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Friday, June 22, 2012

Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, June 2012


Jane A. Leggett
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy

Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy


The United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or “Rio+20”) convenes June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This conference marks the 20th anniversary of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio in 1992. Governments participating in the 1992 meeting politically endorsed the objective of “sustainable development” as achieving economic, environmental, and social development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Rio+20 begins from the premise and findings that the objectives of the 1992 Rio conference have not been achieved. The U.N.’s fifth Global Environmental Outlook, published in June 2012, found significant progress toward only four of 90 internationally-agreed goals associated with sustainable development. It found back-tracking on eight goals. Stakeholders widely agree that changes in policies and institutions are desirable to improve implementation, but do not agree on means. It seems unlikely that Rio+20 will produce any agreements that would require congressional action or be legally binding. Some proceedings, however, may engender congressional interest in concepts proposed for simultaneously achieving economic, social, and environmental objectives. Rio+20 could influence views and actions internationally on development paths and practices, thereby affecting regional and global economies, demand for development aid, transnational environmental issues, and conflict incidence and resolution. Therefore, Congress may take interest in the conference. In addition, proceedings may reference the non-binding, 1992 Agenda 21, produced at UNCED in 1992; media coverage could raise questions from constituents that Members may wish to address.

The Rio+20 organizers indicate that “[g]overnments are expected to adopt clear and focused practical measures for implementing sustainable development, based on the many examples of success we have seen over the last 20 years.” However, with strongly divergent views among the expected 115 Heads of State and up to 50,000 participants, Rio+20 may be more like a trade show than political negotiations. Indeed, some observers suggest that the conference may yield many deals among private participants. It is not expected to produce a treaty or any other binding commitments of national governments. Some observers wonder whether a meaningful communique can be successfully negotiated. High-level participants will be prompted to address issues that include

  • the definition of “green economy,” and whether a definition gives adequate emphasis to social aspects (e.g., “fairness”) of sustainable development; 
  • whether “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) should replace or supplement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by the U.N, General Assembly in 2000 and expected to end in 2015, as well as how SDGs might be negotiated, and what priorities might be set among them; 
  • how to reform international environmental institutions, particularly whether the United Nations Environmental Program should be strengthened; 
  • what actions, if any, might lead to improved implementation of existing sustainable development goals, given slow progress so far; 
  • whether governments may commit to greater financial and technological assistance to low-income countries to assist their sustainable development.

Date of Report: June 18, 2012
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R42573
Price: $29.95

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Holocaust-Era Insurance Claims: Background and Proposed Legislation


Paul Belkin
Analyst in European Affairs

Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney

Baird Webel
Specialist in Financial Economics


In November 1998, U.S. insurance regulators, six European insurers, international Jewish organizations, and the State of Israel agreed to establish the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC). ICHEIC was tasked with identifying policyholders and administering payment of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust-era insurance policies alleged never to have been honored by European insurance companies. It ended its claims process in March 2007, having facilitated the payment of just over $300 million to 47,353 claimants. An additional $190 million was allocated to a “humanitarian fund” for Holocaust survivors and Holocaust education and remembrance.

Throughout its existence, ICHEIC was criticized, including by some Members of Congress, for delays in its claims process, for conducting its activities with a lack of transparency, and for allegedly honoring an inadequate number of claims. Although they acknowledge initial delays in the claims process, ICHEIC supporters—among them successive U.S. Administrations and European governments—argue that the process was fair and comprehensive, especially given the unprecedented legal and historical complexities of the task.

Members of Congress have shown a long-standing interest in seeking to obtain compensation for Holocaust survivors and their heirs for unpaid insurance policies. Hearings before the House Committee on Government Reform between 2001 and 2003 exposed broad criticism of ICHEIC, and legislation proposed in the 107th-111th Congresses sought to provide survivors alternative legal mechanisms to pursue claims. These proposals were never enacted and were opposed by U.S. Administrations, which considered ICHEIC the exclusive vehicle for resolving Holocaustera insurance claims.

ICHEIC’s closure, and growing concern about the well-being of aging survivors—now predominantly over 80 years old—have reignited congressional interest in Holocaust-era insurance and other compensation issues. In March 2011, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senator Bill Nelson introduced companion legislation in the House and the Senate (H.R. 890 and S. 466) that would affirm Holocaust survivors’ and their heirs’ right to pursue claims against European insurance companies in U.S. courts and would prohibit executive agreements reached by the federal government from preempting state laws that impose disclosure requirements on European insurers. Critics of the proposed legislation argue that by effectively reversing past commitments made by the U.S. government, the bills could damage future cooperation with European governments on other Holocaust compensation and restitution issues. Furthermore, they contend that the legislation would enable costly, but likely fruitless, litigation.

This report aims to inform consideration of H.R. 890 and S. 466 and possible alternatives by providing: background on Holocaust-era compensation and restitution issues; an overview of ICHEIC, including criticism and support of its claims process and Administration policy on ICHEIC; and an overview of litigation on Holocaust-era insurance claims and the proposed legislation.



Date of Report: June 15, 2012
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: RL34348
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Aviation and the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme


Jane A. Leggett
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy

Bart Elias
Specialist in Aviation Policy

Daniel T. Shedd
Legislative Attorney


Beginning January 1, 2012, most carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from commercial flights to, from, and within the European Union (EU) are covered by the EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS). Flights are covered regardless of whether the airline or operator is based in the EU region. The EU ETS caps aviation emissions of CO2 in 2012 at 97% of the average in 2004-2006 and at 95% in each year from 2013 to 2020. Each April, beginning 2013, covered aircraft operators must turn in emission “allowances” (permits) equal to the previous year’s emissions from their flights arriving at or departing from EU airports. Airline operators will receive free allowances for 82%- 85% of their 2010 emissions. Airlines that have more allowances than they need may sell them to others or save them for future use. Airlines that need more allowances may buy them from EU auctions, other carriers, other emission sources in the EU ETS, brokers, or international emission trading mechanisms. A small reserve of free allowances will be available for new or rapidly expanding airlines.

The entry into force of an EU law covering international aviation emissions is a significant move in a two-decade process concerning whether and how aviation emissions of CO2 may be abated. Even among those who agree on the benefits of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, how to share reductions across nations and sectors remains a continuing, major controversy internationally and within countries. Emissions from international air transport have, since early negotiations, posed a particular challenge.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol (to which the United States is not a Party) specified that Parties should pursue limitation or reduction of GHG emissions from aviation fuels, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations. In 2008, the EU cited a lack of “substantive progress” in ICAO and legislated to include aviation in its existing EU ETS by 2012. ICAO members have agreed to a variety of voluntary actions and goals. In October 2011, faced with impending inclusion of aviation emissions in the EU ETS, the ICAO Council agreed to accelerate its work, including continuing to explore market-based measures, CO2 standards for new aircraft, and other options.

EU officials have stated their preference for agreeing on global, binding measures in ICAO. One official stated that the EU would agree to suspend inclusion of aviation in the ETS only if a new global ICAO scheme met three conditions: it must deliver more emissions reductions than the EU ETS on its own; it must have targets and measures; and any action must be non-discriminatory and apply to all airlines. Alternatively, EU law allows exemptions for incoming flights from countries that have adopted “equivalent measures” to reduce emissions. Some countries are likely negotiating with the EU for an equivalent measures exemption for their airlines.

Air carriers from the United States and other countries have vociferously objected to inclusion of international aviation in the EU ETS. The U.S. government and other nations have pressed the EU to exclude foreign carriers. Two bills in Congress address the controversy. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2594, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011. It would prohibit U.S. aircraft operators from participating in the EU ETS. It also would direct the Administration to negotiate and take other actions to ensure that U.S. civil aircraft operators are not penalized by any unilateral EU regulation of GHG emissions. A similar bill with more flexibility, S. 1956, was introduced in the Senate. In January 2012, House and Senate conferees on reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed to a sense of the Congress resolution opposing the EU action.



Date of Report: June 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 44
Order Number: R42392
Price: $29.95

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive


Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

Attempts to resolve the political division of Cyprus and reunify the island have undergone various levels of negotiation for over 45 years. Since May 26, 2010, Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu had engaged in an intensified negotiation process to reach a mutually agreed settlement. Despite regular leadership meetings, continuous technical level discussions, and five meetings with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Kimoon, Christofias and Eroglu have been unable to find common ground or make enough necessary concessions on the difficult issues of property rights, territory, settlers, and citizenship, issues where both sides have had long-held and very different positions, to craft a final settlement. In early May 2012 the U.N.-sponsored talks, which had essentially reached a stalemate, were downgraded from leaders’ meetings to technical level discussions with apparently little objection from either side. This change in the status of the negotiations raises questions about whether unification can now be achieved at all, increasing the possibility of the outcome becoming permanent separation.

The talks also fell victim to the convergence of several additional influences that proved too difficult to overcome. One was the fact that the Republic of Cyprus would assume the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on July 1, 2012. Turkey had already announced on several occasions that it would not deal with any aspect of the EU that involved the Cypriot Presidency and it appears that Mr. Eroglu, despite the fact that the negotiations were not part of the Presidency’s mandate, would also not deal directly with President Christofias during the sixmonth period. A second factor was Turkey’s insistence that the U.N. convene an international conference to resolve security-related issues, which would involve Turkey. The Greek Cypriots refused to agree to such a conference until the domestic issues were resolved. The Turkish Cypriots appeared unable to accept any deal until the international conference was at least scheduled.

A third factor contributing to the demise of the negotiations involved the discovery of natural gas deposits off the southern coast of Cyprus and the ensuing debate and competition between the Republic on the one hand and the Turkish Cypriots and Ankara on the other over how these resources would be exploited and shared between the two communities. Accusations, threats, and distrust clouded the negotiating atmosphere. Finally, Christofias’ falling popularity, the domestic political environment in Greek Cyprus, and the forthcoming presidential elections in the Republic in February 2013 would have made any agreement difficult for Christofias to sell to the political opposition and possibly to a majority of the Greek Cypriot population. In May, without an agreement in the works, Christofias announced he would not seek reelection for president next year.

Although the U.N. would like the negotiations to continue at the technical level, unlocking the stalemate and reaching an agreement at the leadership level appears unlikely until after the 2013 national elections in the Republic. In essence, the talks have been placed on hold for almost nine months, a period that seems unacceptable to the Turkish Cypriots.

The United States Congress continues to maintain its interest in a resolution of the Cyprus issue. Language expressing continued support for the negotiation process had been included in the House FY2012 Foreign Assistance Authorization bill. This report provides a brief overview of the early history of the negotiations, a more detailed review of



Date of Report: June 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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