👋 Grüss Gott!*
Welcome to Thursday, where Ukraine lashed out at Biden’s prediction about Russian intentions, Austria is betting on a new incentive for the unvaccinated, and the Australian city of Adelaide is baffled by a mysterious spate of googly eyes. We also look at Russia’s latest efforts to dismantle the REvil hacking group, at Washington’s request, and what this means in the context of U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine.
[*Swabian - Germany]
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• Biden’s ambiguous comment on Western response over Russia: U.S. President Joe Biden said he thinks Russia will “move in” on Ukraine during a news conference, warning Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a “serious and dear price” for invading, while acknowledging there would be a lower cost for a “minor incursion.” The comment sparked outcry in Kyiv, where officials have been meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken as Russian troops amass on Ukraine’s border. This Thursday marks one year since Joe Biden was inaugurated as president of the United States.
• COVID update: The UK will gradually lift COVID-19 measures including mandatory face masks in public places and coronavirus passports for large events, as infections level off in most parts of the country. Meanwhile, Austria’s government announced the launch of a national lottery to encourage unvaccinated citizens to get the jab, as the country is set on passing a bill introducing a national vaccine mandate.
• North Korea hints at restart of nuclear, missile tests: North Korea is considering resuming nuclear and long-range weapons tests as it prepares for “confrontation” with Washington, state news agency KCNA reported.
• Pakistani woman sentenced to death for WhatsApp “blasphemy”: A Pakistani court has sentenced a 26-year-old Muslim woman to death for sharing images on WhatsApp considered to be insulting to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and one his wives. Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws include a mandatory death penalty for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
• First relief flights land in Tonga: The first foreign aid planes have arrived in Tonga, with much needed humanitarian supplies, five days after the South Pacific nation was devastated by a volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami. A state of emergency has been declared and international communications have been restored.
• France mourns death of actor Gaspard Ulliel: French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who gained international attention for his performances in Hannibal Rising and Saint Laurent, was killed in a skiing accident at the age of 37.
• Adelaide’s googly eyes bandit: Oversized googly eyes have been mysteriously appearing for days across the Australian southern city of Adelaide, on the faces of various mascots and of a colonial monument.
Peruvian daily El Comercio reports on the oil spill off the coast near Lima, caused by waves linked to Tonga’s eruption and tsunami. Authorities sealed three beaches near the capital and are demanding compensation to Spanish oil giant Repsol, which operates the refinery that leaked 6,000 barrels of oil, for what could be the worst ecological disaster to hit the country in recent history.
A new study revealed that a monster iceberg, also known as A68, was dumping more than 152 billion tons of freshwater in the ocean, every single day at the height of its melting. The A68 “megaberg” (when an entire mass of a glacier breaks off to form a gigantic iceberg) detached from Antarctica in 2017 and began an epic three-and-a-half year 4000-kilometer journey across the Southern Ocean. The ice mass received attention by Christmas 2020 as it approached the warmer climes of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia, and by early 2021 what was once the world’s biggest iceberg had vanished.
REvil bust: Is Russian cybercrime crackdown just a decoy from Ukraine?
This past weekend’s unprecedented operation to dismantle the cybercriminal REvil network in Russia was carried out on a request and information from Washington. Occurring just as the two countries face off over the Russian threat to invade Ukraine raises more questions than it answers.
🇷🇺 🇺🇸 Russian security forces raided 25 addresses in St. Petersburg, Moscow and several other regions south of the capital in an operation to dismantle the notorious REvil group, accused of some of the worst cyberattacks in recent years to hit targets in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West. Russian online media Interfax revealed that this was initiated from a request and information coming directly from Washington. What does it mean that this development came just on the heels of the breakdown in talks between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin?
💻 Talks in prior months between Biden and Putin have previously touched on the topic of cyber security, with the former accusing his Russian counterpart of doing little to address the problem within his own borders. He called on Putin to take all necessary measures to stem these issues following the attack last July, otherwise, the U.S. would be prepared to shoulder the responsibility itself. So was this operation on REvil a sign that Moscow is ready to crack down on cybercriminals inside Russia? Or is its acting now linked to the showdown over NATO and the Ukraine border?
⚠️ The hope among Western law enforcement officials is that the move is ultimately not linked to the current geopolitical standoff. Yet there is the risk that the operation is ultimately a decoy in the larger battle brewing with the West. The timing, following the failed Biden-Putin negotiations, seems aimed at reminding Washington that such potential cooperation would cease if the United States and its allies impose new harsher sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
There is now a demonstrable effort to make peace.
— The United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres expressed hope Wednesday there could be an opening to resolve the 14 months of conflict in northern Ethiopia, between government and Tigrayan forces. Though he offered no details, Guterres’ statement came after a call with former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who is the African Union’s chief envoy to the Horn of Africa.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin
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The Colombian president recently said that the country had exported one million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset oil. But in an unregulated carbon market, such a claim is pure greenwashing.
BOGOTÁ - In March this year, various national and corporate leaders met in Houston, Texas, for CERAWeek, an annual conference to discuss the world's energy challenges. Colombia's President Iván Duque took the opportunity to remind participants that his country produced just 0.6% of the world's carbon emissions even as it had raised crude production to one million barrels a day.
He said oil should not be seen as an enemy, since the fight was really against greenhouse gas emissions. He also revealed at the event that the country's national oil firm, Ecopetrol, had sold the Asian market its first million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset crude, consisting of the entire extraction, production and exportation chain.
Carbon compensation or offsetting may sound like a half-baked idea, but expect to hear it increasingly in the context of measures to tackle the climate crisis. The idea is to capture the same amount of CO2 emitted in your production process through a compensatory project, like preserving a stretch of forest. But with oil production, can you really curb the emissions of one of the economy's most polluting sectors? Is compensation the right strategy or response to the climate crisis?
Beyond carbon offsetting
Ecopetrol told El Espectador that the million barrels cited by the president were the Castilla Blend sold to PetroChina and shipped from the port of Coveñas in northern Colombia in February. The country specifically compensated for 32,000 tons of CO2 (or a fraction of Colombia's total emissions of around 258.8 million tons).
Ecopetrol's head of crude production, Juan Carlos Fonnegra, says the firm committed itself in 2021 to reaching zero net emissions by 2050, which he said would make it the first Latin American oil and gas firm to set this target. This is part of its sosTECnibilidad y cambio climático, or sustainable transition plans. He did point out that the offsetting cited covered the Scopes 1 and 2 emissions generated throughout the million barrels' value chain.
What does this mean? The IDEAM, a state technical and environmental agency, divides carbon offsetting into three stages. Scope 1 emissions are those generated inside the firm, say, by a gas heater in your factory.
Second scope emissions, which Ecopetrol also offset, are those generated through a purchase and not inside the firm. They might be generated by the electricity used by the firm.
It's time to start extracting carbon from the atmosphere.
Scope 3 emissions, which were not offset by Ecopetrol, are outside a firm's control. IDEAM gives the example of emissions from the decomposition of a firm's waste at a skip. Waste-related emissions are the biggest emissions in most productive processes. Which is why, as the Carbon Trust organization points out, there are mounting calls on firms to offset this stage of emissions. This would be of greater urgency when it comes to oil as 90 to 95% of emissions from its entire life cycle are Scope 3 emissions, according to data from S&P Global.
Felipe Corral, an energy transition researcher at the Berlin Technical University in Germany, says we are past the point of offsetting, and must start extracting carbon from the atmosphere.
Colombia's President Iván Duque attending CERAWeek annual conference to discuss the world's energy challenges in March 2022
Renewables or bust
Another point to consider with Iván Duque's claims concerns the project to offset emissions from the Castilla Blend shipment. The tradeoff is typically done through forestry projects to capture carbon from the air. Thus, one firm (Ecopetrol) buys from another (a forestry firm) carbon credits equivalent to the tons of carbon not being emitted. There is usually a third firm to certify that the purchase of five carbon credits did indeed entail non-emission of five tons of carbon.
How were Ecopetrol's 32,000 tons offset? The firm says this was done through a renewable energy project in the department of Antioquia (in central Colombia). Which project, and how did it work? Ecopetrol did not give details and since April 4, El Espectador has sought out details from SGS, the certifying firm, without success.
Corral explains that while details are pertinent, the deal broadly is that if "a firm installs a solar park in Antioquia with absolute certainty that in its absence there would have been a power station there, then it can sell carbon credits as it is potentially avoiding greater emissions." Corral sees this as very weak offsetting.
Some would call this greenwashing, says Juan José Guzmán Ayala, a finance and climate specialist. He says Ecopetrol can act this way as the Colombian government has yet to create an obligatory and regulated carbon market.
In 2018, the government of former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos passed the Climate Change Law (Law 1931/2018) that required among its stipulations a regulated carbon market within three years. It had to be ready in 2021 in other words.
But Guzmán Ayala says "not only were the deadlines not met, but the Duque government... is now coming out [abroad] and speaking of oil compensation measures, when it has not carried out this task." The carbon market in Colombia remains voluntary for now, and firms merely have to show that they offset emissions in order to avoid paying the carbon tax. In voluntary trading markets, says Guzmán, "costs are very low, like standards, which could mean an advantage" for the industry.
The firm insists its carbon purchase met the "highest international certification standards (known as Verra)." Colombia's deputy environment minister, Nicolás Galarza, told the daily in turn that the law underestimated the complexities of this process and that with progress made so far, the government was now working on the regulations themselves. By 2023, he said, it should have readied the institutional bases the market would need before it could start functioning between 2023 and 2025. It is a "matter that requires time," he said, citing Mexico, which passed a climate law in 2012 and only began to test its regulated market in 2020.
Colombia passed a Climate Action Law in 2021, which created a national register of emissions known as ROE or Obligatory Emissions Report, and a Carbon Markets Experts Commission, which will both aid it in forging regulations. Galarza says Colombia is the only South American state actually "developing" offsetting measures as cited on the carbon markets' ICAP ETS map, ahead of Chile and Brazil.
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