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'Fearful' Frenchwoman replaced as renewables agency chief

Germany rows back on green tax hike
Berlin (UPI) Oct 25, 2010 - The German government has decided to go easy on its energy-intense industries by reducing a planned hike of an eco tax. German Chancellor's Angela Merkel's center-right coalition will instead punish smokers by raising taxes on cigarettes and tobacco. The move is part of a plan by Merkel's coalition to reduce Germany's budget deficit of around $110 billion with a series of austerity and tax reforms. Berlin initially wanted to reduce subsidies for energy-intense companies and that way save around $2 billion over the next years. Yet the hike of the eco tax -- called Oekosteuer in Germany -- sparked significant protest and unleashed a wave of lobbying. The BDI industry association warned that Merkel with her tax plans would endanger up to 870,000 jobs in the chemicals and metallurgy industries.

Berlin Sunday decided to cut back on the eco tax -- which will now bring about $700 million instead of $2 billion -- and, starting in 2011, raise taxes for cigarettes, rolling and pipe tobacco. The price for a pack of cigarettes will rise between 5 cents and 10 cents per year until 2015, the government said. Michael Fuchs, a senior lawmaker with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told radio station SWR it was right to support firms that are dependent on cheap energy. "Otherwise they couldn't produce in Germany and then German jobs will be lost," he said, and added that raising tobacco taxes makes sense. "Smoking is unhealthy, everyone knows that and it damages the overall economy." However, the new tobacco tax won't hand Berlin quite as much money as the planned energy tax hike, meaning that there will be a hole in the German budget of around $490 million next year.

The opposition criticized the turnaround as yet another sign that Merkel's coalition is bowing to industry lobbyists. "This is completely the wrong direction to take, both economically and ecologically," Alexander Bonde, the opposition Greens' budget spokesman in parliament, told MDR radio station. Merkel's government has in the past been criticized for multibillion-dollar subsidies to hotel owners and an energy strategy update that hands a lifeline to nuclear power despite the fact that a majority of Germans wants to have the reactors decommissioned. The latest tax will have to be green-lighted by parliamentarians. It's part of a package of fiscal reforms that mainly affect citizens with little lobbying power. Berlin plans to cut back on welfare support and levy taxes on air travel. The airlines have already vowed to forward the additional costs to travelers.
by Staff Writers
Abu Dhabi (AFP) Oct 25, 2010
Adnan Amin of Kenya will replace Helene Pelosse of France as the interim director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, the head of its preparatory commission said on Monday.

Pelosse, meanwhile, told AFP that she had faced "intimidation" and been forced out of the job by the United Arab Emirates, which hosts the agency, less than 18 months after having been elected.

"The preparatory commission has decided that as of November 1 Adnan Amin will perform (the) functions of Interim Director General of IRENA until the first assembly in April 2011," said Rafael Condo de Sara, the Spanish chairman of the preparatory commission.

Speaking on the sidelines of the fourth IRENA preparatory commission meeting in Abu Dhabi, de Sara announced "the acceptation of the resignation of the interim general director (Helene) Pelosse."

"On behalf of member states I thank Mrs Helene Pelosse for the hard work she has put in setting up the agency, and welcome Mr Amin," de Sara said. He did not provide reasons for Pelosse's resignation.

But the outgoing director general was categorical in the reasons for her short tenure.

"The Emirates asked France for my head," Pelosse said, adding that one of the reasons was that she had worn a T-shirt reading "IRENA recruits 50 percent women" at a climate conference in Amsterdam at the end of 2009.

"Since I've been here, I've done several things which have led each time to the (UAE) foreign minister calling Paris to say, 'This does not please us at all,'" she said in a telephone interview.

Pelosse said that in June she had publicly accused the UAE of delaying payments and jeopardising the financial future of the agency.

"I have undergone enormous pressures," she said, adding she had faced "intimidation" by intrusions into her home, had her phone and IRENA offices bugged, and baggage searched at the hotel.

Pelosse said she had reached the point of fearing for her security and was leaving the UAE on Tuesday.

Amin, a Kenyan citizen, served as the director of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination before being selected to head IRENA, the agency said.

"My priority will be to put IRENA on a firm institutional footing and to develop a compelling vision for the future of renewable energy worldwide," Amin said.

IRENA announced last Tuesday that Pelosse was leaving the agency less than 18 months after she was elected interim director general, beating off challengers from Denmark, Greece and Spain.

She had previously served as deputy head of staff in the private office of French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo.

The preparatory commission met on Sunday and Monday with about 300 delegates from more than 100 countries attending the sessions, according to IRENA.

IRENA, which was founded in Bonn in January 2009, is "dedicated to facilitating the rapid development and deployment of renewable energy worldwide," its website says.

A total of 148 states and the European Union have signed its statute.

The agency is based in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, despite criticism of the Gulf state's high carbon footprint.

The UAE government plans to relocate the agency's headquarters to Masdar City, which is to be powered entirely by renewable energy, cost between 18.7 and 19.8 billion dollars and will be completed between 2020 and 2025.

Phase one of Masdar City, which is located outside Abu Dhabi, and is to include IRENA's headquarters, will be completed by 2015, according to Masdar.

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