German chancellor Angela Merkel came away from a phone conversation with Russian president Vladmir Putin this week convinced that he is living “in another world,” she told Barack Obama — an Orwellian alternative universe, perhaps, in which freedom is slavery and lies are propagated by a Ministry of Truth. The political crisis that is consuming Ukraine has re-ignited the embers of cold war hostility and paranoia.
Yet as the West and Russia square off, Merkel has been reluctant to sanction and isolate Russia for destabilizing Ukraine. This only reinforces Washington hardliners’ disdain for Europe’s supposed ineffectuality: it was the European Union’s trade initiative that Putin torpedoed, triggering the Ukrainian upheaval — and now the E.U. expects the Americans to deal with Russia’s hardball reaction?
Europhile Henry Kissinger caustically blames E.U. “bureaucratic dilatoriness” for “turning a negotiation into a crisis.” The last disciple of Metternichian realpolitik, Kissinger at least recognizes the perils of reacting intemperately and urges a compromise with Moscow involving “Finlandization” of Ukraine. But his fellow Republicans have seized on Ukraine to launch a full-throated assault on Obama as a “weak indecisive leader” whose “feckless foreign policy” invited Russian aggression and who lacks the backbone to force Putin into ignominious retreat.
If cold-war reflexes still come quickly to life in conservative quarters in Washington, they are far more deeply ingrained in Russia. Putin famously told the Duma that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century.” NATO’s expansion eastward and its war with Serbia over Kosovo propelled his ascension to power in 1999, and what he sees through the Moscow looking-glass is an implacable Western drive to hem in Russia and impose Western economic and political models worldwide.
Russian rhetoric about Ukraine bitterly parodies the language of current Western internationalism. Russian military forces are undertaking a “humanitarian intervention,” just as the Western countries did in Libya and have proposed for Syria (though in Ukraine no one has been killed or remotely threatened by the current Kiev authorities).
The Crimean autonomous region has the right to secede from Ukraine, just as the Western countries asserted for Kosovo (juridically an uncomfortably snug parallel, though missing the small detail of internationally certified lethal repression by Belgrade).
Ejection of sitting government officials from their posts by militant protesters in Russified districts of Ukraine is an expression of the popular will, a just riposte to the “Euro-Maidan” protesters who finally forced the flight of president Viktor Yanukovych.
Sergey Aksyonov, whose fervently Russian party won four percent of Crimeans’ votes in regional elections, could then be legitimately installed as the region’s leader, while it was illegitimate for the national parliament, including Yanukovych’s own party members, to appoint Oleksandr Turchynov, whose Fatherland party had garnered 26 percent of Ukrainians’ votes for the Rada in 2012, to fill the purportedly vacant presidency.
All this pretended symmetry is simply pretextual. The bottom line is that Putin deemed even a modest European link for Ukraine as a serious threat to Russia, perhaps a first step toward NATO. He gambled that he could prevent it.
The gamble backfired badly, mobilizing legions of protesters and knocking Yanukovych, who had walked a fine line between Ukrainians’ European aspirations and Russian sympathies, off balance and finally out of power. While Obama does not see “some cold war chessboard,” Moscow concluded it had just lost its queen, and riskily upped the ante.
The confrontation, however, actually poses more danger to Putin’s economically brittle regime than to the West. And for a leader who craves international respect–basking in hosting the G-20 summit last September, sulking in the absence of his peers at the Sochi Olympics–Russia’s deepening isolation is a blow.
Last year the Pew Research Center found barely a third of citizens across 38 countries had a favorable view of Russia, compared to the half that saw China favorably and the nearly two-thirds favorable to the United States. Without bonds of amity, every relationship becomes transactional. Now, Putin’s tough talk and rough action are only exacerbating the international distaste. Even China, often an ally in the United Nations Security Council, is warning Moscow “not to interfere in others’ internal affairs.”
The militiamen in Crimea who blocked U.N. envoy Robert Serry’s way sent a particularly disquieting signal. The United Nations provides one of the few international mechanisms of ingrained impartiality that can walk everyone back from confrontation.
Presumably a deal can be made. Putin had evinced no interest in Russian control of Crimea so long as the government in Kiev was neutral between East and West, and permanently detaching it from Ukraine tilts the country’s electoral balance decisively toward the Russoskeptics. An international accord that guarantees a democratic Ukraine’s territorial integrity and bars it from any military alliance, on the Finnish and Austrian model, will likely be at the heart of a resolution. And if Putin decides to proceed with Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, he is signing off on NATO membership for Kiev, and other countries can permanently reject visa applications from Crimea or economic transactions with it.
The United States has proved itself essential to mobilizing the political pressures most persuasive to Putin, and Secretary of State John Kerry is managing the diplomacy with admirable firmness and nuance. But this is really a European affair. It is Europe that has the economic leverage that matters to Russia, and Europe whose prosperity Ukrainians want to share. Let Europe lead.
“It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve.”
JOHN KERRY, secretary of state, on Russia’s actions in Crimea, a region in Ukraine.
QUOTATION OF THE DAY
“The only thing we had to do, and we did it, was to enhance the defense of our military facilities because they were constantly receiving threats and we were aware of the armed nationalists moving in.”
WASHINGTON —For all his bluster and bravado, President Vladimir V. Putin’s assurance on Tuesday that Russia does not plan, at least for now, to seize eastern Ukraine suggested a possible path forward in the geopolitical crisis that has captivated the world. Global markets reacted with relief, and the White House with cautious optimism.
But the development presented a tricky conundrum for President Obama and his European allies. Even if Russia does leave eastern Ukraine alone and avoids escalating its military intervention, can it effectively freeze in place its occupation of the Crimean Peninsula? Would the United States and Europe be forced to tacitly accept that or could they find a way to roll it back — and, if so, at what price?
Ever since Russian forces took control of Crimea, Mr. Obama’s aides have privately conceded that reversing the occupation would be difficult, if not impossible, in the short run and focused on drawing a line to prevent Mr. Putin from going further.
If Crimea in coming weeks remains cordoned off, it will then require a concerted effort to force Russia to pull back troops, an effort that could divide the United States from European allies who may be more willing to live with the new status quo.
For the moment, the White House was focused on preventing the confrontation from escalating. While dismayed if not surprised by Mr. Putin’s bellicosity and justification of his actions, American officials took some solace that he said he saw no need at this point for intervention in Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine. They were also encouraged by his seeming acceptance of elections in May as a way to legitimize a new Ukrainian government and by his decision to cancel a military exercise near the border. And they detected no new influx of troops into Crimea.
While Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kiev on Tuesday to show support for its beleaguered pro-Western government, Mr. Obama consulted with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany by telephone about finding a face-saving way for Mr. Putin to withdraw in favor of international monitors.
Speaking with reporters, Mr. Obama said some had interpreted Mr. Putin’s remarks earlier in the day to mean he “is pausing for a moment and reflecting on what’s happened.”
Others cautioned against reading too much into Mr. Putin’s statements. “It would be a mistake on our part to look at what he’s saying and think this crisis is almost over: ‘O.K., we’ve lost Crimea, but the rest of the country is with us,’ ” said Ivo Daalder, Mr. Obama’s first ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
He said Crimea would become a precedent: “Crimea is a big deal. It means a country can be invaded, and a big piece of it can be taken away with no price. But two, this isn’t just about Crimea. This is about who is ultimately in control of Ukraine.”
The situation remained tense, as Obama administration officials moved forward with plans for sanctions that could be imposed by the United States and, they hoped, in conjunction with European allies. The administration is developing plans for actions that would escalate over time if Russia continued to leave forces in place in Crimea, an autonomous region of Ukraine.
Mr. Obama has authority to take several steps without new legislation from Congress. For starters, under a law called the Magnitsky Act, the State Department has already drafted a list of Russians tied to human rights abuses. The administration could promptly bar them from traveling to the United States, freeze any assets here and cut off their access to American banks.
The president also has the power under existing Syria sanctions to go after Russian individuals and institutions involved in sending arms to help President Bashar al-Assad crush the rebellion there. The administration had held back on such actions while trying to work with Russia to resolve Syria’s civil war, but if applied they could cut off certain Russian banks from the international financial system.
Mr. Obama could also sign an executive order creating another set of sanctions specifically against Russian officials and organizations blamed for creating instability in Ukraine and violating its sovereignty. In theory, that could include everyone up to Mr. Putin, but officials indicated that they would instead work their way up the chain of command.
Leaders in Europe, a region dependent on Russian natural gas and with far deeper economic ties to Russia, have expressed reluctance to go along with the toughest sanctions.
But an American order declaring a Russian bank in violation would be sent to banks around the world, forcing them to cut ties with that Russian institution or risk being barred from doing business with the American financial sector.
“My view is that Russia can be forced out of Crimea with the combination of financial sanctions plus straightforward hard diplomacy,” said Anders Aslund, a longtime specialist on Russia and Ukraine at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
Still, others are more dubious, noting that Mr. Obama may not be willing to go as far as necessary without the support of allies, particularly given that it would presumably jeopardize Russian cooperation on a range of issues, including Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Middle East peace.
The precedent may be Abkhazia and South Ossetia, pro-Moscow regions that broke away from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. After Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008, the Kremlin defied the United States and the rest of the world by recognizing their independence and left troops in place to guarantee it. The United States and Europe ultimately resumed doing business as usual with Russia.
Mr. Obama’s aides said that Ukraine was different and that they had a hard time imagining going back to a normal relationship as long as Russian troops occupied Crimea. Their first priority is preventing Russia from annexing the peninsula outright, but even leaving it as an enclave under Moscow’s control would not be acceptable, they said.
White House officials said they saw three possibilities. The first would be a Russian escalation into eastern Ukraine, one they hope Mr. Putin was signaling he would not pursue. The second would be Russia deciding to stay put in Crimea, either through annexation or through de facto rule. The third would be Russia taking what American officials call an offramp, agreeing to let international monitors replace Russian troops in the streets to guard against any attacks on Russian speakers and accepting the Ukrainian government that emerges from the May elections.
Mr. Obama said Tuesday that he recognized that Russia had natural interests in its neighbor. But he said he would not accept what he called a violation of international law.
“I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.”
Mr. Obama added that Ukrainians should have the right to determine their own fate. “Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he’s not abiding by that principle,” he said. “There is still the opportunity for Russia to do so, working with the international community to help stabilize the situation.”
The tensions over Ukraine eased somewhat after President Vladimir Putin of Russia halted military maneuvers on the Ukrainian border and declared at a news conference on Tuesday that there was no immediate need to send troops into eastern Ukraine. The conciliatory talk prompted Russian financial markets to rebound from their plunge on Monday. The markets reward peaceful behavior.
But the crisis is not over: Russia remains in control of Crimea, and Mr. Putin prepared the way for possible annexation of the peninsula to Russia when he said it was up to Crimean citizens, a majority of whom are Russian-speaking, to determine their future. The question remains what the United States and the European Union should or can do.
The Ukrainian crisis has provoked a broad range of reactions in the West, including angry demands for immediate sanctions against Russia and charges in the United States that President Obama is somehow “losing” in the confrontation to Mr. Putin and thus endangering Washington’s credibility and global leadership. Yet leadership and credibility in a crisis mean reacting coolly and rationally, not rattling sabers, or rushing into economic warfare that allies may or may not support, or painting “red lines” that the other side can cross with impunity.
A bully welcomes a slugfest, and Mr. Putin revels in claiming American conspiracies; at his news conference on Tuesday, he even described the battering to Russia’s markets on Monday as a result of American policies. But that battering and the decline of the value of the ruble were no doubt major factors behind Mr. Putin’s conciliatory tone on Tuesday.
The Russian economy is not in great shape, and Russian businessmen understand full well that the $60 billion wiped off the value of their firms on Monday was because of a needless crisis.
Mr. Putin and his countrymen must be reminded, again and again, that seizing Crimea under a blatantly concocted pretext, or taking other measures against the new authorities in Ukraine, will carry a price.
Short of war, there is little the United States can do on its own to punish Russia. It is not among Russia’s major trading partners. Europe, which does far more business with Russia, has more leverage, but also a dependence on Russian gas, and, so far, European leaders have shown little enthusiasm for economic sanctions.
The measures that have been suggested — exclusion from the Group of 8, selective sanctions and travel bans — would not alone cause much pain. But the consequences of isolation take a toll over time. With every new demonstration of Mr. Putin’s authoritarian and expansionary tendencies, whether it was the invasion of Georgia in 2008 or the imprisonment of the Pussy Riot members in 2012, the West has become more wary of doing business with Russia. In a conversation with Mr. Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said she was unsure whether Mr. Putin was in touch with reality. That, from the leader of Europe’s most powerful economy and one of Russia’s biggest trading partners, cannot be heartening for Mr. Putin, and certainly not for Russian businessmen.
These are exactly the buttons Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are pushing — threatening further isolation if Mr. Putin does not back down, and cooperation if he does, while rallying allies and pledging substantial assistance to the new authorities in Ukraine.
Closing the door to any further dealings with Mr. Putin, as hard-core cold-warriors want Mr. Obama to do, would not serve any purpose. Russia has already announced that it is ending discounts on the sale of Russian gas to Ukraine, and it could make life even more difficult for its bankrupt neighbor. But at his news conference, Mr. Putin said he felt a sympathy for the longing of the Kiev crowds to throw out a corrupt regime, and he insisted that Russian and Ukrainian soldiers “will be on the same side of the barricades.”
If he meant all that, then he must agree that the optimal conclusion to the crisis would be the election of a balanced Parliament and a universally accepted president in Ukraine, which would also reassure Russians that their ties to Ukraine, including Crimea, won’t be severed.
The United States and its European allies must prepare contingency plans for any escalation of Russian aggression or for the unilateral annexation of Crimea. The Europeans will have to overcome their reluctance on sanctions and form a common front with the United States. But, at the same time, they should reassure Mr. Putin that the West appreciates Russia’s historic ties to Ukraine and has no interest in turning Kiev against Moscow. So far, Mr. Obama is on the right track.
Just as we’ve turned the coverage of politics into sports, we’re doing the same with geopolitics. There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. We vastly exaggerate Putin’s strength — so does he — and we vastly underestimate our own strength, and ability to weaken him through nonmilitary means.
Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.
So Putin is now fighting human nature among his own young people and his neighbors — who both want more E.U. and less Putinism. To put it in market terms, Putin is long oil and short history. He has made himself steadily richer and Russia steadily more reliant on natural resources rather than its human ones. History will not be kind to him — especially if energy prices ever collapse.
So spare me the Putin-body-slammed-Obama prattle. This isn’t All-Star Wrestling. The fact that Putin has seized Crimea, a Russian-speaking zone of Ukraine, once part of Russia, where many of the citizens prefer to be part of Russia and where Russia has a major naval base, is not like taking Poland. I support economic and diplomatic sanctions to punish Russia for its violation of international norms and making clear that harsher sanctions, even military aid for Kiev, would ensue should Putin try to bite off more of Ukraine. But we need to remember that that little corner of the world is always going to mean more, much more, to Putin than to us, and we should refrain from making threats on which we’re not going to deliver.
What disturbs me about Crimea is the larger trend it fits into, that Putinism used to just be a threat to Russia but is now becoming a threat to global stability. I opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War, when Russia was at its most democratic and least threatening. It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.
For a long time, Putin has exploited the humiliation and anti-Western attitudes NATO expansion triggered to gain popularity, but this seems to have become so fundamental to his domestic politics that it has locked him into a zero-sum relationship with the West that makes it hard to see how we collaborate with him in more serious trouble spots, like Syria or Iran. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is engaged in monstrous, genocidal behavior that also threatens the stability of the Middle East. But Putin stands by him. At least half the people of Ukraine long to be part of Europe, but he treated that understandable desire as a NATO plot and quickly resorted to force.
I don’t want to go to war with Putin, but it is time we expose his real weakness and our real strength. That, though, requires a long-term strategy — not just fulminating on “Meet the Press.” It requires going after the twin pillars of his regime: oil and gas. Just as the oil glut of the 1980s, partly engineered by the Saudis, brought down global oil prices to a level that helped collapse Soviet Communism, we could do the same today to Putinism by putting the right long-term policies in place. That is by investing in the facilities to liquefy and export our natural gas bounty (provided it is extracted at the highest environmental standards) and making Europe, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, more dependent on us instead. I’d also raise our gasoline tax, put in place a carbon tax and a national renewable energy portfolio standard — all of which would also help lower the global oil price (and make us stronger, with cleaner air, less oil dependence and more innovation).
You want to frighten Putin? Just announce those steps.
But you know the story, the tough guys in Washington who want to take on Putin would rather ask 1 percent of Americans — the military and their families — to make the ultimate sacrifice than have all of us make a small sacrifice in the form of tiny energy price increases. Those tough guys who thump their chests in Congress but run for the hills if you ask them to vote for a 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax that would actually boost our leverage, they’ll never rise to this challenge. We’ll do anything to expose Putin’s weakness; anything that isn’t hard. And you wonder why Putin holds us in contempt?
Meet The First Carbon-Neutral Hotel Group In The World, And Why Your Business Should Take Notice.
In an interview with Kirsten Brøchner of the Arthur Hotel Group in Copenhagen, Denmark, we discussed their journey to become the first carbon-neutral hotel group in the world, and how their 5-point climate action plan is not only good for the planet, but good for business.
Rahim Kanani: Tell me a little bit about the founding of Brøchner Hotels and the resulting Arthur Hotels group. Also, where did the desire to put sustainability at the core of the organization come from?
Kirsten Brøchner: Brøchner Hotels has been a family owned and family run business from day one in 1982. First by my parents, with my assistance, and later with the help of my brother. Until June 2013, Brøchner Hotels consisted of four hotels, but due to a generational change and different visions in management, my brother and I separated the company into two independent companies, and I thereby formed the Arthur Hotel group consisting of Hotel Kong Arthur and Ibsens Hotel.
Being climate-friendly was and is my mission, and this is why we continue our efforts for a greener planet with Arthur Hotels. I have been asked the question about why I have this desire to put sustainability at the core of the organization many times, and I have come to the conclusion that the reason must be found in the story of my upbringing. My family consists mainly of entrepreneurs and healthcare personnel—hospital professors, doctors and nurses—so I have always been inspired by both the desire to see new projects blossom and the desire to care for others. Quite a good combination when running a hotel group, when thinking about it. My philosophy has always been that if you value ethics highly in your business, the money will follow automatically.
When the climate debate began to rise, this immediately caught my attention. I found it important to take action, and this is why I decided that despite the hotel group being a very small player in the market, I believed we could make a difference and hopefully encourage others to make a difference as well. I am aware that we in my company cannot make a big change alone, but hopefully we could set an example, which we have done.
Kanani: What did it take to become the first carbon-neutral hotel group in the world, and what challenges did you have to overcome to achieve such a feat?
Brøchner: I felt that we as a corporation had a co-responsibility for climate change and that we therefore had to take action. We investigated and discussed what to do, and I discovered that with the Kyoto Protocol, all parties committed were allotted the right to emit a certain amount of carbon. If emissions were not utilized, because an energy producer had converted their energy production into a more climate-friendly solution, these emissions could be sold via the European Union Emissions Trading System. I figured that if we bought some of these surplus energy offsets and destroyed them, and took them off the market, these emissions would not be utilized. Further, by buying these offsets we would also financially support these energy producers that had invested in alternative production methods. Finally, if buying and destroying offsets corresponding to the amount of carbon that our hotels emit, we would be able to neutralize our total energy consumption.
We then took the investigation one step further and researched what other businesses and hotels had done, and we discovered that we, by doing this, would become the first carbon neutral hotel group, which was confirmed by the international hotel organization IH&RA. However, it was nearly impossible to find out how to buy these offsets, as they were only available for energy companies. I talked to a lot of people, ministries, government boards and others, spending a lot of time to investigate this. Suddenly, I came in contact with the small, Danish, independent, climate-friendly energy company Modstrøm, who offered to sell energy offsets via them. Ever since, we have bought energy offsets equalling our annual carbon emission at the hotels based on electricity, heat and linen consumption. This was how we were able to call ourselves the first carbon neutral hotel in the world.
Besides buying offsets, we have changed our whole mindset in the company, investigating all details on how we can be climate-friendly in every corner of the company. And we have done this by creating a 5 step climate plan that we have followed since 2008. As the offsets market have lost value, we are thinking about what we can do next. But due to the recent creation of Arthur Hotels, we must be realistic and I must admit that this will take time if we want to present a new thought-through initiative and thereby make an even bigger impact. Nevertheless, our 5-step climate plan is still ruling.
The challenges with the offset system were not the only challenges we faced. I had a lot of ideas that were not realized, unfortunately. For instance, I wanted to set up a climate school for companies with training courses for employees, teaching them how to choose the green option at work and at home. One example is when boiling water for tea—only boiling the water needed, so energy is not wasted on boiling extra. Or eating more light than dark meat, as the production of beef is more harmful to the environment than the production of poultry. Unfortunately, none of the many government agencies I asked for help were interested in supporting the idea.
Through the years, I have met the Minister of Climate several times and have discussed my ideas. I have asked for more public information on how to choose green in the supermarket. How are we supposed to know, from a green perspective, what is best to buy: tomatoes grown in Danish greenhouses, or organic tomatoes transported from Spain? In my opinion, the government should create a system with which the average consumer will be able to understand how to shop with a carbon-minimizing mindset in the supermarket. I have also suggested the Minister carry out a governmental plan to help both citizens and companies finance the building of houses or renovation projects carried through by using alternative energy sources—giving people access to “cheap money”. Unfortunately, these are challenges I have yet to overcome.
Kanani: What are some of the details to your 5-step climate plan?
Brøchner: As of 2008, our plan is as follows:
1. CO2 neutralization now and in the future. 2. Create energy savings. 3. Involve guests. 4. Establish a CO2 neutral hotel network. 5. Collaborate with climate networks/alliances including climate friendly suppliers.
We have made many small adjustments such as changing to more energy-friendly sources when it comes to light bulbs, heating centrals, guest amenities, groceries and other items and always choose as green as possible when introducing new products. We bought electric cars for our guests to rent, and we have charging stations at Hotel Kong Arthur for guests arriving by electric car.
The biggest change must be the reduction of our linen consumption by 22 per cent. Reducing our linen consumption means, from a green perspective, that less laundry detergent, which is harmful to the environment, is used, energy consumption from the washing machines is reduced, the transport of linen to and from the hotel is reduced, which reduces carbon emission from the transport and so on. And all of this is due to a simple idea put forth by one of our maids: instead of leaving all towels visible in the bathrooms, we leave some of the towels in the cupboard with a cute hand-written post-it message on the bathroom mirror inviting the guest to help us protect the environment by only using the towels needed – and if needed, more towels are available in the cupboard.
Of other ways we are enacting out a climate-friendly agenda is by collaborating with suppliers supporting the green initiative. A green chain collaboration so to speak. We buy primarily organic food products and bread, and actually our organic bread supplier, the bakery “Det Rene Brød”, even bought electric cars to deliver the bread to us after having seen our own. We have reduced transportation by, for instance, having milk delivered every other day instead of every day. And all of these great initiatives are based on ideas from employees in the company. Whenever someone gets a new climate-friendly idea, we discuss it and see if we can implement it.
Kanani: The city of Copenhagen intends to become carbon neutral by 2025—the first goal of its kind in the world. Were you inspired by the city’s ambition, or was the city inspired by yours?
Brøchner: This is a difficult question. When the Municipality of Copenhagen launched their Climate+ campaign, which has now resulted in the goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city, we were appointed Climate+ Frontrunner, and I gave a speech at the opening ceremony. But I will say that the city’s ambition and our ambition were two parallel stories or processes. And I am very happy that the city and we share the same ambition, because it is only by working together towards the same goal that we can make a difference.
Kanani: Is pursuing a sustainable and climate-friendly agenda good for business?
Brøchner: Definitely. And in several ways. First, in relation to the market, being sustainable has always been good for us as a small player, as we have achieved great attention. Not only do we receive great media coverage, but it has also meant that we have expanded our client portfolio. Before becoming carbon neutral, it was difficult for us to attract the attention of big companies. However, a few years ago, the Danish government passed a law demanding that all medium-sized and large corporations in their annual accounts report their CSR accounting. These companies are welcome to report that they do not do anything at all, but who wants to write that? So when this law was passed, this definitely put pressure on, for instance, these companies’ green chain collaborations which meant that suddenly international companies like Novo Nordisk wanted us as their hotel partner.
Second, there is no doubt that being sustainable has an economical advantage for all types of businesses. Saving energy for instance also means saving money.
Third, thinking and acting green also has an impact on the company internally. When making an effort for good causes such as protecting our planet, companies will automatically attract the passionate fireballs who want to be part of that company, contributing to the good cause. In this way, sustainability is sustainable; it becomes a positive impact causal loop.
Fourth, being sustainable has had a great impact on me personally. These efforts have expanded my network. Suddenly, I was having dinner with Nobel Pease Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. I have met so many inspiring and creative people throughout this process, and continue to do so—people who have helped me develop my business in many creative ways. I believe that inviting innovation inside is always good for business.
*Full house for February’s Sustainability Event. A standing-room only crowd enthusiastically engaged in a presentation by Ron Gonen, NYC Deputy Commissioner for Recycling.
Gonen stressed that it is possible for NYC to divert all but 18% of waste from landfills. He explained both the economic and environmental benefits of intensive recycling, and the planning for future residential and commercial composting. To get composting in your building or neighborhood, ask your city councilmember to contact the Sanitation Dept (firstname.lastname@example.org). Other presenters included: Brooklyn College Professor Brett Branco, who stressed sustainable use of phosphorous, a finite resource for agriculture; Elizabeth Balkan, a senior policy advisor to Mayor de Blasio, who talked about how the new city law requiring commercial food waste recycling will be rolled out; and Vandra Thorburn, who established Vokashi, a unique composting service using the Japanese method of fermenting organic matter and returning it to the earth. There was much enthusiastic discussion.
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
*On the Bus to Baltimore. On February 20th, about 30 activists, including a number of Sierra Club members, got on a bus at 7:00 in NYC, picking up another 10-15 at two New Jersey stops, to join a rally against an LNG export facility in Cove Point, Marylandon the Chesapeake Bay. Dominion Resources which built an import facility there, wants to break its agreement to set aside wetlands and build an export facility on those wetlands. The demonstration was spirited and the speakers, including Sierra Club’s Josh Tulkin, were inspiring. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (see picture) made a strong case to the environmental justice aspect of this issue, see picture right. For more pictures, see here.
Divestment Forum Panelists
*Fossil Fuel Stock Divestment is a movement that is quickly gathering steam on campuses across the country. While still principally on campuses, it is moving into city and state governments. Six speakers at a February 26th “Divestment Open House” at the Ethical Culture Society discussed the divestment movement from a variety of perspectives. Sierra Club’s Lisa DiCaprio (far left in photo), spoke about how successful divestment efforts might shift the way investors view the value of fossil fuel investments, making them less attractive. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session with the audience.
From Rio+20 to the birthday of Silent Spring, this year’s sustainability milestones mark decades of effort, writes John Elkington. Now the agenda is shifting its focus to the large-scale remodelling of capitalism.
Some people raised their eyebrows when, in a 2009 study called “The Phoenix Economy”, we concluded that the world was not in a simple recession, nor even in a double-dip variant, but instead that it had entered one of those periodic, fundamental restructurings of the global economy that take decades to work through. The drivers this time around, we argued, include the obsolescence of an increasingly global economic model that has served us fairly well since World War II, coupled with an accelerating shift of at least some parts of the global economy to Asia, and particularly to China.
But we also spotlighted a growing interest in what some call “sustainable capitalism” – an appetite for change that is so far very poorly represented in the UN-led climate conferences in places like Copenhagen and Durban.
For an idea of what this might mean in practice, it will be well worth taking a look at the “Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism”, due for launch shortly by Generation Investment Management—and which has already been spotlighted in The Wall Street Journal by Generation’s founders, former US vice-president Al Gore and former Goldman Sachs investment banker David Blood.
Unfortunately, as we noted in 2009, history suggests that a prolonged downturn is needed if we genuinely want to burn out the old economic mindsets, business models and technologies, and open up the space for new ones better adapted to the conditions of the twenty-first century. Now, as we enter 2012, it is worth taking stock and considering whether there is much evidence, either way, of progress towards the Phoenix Economy. “We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking,”
Blood and Gore argue in their Wall Street Journal article. “The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanisation, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.”
But what do they suggest business leaders – what we might call the Global C-Suite – do next?
They recommend “five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation.”
First, they encourage CEOs and other senior business leaders to identify and account for the growing risk from “stranded assets”. These are risks “whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account – for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.” We have been here before, they note. The true value of subprime mortgages was recognised very late in the day and mortgage-backed assets had to be repriced in short order.
Second, they call for mandatory integrated reporting, something that is now being pushed by the International Integrated Reporting Committee. “Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies,” they say, “access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG [environmental, social and governance] performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.”
Third, they call for an end to the practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. “The quarterly calendar frequently incentivises executives to manage for the short-term,” they conclude. “It also encourages some investors to overemphasise the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies’ issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.” Fourth, and a strongly linked point, they see a critical step to be the better alignment of senior executive compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. “Most existing compensation schemes,” they warn, “emphasise short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realised and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling, multiyear milestones for performance evaluation.” And, fifth, there is a growing need to incentivise and reward long-term investing with “loyalty-driven securities”. The logic here is that “the dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete ‘standard model’ of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.” To counter such short-termism “companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years.” An immensely turbulent 2011 is being followed by a year marked by an extraordinary number of sustainability milestones. Most obviously, we have the UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit. Then there will be the twenty-fifth anniversaries of the Brundtland Commission report, Our Common Future, and of SustainAbility, the company I co-founded in 1987. But there’s more. Many will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of 1972’s The Limits to Growth study which first laid out the “Peak Resources” agenda, and the fiftieth of 1962’s Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book that sparked the Environmental Revolution.
Some will find it strange that businesses like Generation Investment Management are now signalling the next round of the sustainability agenda, but as the focus shifts to the large-scale remodelling of capitalism for the new century, this feels like the logical trajectory for the next 20, 25, 40 or 50 years.
We found above posting while looking up for the original Al Gore and David Blood article in the Wall Street Journal that was sent to us by a new friend we met at a Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce Panel on “2014 Brazil Economic and Political Outlook.” On that meeting we will report later – but for now we will just follow up on a clip our new friend sent us.
That original Gore and Blood article had several WSJ versions – starting November 5, 2008 – and the most recent one was:
A Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism
How businesses can embrace environmental, social and governance metrics.
ByAl Gore and David Blood
December 14, 2011
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the United States was preparing its visionary plan for nurturing democratic capitalism abroad, Gen. Omar Bradley said, “It is time to steer by the stars, and not by the lights of each passing ship.” Today, more than 60 years later, that means abandoning short-term economic thinking for “sustainable capitalism.”
We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking. The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanization, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.
Before the crisis and since, we and others have called for a more responsible form of capitalism, what we call sustainable capitalism: a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.
Such sustainable capitalism applies to the entire investment value chain—from entrepreneurial ventures to large public companies, seed-capital providers to institutional investors, employees to CEOs, activists to policy makers. It transcends borders, industries, asset classes and stakeholders.
Those who advocate sustainable capitalism are often challenged to spell out why sustainability adds value. Yet the question that should be asked instead is: “Why does an absence of sustainability not damage companies, investors and society at large?” From BP to Lehman Brothers, there is a long list of examples proving that it does.
CorbisMoreover, companies and investors that integrate sustainability into their business practices are finding that it enhances profitability over the longer term. Experience and research show that embracing sustainable capitalism yields four kinds of important benefits for companies:
• Developing sustainable products and services can increase a company’s profits, enhance its brand, and improve its competitive positioning, as the market increasingly rewards this behavior.
• Sustainable capitalism can also help companies save money by reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency in the supply chain, and by improving human-capital practices so that retention rates rise and the costs of training new employees decline.
• Third, focusing on ESG metrics allows companies to achieve higher compliance standards and better manage risk since they have a more holistic understanding of the material issues affecting their business.
• Researchers (including Rob Bauer and Daniel Hann of Maastricht University, and Beiting Cheng, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim of Harvard) have found that sustainable businesses realize financial benefits such as lower cost of debt and lower capital constraints.
Sustainable capitalism is also important for investors. Mr. Serafeim and his colleague Robert G. Eccles have shown that sustainable companies outperform their unsustainable peers in the long term. Therefore, investors who identify companies that embed sustainability into their strategies can earn substantial returns, while experiencing low volatility.
Because ESG metrics directly affect companies’ long-term value, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, foundations and the like—investors with long-term liabilities—should include these metrics as an essential aspect of valuation and investment strategy. Sustainable capitalism requires investors to be good investors, to fully understand the companies they invest in and to believe in their long-term value and potential.
We recommend five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation:
• Identify and incorporate risk from stranded assets. “Stranded assets” are those whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account—for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.
That’s exactly what occurred when the true value of subprime mortgages was belatedly recognized and mortgage-backed assets were suddenly repriced. Until there are policies requiring the establishment of a fair price on widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for investment opportunities.
• Mandate integrated reporting. Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies, access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.
This enables companies and investors to make better resource-allocation decisions by seeing how ESG performance contributes to sustainable, long-term value creation. While voluntary integrated reporting is gaining momentum, it must be mandated by appropriate agencies such as stock exchanges and securities regulators in order to ensure swift and broad adoption.
• End the default practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. The quarterly calendar frequently incentivizes executives to manage for the short-term. It also encourages some investors to overemphasize the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies’ issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.
• Align compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. Most existing compensation schemes emphasize short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realized and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling multi-year milestones for performance evaluation.
• Incentivize long-term investing with loyalty-driven securities. The dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete “standard model” of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.
To push against this short-termism, companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years. This would attract long-term investors with patient capital and would facilitate both long-term value creation in companies and stability in financial markets.
Ben Franklin famously said, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” Today we have an opportunity to steer by the stars and once again rebuild for the long-term. Sustainable capitalism will create opportunities and rewards, but it will also mean challenging the pernicious orthodoxy of short-termism. As we face an inflection point in the global economy and the global environment, the imperative for change has never been greater.
Mr. Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, is a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Blood is managing partner of Generation Investment Management.
Sent: Sunday, February 21, 2014 12:37 PM Subject: Fwd: FW: KERRY’S BROTHER CAMERON WRITES A LETTER
While we were traveling last week, an Israeli Knesset member accused my brother of anti-Semitism and a group of rabbis said he is waging “war on God.” I wrote this op-ed in response on the plane back; it appears (in Hebrew) in today’s Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s widest circulation paper. Since it discusses our trip, I thought it might interest you:
By Cameron Kerry
Last week at this time, I was in Terezin, Czech Republic, at the 18th Century fortress where the Nazis gathered Jews from Czechoslovakia, Austria,Germany, and other countries for the tragic journey to death camps further east. I joined a group from the Boston synagogue, of which my wife is the lay head, in traveling to Europe to celebrate Torah scrolls miraculously saved from Czech synagogues during World War II and restored 50 years ago. Both of my daughters became a Bat Mitzvah reading from a scroll rescued from the Bohemian town of Blatna, from which 26 Jews were transported to Terezin and none survived.
At Terezin, I walked along the banks of Ohre River and joined other members of our temple in saying Kaddish at the place where the Nazis poured out the cremated remains of some 22,000 inmates who died at Terezin. These presumably included the remains of my paternal great-uncle Otto Lowe, who died at Terezin in 1942. He, along with his sister Jenni, was transported to Terezin in 1942. Jenni was soon sent to die at Treblinka.
These experiences and their deeply personal meaning for my family make it all the more disturbing that some have recently suggested that my brother, John Kerry, had expressed “anti-Semitic undertones” in his pursuit of a framework for negotiations, and some even suggested that he “has declared war on God.” Such charges would be ridiculous if they were not so vile.
My family’s experience with anti-Semitism and oppression runs deep. On another visit to the Czech Republic last fall, I visited the town where my grandfather Frederick Kerry was born Fritz Kohn. A few years before emigrating to America, while serving in the military, my grandfather converted from Judaism to Catholicism because of anti-Semitism in the ranks. In memory — and in honor — of the Kohns, I planted a tree in my grandfather’s town.
This experience is not limited to the side of the family with Jewish roots. My mother – a Bostonian – was living in Paris training to become a nurse when World War II broke out, and she was among the mass of refugees who escaped the city in front of the Nazis. The sister she left with was later interned for helping the resistance in the south of France, where her activities included helping Jewish families get out of the country. My grandparents’ home was occupied by the Nazis and later destroyed by them because it offered an artillery spotting post in battles with Patton’s army.
All this is part of my brother John Kerry’s DNA. His earliest memory is of holding our mother’s hand as, soon after the war, she walked in tears viewing the ruins of that house. With my father serving his country in the State Department, our family took up a posting in Berlin with bombed, burned out, and shot-up buildings still visible across Europe. My brother embraced my own conversion to Judaism when I got married. He has been part of our family mitzvot. He was present when my daughters read from the Blatna scroll and helped to raise the chairs in which they were paraded on the dance floor.
I recall when he came home from his first visit to Israel with friends from the Boston Jewish community, more than thirty years ago as a young Senator: he spoke vividly of flying an Israeli military jet over the country and realizing how it was possible to cross the country in a matter of moments. Today, his determined work on Middle East peace is informed by an abiding sense of the need to secure Israel as a home for the Jewish people. For years since that first visit, he has engaged passionately with a wide variety of leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and across the region to understand the way to peace. He also maintained a 100-percent pro-Israel voting record during his nearly three decades in the U.S. senate.
It is this deep involvement that has led to the conviction that Israel’s long-term security requires a two-state solution — that, in the face of the inexorable forces of security, demographics, and geography, Israel cannot sustain occupation of the West Bank and remain both democratic and Jewish. It is the same conclusion that such resolute defenders of Israel as Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon reached and that Prime Minister Netanyahu is confronting now.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Lieberman, and Ambassador Dermer were courageous in their defense of my brother’s motives. We can all debate the effectiveness of security measures, the delineation of borders, arrangements for East Jerusalem, and other real issues among the parties, but there is no truth and no good that can come by calling into question John Kerry’s good faith toward his own heritage. Israel and the Jewish people deserve better than that.
Blogger Richard Silverstein’s racism was laid bare today when he tweeted the following to his followers, referring to an African-American Zionist named Chloe Valdary who had published an op-ed at Times of Israel about Judith Butler. He also posted the offensive message to his Facebook page.
Richard Silverstein’s offensive tweet. Photo: Screenshot.
Silverstein - a ‘Comment is Free‘ contributor through 2012 who, until now, was best known for his anti-Israel (and at times pro-Hamas) activism and his faux scoops - has now revealed himself to be bigoted towards black Americans as well. The term “Negro” stopped being used in America in the late 60s or early 70s, and the term “Uncle Tom“ of course is a horrible epithet used historically to accuse African-Americans of being subservient to whites, and betraying their own group by participating in systematic white racism.
As Valdary’s column about Butler had nothing to do with the issue of American racism, Silverstein’s ugly assault seems to have been motivated by his disgust at seeing a woman of color expressing support for Israel.
Silverstein seems to have deleted the post from his Facebook account (though the Tweet is still there), but let the snapshots above serve as a reminder of the narrow-mindedness of some on the Left when confronted with information contradicting their anti-Zionist assumptions.
Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
The White House Seder in April 2009. Lesser is fifth from President Obama’s right. (White House / Pete Souza)
Back in April 2008, Eric Lesser began what would become a White House tradition when he helped organize a seder for staffers on the Obama campaign trail. “We were feeling a little down because we realized it wouldn’t be possible to get home for Passover,” the 28-year-old recalled. “So we set up our makeshift seder in this windowless basement in the Sheraton in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and when we were down there getting ready to begin, all of a sudden Senator Obama popped his head in and said, ‘Is this where the seder is?’ and asked, ‘Can I join?’ It was actually a little funny, because we were planning to have a bit of a briefer version, but he was very interested in it, and so we went through almost the entire haggadah, which is much more than I had ever done with my own family.”
The seder became a yearly tradition for the Obama family, and Lesser would go on to serve as a special assistant to David Axelrod and later director of strategic planning for the Council of Economic Advisers. He was profiled–along with his weekly shabbat dinners with other young Obama administration staffers–in the New York Times, and then moved on to Harvard for law school, where he’d previously attended college. And just this week, he launched his own political career by announcing his candidacy for State Senate in Massachusetts.
Lesser casts his campaign as a community-building exercise, rather than a particularly partisan affair. “My family wasn’t very political per se, but was very community-oriented,” he explained. “I was very active in my synagogue in Springfield, MA., Sinai Temple. I was active in my synagogue youth group, which was a branch of NFTY. And that was one of my early paths into community work,” he said. One of Lesser’s first political acts was to work with his local community to successfully fight budget cuts for his high school in 2002. “I’m a proud Democrat, but I don’t particularly care if an idea comes from a Democrat, from a Republican, or from none of the above. My focus is on good ideas,” he said. “We didn’t even know what party the community members and the volunteers were, and we didn’t care. What we cared about was that we fought for a good idea.”
Both of Lesser’s parents worked their way through college in New York–his father as a taxi driver–and became professionals in Holyoke, MA. Lesser’s goal is “to give more families that kind of opportunity”–to enable others to live the success story of his own family’s rise into the middle class. At the moment, however, he is still in listening mode. He intends to release “a variety of new innovative policy proposals.” Until then, he’s demurring on hot button issues like the role of charter schools, which has split progressives across the country, and pitted his former boss President Obama against liberal leaders like New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. “My goal now is to listen to people, and to make sure I’m hearing from all people in the district, regardless of party or position.”
In the end, Lesser’s hope for his political career is simple. “My background in Judaism is there’s no greater work than tikkun olam, and that’s always been a very strong part of my identity and my motivating force,” he said. “The idea is that you work in some small way to try to leave things a little better off than how you found them.”
David Lee, CEO of Shakr Media spoke at The Korea Society on Korea and Startups.
David Lee is the founder & CEO of Shakr Media, the Seoul & SF-based startup that makes great video accessible to everyone. David has built an international development team in Seoul, while raising $2.75M in venture capital from both Korean & U.S. investors including NHN Investment and 500 Startups.
Under David’s leadership, Shakr has appeared as a presenter at Techcrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield in Beijing, and has earned top honors at beLAUNCH 2013 in Seoul and beGLOBAL 2013 in Palo Alto.
Attention to South Korea becoming the next Global Hub for Tech Startups comes from Alan McGlade of Forbes Magazine:“American business has long led the way in high tech density or the proportion of businesses that engage in activities such as Internet software and services, hardware and semiconductors. The US is fertile ground for tech start-ups with access to capital and a culture that celebrates risk taking. Other countries have made their mark on the world stage, competing to be prominent tech and innovation hubs. Israel has been lauded as a start-up nation with several hundred companies getting funded by venture capital each year. A number of these companies are now being acquired by the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google. Finland and Sweden have attracted notice by bringing us Angry Birds and Spotify among others. But a new start-up powerhouse is on the horizon – South Korea.”
Bloomberg News recently published the Bloomberg Global Innovation Index and ranked South Korea first among all nations by comparing a group of indicators such as research & development capability, productivity, tech density and patent activity. South Korea’s ranking is not a surprise. In recent decades, South Korea has transformed into an economic heavyweight, having systematically applied substantial resources to research and development. As a result, South Korea has become the world leader in patent activity, and information and communication technology. The country has the highest broadband penetration in the world at 97 percent and is a leader in broadband speed with an average peak connection of close to 50 megabits per second.
Increasingly young technologists are fueling a fledgling start-up scene that is led by mobile game developers and social media innovators. This is complemented by entrepreneurs returning from overseas with an eye on conquering the globe. These entrepreneurs are coming back with a sense of how to take on the US market, a greater willingness to assume risk, and an interest in building things that aren’t just made for Korea. This has attracted the notice of American technology companies. Google has taken an active role in nurturing South Korean companies, introducing their favorites in the US to help them build a global profile. A company called Sparklabs was formed a little over a year ago with offices in Seoul and San Francisco to incubate Korean start-ups.
It is logical for South Korea to follow this path. The country is smaller than the state of New York, is not rich in oil or other natural resources, and has limited agriculture and manufacturing capacity. Korean’s must promote technology and innovation to be competitive as a nation since it is not enough to just contend on cost or scale. While the South Korean Chaebols, or large family-controlled corporate groups, focus on exporting and manufacturing, there is a clear recognition that South Korea needs to have a more diverse economy. Thus, the tides are shifting towards supporting smaller businesses and promoting entrepreneurship.
Many of the fundamentals are already in place. Just as Samsung transformed the consumer electronics business, Korean start-ups are poised to have an explosive impact on digital media and services.
To me the most interesting thing I heard from Mr. David Lee was his description of the recent evolution of the Korean psyche – it is really based on the fact that the country developed so much in the last 20 years and the fact that the young people have taken ownership of this success. He said that “they feel they own the story and are proud of it” and that this is the secret of their success. This success is here – in he Palo Alto and New York City High Tech region and in the fact that many of these young people go now back to Korea and are ready to be creative at home.
Sounded interesting – and led me to decide the following day to go and have lunch – under the New York Restaurant Week plan – at the newest high-quality Korean Restaurant in town – the Kristabelli (near Fifth Avenue at 8 W. 36th Street). As expected – the place filled up with young Koreans.
The lower cost these two weeks was seemingly what brought in this clientele. They came not just because it was an eatery – but seemingly to enjoy their time there. It is al these little dishes and close attention to the food that stretched out my lunch for nearly two hours. The three course meal ($25)
Gujeolplan (an Emperor’s Assortment of nine different thinly sliced sauteed vegetables and beef served with blini stile small crepes, a rib eye cut small barbeque with lots of additives and some blini in a vinaigrette liquid, and a terrific ice cream bread pudding for desert – and paired with three containers of Korean wines ($15) – a rice wine infused with sweet potato vodka, a black raspberry wine and a plum flower wine. Quite interesting when one thinks that 20 years ago Korean immigrants in New York were known only as vegetable marketeers and for finger-nail cosmetic stores.
Thinking of our website and the fact that from start I had Korea as one of the promising Nations on my homepage – I feel totally justified. Further, obviously, helped by the US originally, now I think that further advancement by Korea calls for a more independent policy by South Korea. It is obvious that all powers – China, Japan, India, the US, Russia – have no interest in the reunification of Korea – but the Koreans themselves ought to keep Germany in mind and learn from the German experience that through re-unification they have a chance to grow. This is simply a question of an internal market that makes them independent of the vagaries of a global market. Forget any kind of revenge – just work hard to supply the unending needs of a backward North Korea like Germany did for East Germany. This will then bring Korea into the front line of the emerged powers and the real competitor with China in its region.
Further – looking up the maps – North Korea borders Manchuria of China – the Jilin and Liaoning Provinces and there is an Autonomous Prefecture for Koreans at the border – Yanbian – in the Jilin Province. The kind of place that might someday lead to conflict. Also, the islands in the Yellow Sea (Korea Bay and Bohai Sea) were divided amicably between North Korea and China in 1962 as per the ethnicity of the inhabitants. This again may eventually be disputed.
Actually – the title of the speech at the lunch organized yesterday by the Brazilian, Colombian, Ecuadorean Peruvian and Venezuelan – American Associations or Chambers of Commerce “- with Dr. Ocampo – was: “IS THE COMMODITY BOOM IN LATIN AMERICA ENDING?
The speaker who is now professor at Columbia University is very well known to us since his having been Finance Minister in Colombia, an official at the World Bank and the UN and member of many studies and panels – in effect searching our own website one finds many references to him.
Traditionally, Latin America is an exporter of Natural Resources we call Commodities because we used to say they are fungible – if the producer wants to increase price we will go to someone else who makes the same product – so exchanges just dealt with the bulk in many cases even not specializing – that is except for just a few items like sugar, coffee, cocoa, but forget wood, minerals, oil, coal – these were just means of getting the resources of the South to an industrialized North at fire-sale prices. In the exporting countries a few in the government circle got rich – and the many got meager salaries provided they played the game. Country economies were measured in GDP terms without any attention to who gets that income and why.
We know that the World economy had a slow down – but commodity purists say that 2004 – 2007 was the best time for commodity exports in the last three decades. Now they look at the possibility that World Growth Prospects are slowing by much and this is not just in the movement of goods.
In effect Dr. Ocampo enlarged the subject also to Migrant flows and Remittances, and access to International Financial markets – that were best since the second half of the 1970s.
What has happened since 2011 is that growth has slowed by 30% despite a strong business cycle – not any different then in the US itself I must add – and this must be an eye opener to all those young unemployed that prepared themselves for a life on the boom. Dr. Ocampo found within the commodity business boom also a South-North regional pattern that will harm poverty reduction efforts – and he reaches the conclusion that due to the weakening of the World Trade, the space for orthodox export-led policies may be over, he said. On the other hand, a pure inwards-looking strategy would work only for very few countries – perhaps Brazil – he said.
So, he advises an aggressive export diversification strategy; A reorientation towards Asia – that means China – but this works only with diversification; A sponsored expansion of the domestic markets.
When it came to the Q&A – a question that seemed to me out of place was about entrepreneurs and small business. This is indeed very important for the social structure of the country, and for the economy at large – but does not touch the Commodity issue because that issue was always in BIG Hands.
I tendered a different question which I predicated by saying that I am trying to deconstruct the concept of Commodities – a concept that in my eyes never had standing in the economy.
I mentioned that some of the commodities are non-renewable and when exhausted leave only problems behind and an impoverished Nation. Within this group there are technology induced changes – like the foreseeable demise of the Copper market and a new demand for Lithium .
But then there are Commodities based on Renewable Resources that do not harm the future of the State. But even here there are effects from the outside – this like the demise of Leopard Skins or Ivory and Rhinoceros Tusks from lists of Commodities.
So, my actual question is if time has not arrived to look at each exported good separately rather then bunching them into the term of Commodities where the exporters of bananas once thought they could build up a power equal to that of OPEC. After the talk – I found that quite a few people were ready to give a second thought to these comments.o I took then the 50 Street Crosstown bus to get to the UN where a group that claims solidarity with the Palestinians was hosting Mr. Emad Burnat from the village of Bil’in – a farmer and self-styled cameraman whose documentary “5 Broken Camera” is being promoted by activist Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore.
Emad Burnat started filming in 2005 daily life in his village, and clearly had the talent to bring out the abnormal life under a foreign occupation – that is if you consider living in the Colorado State of the Columbine shootings as normal, or life in any village in an Arab State normal.
I knew what to expect, but wanted to see how the UN sells the commodity of “Hate Israel” – because really – the hand clapping had nothing to do with trying to alleviate suffering of the Palestinians, but rather I saw there various people – some claiming Jewishness for unclear reason – and heaping it on Israel. There were so called Press or Media people that have never written a word about climate change, and there was an Arab who lived in Brazil and loves to speak Portuguese and Spanish for his outreach.
I asked Mr. Burnat if he spoke ever with Uri Avnery – the Israeli maverick who was the one to bring to the public’s eye the problems the villagers of Bil’in were having, and who tried to help? After all the film-maker’s statement was that it is his intent to help the villagers and himself? I said that talking with people like Avnery can help him on the ground – and what can the people in this room at the UN actually do on the ground?
As I did not get an answer to my very direct public question – just a few grunts and something that a TV reporter meant as an insult – “Zionist” I spoke to Emad after the presentation in private and then I heard from him that it is not about the village but larger, about Palestine. OK – so be it – the commodity at sale here is simple hatred – nothing else, but the problem is real and involves real people – and this is not his issue. I also said to him that in Israel people do not want to revisit the Holocaust and I would expect from him to not like the killing of the Syrian Arabs by Arabs – it does not make sense to score points over dead bodies.
I must also note that the UN DPI that posts a list of UN activities for the information of the media – had the “5 Broken Cameras” information, but then never has other topics of general interest – like the presentation today by Ms. Angela Kane – The UN Representative for Disarmament Affairs who spoke on her experiences as head of the UN spearhead on the issue of Chemical Weapons in Syria. She was very diplomatic and made sure she says only things she can prove. The Syrian Ambassador could not have had reason to doubt her impartiality. She did her work out of her Vienna based headquarters and gave support to the UN Security Council – in case the UN wants to come up with decisions – but the question is will they? For journalists the question is what is actually going on – and this presentation could have helped them – but the UN Department of Public Information keeps the Information commodity very close to the Arab side – whatever that might be the case.
OK, I am sure that I might have over extended the use of the term Commodities – but I do believe that there is indeed much more to this word if we try an ounce of real Aqua Vita. Individual Nations are suffering when the value of commodities is in decline – our job ought to be to explain why this happens – and the suffering – not of Governments but of their subjects.
by Jeffrey Sachs – Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University; Author, “To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace”
The Syrian War has already taken more than 130,000 lives. It is destroying a country that lies at the very cradle of civilization. Some of the world’s greatest cultural treasures, in ancient heritage cities like Aleppo, are being destroyed; irreplaceable archeological sites are being plundered. Yet this violence could be brought to a quick end with a more enlightened policy by the United States and its allies.
The U.S. demands that Bashar Al-Assad must go. Assad has certainly acted with brutality and committed atrocities, as have some of the rebel groups. Yet the U.S. government contributes to the trajectory of escalating violence by demanding that another head of state must leave or else. It is this demand, above all others, that prolongs the Syrian bloodshed by blocking a pragmatic end to the killing.
When the Arab Spring began in 2011, a popular movement in Syria demanded political reforms. The government responded instead with a bloody crackdown. In turn, some parts of the Syrian military broke off and began an insurrection.
At that point, in August 2011, Barrack Obama declared that, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” This was a remarkable statement, one head of state telling another to leave. Presumably the president thought that Assad was about to fall. Big miscalculation.
In fact, the U.S. has no right to pick the leaders of other countries. Nonetheless, the U.S. has a long track record of overthrowing other leaders. These U.S.-backed coups and insurrections almost always end in disaster and prolonged chaos. Think of Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1961), Vietnam (1963), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011), to name a few.
As Obama demanded Assad’s exit, U.S. allies in the region also began giving support, sanctuary and arms to the Syrian rebels. On April 1, 2012, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reiterated that “Assad must go, the sooner the better,” and led support for the insurgency through a new U.S.-led multinational group, “Friends of the Syrian People.” The war escalated dramatically. The death rate soared.
The U.S. sought to topple Assad in part because the U.S. and its allies deemed him to be too friendly and beholden to Iran. By toppling Assad, the U.S. thought, Iran would be weakened. Yet Assad has another important ally: Russia. And Russia was not about to step back and let their ally be toppled by a U.S.-backed insurgency. Moreover, international law prohibits one group of nations supporting the overthrow of a sovereign government unless in self-defense or mandated by the UN Security Council.
The way to end the bloodletting is to staunch the flow of weapons into Syria from outside powers. Saudi Arabia and probably other neighbors have been providing weapons to the insurgents, and the U.S. has been providing at least financial, logistical and political support to the insurrection, if not arms. On the other side, Iran and Russia are arming the Assad regime. It would not take much for all major outside parties — the U.S., Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia — to tamp down the war rapidly and dramatically. By ending the arms inflows, the violence would drop dramatically.
So why doesn’t it happen? Because from the U.S. perspective it would mean that Assad would stay. There are those who would say that Iran and Russia would not abide by such an arms limitation. They are likely mistaken.
No country has an interest in Syria falling to pieces. No country has an interest in the spread of Al-Qaeda-backed terrorism, as is now occurring in the midst of the growing violence. Just as the U.S., Russia and the Syrian government were able to agree on removing the chemical weapons, it would very likely be possible to tamp down the violence decisively as long as regime change by the U.S. and its allies is off the table.
Even with Assad remaining in power at this stage, political change in Syria would likely continue. Political change occurs from inside as well as from the outside. Myanmar, for example, has opened a political reform process not through an insurrection but through internal negotiations judged to be in the interest of the major actors including the military. Similarly, Poland in 1989 made its transition to democracy with a government that included leaders from the Communist old guard as well as the Solidarity-backed new leadership.
Internal political change is possible. It is, indeed, far more likely to succeed than the violent overthrow of governments engineered from abroad. And in the process, Syria would be spared the ongoing bloodbath.
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
Role for India, China?
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off. Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert. Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria. Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line. Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16. This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters. On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S. The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west. All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy. Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government? Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders? Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad. The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion. Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.” This is a cruel strategy. It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
Road ahead for Syria group:
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.
The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.
Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.
If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.
A global journey to 2030: Reviewing the First Steps …
The article below is the excerpt of a commentary authored by Molly Elgin-Cossart, former chief of staff for the secretariat of the High Level Panel on the Post 2015 Development Agenda. In her commentary, Molly draws on her experience with the High Level Panel offering a valuable insight of the process by looking at its strenghts, weaknesses and lessons learned. Molly is a Senior Fellow on global development at the Center on International Cooperation (CIC), at New York University, USA.
by Molly Elgin-Cossart - now she is with the New York University Center on International Cooperation – published by The Society for International Development – original link: The SID Forum Alert – February 17, 2014
The UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post- 2015 Development Agenda (HLP) – a group of 27 eminent world leaders including a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Yemeni journalist, a Nigerian Minister of Finance, a Brazilian Minister of Environment, the CEO of Unilever, and three Heads of State/Government from Indonesia, Liberia, and the United Kingdom – came together a few months ago to make a deceptively simple statement at the United Nations: we can end extreme poverty by 2030.
For the first time in history, we have the knowledge, tools, and resources to Leave No One Behind. Not only that, we can do it as part of a broader economic transformation that will lead to sustained prosperity for all, and in a way that preserves our planet, for this generation and those to come.
This is an extraordinary moment. Never before has the opportunity to share prosperity been more within reach. To say that not a single person need live in the most desperate circumstances may sound innocuous. It may sound as if it is inevitable. But that is not the case. Continued growth will continue to reduce poverty, but it will not end it.
Cycles of poverty, perpetuated by injustice and inequality, trap the most vulnerable individuals and prevent them from fulfilling their potential. Often the poor are subject to overlapping forms of discrimination. For example, women who live with disabilities in isolated rural areas face a fight even to survive, let alone prosper, due to the discrimination, lack of mobility, and social exclusion they face.
Only through a transformational approach can we hope to give every person on this planet the chance she deserves. The members of the HLP agreed that we can – and we must – transform the way we approach development, to tackle global challenges through a new global partnership to end extreme poverty and put the world squarely on the path to sustainable development.
Crucially, though, the HLP report, A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development, is not the final word on the post-2015 development agenda. The world’s next development agenda will be decided at a summit of Heads of State in September 2015.
Between now and then, global leaders will discuss the future of poverty and sustainable development. Will they rise to the challenge? Or will they let the chance pass them by, distracted by problems at home and the frustrations of international negotiation?
It will be a difficult journey to agreement in 2015. But the stakes are too high to allow leaders to shirk their responsibility to get serious about taking action to confront the challenges we face, from poverty to inequality to environmental degradation. Because the deliberations of the HLP provide a preview of the debates to come, reviewing some of the lessons of the Panel’s experience may provide insight into the next two years of negotiations.
The Panel’s journey from London to Monrovia to Bali – through debates, discussions, and consultations, led them to a worthwhile destination: a coherent, effective and sustainable road map to tackle global challenges.
Yet more than the destination, it is the Panel’s journey that offers insight on navigating the rough waters ahead to 2015.
What follows are a few key observations from my experience as Chief of Staff of the Panel secretariat that I think are worth highlighting as we head into two years of intense multilateral negotiations.
This time, top honors goes to the Federalist, which can’t get over the irony of Senate Democrats scheduling a hearing on global warming right as a blizzard is expected to hit D.C. In fact, there’s good reason to believe that global climate change is linked to extreme weather like this, but arguing that is an advanced move. Demonstrating that cold and snowy weather in no way disproves global warming? Anyone can do that.
Below, three tried-and-true retorts to climate deniers. You can try a fast and simple zinger, back it up with a blunt chart or, if you’re tired of explaining, let one of these smart videos do it for you. Why not try a healthy combination of all three? And, as a last resort, there’s always the weather report for Australia.
– SkepticalScience, a reliable font of detailed information, also breaks it down into this one-sentence explanation:
“A local cold day has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures.”
– Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy is something of an evangelist for the cause. He recently tweeted:
In one sentence: “Warming things up means the atmosphere can hold more moisture.” Science!
– Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer sums up the current reality of climate change:
“Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch. That’s the new world we live in.”
– And, courtesy of the NRDC, a simple analogy:
“The effect of global warming on our climate is not unlike the effect of steroids on an athlete’s performance: It supercharges storms; it causes abnormal conditions like drought and heat and ultimately, it causes damage.”
Here, data from the NOAA and NASA clearly shows that global temperatures have been higher than average for the past 37 consecutive years:
This one, courtesy of Skeptical Science, plots the annual numbers of record high maximum temperatures (the red dots) along with the record lows (the blue dots), averaged over the U.S. That black line — the one that doesn’t line up with what’s plotted — shows where the dots would theoretically lie should no global warming or cooling be taking place. You can see how, over time, we’ve ended up with more record highs than lows:
As to the less overall snow, SkepticalScience has this nice breakdown of seasonal and annual snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere. It demonstrates how earlier and more extensive melting in the spring and summer more than makes up for the smaller increase in fall and winter precipitation. The total decline in snow extent between 1972 and 2010 was a full 1.3 million square kilometers:
This last one’s actually a comic, courtesy of the fantastic XKCD, but it’s got a chart drawn in. And it once again makes the important point that extreme cold is becoming less and less common:
Chris Hayes, an ironic sparkle in his eyes, asks climate scientist Michael Mann how it’s possible for snow and global warming to be happening at the same time. His reply: “Well, we climate scientists actually have a technical term for this phenomenon. It’s called winter” (you can file that one away with the other zingers):
Peter Sinclair of ClimateCrocks delves deeper into the science with this 2009 video response to that infallible argument: ”I looked outside, and it was snowing, therefore, there is no climate change”:
The Climate denial crook of the week said that The White House released this “propaganda” in honor of the infamous polar vortex, which received a fair amount of trolling. Featuring John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, it’s notable both for its acknowledgment that man-made climate change could actually be responsible for patterns of extreme cold, and for its reminder that no single weather event can either prove or disprove global warming.
from the Office of the Spokesperson
US Department of State Washington, DC
February 15, 2014
In light of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its worsening impacts, and the related issue of air pollution from burning fossil fuels, the United States and China recognize the urgent need for action to meet these twin challenges. Both sides reaffirm their commitment to contribute significantly to successful 2015 global efforts to meet this challenge.
Accordingly, China and the United States will work together, within the vehicle of the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) launched last year, to collaborate through enhanced policy dialogue, including the sharing of information regarding their respective post-2020 plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Regarding practical cooperative actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants, the two sides have reached agreement on the implementation plans on the five initiatives launched under the CCWG, including Emission Reductions from Heavy Duty and Other Vehicles, Smart Grids, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage, Collecting and Managing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data, and Energy Efficiency in Buildings and Industry, and commit to devote significant effort and resources to secure concrete results by the Sixth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in 2014.
By now, I hope you’ve seen the video of American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg’s massive final jump in the Olympic slopestyle event — the Holy Crale, as he calls it: a 1620 (that’s four and a half revolutions) Japan air that won him the first U.S. gold of the Sochi games. (We’d post the video here, but NBC and the International Olympic Committee would sue us into oblivion. So if you haven’t seen it, you’ll have to click here, and subject yourself to 10 minutes of sappy advertising. It’s almost worth it.)
Kotsenburg hails from Park City, Utah, home of the U.S. Ski Team and an epicenter of elite winter sports training. Fellow Olympians who also grew up or live in Park City include alpine skiers Ted Ligety, Steven Nyman, and Megan McJames, bobsledder Steven Holcomb, ski jumpers Sarah Hendrickson, Jessica Jerome, and Anders Johnson, cross-country skiers Liz Stephen and Billy Demong, freeskier Joss Christensen, freestyle skier Heather McPhie, snowboarder Lindsay Jacobellis, and speed skater Maria Lamb. Many other Olympic athletes train in Park City at facilities built for the 2002 winter games, including the ski jumps and bobsled and luge runs at Bear Hollow, and at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s Center of Excellence, designed to be an incubator for elite athletes.
Utah is gunning for another winter in the Olympic spotlight, in fact: In December, state officials announced their bid to host the 2026 games. But the Beehive State had better act quickly. If climate models are correct, winter won’t be coming here for long. Among the Rocky Mountain ski hotspots, it turns out that Park City is among the hottest — and I don’t mean that in a good way.
A few years ago, the Aspen Ski Co. in Colorado hired University of Colorado snow scientist Mark Williams and a fellow researcher, Brian Lazar at Stratus Consulting, to do a study of what climate change would mean for Aspen. Williams and Lazar ran a collection of climate models with three different scenarios — one where humans dramatically cut back CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, a second where we basically continued the status quo, and a third where emissions levels increased over the present rate. Under the high emissions scenario, by 2100, only the top quarter of Aspen Mountain would see consistent snowpack in an average year.
Grim, but nothing that can’t be overcome with a good gondola or two. When Williams and Lazar repeated the exercise for Park City Mountain Resort in 2009, however, the results were downright bleak. In Aspen, the duo had provided predictions for 2030, 2050, and 2100. But when they ran the models in Park City they found that by 2100, the snow line in an average winter had risen beyond the top of the ski area. Translation: If we continue to crank up the heat, there will be no skiing at all in Park City by the end of the century; on an average year, there will be no snow.
Since Williams and Lazar ran those models, humanity’s carbon output has exceeded even their high-emissions scenario.
Park City, which is home to three major ski resorts, will suffer before the other Rocky Mountain resorts largely because of its relatively low elevation. (Park City Mountain Resort’s base lodge sits at 6,900 feet; the resort tops out at 10,000 feet. Aspen Mountain, for comparison, has a base elevation of almost 8,000 feet, and a high point above 11,000.) The Great Melt will hit maritime ski resorts in the Cascades and Sierra even sooner. And a study released last year found that only four of New England’s 14 major ski resorts will still be profitable by 2100 — if they even survive that long.
The outlook is ugly for winter sports worldwide. A recent study out of the University of Waterloo in Canada found that, of the 19 cities that have hosted the Olympic Winter Games in the past, only nine will still be suitable by mid-century under a high-emissions scenario. By the 2080s, that number will drop to just six.
As Powder magazine features editor Porter Fox pointed out in a piece in the New York Times last weekend, there’s more at stake here than shredders’ time in the White Room. In the American West and elsewhere in the world, mountain snowpack serves as a critical reservoir for drinking water, building and storing in the winter months, then releasing it in the spring and summer.
The Utah mountains that provide U.S. Olympians with their training grounds also supply water for the 2.2 million residents of a string of cities along the Wasatch Front. Salt Lake City water managers estimate that for every degree Fahrenheit that the temperature increases, the annual flow from the city’s high country watersheds will decrease 3.8 percent. Their high-emissions scenario would see the water supply drop by almost 23 percent by 2064.
If there’s good news here, it’s that Salt Lake City has some wiggle room: Residents dump fully 40 percent of that precious mountain water on their lawns.
As for the nation’s Olympic aspirations, well, we can always do like they do in Dubai, and put the skiing indoors. Maybe Sage Kotsenburg has a future as a Tough Mudder champ (bonus: you don’t just run around with a torch in your hand — you actually get to jump through the flames!).
In the meantime, we’re advised to enjoy the Winter Games while we can. They might not be around for long.
Greg Hanscom is a senior editor at Grist. He tweets about cities, bikes, transportation, policy, and sustainability at @ghanscom.
LONDON — Secretary of State John Kerry caused outrage in Israel recently when he declared: “For Israel there’s an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There is talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary.”
Members of the Israeli government were indignant. Israel, they declared, will not negotiate under pressure. Advice givers, stay away! But Kerry was only repeating what Israel’s own finance minister, Yair Lapid, had already said: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement is beginning to bite.
I am a strong supporter of a two-state peace. The messianic idea of Greater Israel, occupying all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, must wither. Jews, having suffered for most of their history as a minority, cannot, as a majority now in their state, keep their boots on the heads of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank any longer.
Palestinians must accept the permanence of the state of Israel within the 1967 lines with equitable land swaps. Competitive victimhood should cede to collaborative viability for the nation states of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. Narratives and revealed truth do not a future make. They perpetuate the imprisoning past.
So, in theory, B.D.S. might be a positive factor. When the largest Dutch pension fund and the largest Danish bank withdraw investments from, or cease business with, Israeli banks because of their operations in the settlements, they send a powerful signal to Israel to get out of the West Bank.
Yet these developments make me uneasy for a simple reason: I do not trust the B.D.S. movement. Its stated aim is to end the occupation, secure “full equality” for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and fight for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees. The first objective is essential to Israel’s future. The second is laudable. The third, combined with the second, equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the hidden agenda of B.D.S., its unacceptable subterfuge: beguile, disguise and suffocate.
The anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa contained no such ambiguity. As Diana Shaw Clark, an activist on behalf of a two-state solution, wrote to me in an email, “People affiliated with divestment in South Africa had no agenda other than the liberation and enfranchisement of an oppressed majority.”
This is not the case in Israel, where the triple objective of B.D.S. would, in Clark’s words, “doom Israel as a national home for the Jews.” Mellifluous talk of democracy and rights and justice masks the B.D.S. objective that is nothing other than the end of the Jewish state for which the United Nations gave an unambiguous mandate in 1947. The movement’s anti-Zionism can easily be a cover for anti-Semitism.
It would be gratifying if Israelis and Palestinians could learn overnight to live together as equal citizens in some United States of the Holy Land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, a binational and democratic secular state that resolves their differences. But it is an illusion to think this could ever happen, the one-state pipe dream. The fault lines are too deep. A single state cannot mark its Day of Independence and Day of Catastrophe on the same date.
One state, however conceived, equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state, the core of the Zionist idea. Jews must not allow this to happen. Trust your neighbor? Been there, tried that.
The so-called right of return of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians driven out in the 1948 war (whose descendants now number in the millions) cannot be exercised, any more than the Jews of Baghdad and Cairo have deeds to return home. There can, and should be, agreed compensation for the dispossessed, but there cannot be a reversal of history. The “right” is in fact a claim.
A Jewish national home is needed. History demonstrated that. It must now be reinvented. For that, the corrosive occupation has to end and with it the settlement industry.
B.D.S. is a wake-up call. I oppose it because I do not trust it. That does not mean, as Lapid intimated, that Israel can ignore its message.
Israel can only be a state of laws again when the lawless enterprise beyond the Green Line ends. West of that line, Israel is a democracy affording greater minority rights than other regional states (Omar Barghouti, a B.D.S. leader, has a master’s degree from Tel Aviv University). But that is not enough. All citizens should enjoy equality in the Jews’ national home, a state where civil marriage becomes possible, state and synagogue are divorced, and Israelis are permitted to identify themselves as Israelis if they so wish, rather than as Jews or Arabs or Druze — that is as undifferentiated citizens.
The Rose Bowl parade has arrived in Sochi. Not really. The Olympic Park just has a similar warm, sunny setting.
(Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)
Here in New York we got today fresh powder but from Sochi the news are:
“It’s warm here. Too warm, really, for the Winter Olympics. It harkens back to… well, the last Winter Games, in Vancouver in 2010, when organizers had to use helicopters to deliver snow to melted areas.
If this 50-degree heat wave persists, Sochi officials may have to resort to similar measures. When John Branch, our resident snow-science expert, visited Sochi last year, he found that organizers were making preparations for a Vancouver-like warm mess. They stockpiled hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of snow and covered the piles with insulated blankets.
The American skier Julia Mancuso is a speed queen of soft snow conditions. She roared into the lead after the downhill portion of the super combined, Bill Pennington reports. (Bill says sunscreen, not hand warmers, is the most important product on the mountain today.)”
Indeed – Global Warming effects are unpredictable – will the US and Russia cooperate on plans to tackle the problem?
The Winter Olympics kicked off yesterday in Sochi, Russia (first up: men’s snowboarding). When Russian President Vladimir Putin pitched Sochi to the games’ organizers back in 2007, he promised there would be “real snow”… a bold claim for a town better known as a seaside summer resort. Sure enough, this week Sochi had highs in the 50s (warmer than the Super Bowl last weekend in New Jersey) and—uh oh—no new snowfall in the town. Conditions are a bit better in the mountains where the ski events take place, and organizers insist the games are ready to speed ahead on a fresh layer of fake snow.
In some cases, global warming can lead to increased heavy precipitation of all kinds, and that includes snow, as anyone who lived through the recent polar vortex in the eastern US can attest. But the best conditions for snow sports depend on a snow cover that lasts through the winter, not simply a couple serious blizzards. Over the course of the season, high temperatures can burn through even the heaviest snowfall, and according to Porter Fox, that’s already happening from the Rockies to Sochi.
Fox is a veteran skier and journalist for Powder magazine who is keeping a gloved finger on the pulse of shifting slopes. He recently published a book that details how global warming is threatening the entire business model of the ski industry. It’s called Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow. Fox joined us for today’s Inquiring Minds podcast episode, and told me that climate change could soon send snow sports crashing downhill.
Porter Fox: There is going to be huge change in the ski industry in the next 10 to 20 years, and there is going to be cataclysmic change in the next 50 to 70 years. In Europe, North America, around the world, really.
Climate Desk: For skiers and snowboarders, what is that actually going to look like?
Fox: Some of the big visual indicators are we’ve lost a million square miles of spring snowpack in the last 45 years. Some other changes, in the Northern Rockies that snowpack is down 15 to 30 percent. Specifically in the US the rate of winter warming has tripled since 1970, it seems that winters are starting to warm faster than other seasons, and even high elevation areas are warming faster, and very specifically the US West is one of half a dozen hotspots that are warming faster than the national average. Every single one of those factors is bad news for the Sierras, the Rockies, the Cascades, my favorite places to ski in.
CD: Snow sports support an entire industry, including resorts, local shops and restaurants, and equipment manufacturers. How is the industry feeling this change?
Fox: The way the industry feels is that if you are not open for Christmas you’re going to lose most of your profit for that year. The Christmas holiday through New Year’s and President’s Day, those are the big moneymakers. And of course, that’s the first, that’s the earliest part of the season, and what’s happening with climate change in the Rockies and the Alps is the shoulder seasons are edging in, so the winter starts later and it ends earlier, already by a couple weeks on each end. And every year it’s getting worse and worse.
“The lines on the graph are very clear. And they’re all headed down.”
CD: What does that mean in terms of the bottom line?
Fox: It’s hitting them pretty hard. In the last 10 years, ski resorts in the US lost over a billion dollars due to low-snow years. More than 23 million people participate in winter sports activities in the States, it adds an estimated 12.2 billion dollars in economic value to the US economy. Over 200,000 jobs in the winter in the States, $7 billion in salaries, and that results in $1.4 billion in state and local taxes and $1.7 billion in federal taxes. And so now we’re not just looking at when is all the snow gone, we’re looking at when do these businesses become not viable anymore because they can’t open for Christmas. And that’s why Daniel Scott’s study of ski resorts in the Northeast, he estimated that half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast will close in the next 30 years.
CD: What about Sochi? How are things looking over there?
Fox: Sochi is a very interesting situation, and I didn’t study it particularly in the book but I’ve been keeping up on it ever since, and it’s a bit of a disaster right now. They stored, I believe, 16 million cubic feet of snow last season to use this season in case this happened. And they did that because they had to cancel several exhibition events last year in February, because it was too warm and there was no snow. It already happened last year. They bulldozed all this snow into giant piles, covered it with insulating tarps and basically kept it cold for this season so they can bulldoze it back onto the slopes, which looks like is exactly what they’re going to have to do. If you look at the Whistler Olympics, they had to do the same thing. They weren’t prepared for it so they lifted by helicopter tons of snow onto the slopes so they could do the skiing events. But it’s a sign, it’s a sign of things to come. It’s going to be harder and harder to find a solid snowpack as the decades pass.
CD: So. Are we looking at the end of skiing as we know it?
Fox: It’s harder to see over the course of a winter when you’re talking about power days. Powder days still come, it still happens. But when you look at the whole season-long snowpack, and how much of that snow is sitting there in the spring, and you look at trends over a decade, over 50 years, that’s what we’re talking about here. The lines on the graph are very clear. And they’re all headed down.
Essential news about the 2014 Winter Olympics from New York Times reporters and editors.
A team of journalists for The New York Times is fanned out at Olympics venues on the coast of the Black Sea in Sochi (the indoor ice sports) and in the Caucasus Mountains in Krasnaya Polyana (the sports that need snow). They will give you a daily report that will keep you apprised of everything worth knowing about the Winter Olympics.
We’ll highlight notable results, point to emerging story lines and preview coming events. There will be spectacular photography, immersive graphics and ground-level reporting.
We’ll get you in and out in under 60 seconds, and you’ll feel like an expert.
So here we go. Some competitions begin Thursday, and then the opening ceremony is at 8 p.m. Friday in Sochi. (That’s 4 p.m. in London, 11 a.m. in New York, 8 a.m. in Los Angeles and 10 a.m. inWarroad, Minn.)
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Corporate influence in the Post-2015 process - working paper by Lou Pingeot, published by Brot fuer die Welt, Global Policy Forum and Misereor As the 2015 deadline for the MDGs fast approaches, UN member states have started negotiations to define a new global development framework for the time after. This process is expected to culminate in 2015 with the definition of a Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. Corporate interest groups and large transnational corporations such as Unilever, Vale, AngloGold and many others have been actively involved in this process, including the Secretary General’s High-Level Panel and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. In addition, the Global Compact has provided a privileged channel for corporate influence in the post-2015 agenda.
A new working paper by Brot f?r die Welt, Global Policy Forum and Misereor provides an overview of the main corporate actors in the post-2015 process and how they shape the discourse on development.
The private sector certainly has a role to play in the future of sustainable development. But the messages and visions of transnational corporations and business associations are worrying. Rather than binding multilateral agreements, they advocate for public-private partnerships and voluntary initiatives that largely leave both governments and private actors off the hook. They focus on growth, free markets and and new technologies (to be provided by the private sector) as a silver bullet solution to eradicate poverty, decrease inequality and preserve the environment, without reflecting on how the current growth paradigm has led us to the situation we face today.
This paper advocates for more transparency around the participation of corporations in UN processes, including their financial support to UN initiatives, and for more reflection on the risks of a corporate, private interests-driven development agenda. The full paper is available here: