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
1Similarly to Ukraine, post-Soviet Kazakhstan is also asserting its national identity, but the absence of EU ambition toward Astana and its participation in the Eurasian Union preserves the country from a Donbass-type scenario, writes Michael Emerson for Euractiv
2Turkmenistan’s government is preparing to hold an international exhibition and science conference titled ‘The main areas of development in the power industry of Turkmenistan’ on September 12-13. This specialized forum is meant to showcase the achievement and prospects of development of the Turkmen power industry. Power industry is one of the leading industries in the national economy of Turkmenistan, aiming to fully meet the needs of industry, agriculture and social sector in Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan’s electricity is currently being bought by Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.
3The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed surprise on Monday, September 7, over an American warning to Russia against escalating the conflict in Syria, saying that the Kremlin’s Syrian policy — in particular furnishing military aid to help the government confront extremist forces — had been consistent for years. “We have always supplied equipment to them for their struggle against terrorists,” Maria V. Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in an interview. “We are supporting them, we were supporting them and we will be supporting them” in that fight. The problem is that the West cannot show one example of how they would manage the Syria story right after,” Ms. Zakharova said. “What is the West planning to do right after? Do they have a magic wand that will transform Syria from civil war to economic prosperity?”
4Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh says Tehran will support any step to help the recovery of the oil market.”Iran supports and welcomes any steps to help the oil market recover and escape the current conditions,” Zangeneh has been quoted as saying by the media. He made the comment in reference to a proposal made by Venezuela to coordinate between OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers. Venezuela has for months been pushing for an emergency OPEC meeting and joint coordination with Russia to stem a tumble in oil prices, but with little success.
5A regional seminar entitled “Closure, long-term surveillance and maintenance of areas after the rehabilitation process” has kicked off in Baku. The seminar is part of “Support for environmental remediation programs” joint project between Azerbaijan`s Ministry of Emergency Situations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).The seminar brought together 70 representatives from Azerbaijan, Great Britain, Bulgaria, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and IAEA.
6Why Azerbaijan’s real estate prices remain high? The property market in Azerbaijan is now going through changes, having slightly decreased in prices after recent economic shocks – the fall in oil prices, the devaluation of manat, etc. The consulting company Value and Sources released a number of reasons why an apartment in Baku is not any getting cheaper. The company said the fact that housing prices in manat remained unchanged in the last year and has declined by an average of 25 percent in dollar, is controversial.“This is an average index, so it turns out that if the price for half of all housing in Baku fell in manat over the last year, the other half, on the contrary, has risen,” the company noted. Azernews
7Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev believes that Kazakhstanis need to learn from Chinese diligence and discipline, Tengrinews reports. He also highlighted that it was worth looking up to China in their fight against corruption. “They adopted a code of conduct for civil servants, which includes eight points and as you know the first of our (five) institutional reforms is aimed at the improvement of the civil service,” he pointed out.
8EU Ambassador to Azerbaijan Malena Mard has written an article in connection with the start of the academic year. “The EU is proud to be a key partner with the Ministry of Education as well as other stakeholders in modernising and reforming the education system in Azerbaijan. In this we will support bringing the education system closer to EU standards and, more generally, to allow it to better supply the required skills for the effective functioning of the economy. We hope to contribute and co-operate with Azerbaijani partners sharing our experiences within the EU. Through this we hope to contribute to create a robust, sustainable and diversified economic growth”
9Turkmenistan has begun the engineering and survey work for a 1,800km-long pipeline that will supply gas to the energy-hungry South Asian nation. The pipeline will be constructed as a part of the ambitious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project. Turkmengaz State Corporation said in a statement that specialists of the Institute of Oil and Gas began the engineering and survey work on the route last week, as Ashgabat planned to start the construction of the pipeline in December. Although the four Asian countries had taken a decision regarding the project long back, commencement of the project had been delayed mainly because of administrative issues and political instability in Afghanistan.
10Turkey and Azerbaijan are leading countries in the region, a board member of the Petkim petrochemical holding Kenan Yavuz said with reference to the head of SOCAR Turkey Enerji, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported. He said that the implementation of energy projects of Azerbaijan and Turkey is aimed at strengthening peace and stability in the region.With the construction of Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), the volume of total investment of Azerbaijan in the economy of Turkey will amount to $20 billion.TANAP project envisages transportation of gas of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field from the Georgian-Turkish border to the western borders of Turkey.
ILO calls on Belarus President to respect workers’ rights and freedoms amid protests
The Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Guy Ryder, has called on the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, to prevent human rights violations and “ensure full respect for workers’ rights and freedoms” during the wave of protests that have swept the country in recent weeks.
In his letter to the Belarus President, Ryder urged President Lukashenko to release and drop charges against six trade unionists who have been detained by the authorities after participating in peaceful protests and industrial action.
He reminded the President that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure a climate free from violence, threats or pressure against peacefully protesting workers and that any such allegations should be rapidly and independently investigated.
“I must urge you to do all in your power to prevent the occurrence of human rights violations and ensure full respect for workers’ rights and freedoms,” Ryder’s letter said.
He expressed his deep concern at reports coming out of Belarus on the arrest, detention, imprisonment and mistreatment of workers’ leaders.
‘No one should be deprived of their freedom or be subject to penal sanctions for the mere fact of organizing or participating in a peaceful strike or protest,’ Ryder wrote.
The letter recalls that the ILO has been working with the Belarus government, and the national workers’ and employers’ organizations, for 16 years, helping to address issues raised by an ILO Commission of Inquiry in 2004 which was set up following serious infringements of trade union rights and freedoms in the country.
Ryder notes that while there has been some progress on these issues, “the Commission’s recommendations are far from being fully implemented.”
The intervention by the ILO Director-General follows a request made by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
More can be done to ensure a green recovery from COVID-19 crisis
Many countries are making “green” recovery measures a central part of stimulus packages to drive sustainable, inclusive, resilient economic growth and improve well-being in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. However some countries are also implementing measures that risk having a negative environmental impact and locking in unsustainable growth, according to new OECD analysis discussed by member country ministers today.
New OECD analysis, Making the Green Recovery Work for Jobs, Income and Growth, indicates that OECD member governments have committed USD 312 billion of public resources to a green recovery, according to a preliminary estimate that will be refined in the coming months. However, a number of other measures within broader recovery packages are going into “non-green” spending such as fossil fuel investments.
“It is encouraging to see many governments seizing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure a truly sustainable recovery, but countries should go much further in greening their support packages,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, during a Ministerial Roundtable to discuss the issue. “Climate change and biodiversity loss are the next crises around the corner and we are running out of time to tackle them. Green recovery measures are a win-win option as they can improve environmental outcomes while boosting economic activity and enhancing well-being for all.” (Read the full speech.)
The analysis finds that among OECD and other major economies, a majority of countries have included measures directed at supporting the transition to greener economies in their recovery strategies. These include grants, loans and tax relief for sustainable transport and mobility, the circular economy and clean energy research; financial support to households for improved energy efficiency and renewable energy installations; and measures to foster the restoration of ecosystems.
At the same time, some countries have unveiled measures likely to have a direct or indirect negative impact on environmental outcomes. Some of these are temporary and form part of emergency economic rescue plans; others risk having longer-term implications. Measures include plans to roll back environmental regulations, reductions or waivers of environment-related taxes or charges, unconditional bailouts of emissions-intensive industries or companies, and increased subsidies of fossil fuel infrastructure investment.
“Addressing global issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean degradation, and inefficient resource use is more important than ever as we seek to rebuild our economies and enhance resilience against future shocks,” said Spanish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge Teresa Ribera, chairing the Roundtable. “Well designed and implemented stimulus packages can drive a recovery that is both green and inclusive, driving income, prosperity and jobs as well as accelerating action on national and global environmental goals.”
The meeting included ministers of environment, climate or ecological transition from OECD member countries and Costa Rica as well as the European Commission Executive Vice President. The Roundtable is part of the preparations of the OECD’s Ministerial Council Meeting, which will take place on 28-29 October under the chairmanship of Spain and with Chile, Japan and New Zealand as Vice-chairs. This Roundtable comes just before the OECD releases its Interim Economic Outlook on 16 September.
The analysis notes that a period of low oil prices offers an opportunity to scale up the introduction of carbon pricing and continue phasing out support for fossil fuels. Taxing environmentally harmful consumption and production can mitigate environmental harm while improving economic efficiency. It is crucial that energy tax reforms do not increase the share of “energy poor”, as good access to energy services is essential for good standards of living. The distributional implications of other pricing instruments, such as taxes and charges on vehicle and fuel use should be also addressed. Similarly, reform of fossil fuel subsidies, which amounted to USD 582 billion in 2019 according to OECD and IEA data, should be accompanied by transition support for industries, communities, regions and vulnerable consumers.
The OECD analysis underlines the need to monitor and evaluate the impact of recovery measures on environmental outcomes, something that was lacking after the 2008 financial crisis. It presents 13 environmental indicators that can be used to measure the impact of stimulus measures, including carbon intensity, fossil fuel support, exposure to air pollution, water stress and environmentally related tax revenue.
10 years to restore our planet. 10 actions that count
Against a backdrop of environmental crisis, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a chance to revive the natural world that supports us all. A decade may sound like a long time. But scientists say that these next ten years will count most in the fight to avert climate change and the loss of millions of species. Here are ten actions in the strategy of the UN Decade that can build a #GenerationRestoration.
- Empower a global movement
The UN Decade aims to stop and reverse the destruction and degradation of billions of hectares of ecosystems. It is a daunting task, made more complicated by the diversity of ecosystems and the threats they are facing: from lush forests threatened by wildfires to agricultural soils so eroded that they may only carry a few more years of harvests. No single entity can steer the course in this endeavour. The UN Decade thus connects and empowers the actions of the many. Groups and individuals can get informed about restoration opportunities in their area, joining initiatives already underway, or start their own.
- Invest in restoration
Restoration takes resources. Organizations driving activities on the ground are often underfunded and face financial insecurity. While the benefits of restoration far outweigh the costs, it can only happen with long-term financing. Governments, international lenders, development agencies, the private sector and individuals will have to ramp up their support.
- Set the right incentives
In the long-term, healthier ecosystems can produce bigger harvests, more secure incomes and a healthier environment. But caring for nature can also mean foregoing some of the financial gains of less sustainable practices. There are ways to change this by incentivizing restoration activities and reducing subsidies that finance harmful practices, in the agriculture and fishing industries, for example.
- Celebrate leadership
Over the past years, we have witnessed incredible momentum around restoration. Campaigns to plant trillions of trees have captured the imagination of many communities. Under the Bonn Challenge, more than 60 countries have committed to bringing 350 million hectares of forest landscapes back to life. Indigenous peoples have acted as defenders of their ecosystems for generations. The UN Decade will celebrate leadership and encourage others to step up.
- Shift behaviours
Deforestation, the depletion of fish stocks and the degradation of agricultural soils are all caused by global consumption patterns. The UN Decade will work with all partners to identify and encourage restoration-friendly consumption. This can range from changes in diets to promoting restoration-based products.
- Invest in research
Restoration is complex. Practices that work in one ecosystem may have adverse impacts in another. As the climate changes, new uncertainties arise. Returning to a former state may not be desirable as hotter temperatures or shifting rainfall call for more resilient plants and crops. Scientific understanding of how to restore and adapt ecosystems is still developing. Considerable investments are needed to identify the best practices to restore our planet – one plot at a time.
- Build capacity
Thousands of conservation and restoration initiatives are already underway. The UN Decade will be fuelled by their vision, expertise and dedication. However, practitioners often face barriers that keep them from taking their projects to scale. Other critical sectors, such as finance, require more data and insights to make informed decisions. The UN Decade’s strategy seeks to build the capacity of marginalized groups that stand to lose most from the destruction of ecosystems – such as indigenous peoples, women and youth to take an active role in restoration.
- Celebrate a culture of restoration
The power to revive our environment does not lie only with governments, experts and practitioners alone. Healing the planet is a cultural challenge. The UN Decade’s strategy therefore calls on artists, storytellers, producers, musicians and connectors to join the #GenerationRestoration.
- Build up the next generation
Youth and future generations are most impacted by the current rapid destruction of ecosystems – they also stand to benefit the most from a restoration economy. The UN Decade’s strategy links the wellbeing of youth and the goals of restoration. Education for restoration will turn today’s children into ecosystem ambassadors and provide skills for sustainable jobs.
- Listen and learn
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