German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made addressing climate change a high priority on Germany's agenda for its EU and G8 presidencies that begin next month. Here is a concrete proposal, one general enough for world leaders to consider and accept, and clear enough for other governments and businesses to grasp -- simply set a date, at the next G8 summit, by which oil-powered cars would no longer be licensed in major industrialized countries.
Such a decision would have a strongly positive economic and geopolitical impact. The real cause of today's worries over energy is not the decline in world oil reserves, but rather that domestic oil production by the top consumers -- Europe, the US and China -- will decline at the very moment that growing Asian demand strains the market. Available reserves will increasingly be concentrated in the Middle East simply because supplies in all other regions will be depleted sooner.
Moreover, the main oil exporters are unwilling to subordinate their investment policies to market requirements. Saudi Arabia seeks to run its oil production independently, while Iran scares off potential investors with bureaucratic hurdles and corruption. Iraq suffers from a lack of security, and foreign investors in Russia are thwarted at every turn. Those four states contain half of the world's proven oil reserves and two-thirds of what could potentially be exported. All this, not production costs, lies at the heart of high oil prices and the scramble for oil contracts in Central Asia and Africa.
To believe that high oil prices are good because they serve the environment ignores some basic facts of international politics. First, in many of the poorest African and Asian countries, oil imports account for a significantly higher share of national expenditure than in industrialized countries, which means that economic growth and social development are being imperiled, while new debt crises loom.
Rents received from oil production impede reforms in the major exporting countries. Thanks to their lubricated financial strength, regimes like those in Venezuela and Iran increasingly feel unconstrained by international rules. Latecomers among consuming nations, such as China, mimic the former habits of the industrialized West, with their long record of overlooking human rights abuses in order to secure lucrative deals with authoritarian, oil-rich regimes.
Only the world's political and economic heavyweights, the main industrialized countries that remain by far the biggest consumers of hydrocarbons, can initiate change on a global scale. Change must begin in the transport sector, which accounts for more than half of current oil consumption -- a share that is likely to rise in the future.
The G8 countries should therefore agree to no longer license any new oil-powered cars from 2025 onwards. This decision would not be directed against individual mobility, but against the dissipation of a scarce resource that is more urgently needed to continue to produce synthetic materials.
Political leaders should not privilege any particular technology. Instead, they should provide the automobile industry with incentives to develop alternative technologies that rely on bio-mass fuel, ethylene, hydrogen, and even natural gas during a transition period. Countries that lead the way politically will, as a collateral benefit, provide domestic industries with a leading position in energy technology, ensuring future markets.
The expected significant reduction of carbon dioxide emissions could eventually bring about the breakthrough that is needed in international climate policies. But economic development comes into play as well -- curing our "addiction" to oil would leave more of it to poorer, less developed, and newly industrializing countries, as well as pushing down prices and easing geopolitical energy competition.
Geopolitically, the benefits would similarly be obvious, as the ability of major oil exporters to blackmail industrialized countries would be significantly reduced. This could increase the bargaining power of the international community in the Middle East, and might strengthen those social forces in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia that seriously wish to promote political and economic reform from within.
As a technologically advanced and major automobile-producing country, Germany is well placed to bring about such an initiative. Merkel, who holds a doctorate in physics and started her political career as an environment minister -- presiding in 1995 over the first conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change -- may have more credibility in addressing the issue than any of her EU and G8 colleagues. Now is the time for a bold act of leadership.
Volker Perthes is director of Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Friedemann Muller is a senior fellow at SWP and an energy policy expert.
opyright: Project Syndicate
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a ceremony on July 30 officially commissioned China’s BeiDou-3 satellite navigation system. The constellation of satellites, which is now fully operational, was completed six months ahead of schedule. Its deployment means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now in possession of an autonomous, global satellite navigation system to rival the US’ GPS, Russia’s Glonass and the EU’s Galileo. Although Chinese officials have repeatedly sought to reassure the world that BeiDou-3 is primarily a civilian and commercial platform, US and European military experts beg to differ. Teresa Hitchens, a senior research associate at the University of
Taiwan’s rampant thesis and dissertation plagiarism has reduced the value of degrees, bringing the academic system’s public credibility to the brink of collapse. Data published on Retraction Watch — a blog that reports on retractions of scientific papers — showed that 73 papers written by Taiwanese researchers were retracted from international journals between 2012 and 2016 due to fake peer reviews, the second-highest in the world behind China. Based on the size of the academic population, Taiwan was the highest in the world, making it academically a pirate nation. Academic fraud in Taiwan can be divided into several types: the listing of coauthors;