Jeremy Browne – working for abolition of the death penalty abroad


 

By  | 17th August 2012 – 12:22 pm

 

Next month, it will be 48 years since the last execution on British soil. Internationally, more countries than ever have been electing to also abandon the death penalty. Amnesty International’s latest report on death sentences and executions shows that the number of countries retaining capital punishment has decreased by one third over the last decade. More countries than ever are also instituting moratoriums on the practice. However, Amnesty reports that 149 more people were known to be executed in 2011 than in 2010. In the Middle East in particular, 2011 saw a steep rise in the number of recorded executions. The Chinese government have also resisted publishing their death penalty statistics, although the number put to death annually has been estimated to be in the thousands.

The position of the UK government – and the Liberal Democrats – on capital punishment is clear. We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We believe it undermines human dignity, there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value, and any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable. Last year on World Day against the Death Penalty, I wrote an article here on Liberal Democrat Voice. Then, as now, I am proud to be standing up for our values at home and overseas with our international partners. However, our work is far from over.

As a Minister in the Foreign Office, I often travel to countries which still use the death penalty as part of their sentencing regime. I regularly raise the issue with my counterparts and have made several interventions on specific cases. Although the number of countries using the death penalty has decreased many still have Capital Punishment in their penal code. In South Korea, which has had a moratorium in place for fifteen years, I advocated its abolition in a speech I gave at Korea University. In India, I raised my concerns over the possibility of their seven year moratorium being breached regarding a specific case. While I was in Japan, I met with the Japanese Parliamentary League for Abolition and raised the issue of Japan’s use of the death penalty with the then-Senior Vice Minister of Justice Taki. In Westminster, I regularly host meetings with NGOs, academics and interested parties in a group on the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. The last meeting, held in March, focussed on plans for the FCO’s work on the death penalty in the US, China and Iraq.

Last month, the Government announced the introduction of controls on the export of the anaesthetic Propofol to the United States, when it is in a form suitable for lethal injection. This follows a two-year process this Government began to control the export of Sodium Thiopental to the US. This is a drug that is sometimes part of the ‘cocktail’ used during lethal injections. The decision to apply export controls was taken after concerns were expressed that UK drugs may have been used in executions in some States. These controls were extended to three additional drugs last year, and this prompted the introduction at the end of 2011 of EU-wide measures to control the export of a range of drugs which can be used for the purpose of lethal injection.

This is progress but there is clearly still a long way to go before the death penalty is abolished worldwide. However, I am committed to keeping the pressure up on countries like China and the United States, in the hope that one day they too will be celebrating almost half a century without capital punishment.

 

Nuclear ‘hard to justify’, says GE chief


 

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

English: Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Gefahrensymbol für Radioaktivität. Image:Radioactive.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent , Financial times

 

Nuclear power is so expensive compared with other forms of energy that it has become “really hard” to justify, according to the chief executive of General Electric, one of the world’s largest suppliers of atomic equipment.

 

“It’s really a gas and wind world today,” said Jeff Immelt, referring to two sources of electricity he said most countries are shifting towards as natural gas becomes “permanently cheap”.

 

 

 

“When I talk to the guys who run the oil companies they say look, they’re finding more gas all the time. It’s just hard to justify nuclear, really hard. Gas is so cheap and at some point, really, economics rule,” Mr Immelt told the Financial Times in an interview in London at the weekend. “So I think some combination of gas, and either wind or solar … that’s where we see most countries around the world going.”

 

 

 

Mr Immelt’s comments underline the impact on the global energy landscape of the US shale gas revolution, Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown and falling prices for some types of renewable power.

 

 

 

The shale boom has sent US natural gas prices down to 10-year lows, a trend some analysts believe will spread elsewhere, while the nuclear industry faces added costs and uncertainty after Fukushima.

 

 

 

At the same time, a 75 per cent fall in solar panel market prices in the past three years has made solar power competitive with daytime retail electricity prices in some countries, according to a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, while offshore wind turbine prices have steadily declined.

 

Such factors pose dilemmas for countries such as the UK, which is trying to build new nuclear plants without public subsidy. The ruling coalition is also split over whether to set a new target to make the electricity sector virtually free of carbon emissions by 2030 – a plan George Osborne, the Conservative finance minister, opposes but many Liberal Democrats back.

 

Mr Immelt lent weight to the Lib Dem argument, saying GE had found existing EU carbon targets helpful. “I think standards sometimes really drive innovation,” he said. “To a certain extent at least, knowing what the rules are and being able to innovate against it is not a bad thing.”

 

 

 

Mr Immelt played down the impact of changing energy trends on a company as large as GE, which reported annual profits of $13bn for 2011 (on revenues of $142bn) and sells products for every leading source of energy, from gas and wind turbines nuclear reactors and oil drilling gear, to gas and wind turbines.

 

 

 

“We’ve got them all, so in some ways when you have them all you don’t have to be so smart about anything,” he said.

 

 

 

Analysts estimate GE’s nuclear revenues, from a joint venture with Japan’s Hitachi, at an estimated $1bn, or less than 1 per cent of annual global sales.

 

Mr Immelt is visiting London during the Olympic Games, which GE sponsors.

 

The company will announce on Monday that it has made more than $1bn in sales from Olympic host cities since 2006, including $100m from the London games, where GE has sold several power systems, 120 electric vehicle charging stations and thousands of lights.

 

 

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