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The World Resources Institute recently released updated estimates of the “fast-start” climate mitigation and adaption commitments rich nations made to poor countries after the Copenhagen summit. The headline figures are pretty impressive: Developed nations have set aside an estimated $27.9 billion, a combined total that is only $2 billion shy of the amount they promised between now and 2012. Environmental think tank WRI was quick to note that “while this represents a significant step in the right direction, developed countries still have much to do in meeting their Copenhagen fast-start pledge.” With unprecedented costs of combating climate-related disasters in Pakistan and Russia, one must ask, is this pledge a big enough step?

Fast-start money matters

First a bit of background: The fast-start pledge was only intended to help fund poorer, more vulnerable countries’ climate efforts from now through 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol is due to expire. The negotiators who cobbled together the non-binding Copenhagen Accord at the eleventh hour of the last big climate summit hoped to have a successor treaty with larger, binding climate finance figures in place before then. The Accord established a goal of ramping up mitigation and adaption funding to $100 billion by 2020.

Unfortunately, the diverging negotiating positions of rich and poor countries that have emerged since the Copenhagen summit make it less likely that a binding treaty will be agreed upon and ratified by 2012. This dreaded “Kyoto gap”–as the expected space between the end of the current greenhouse gas regulatory regime and whatever comes next is now being referred to–has developing countries clamoring for assurances that rich nations are still committed to cooperatively addressing the threat of climate change.

One simple way for the developed world to reaffirm its resolve is by meeting the existing fast-start pledge made in Copenhagen. The importance of this point was made explicit before the Bonn climate talks by the environmental ministers of Brazil, South Africa, India, and China–an influential collection of emerging economies that have coalesced into the “BASIC” negotiating block. In a joint press release, the BASIC ministers warned that “fast-start finance will be the key for an effective result in the climate change negotiations in Cancun.”

Tallying the pledges

Although the Bonn talks failed to establish firmer climate finance figures, WRI’s estimates suggest that the developed world has still made progress in fulfilling the commitment it made in Copenhagen.

Click here to read and comment on the rest of this UN Dispatch post republished on the Huffington Post.

Photo credit: United Nations Photo (via Flickr)

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Cover Of The 2/18/09 Issue: The death of conservatism

This was written as a part of my application for TNR‘s once sought-after reporter-researcher position while I was wrapping up my web internship at The Nation. In the past, the year-long position has been an important career springboard for many accomplished journalists. Now I’ve heard TNR, the venerable Washington institution, can only afford to pay some $5,000 a year to whomever is selected. In 2009, I didn’t even score an interview. In 2010, I wasn’t even interested in applying. Oh, the sorry state of journalism…

As far as the actual analysis goes, I think it’s held up pretty well. Maybe I wrote a bad cover letter. Who knows? Any critiques are welcome in the comments section below.

FINANCIAL TROUBLES

The most important argument against nationalization raised in the lead editorial is that “absent clear conditions… nationalization could easily provoke a panicked sell-off.”  The news that has come out of the Treasury since the editorial was published has been anything but “clear.”  Geithner’s widely derided speech outlining the disbursement of the second round of Trouble Asset Relief Program funds lost the confidence of the markets, which will likely limit his ability to take any action more bold than simply handing out money to banks.  This timid approach that TNR editorial rightly suggested would be the “worst course of action” appears to be the direction in which the Obama economic team is leading the US.

The first act of the “Geithner-Summers psychodrama” was especially interesting to read in light of these disappointing developments.  The next scene is no doubt well into production.  The muddled TARP II (re-branded as the Financial Stability Plan) speech did not clear up how the administration plans to dispose of the toxic assets eating away at banks’ balance sheets or who is really directing the financial clean up.  The combination of Geithner’s tax-tarnished confirmation and now his expectation management failure have made him appear as anything but an “Obama-like perma-cool” leader, as Scheiber put it.  Scheiber also missed the opening salvos of the State/Treasury border skirmishes: Geithner foolishly accused China of “manipulating” its currency in his written responses to the Senate Finance Committee’s confirmation questionnaire.

The financial troubles that Geithner, et al., are struggling to resolve will present a serious challenge to health care reform that was not discussed in Cohn’s otherwise excellent feature.  The hopeful confluence of public opinion in favor of reform with the rise of broad-based interest groups like “Divided We Fail” was thoroughly examined, as was the argument against health care reform (which he had previously identified as “the best case against universal health care”).  However, Cohn did not address what will likely be the loudest case Republicans make in their inevitable opposition to comprehensive reform: the ballooning budget deficit.  The right used their recent conversion to fiscal discipline as justification for trimming the much-needed stimulus program.  They are likely to use the same shrill scare tactics to minimize change to the broken health care system.

Russia too is suffering from the worldwide recession.  While I found the exposé of the Kremlin’s p.r. ploys fascinating, I couldn’t help but wonder whether they have the attention and budget necessary to continue with pricey consultants, “self-laudatory” summits, and Russia Today propaganda broadcasts given the collapse in the price of oil and, with it, the living standards of the formerly docile Russian people.  The p.r. offensive may be too costly a distraction for an increasingly embattled Russian government.

FRUM, COLEMAN, AND CONSERVATISM

The cover story on the history and future of conservatism provides a useful lens through which to view the divergent paths of David Frum and Norm Coleman.  (more…)

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The Conde Nast Conspiracy

Last week, a shocking GQ investigative report, “None Dare Call it Conspiracy,” hit the newsstands. Not that most people would know about it. Oddly, the magazine’s parent company, Conde Nast, seems bent on squelching the explosive article.

corbin-hiar-tsar-putinThe report links Russia’s intelligence service to a series of bombings in 1999—blamed on Chechen terrorists—that killed over 300 Russian citizens, led to the Second Chechen War, and propelled Vladimir Putin to the presidency. At the center of the story is a Mikhail Trepashkin, a former KGB-turned-FSB agent, whose detailed allegations draw into question Putin’s role in the bombings. Similar inquiries have led to the mysterious deaths of both journalist Anna Politkovskaya and Trepashkin’s former colleague Alexander Litvinenko.

Perhaps fearing that the story would impact the advertising revenues of the four titles Conde Nast publishes in the Russian market, the media company has attempted to bury the piece. In an internal email on July 23, obtained by NPR’s David Folkenflik, one of the media company’s top lawyers informed GQ editors that “Conde Nast management has decided that the September issue of US GQ magazine containing Scott Anderson’s article…should not be distributed in Russia.” The report was not teased on the magazine’s cover and, as of now, is not available on the magazine’s website. Gawker has attempted to rectify the situation by posting a scanned copy of the article on its website and asking readers to help them translate the article into Russian.

While Conde Nast has thus far been silent on the NPR report (they did not respond to my request for comment), this appears to be a clear-cut case of commercial interests trumping journalistic integrity. As Scott Anderson, the author of the piece said to Folkenflik

I think it’s really kind of sad. Here now is finally an outlet for this story to be told, and you do everything possible to throw a tarp over it.

By attempting to stifle the report, Conde Nast has may end up succeeding in bringing more attention to the piece. That, and inadvertently making one of the strongest arguments yet for supporting independent nonprofit media like NPR (and Mother Jones).

Click here to see the original Riff blog post or make a comment.

Picture credit: benmurphyonline (via Flickr)

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