What does it take to bring you your solar news...?
Following an April 2010 visit to Syria in which I became the first, OK, maybe the second person on the planet to express any interest in Syrian renewable energy, a local Arabic-speaking friend in Damascus emailed me that a notice had gone up at the Japanese Embassy there: a whopping $6 million to go to Syrian street lighting. That was early in June.
Wow, a scoop – if only I could get a bit more detail. And you may think it’s secretive Syria to blame for how long it took. But you would be wrong.
First I took to Google looking for these millions. Certainly it would have been covered somewhere, preferably in English.
But no – nothing. Not under “Japanese government solar investment Syria” or any other obvious key words. My local friend asked the Japanese Embassy for a copy, preferably in English, but none was forthcoming. I asked the Japanese Consulate here but got nowhere. So my local Damascus friend rather enterprisingly took a photo of the release on her mobile – and emailed it along. (I hope my editor will run this pic to reward her effort.)
I told my friend that I could get it translated here and Tom Cook, a Brit at the Middle East Assoc., agreed to have a go. Before he could do this, my local friend sent me her own rough translation. So I soon had two versions. Progress!
I now knew that the release came from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), but I still had no idea of the date – and we reporters are fanatical about dates. So in late June I rang the London office, hoping to get the date and liven up my story with a quote. A Brit at JICA agreed to track down the release for me.
When nothing happened, I rang from NY, where I was summering away the first few weeks of July. My contact told me that it was his last week at JICA but promised to give all details of my quest to his successor.
Alas, nothing happened. After a week or so, I rang JICA again and this time spoke with a Mr Jin who referred me to Mr Tanabe in Damascus who referred me to Mr Suhara, also in Damascus.
Would you believe, if anyone is still with me, that this Japanese officer in Damascus actually did what I asked…? He gave me the date - 4th March 2010 – and sent a quote. It was a bit general but, hey, who’s complaining?
What is the story exactly, I hear you asking? Well, JICA, the Japanese version of IFID, has granted Syria $6 million for solar lighting as part of its Cool Earth Partnership.
Here is the quote, slightly edited: “JICA is conducting the solar energy grant aid under this partnership to more than 40 countries and Syria is one of them.
“Fortunately, the Syrian government is eager to expand its clean energy projects, and JICA expects this project to become a good example to expand clean energy in Syria.”
The Cool Earth Partnership of 2008 was an international development initiative worth a very cool $10 billion: the goal is to to reduce emissions by, among other things, improve access to clean energy.
I say “was” as the Cool Earth Partnership has now been replaced by the Hatoyama Initiative, a national carbon-regulation scheme, announced last December at COP15 and named after a former prime minister. It offers an even more cool $11 billion up to 2012 and targets a 25% cut in global warming emissions below 1990 levels by 2020. More on this to come.
At least the next time my friend – or any of you - spots any Japanese renewable energy news in Damascus, I’ll have a route to retrace.
Posted 03/09/2010 by Elizabeth Block
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