform of energy subsidies freed up US$14 billon, reduced the pressure on the national budget and allowed the quadrupling of the investments in social safety net programs.
According to the report, for Egypt to maintain its reform momentum and focus on investing in its citizens, it will need to broaden and deepen its reform agenda to other sectors. This would be part of a fundamental shift away from the state as a provider of employment and output to an enabler of private investment; with the economy driven by a dynamic private sector generating jobs for the youth.
The report identifies four sectors which have huge potential for private investments and illustrates how successfully attracting those investments would generate growth, create jobs and ultimately contribute to developing Egypt’s human capital. The four sectors analyzed in the report are: transport, energy, water and sanitation, and agriculture.
The World Bank provides technical, analytical and financial support to help Egypt reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity. The focus of Bank support includes social safety nets, energy, transport, rural water and sanitation, irrigation, social housing, health care, job creation, and financing for micro and small enterprises. The World Bank currently has a portfolio of 16 projects with a total commitment of US$6.69 billion.
New Initiative to Mitigate Risk for Global Solar Scale-up
The World Bank and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) are developing a joint Global Solar Risk Mitigation Initiative (SRMI), an integrated approach to tackle policy, technical and financial issues associated with scaling up solar energy deployment, especially in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Initiated in Delhi at the first International Solar Alliance (ISA) summit in March 2018, the initiative will support the ISA’s goal to reduce costs and mobilize $1,000 billion in public and private investments to finance 1,000 GW of global solar capacity by 2030.
“The World Bank, in partnership with AFD, remains committed to the International Solar Alliance’s goals and to global efforts to fight climate change. Through this new, integrated approach, we hope to further scale up solar energy use by reducing the cost of financing for solar projects and de-risking them, especially in low-income countries,” said Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank.
As the costs for solar power have fallen steadily, solar power is increasingly viewed as a key component in the fight against climate change. However, solar deployment has been slow in some emerging markets, particularly Africa, due to layers of risks perceived by the private sector in financing solar projects. The SRMI aims to change that.
“This partnership with ISA and the World Bank is another step towards achieving the objective of the Paris Agreement of redirecting financial flows in favor of low carbon and resilient development pathways. AFD is glad to join forces with these partners to deliver on the commitments made at COP21, to bring solutions to de-risk potential solar investments and mobilize the private sector to invest in sustainable development” said Rémy RIOUX, CEO of AFD.
The SRMI’s integrated approach will include:
- Support for the development of an enabling policy environment in targeted countries
- A new digital procurement (e-tendering) platform to facilitate and streamline solar auctions
- Targeting relatively small (under 20 MW) solar projects, offering a more comprehensive risk mitigation package of support to a wider range of investors and financiers to promote scale up at later stages. The financial risk mitigation package offered by SRMI will be supported by technical assistance and concerted engagement on planning, resource mapping and power sector reforms to ensure the creditworthiness of utilities in these countries
- Mitigating the residual project’s risks through adequate risk mitigation financial instruments for both on and off-grid projects
The governments of India and France launched the ISA, an international organization as part of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 to scale up solar energy resources, reduce the cost of financing for solar projects around the world and ultimately help reach the Sustainable Development Goal on energy (SDG7) of providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to all. To date, 71 countries have signed the constituting treaty of the ISA, and 48 have ratified it.
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