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Russia, China closing military tech gap with U.S.

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

1Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday warned Russia and China are quickly closing the military technology gap with the U.S. as inconsistent military budgets and slower innovation threaten America’s lead in the military world. “Our technology remains the best. At the same time, we can’t ignore the overall trend: High-end military technologies long possessed by only the most advanced foes are finding their way into the hands of both non-state and previously much less-capable militaries,” Mr. Carter said in a speech at the Air Force Association’s annual conference outside of Washington, Defense News reported. Washington Times

2Russia’s leading oil company, Lukoil has expressed readiness to sign cooperation documents with Iran , Amir Hossein Zamaninia, the Islamic Republic’s deputy oil minister said. The company’s president Vagit Alekperov who is in Tehran met with Iran’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh to discuss the future mutual cooperation, Zamaninia said. The Russian company expressed readiness to implement enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and improved oil recovery (IOR) techniques in the Iranian fields, Zamaninia added. The oil recovery factor in Iran is very low. Iran is able to extract just 20 percent (157 billion barrels) of its oil reserves on average. The current active fields lose about 8 to 13 percent of production volume.

31st Caspian Media Forum. The forum, which kicked off on September 16, brings together representatives of Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The 5-day forum will discuss prospects for cooperation in various fields, participation at joint informational projects and exchange of information. The Forum will also feature lectures, round tables and discussions. The key sessions of the forum will be held on September 17-18.

4The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) and Russia’s Gazprom company will start implementing swap transactions on Russian gas supply to Azerbaijan soon, SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev told reporters Sept.17.“Gazprom has an excess of natural gas and therefore we have decided to store these volumes in our gas storage facilities,” said Abdullayev.“We have held such talks with Iran as well,” said SOCAR president. “For our part, we have expanded the capacity of our gas storage facilities and the supply of Russian gas will become a kind of pilot project for testing their capabilities.”

5A new study identifies challenges and opportunities to help Kazakhstan and its regions to diversify its economy and boost its export capabilities. The study, “Diversification of Kazakhstan’s economy: a capability-based approach”, was produced by the strategy and public policy advisory firm Whiteshield Partners and funded jointly by the government of Kazakhstan and the EBRD’s Shareholders’ Special Fund. The report recommends that each region’s diversification strategy needs to take local circumstances into account. Regions that have already succeeded in developing new capabilities over the past ten years, such as Almaty, now need to focus more on innovation and moving up the value chain in sectors where they have comparative advantages. Regions with less developed capabilities need to broaden the skills and capabilities first, which can be achieved through policies focused on training, improvements in the business environment and better cooperation between regions.

6The member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have unanimously approved Turkmenistan’s accession to the organization. The decision was made during the 59th meeting of IAEA General Conference.The representatives of IAEA member states praised Turkmenistan’s commitment to the principles of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world, in particular in Central Asia and emphasized the country’s significant contribution to ensuring peace and security.

7Putin Sees Path to Diplomacy Through Syria. “The Obama administration has been “trying to sit on two chairs,” noted Konstantin von Eggert, an independent political analyst. It has been both slamming Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, while saying it seeks to cooperate with Russia on the Iran nuclear deal, the Middle East and other issues. If Mr. Putin manages to forge a coalition on Syria, it would be increasingly difficult for Washington to argue that the Kremlin deserves isolation. There is an inconsistency in the message, Mr. von Eggert noted, and “Putin always exploits those inconsistencies.” Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew E. Kramer –The New York Times.

8Kazakhstan Oil and Gas Market Insight and Outlook Report 2015. Complete analysis and forecasts of Kazakhstan upstream, downstream and midstream sectors. The research work provides analysis of key opportunities and associated challenges facing Kazakhstan markets. Yearly production and consumption forecasts of oil, gas, LNG, LPG, gasoline, diesel and fuel oil from 2005 to 2025 are included in the report. Further, primary energy demand, GDP, population and vehicle production details are provided from 2005- 2025. Research and Markets

9EU And Azerbaijan: Breaking Up Or Muddling Through? “Just three months ago, Azerbaijan was playing host to the inaugural European Games. These days, it seems as though Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s administration is prepared to make a break with the European Union” EurasiaNet.

10International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a loan agreement worth 50 million euros in Luxembourg Sept. 16. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending 50 million euros to the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) to finance projects promoted by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and middle capitalization companies (midcaps) in the country.The EU bank’s loan will support projects in the priority areas specified by the EIB external lending mandate, including the development of the local private sector.

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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New Satellite Data Reveals Progress: Global Gas Flaring Declined in 2017

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New satellite data released today shows a significant decline in gas flaring at oil production sites around the world in 2017, despite a half-percent increase in global oil production. The nearly 5 percent flaring decline begins to reverse years of increases in global gas flaring that started in 2010.

The data reveals about 141 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas was flared in 2017, down from nearly 148 bcm in 2016. While Russia remains the world’s largest gas flaring country, it also saw the largest decline in flaring last year. Venezuela and Mexico also reduced their flaring significantly in 2017. In Iran and Libya there were notable increases in gas flaring.

The data was released by the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), a World Bank-managed organization comprised of governments, oil companies, and international institutions working to reduce gas flaring. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and GGFR have developed the flaring estimates in cooperation with the University of Colorado, based on observations from advanced sensors in a satellite launched in 2012.

Gas flaring – the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction – takes place because of technical, regulatory, and/or economic constraints. It causes more than 350 million tons of CO2 emissions every year, with serious harmful impacts from un-combusted methane and black carbon emissions. Gas flaring is also a substantial waste of energy resources the world can ill afford.

“The latest global gas flaring data is encouraging, but we will have to wait a few more years to know whether it represents a much-needed turning point,” said Riccardo Puliti, the World Bank’s Senior Director and head of its Energy & Extractives Global Practice. “Ending routine gas flaring is a key component of our climate change mitigation agenda, and the global flaring reduction Initiative we launched just three years ago now has 77 endorsers, covering about 60 percent of the total gas flared around the world.”

In 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and 25 initial endorsers launched the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative that commits endorsers to not routinely flare gas in new oil field developments and to seek solutions to end routine flaring at existing oil production sites as soon as possible and no later than 2030. It has now been endorsed by 27 governments, 35 oil companies, and 15 development institutions.

“The Initiative is an essential tool for ending routine flaring,” said Bjorn Hamso, GGFR’s Program Manager. “Going forward, it is paramount that oil field operators continue to address ongoing “legacy” flaring, and that new business models are developed that will enable more investors to participate in flaring reduction projects.”

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World Tourism Day Places Focus on Innovation & Digital Transformation

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The importance of digital technologies in tourism, providing opportunities for innovation and preparing the sector for the future of work, is at the centre of World Tourism Day 2018, to be celebrated in Budapest, Hungary (27 September 2018).

World Tourism Day, celebrated every 27 September around the world, is a unique opportunity to raise awareness on tourism’s actual and potential contribution to sustainable development.

This year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) will help to put the opportunities provided to tourism, by technological advances including big data, artificial intelligence and digital platforms, on the map of sustainable development. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sees digital advances and innovation as part of the solution to the challenge of marrying continued growth with a more sustainable and responsible tourism sector.

“Harnessing innovation and digital advances provides tourism with opportunities to improve inclusiveness, local community empowerment and efficient resource management, amongst other objectives within the wider sustainable development agenda”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The WTD official celebration will be held in Budapest, Hungary, a country enjoying steady growth of tourism backed by consistent policy support and a commitment to the digital future. Other celebrations will take place worldwide.

The official celebration will also see the announcement of the semi-finalists of the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition, launched by UNWTO and Globalia to give visibility to startups with innovative ideas capable of revolutionizing the way we travel and enjoy tourism.

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EU and China step up cooperation on climate change and clean energy

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At the China-EU Summit on 16 July in Beijing, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Council, Donald Tusk, and the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang adopted a “Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy”. Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and the Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on emissions trading between China and the EU.

In the Leaders’ Statement, China and the EU underline the need to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC process, and to get the Paris Agreement Work Programme – the rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement – adopted at the next global climate conference in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

The Statement shows how the EU and China will intensify their political, technical, economic and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy to drive forward a world-wide transformation to a thriving low carbon and climate-resilient economy and society and clean energy system. It clearly shows their commitment to climate action and achieving a clean energy transition are urgent imperatives.

In the Memorandum of Understanding China and the EU acknowledge emissions trading as a cost-effective policy tool with significant potential to contribute to a low-carbon economy and the necessary innovation and deployment of low carbon technologies.

Welcoming this commitment, President Juncker said: We have underlined our joint, strong determination to fight climate change and demonstrate global leadership. It shows our commitment to multilateralism and recognises that climate change is a global challenge affecting all countries on earth. There is no time for us to sit back and watch passively. Now is the time for decisive action.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: Further developing cooperation between the two largest emission trading systems of the world is not only in our mutual interest but also necessary to tackle common challenges in the mid- and longer term. The newly established policy dialogue will be instrumental in this context.

The Memorandum of Understanding on EU-China cooperation on emissions trading establishes a policy dialogue, foresees the joint organisation of seminars and workshops, as well as joint research activities.

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