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Clean Energy in South Asia and Beyond

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The causes of energy transformation are essentially the need and consumption of the energy resources in the increasing growing humanity, especially since the industrial era, whether in tangible or intangible form of energy products such as electricity or heat.

Transformed energy was mainly from conventional energy sources such as nuclear energy or fossil fuels (mainly dependent on natural resources such as coal, oil and natural gas), which, with the exception of nuclear power, are forms of energy transformed for billions of years.  Their natural renewal cannot catch up with the speed of their exhaustion. A study conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2002 predicts that all the available natural resources will be exhausted by 2050, if they continue to be exploited at the current rate. The energy transformation is increasingly growing and the technologies employed in this regard have already started to affect the planet earth deleteriously.

The rapid depletion of natural resources and the various environmental degradations associated with the production and excessive energy consumption first came to the attention of human society in the sixties of twentieth century. Warnings refuted initially as utopian and exaggerated were finally taken seriously together with developing international legal framework in order to protect, manage, understand and restore the different form of the environment whether it is terrestrial, aquatic, marine or natural and cultural or spatial. Accordingly, the means and methods respecting the long-term, new and clean energy have been developed and have become attractive, especially since the oil shock in 1973. Some call them new energy or clean energy. Now there is an agreement on the common name of “renewable energy”. 

The theme of renewable energy as a method and energy supply means having a vital interest for the status of the biosphere and the condition of life and survival on earth. According to OECD, renewable energy use inexhaustible sources of natural energy such as solar radiation, wind, water and carbon cycles in the biosphere, internal heat flux of Earth, effect of lunar and solar attraction on the oceans.  These energy sources have renewability as a criterion. It also includes that the life cycle of production and processing facilities do not present risks or disadvantages in the short, long and even longer term, and that they are socially and economically sustainable.

Today, the world is in a crisis. This crisis is both ecological and social. This crisis was named as global warming. This is the phenomenon of climate change and energy poverty that plague the world. The challenges are to determine the sustenance of life on planet earth and understanding the contribution of renewable energy sources. Global warming caused by the constant accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has already begun to disrupt the ecosystems.

In the last decade of the twentieth century, it has been observed that there is an increase on the average temperature of the oceans and the atmosphere on a global scale. An assessment conducted by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 confirmed that human activities are causing greenhouse effect that is to say we observe increasing of the amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) etc. that results in global warming.  A study by Global Chance in 2017 establishes a connection between emissions of greenhouse gases and fossil fuels.  IPCC assessment also estimates the share of greenhouse gas emissions due to the energy sector at 25.9%.

All areas of the environment are affected.  The atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels had started to cause air pollution, accentuating the greenhouse effect and the decline of the ozone layer. The increasing water use and water pollution had started to modify the hydrosphere. Rising atmospheric and sea-surface temperature had started to modify the cryosphere. Our increasing use of land, for agriculture, cities, roads, mining – as well as all the pollution we were creating – had started to modify our biosphere and landscape. International Greenpeace speaks of about 150,000 additional deaths per year among the ecosystems due to the environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity persist. In addition to that, there are risks of long-term pollution and environmental degradation posed by the nuclear power that we can no longer ignore.

The IPCC report entitled “Climate Change” published in 2007 predicts major negative consequences for humanity this century due to approaching climate change, a reduction of potential crop yields in most tropical and subtropical areas,  a decrease of water resources in most tropical and subtropical dry regions,  a decrease in the source of water flow from melting ice and snow, following the disappearance of the ice and the snow, an increase in extreme weather events such as heavy rains, storms and droughts, and an increase in the impact of these phenomena on agriculture, an increase in forest fires during warmer summers,  the extension of areas infested with diseases such as cholera and malaria, an increase of flood risk, both because of rising of the sea level and climate change, a higher energy consumption for air conditioning and reduction of potential crop yields at middle and high latitudes.

These effects will be felt worldwide, but they will be especially keen in South Asia – defined as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Flooding, food shortages, and stagnating economic growth are just some of the devastating impacts South Asia may experience due to advancing climate change, according to IPCC. At the end of March 2014, IPCC released its long-awaited Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, a report that compiles the current scientific literature on climate change. The report’s assessment of observed impacts — the climate change effects we are already seeing — ranks Asia as the biggest victim of natural disasters last year, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the global economic loss ascribed to natural disasters.

South Asia’s vulnerability to these and future disasters is profound, principally for reasons of population and poverty. The majority of South Asian countries are low- or lower-middle income countries that already struggle to support the daily needs of their growing populations. Because poorer households dedicate more of their budgets to food, they are the most sensitive to weather-related shocks that can make daily staples unaffordable.

Low-lying Bangladesh is vulnerable to flooding and cyclones in the Indian Ocean, which scientific literature suggests will grow more intense in coming decades.  Rising sea levels are also likely to threaten rice cultivation. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate 17,000 square kilometres of Bangladesh’s land, over ten percent of its total land mass.

The problems the IPCC has identified will become obvious in South Asian economies sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, the cost of action will only rise if delayed.  To insulate themselves from these potential threats, South Asian nations will have to invest heavily in both mitigation and adaptation. One set of efforts would be to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through improvements in energy efficiency and promotion of renewable energy. Operating renewable energy sources may bring two-fold benefits for this region. They are less polluter; therefore, renewable energy is one of the most effective tools South Asia has in its fight against climate change. Also, they are conducive to sustainable development because they are sustainable and available in abundance. The evidence is that they are environmentally and technically accessible reserves in the world and large enough to provide about six times more energy than the world currently consumes. Thus, renewable energy could supply the people of this region with energy, including those who currently have no access to energy without the need to make expensive network connections.  Even a significant increase in demand can be satisfied with their enormous potential.

While renewable energy contributes environmental protection, it has a huge potential for regional energy trade – it does help spur economic growth, enhance job creation, boost business activity and fund to poverty eradication. The international trade in energy allows countries to balance this important demand and supply, exploiting their own unique comparative advantage while meeting increasingly diverse energy requirements. Despite substantial potential, South Asia is one of the least connected regions in the world in regard to energy trade, according to Asian Development Bank (ADB) report on Energy Trade in South Asia in 2011.

Though South Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the world with economic growth forecasted to gradually accelerate from 7.1 percent in 2016 to 7.3 percent in 2017, a World Bank (WB) report said, it is still struggling to meet energy demand. Despite such encouraging figures, the facilities and services available in some South Asian countries are inadequate to address the growing demands of their economy and population, thus increasing the strain on scarce resources and contributing to high poverty figures and a relatively low standard of living. The majority people without a sustainable access to the basic energy services were estimated around 1.2 billion worldwide – 16% of the global population – in 2016, mainly from developing countries, particularly in Africa and South Asia, according to World Energy Outlook (WEO). Energy supply and security are major challenges on the road to sustainable development in the South Asian region. Furthermore, the challenge is likely to get more complex as energy demand is growing to keep pace with an expanding population and economy.

The South Asian countries have huge potential for renewable energy sources. Geographically, South Asian countries are located in a region of different climatic conditions such as tropical, humid etc. which provides easy access to a variety of renewable energy sources. It has been reported that hydropower potential in Nepal, the massive wind power potential in Afghanistan, and solar power potential in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can help the South Asian region go a long way in fulfilling its energy needs.

This enormous potential is still insufficiently taken into account in this regional energy markets.  Today, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) annual report in 2013, renewable energy represents 13.2% of the total energy consumption in the world and in South Asian countries, according to ADB report on Energy Trade in South Asia in 2011, less than 5%, while other energy sources continue to carve the part Lion.  Bangladesh ranks among the lowest in South Asian region with 2.74 percent of energy production from renewable energy sources, according to ADB’s report in 2011. The report also summarises Bangladesh’s heavily dependence on natural gas with 88.45 percent.

Despite the huge potential and benefits of promoting energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewable energy in the gross energy production, there are obstacles at both the national and regional level, which must be overcome. One of the barriers is low investment in renewable energy because it involves high initial capital costs, and the monetary benefits from such projects take time to materialize. Low priority given to renewable energy in national planning and weak implementation framework, weak environmental regulations, fossil fuel subsidies etc. are among some crucial challenges in national level policy adoption. There is also very limited knowledge and expertise regarding renewable energy technologies. Policies are often not conducive to business and do not incentivize private sector participation. Political challenges include an agreement on the energy authority in the area and deliberating options for energy trade.  The regional security framework is another impediment to the adoption of sensible mitigation and adaptation strategy as distrust between India and Pakistan still exists, and some countries in this region are constantly fighting against terrorism.

While geopolitical and geographic constraints are challenging to overcome, they are not unconquerable. Regional cooperation must address variables such as private sector participation, huge investment cost, affordability, political will, climate change, right of way and inaccessibility. The key here is to expand the existing bilateral framework for energy trade into a multi-lateral one, and work towards energy security and look into low-carbon solutions.  Focal offices should be established at the federal/central level in each country under the auspices of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), as there is a need to effectively coordinate between various agencies of national and sub-national governments and organisations including SAARC Energy Centre (SEC), SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC) etc. The same office may be declared as a liaison with international development partners, civil society and the private sector. Current and planned policies, programmes and projects may be reviewed to align them with the objectives of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), a global initiative launched by the United Nations (UN) in 2011.

Energy efficiency practices and standards are the most relevant areas in South Asia. By sharing ideas, they may address energy system losses and inefficient consumption at commercial and household levels. Similarly, the comparative analysis of legislations and policies relating to demand side energy efficiency and conservation may be carried out in order to progress in this direction. Each country should prepare a national energy research agenda to be pursued by academia and other scientific research organizations. There is a tremendous need to foster research culture to develop cost-effective home grown solutions for renewable technologies, energy efficient appliances and energy conservation practices. Additionally, legal and financial advisory services may also be provided through technical assistance programmes.

Through initiating heavy investment in renewable energy sector, the public sector can save substantial resources and set a trend to be followed by private businesses and households in each nation. Hence, there is an urgent need to attract private sector investment in energy sector. Energy trade models and practices in other regions of the world may also be examined for relevance to South Asia. Energy trade may emerge as a cornerstone of regional integration and connectivity. South Asia is also advantageous in terms of its close proximity with Middle East and natural resource rich Central Asia.

Mahmudul Hasan is a recent LL.M. graduate of energy and environmental law and Thomas Buergenthal Fellow at The George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C.

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Natural gas markets expected to remain tight into 2023 as Russia further reduces supplies to Europe

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Russia’s continued curtailment of natural gas flows to Europe has pushed international prices to painful new highs, disrupted trade flows and led to acute fuel shortages in some emerging and developing economies, with the market tightness expected to continue well into 2023, according to the IEA’s latest quarterly Gas Market Report.

Natural gas markets worldwide have been tightening since 2021, and global gas consumption is expected to decline by 0.8% in 2022 as result of a record 10% contraction in Europe and unchanged demand in the Asia Pacific region. Global gas consumption is forecast to grow by only 0.4% next year, but the outlook is subject to a high level of uncertainty, particularly in terms of Russia’s future actions and the economic impacts of sustained high energy prices.

Russia has largely cut off gas supplies to Europe in retaliation against sanctions imposed on it following its invasion of Ukraine. This has deepened market tensions and uncertainty ahead of the coming winter, not just for Europe but also for all markets that rely on the same supply pool of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sharp reductions in natural gas supplies to Europe are causing significant harm to consumers, businesses and entire economies – not just in Europe but also in emerging and developing economies,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s Director of Energy Markets and Security. “The outlook for gas markets remains clouded, not least because of Russia’s reckless and unpredictable conduct, which has shattered its reputation as a reliable supplier. But all the signs point to markets remaining very tight well into 2023.”

The current gas crisis also casts longer-term uncertainty on the prospects for natural gas, especially in developing markets where its use was expected to rise at least in the medium term as it replaced other higher-emission fossil fuels.  

European natural gas prices and Asian spot LNG prices spiked to record highs in the third quarter of 2022. This reduced gas demand and incentivised switching to other fuels such as coal and oil for power generation. In some emerging and developing economies, the price spikes triggered shortages and power cuts. Europe’s gas consumption declined by more than 10% in the first eight months of this year compared with the same period in 2021, driven by a 15% drop in the industrial sector as factories curtailed production.

Natural gas demand in China and Japan was almost unchanged in that same period, while it contracted in India and Korea. Chinese gas demand is forecast to increase by less than 2% this year, its lowest annual growth rate since the early 1990s. Meanwhile, natural gas prices in the United States hit their highest summer levels since 2008, yet North America was one of the few regions of the world where demand increased, supported by demand from power generation.

Europe has offset the sharp falls in Russian gas supplies through LNG imports, as well as alternative pipeline supplies from Norway and elsewhere. Europe’s surging demand for LNG – up 65% in the first eight months of 2022 from a year earlier – has drawn supply away from traditional buyers in the Asia-Pacific region, where demand dropped by 7% in the same period as a result of high prices, mild weather and continued Covid lockdowns in China.

The IEA forecasts that Europe’s LNG imports will increase by over 60 billion cubic metres (bcm) this year, or more than double the amount of global LNG export capacity additions, keeping international LNG trade under strong pressure for the short- to medium-term. This implies that Asia’s LNG imports will remain lower than last year for the rest of 2022. However, China’s LNG imports could rise next year under a series of new contracts concluded since the beginning of 2021, while a colder-than-average winter would also result in additional demand from northeast Asia, further adding to market tightness.

In addition to diversifying supply, the European Union and its member states have taken other steps to increase gas security, such as setting minimum storage obligations and implementing energy saving measures for the coming winter. EU storage facilities were close to 90% full as of end of September, though the absence of Russian supply presents challenges for refilling them next year. Both Japan and Korea have instituted policies to reduce reliance on imported LNG for power generation and have developed contingency plans for possible LNG supply disruptions.

For the new report, the IEA conducted a resilience analysis of the EU’s gas market in the case of a complete Russian supply shutdown starting from 1 November 2022. The analysis shows that without demand reductions in place and if Russian pipeline supply is completely cut, EU gas storage would be less than 20% full in February, assuming a high level of LNG supply – and close to 5% full, assuming low LNG supply. Storage falling to these levels would increase the risk of supply disruptions in the event of a late cold spell. A reduction in EU gas demand through the winter period of 9% from the average level of the past five years would be necessary to maintain gas storage levels above 25% in the case of lower LNG inflows. And a reduction in demand of 13% from the 5-year average would be necessary through the winter period to sustain storage levels above 33% in the case of low LNG inflows. Therefore, gas saving measures will be crucial to minimise storage withdrawals and keep inventories at adequate levels until the end of the heating season.

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Mozambique Readies For Developing Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project

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Mozambique is ramping up efforts toward establishing a sustainable energy supply to drive its economy especially the industrialization programme. As it seeks reliable foreign partnerships, it has already shortlisted a few energy groups for the new US$4.5 billion Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric dam, on the Zambezi River, located in Tete province that is estimated to generate 2,070 megawatts for Mozambique. It will be 700 metres long and rise 86 metres above its foundations, with 13 floodgates.

The tender for the “Selection of the Strategic Partner or Investor for the Development of the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project” finally in December recieved the results of the market survey carried out in September involving the critical aspects of structuring the project, alignment with potential buyers and shareholder participation. The structure of the energy transmission line, the methodology for selecting the strategic partner, the implementation schedule, among other relevant issues related to the project transaction. 

According to Malaysian newspaper The Star, the process of selecting the seven potential investors was made at the end of an investor conference held in Maputo. It further wrote that there were two individual companies and five large consortiums that previously visited the site to understand the natural conditions of the area and assess the fundamental data to prepare proposals from a technical, economic and financial point of view.

The newspaper estimated the infrastructure cost between US$4.5 and US$5 billion and have capacity to produce 1,500 megawatts, making Mphanda Nkuwa the second-largest hydroelectric dam in the country, after Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric (HCB), which generates 2,070 megawatts. With the two infrastructures in fully operational energy production, Mozambique hopes to achieve the goal of universal access to energy and respond to the growing energy deficit that plagues southern Africa.

General Director of the Mphanda Nkuwa development office, Carlos Yum, envisaged that during the construction phase, more than 7,000 jobs will be created, and 50 percent of the energy generated will be exported, contributing to the country’s economy and thus making a regional energy hub in Mozambique.

The Mphanda Nkuwa project will be a lower-cost power generation option which will position Mozambique as a regional energy hub, and contribute to universal access, industrialization, job creation and technical training while generating tax and concession fee revenue. The project is fundamental for the energy transition and decarbonization of the southern region of Africa.

Carlos Yum has laid out the status of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric dam construction project. According to Yun, the project is budgeted at around US$5 billion, and work will start in 2024, the year in which financing is expected to be definitively concluded.

The project will take a total of six to seven years to complete. Of the approximately US$5 billion price tag, 60% is for the construction of the dam and 40% for the power transmission line. At this moment, the development office is preparing the launch of public tenders for the updating of the project’s feasibility studies.

By December 2022, the office will launch a tender for the identification of the strategic investment partner, whose financial closing a 2024 deadline has been set. In terms of shareholding, the Mphanda Nkuwa project will have the participation of the Mozambican state, through Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM) and Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric [(HCB), with between 30% and 35% of shares. The remaining 65% will be secured from private investors.

Carta de Moçambique also informed that there would be consultants involved – from Brazil, the United States, Sweden and South Africa – to assess possible problems associated with the project according to the best international practices, avoiding pitfalls that have marred previous projects implemented in the province and in Mozambique generally. 

It reported that experts and strategic investors, including the World Bank (WB) and the African Development Bank (ADB), have discussed some significant aspects concerning the implementation of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric project.

“Overall, we think this project is very important to the government’s goal of universal access by 2030,” said Zayra Romo, World Bank Mozambique Lead Energy Specialist and Infrastructure Practice Leader. As for the current stage of the project, which consists of the search for a strategic partner for the development of Mphanda Nkuwa, Romo said that the World Bank’s support would consist of ensuring the greatest possible competitiveness for the project, with a view to selecting the best contractor or investors that have experience to effectively manage Mphanda Nkuwa.

A press release from the Mphanda Nkuwa Implementation Office said that these companies and consortia had replied to the tender launched in December 2021, and delivered their pre-qualification documents before the deadline, first fixed on 28 February but, at the request of several of the bidders, it was extended to 18 April. It is hoped that construction of the new dam (which has been on the drawing board for decades) will finally begin in 2024. Construction will last for at least seven years.

According to the media release by the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office, the main objective is to ensure the coordination of actions for the implementation of the Mphanda Nkuwa project.

Location: The Mphanda Nkuwa Dam will be located in Tete Province, Centro region, on the Zambezi River, 61km downstream of the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Project description: The Hydroelectric Power Plant will have a capacity of up to 1,500 Megawatts and an Electric Power Transmission Line from Tete to Maputo with 1,300 kilometres.

Budget: US$4.5 to US$5 billion, 60% for the construction of the dam and 40% for the power transmission line.

Strategic importance: The project will position Mozambique as an energy hub in southern Africa. It will provide lower cost energy in the country and region, contribute to universal access to energy in the country by 2030 and support rapid industrialization, with job creation, skills development and business opportunities (local content). Social and economic benefits, in the form of royalties and income on concession fees for the Mozambican state.

Environmental approach: The project will be implemented in strict compliance with national standards and internationally accepted best practices for the development of projects of this nature, to mitigate negative impacts and maximize positive aspects. In this context, the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office recently signed an agreement with the International Hydroelectricity Association for the assessment of the project’s sustainability, including training and capacity building.

Mozambique News Agency reported, citing government sources, that there were eight international consortiums interested to become strategic partners of Mozambique in building the Mphanda Nkuwa dam, with electricity production: ETC Holdings Mauritius, Longyuan Power Overseas Investment (Chinese), PowerChina Resources, WeBuild Group, Scatec (Norway), Sumitomo Corporation, EDF and Kansai Electric Power (Japan).

With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is one of the 16 countries, with a collective responsibility to promote socio-economic, political and security cooperation within the Southern African Development Community. 

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U.S. Government Likely Perpetrated Biggest-Ever Catastrophic Global-Warming Event

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On September 28th, the AP headlined “Record methane leak flows from damaged Baltic Sea pipelines” and reported that “Methane leaking from the damaged Nord Stream pipelines is likely to be the biggest burst of the potent greenhouse gas on record, by far. … Andrew Baxter, a chemical engineer who formerly worked in the offshore oil and gas industry, and is now at the environmental group EDF …  said, ‘It’s catastrophic for the climate.’” The article pointed out that methane “is 82.5 times more potent than carbon dioxide at absorbing the sun’s heat and warming the Earth.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin had been aiming ultimately (and maybe soon) to get the gas to Europe flowing again, and said to EU nations on September 16th, “Just lift the sanctions on Nord Stream 2, which is 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, just push the button and everything will get going.”

Here is what U.S. President Joe Biden had already promised about that on February 7th:

If Germany — if Russia invades — that means tanks or troops crossing the — the border of Ukraine again — then there will be — we — there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2.  We will bring an end to it. 

Q    But how will you — how will you do that exactly, since the project and control of the project is within Germany’s control?

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  We will — I promise you, we’ll be able to do it

He had promised to cause permanently the end of Nord Stream if Russia invaded, which it did on February 24th. He fulfilled on that promise on September 27th.

Radek Sikorsky, who is a Member of the European Parliament and had been Poland’s Foreign Minister and is the husband of the famous writer against Russia Anne Applebaum, and has been affiliated with Oxford Universisty, Harvard University, and NATO, tweeted on the day of the explosions, “Thank you, USA.” He also tweeted explanations: “All Ukrainian and Baltic sea states have opposed Nordstream’s construction for 20 years. Now $20 billion of scrap metal lies at the bottom of the sea, another cost to Russia of its criminal decision to invade Ukraine.” And: “Nordstream’s only logic was for Putin to be able to blackmail or wage war on Eastern Europe with impunity.”

Furthermore on September 27th, Germany’s Spiegel magazine reported that, as Reuters put it, “The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had weeks ago warned Germany about possible attacks on gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea” 

On September 28th, SouthFront headlined “No Way Back for Europe” and reported

It is reasonably suspected that the pipeline was blown up by the special services of the United States in order to finally stop the gas supplies to Germany from Russia.

On September 27, a detachment of warships led by the US amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge reported on the completion of their tasks in the area of the alleged sabotage in the Baltic Sea and headed for the North Sea.

Since the beginning of September, suspicious activity by anti-submarine helicopters of the US Navy has been observed in the area. In the last few days, reconnaissance activities of NATO aircraft have significantly intensified in the Baltic Sea area. In particular, a US Boeing E-3 Sentry reconnaissance aircraft was on constant patrol over the Baltic States, and a US Joint STARS was spotted over Germany and Poland.

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