Wednesday Night #1333 – Montreal Protocol & ICAO

19 September 2007

While Montreal lives up to its aspirations as an international city this week with two major conferences underway, we are as always dismayed by how little the average – or even above-average – citizen knows about the UN presence here. If pushed, some outside the aviation fraternity might be able to identify ICAO, although usually with some confusion with IATA, but only a handful are aware that our city is home to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, rightfully praised as a [one of the only] highly successful international environmental accord. (Read and learn) which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week.
Last week, APEC with the help of Stephen Harper, John Howard and George Bush cobbled together a weak statement on climate change. This week, in Montreal, world leaders hope to sign a new deal that would have a greater effect on climate change than the Kyoto Protocol , and we watch with great amusement as the Harper minions, led by new convert John Baird turn greener by the minute.
One of the many benefits of the Montreal Protocol gathering is that Tim Whitehouse of the NAFTA Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) – another of Montreal’s unsung international organizations – is back in town from Washington and will join us at Wednesday Night.
Meanwhile, the triennial ICAO Assembly that opened Tuesday may be expected to be a lively session as debate focuses on how to curb CO2 emissions linked to global warming, whilst the EU is preparing to take unilateral action to force airlines to pollute less. We are delighted that Tom Windmuller will be with us to shed some light on the airline industry proposals (IATA) and can elaborate on the challenge his boss has given to ICAO member states to set a target of 120 million tons of carbon emissions annually through “more efficient infrastructure and better operations.”
On the topic of airlines and energy, suggested readings include Tom Friedman’s latest piece
What an amazing collection of news and tidbits have popped up in the last few days, converting last week’s sliced bread into toast.
A new dimension to conjecture on Vladimir Putin‘s political future. The surprise nomination of Viktor Zubkov as the new Prime Minister, followed by Mr. Putin’s declaration that he had no desire to be followed by a weak president – has as many interpretations as there are Putin/Russia watchers and what does this all mean in the context of missile defense cooperation?
Last week we commented on the ‘returned-unopened’ fate of Pakistan‘s ex-PM Nawaz Sharif [and nobody rose to the bait because of the on-going ABCP saga]. Wiping that story off front pages is the statement to that country’s Supreme Court that General Musharraf has said he would step down as army chief if elected. So, what’s happening to the negotiations with Benazir Bhutto for power sharing? Now she says that she was surprised President Pervez Musharraf would seek re-election while still army chief and said she intends to return to Pakistan from exile on 18 October to contest parliamentary elections, which must be announced by mid-November and held by mid-January. We remain concerned that Pakistan is a potential nuclear tinder box should the government fall into Islamist hands.
Brian Mulroney‘s cranky Memoirs? Obliterated for political and economic junkies by Alan Greenspan‘s Age of Turbulence. J. Bradford DeLong’s entertaining review is a must read in our humble opinion, especially in light of the Fed’s decision today to cut rates for the first time since mid-2006, from 5.25% to 4.75%. We haven’t seen an opinion from Mr. Greenspan — yet.
The cut in interest rates is of course a reaction to the crisis precipitated by the ABCP and fears of recession in the U.S. which was discussed at length last Wednesday. The Economist gives a relatively positive view on hedge funds but concludes “All this means that watching markets will be rather like being a security guard: oscillating between boredom, when virtually nothing is happening, and fear, when all hell breaks loose. Traditional investors will need a strong nerve and a long-term perspective”, which confirms the opinions expressed by Chil Heward and other WN experts.
You thought we wouldn’t mention the by-elections? We congratulate Thomas Mulcair and Jack Layton on the overwhelming support for an outstanding candidate, pointing out that Mr. Mulcair would have won as a candidate for the Hippopotamus Party. The voters voted for him personally and also, we suspect, were happy to simultaneously send a strong message to Mr. Charest at no cost to the provincial riding.
Our favorite National Post contributor, John Moore, has a must-read analysis as does Andrew Coyne
And, amidst all the doom & gloom, really good news: the New York Times has stopped charging for all the really good stuff (like op-ed) as of tonight, which means that we will no longer have to cut and paste items we want to share with you. This, we are sure Martha Stewart would agree “is a good thing”
All of this [and we have not mentioned Iraq, or the local brouhaha over M. Labonté] should make for a lively Wednesday Night.

Bulletin: September 19
Speaking of brouhaha, we are curious to hear what is behind the announcement from Concordia published this morning:
Concordia president Lajeunesse exit
Just over two years into a five-year contract, Claude Lajeunesse will make a quick exit as president of Concordia University, the school’s board of governors announced yesterday. The decision, effective Oct. 31, was made “by mutual agreement,” the board added in a statement. Lajeunesse and the board had “a common goal,” Concordia spokesperson Christine Mota said, but “the vision on how to get there and the road they wanted to take differed. And it’s clear the two roads weren’t going to meet comfortably.” Mota would not elaborate, but said Concordia is “making absolutely clear there is not a hint of any financial issue involved in this.” Board chairperson Peter Kruyt referred all questions to Mota. A search for a replacement is to begin immediately. Lajeunesse came to Concordia after serving 10 years as president of Ryerson University in Toronto. Trained as an engineer, he replaced Frederick Lowy at Concordia.

The Report

American Presidential elections
With just over thirteen months to go until the next election, Americans are faced with a dilemma. The Republicans have no outstanding candidate and it is apparent to knowledgeable observers that the Democratic nomination will be decided before March; the two front runners, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have only a few months until the final die is cast. And Hillary, who has succeeded in avoiding making political errors by not taking a stand on controversial issues, looks in every respect (organization, money, etc.) like the one to beat. The question arises as to whether Americans are prepared to elect a woman President. The answer is probably, yes. She will almost inevitably receive the nomination and would be elected.
Barack Obama has taken a very popular anti-Iraq war stance, is charismatic and articulate, but has only limited experience in the Senate. Is the American Public ready to elect a Black Man as President? Colin Powell might very well have been elected had he chosen to run; why not Barack Obama?
Hillary is basically a technocrat; if you were she would you want Mr. Charisma as your Vice President?
The critical question is not only whether the American electorate is prepared now to elect a woman and a black man on the same ticket. It is also if Senator Clinton of New York (with a Chicago connection) is the presidential candidate, how will she best balance the ticket in terms of regional representation. A fellow Senator who is from Illinois is not the obvious answer.
What is really remarkable is that the U.S. has reached the stage at which these possibilities are being discussed
In the end, when the choice is between the two presidential candidates whether the voters ponder the issues and the press reports, or remain uninformed, they will inevitably vote for the candidate that they dislike the least.
Either of them (Hillary and Obama) will motivate the Republican base to go out and vote against them

Media and politics
The mainstream media’s ability to turn public opinion plays an important and often questionable role in elections, as is illustrated in the revealing story in this month’s Vanity Fair about how Al Gore’s unsuccessful run against George Bush was affected by the manner in which the press portrayed him, and misquoted, or quoted him out of context and created the myths such as the “I invented the Internet” statement.
The same evil geniuses who were behind the Swiftboat campaign are taking aim at Obama’s unusual past, especially the four years he spent in Djakarta. It seems the team is fully financed and ready to unleash the smears.
The media meanwhile is/are changing as evidenced by the CNN/YouTube debate for Democratic candidates in July, and the addition of bloggers to the accredited media in the 2004 campaign (and subsequently in high-level international meetings). It is noted, however, that the accreditation process means that the bloggers are selected ahead of time and therefore are generally acolytes of mainstream media. The question remains, how much effect will this secondary media have on the campaign?
In Canada the growth of political blogs is a refreshing change from the sameness of most reporting by the Big Seven (one entry mentioned: )
A recent development is the appearance of Canadian columns and opinion pieces as blogs of Canadian newspapers (at least the National Post) in addition to their on-line and/or print columns. As well as giving access to non-subscribers, the blog sites provide reader feedback.
Among North American urban populations, as fewer people get their nightly news from the television at home, more and more are getting it from the Internet. Will this have an effect on voter patterns?

The Outremont By-election

Locally, Thomas Mulcair (see Wednesday Night #1267 has won the Federal Outremont riding for the N.D.P. Articulate, personal and popular, had he run for the Liberal party, Canada’s political future might very well be different. As an N.D.P. Member of Parliament, he may have a difficult time in Ontario because there is very little common ground in that province between unions and environmentalists. The loss of all three by-elections in Québec places Stéphane Dion in a very difficult situation. Despite his personal appeal in an intimate group, he’s not an effective communicator, he is physically and vocally distant from his constituency; his academic manner and lack of charisma do not attract the average voter. One experienced Liberal suggests that a number of grassroots organizers have abandoned the party and unless they can be attracted back in anticipation of “spoils of war”, the party is in deep trouble. His emphasis on the environment to the exclusion of other important issues has done him a disservice. In politics, it is rare that one is given a second chance to deliver and so, his political future is uncertain.

The Market
The bull market is not over as long as stock prices keep rising. The world is in pretty solid shape except for the housing crisis which could put the U.S. in recession down the road. We are about to test the market and there will be a lot of turbulence, but there is a lot of money out there and the economy looks good for Canada, if not for the U.S., and a lot of money is still looking for investments. With about fifty-five percent of the world’s remaining investable oilfields and hundred-dollar-per-barrel oil within a year a certainty, the Canadian economy looks good. In the United States, with his credibility virtually destroyed, Alan Greenspan, first named by Ronald Reagan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1987, has seen his image change from hero to a spent force in the market place following the current predictable U.S. financial problems.
Don’t forget there are a lot of people who are 32 and have no historical knowledge of anything
The European and Asian economies are more decoupled from the U.S. economy than at any time in the past 40 years
The decoupling thesis is about to be tested

The Anglo community in Québec
The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) which represents 23 English-language community groups across the province has issued a report today whose findings confirm that the needs and nature of the English community in Greater Montreal have evolved and changed. [Examples: English speakers have fewer job opportunities, leading to a significantly higher unemployment rate than among Francophones. Anglophones in the greater Montreal area are 24 per cent more likely to be jobless than Francophones. It also reported a lower proportion of middle-income earners (those making $40,000 to $60,000 a year) among the Anglophones
Overall, the nature of the community has changed drastically while the perception of the community remains that of a privileged, well-educated, relatively homogeneous group of over achievers. This may be still true of a majority of the older members, but there is a barbell effect whereby at the other end of the barbell there is a rising number of unilingual, undereducated, under-achievers.
Generally, the level of bilingualism and biculturalism is such that problems are now social rather than linguistic. An organism with a mandate to bring the relevant issues to light and to work on them is required in the light of today’s Anglophone community.

The environment and aviation

While there has been widespread finger pointing at civil aviation as a major contributor to environmental degradation, this is partly because the industry has for some time assumed that its efforts to improve performance [for economic if no other reason, the air transportation industry has been taking measures to become more efficient] were widely understood. Realizing that this was not the case, IATA has put forward a vision of an industry that does not pollute – zero emissions.
In light of the incredible leaps in aviation technology over 50 years, from the Wright brothers’ ‘toy’ to jet aircraft carrying 100 people on transatlantic flights, this is not a wild-eyed proposal, but must be accomplished through strategic stages. Boeing will be testing a hydrogen-powered plane next year (though there is considerable scepticism about the acceptability and/or viability of hydrogen as a commercial aviation fuel) ; a Swiss explorer will be testing a solar-powered aircraft (single passenger) on a round-the world flight and another programme will test an algae-fuelled 747.
The nature of the international transportation business – maritime transport has most of the same characteristics as aviation – requires that international standards be agreed. Aircraft (and ships) are often manufactured, owned and registered, leased and operated in a number of different sovereign states and must travel between – and over – sovereign states, and airport/port administrations some under national government authority, it is useless to apply national environmental standards. Initially, it was intended that international transportation (aviation and shipping) be included under Kyoto, however it was soon realized that aviation must be come under ICAO. Unfortunately, all those involved have been slow to implement change, partly because of the difficulty in doing it and partly because it is cheaper not to do anything.
[Note: The military operates on a different premise from civil aviation and, particularly in the U.S. will do whatever is deemed necessary to ensure the security of fuel supplies, without thought for the environmental consequences. Thus the embracing of coal-based jet fuel, a process initiated by the Nazi government in Germany and later widely used by South Africa during the years of embargo, and to this day.]
Confronting the challenge of environmental issues, it is tempting to avoid individual or collective measures that cause inconvenience or pain by pointing to the transgressions, real, exaggerated or imagined, of other entities including foreign countries. Because the energy requirements of certain countries are increasing exponentially, even a grand gesture like abolishing all flying would have so little impact on man-made carbon emissions that its benefits would be overtaken within a year. Given that there appears to be no way to compel China, or India, to limit their economic growth and concomitant energy requirements, we must recognize that they will do as they will and the rest of the world must redouble its efforts to find clean energy solutions, including effective carbon sequestration processes.
CO2 emissions and climate change dominate current concerns, but there are other issues that should not be neglected. The toxicity of the Asian Brown Cloud over the Indian sub-continent affects not only human health, but agriculture and the world’s ability to feed its population. Forests are carbon storehouses; tropical deforestation is responsible for approximately 20% of total human-caused carbon dioxide emissions each year without taking into account the further impact of burning the fuel supplied by forests.
Buildings emit about 35% of global warming gasses; the good news is that today we can build buildings that are 85% more energy efficient and it is estimated that by 2030, buildings could be carbon-neutral.
I am not in favour of cap and trade. I am in favour of carbon tax. We have built an entire economy on cheap energy and now we have to change 50 years of energy consumption patterns
My concern about the climate change debate and carbon sequestration is that the issue is being treated as an environmental and technical issue; the ethical dimension is being dropped
As we consider putting people closer together and stacking them in ever-higher energy-efficient buildings, we also need to consider that if we did this to rats, they would become rabid
I live on a lake that was closed last week because of blue-green algae. Problems begin in our own back yard and we need to address them before we point fingers at others
I think that there’s no choice but to electrify as much machinery and transportation as we possibly can and power it all with nuclear because there is effectively an unlimited amount of uranium

The Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (aka the Bouchard-Taylor Commission)
The Bouchard-Taylor commission is traveling throughout Québec offering citizens’ groups and individuals an opportunity to air their opinions and feelings about accommodation of cultures and practices that are not perceived as an inherent part of Québec’s social fabric. [Editor’s note: we are trying to be politically correct in our interpretation of the definition of what is to be accommodated.] A guideline document published on the commission’s website gives overviews of the dimensions of the consultation with questions to guide the presenter through the various alternatives. There has already been considerable participation with a wide range of views expressed and it is to be hoped that many more will consider making submissions or statements.
In contrast to this consultative approach, amidst considerable public outcry (riots) the French government has banned the wearing of all religious/ethnic symbols including the hijab, the yarmulke and the crucifix.


One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1333 – Montreal Protocol & ICAO"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson September 30, 2007 at 12:28 pm ·

    29 September 2007, reported by RCI
    Participants in a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization have agreed to a “program of action” to reduce their industry’s production of greenhouse gases. ICAO Assembly President Jeffrey Shane, who is also an official with the U.S. department of transportation, says the decision represents an “aggressive” mandate for the UN body. Mr. Shane says airlines will try to reduce emissions through better technology, fuel efficiency and air traffic management. Airlines based outside Europe rejected a European plan to force airlines flying to the continent to obtain pollution permits.

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