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At the UN, Al Gore Warns of ‘Subprime Carbon’

Al Gore spoke to the United Nations Investors Summit on Climate Change today, and invoked the ‘s-word’ to warn that carbon is more like kryptonite to investors.

“You need to really scrub your investment portfolios, because I guarantee you — as my longtime good redneck friends in Tennessee say, I guarandamntee you — that if you really take a fine-tooth comb and go through your portfolios, many of you are going to find them chock-full of subprime carbon assets,” the former vice president said.

[Snip]

“The assumption that you can safely invest in assets that come from business models that assume carbon is free is an assumption that is about to go splat,” he said. “You have lots of assets, many of you do, in your portfolios right now that truly do deserve that epithet ‘subprime.’”

Read the whole thing. Also, be sure to follow Matt’s excellent dispatches from the summit.

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Friday Morning Coffee

A day after Valentine’s, and where’s the love? Romney has some for McCain. I have some for Indy.

Top Stories

>>Hezbollah – In front of 10,000 mourners at the funeral of Imad Mughnieh in Beirut, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel with “open war,” because he said, “you have killed Hajj Imad outside the natural battlefield.” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki read a letter of condolence from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel stepped up security in the wake of his death. Tens of thousands also gathered yesterday in Beirut to commemorate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. (Photos of both rallies.)

>>OceansScience has published a report suggesting that only four percent of the world’s oceans remain pristine. Roughly 41 percent has been affected strongly by human activity — including climate change, overfishing, and pollution. The report was unprecedented in its detail: each square kilometer of ocean was examined individually.

>>Iraq – Iraq’s parliament announced that it would rely heavily on the United Nations to help organize the October 1 provincial elections mandated by the package of legislation passed earlier this week.

>>Eritrea – UNMEE, the UN peacekeeping force for Ethiopia and Eritrea, has begun to withdraw from its bases. Eritrea had attempted to force the hand of the international community on a border dispute by cutting the fuel supply of the mission.

Quote of the Day

“We want to assure the Iraqi people that this time the elections will
be free and transparent. We will cooperate completely with the United Nations and
prevent any violations.”
– Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, speaker of Iraq’s Parliament

Yesterday in UN Dispatch
  • Bono, Ban
    ki Moon, and many others honor Tom Lantos
    by
    Mark Leon Goldberg
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/a_crisis_is_a_t.php">“A
    crisis is a terrible thing to waste” – by Matthew
    Cordell
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/bush_administra.php">Bush
    administration pushes for bilateral ties with Iraq – by
    John Boonstra
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/the_demandside.php">The
    Demand-Side Attack on Climate Change – by Matthew
    Cordell

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Bono, Ban ki Moon, and many others honor Tom Lantos

In the statuary room of the Capitol this morning, ambassadors, members of congress, dignitaries–and a rock star–joined to celebrate the life of Congressman Tom Lantos, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman who succumbed to cancer earlier this week.

Secretary Rice spoke early in the service. She was visibly moved as she recalled her long friendship with Congressman Lantos, which stretched back to when she was chancellor of Stanford University. Rice, with Lantos’ opera-signing granddaughter, even performed together in charity benefit at the Kennedy Center a few years ago. Joe Biden, who hired Lantos as a staffer when Biden was a Senator in his early 30s, offered a very personal touch. Biden hired Lantos, but then quickly realized that Lantos should be the person calling the shots. The two developed a close relationship. In fact, at his mentor’s insistence Biden was married at the United Nations Chapel. Biden even brought Lantos on his honeymoon — to Hungary.

Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, Lantos’ longtime friend Congressman Chris Shays all paid homage to the man, recalling his how his struggle to survive as a Jew in Hungary during the Holocaust shaped his profound commitment to defending human rights across the globe.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livini and Ban Ki Moon also spoke. It is no secret that Congress can sometimes be hard on the United Nations. And in his eulogy, Ban stressed that the United Nations lost a great friend. Ban very eloquently recalled his first meeting with Lantos. The two were having lunch in Lantos’ office, when Lantos turned to Ban and said, “In my office, the United Nations will always have a sanctuary in this building.”

Bono later took the stage. He paid brief tribute to Lantos’ dedication to combating global HIV/AIDS, but then spoke about the relationship between Lantos and his wife, Annette. The two have been married 58 years, and were childhood sweethearts who escaped the Holocaust together. This being Valentine’s Day, Bono offered Annette a serenade and lead the crowd in “All You Need is Love.” Secretary Rice, Ban Ki Moon, and Speaker Pelosi sang along. There was hardly a dry eye to be seen–mine included.

Elie Wiesel gave the final eulogy. The two were friends, said Weisel, but they never socialized. Rather they shared the bond that only two genocide survivors could. When the two met, there was no small talk. It was all business between them–and that business was advancing the cause of human dignity across the globe. Sadly, Lantos passed away before the job was complete. His legacy, though, lives on in the lives he touched and the dignity-affirming legislation he passed.

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“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”

Vinod Khosla, of Khosla Ventures and the founding CEO of Sun Microsystems, is one of the rock stars of this summit. His presentation, “…mostly convenient truths from a technology optimist,” was sharp and witty and immediately set the summit on a new tact. Khosla has a dogged belief in technology and using bold allocations of venture capitol to reach innovative solutions. Khosla Ventures only invests in a project if he believes that it will be cost competitive with carbon within five to seven years without subsidies.

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Bush administration pushes for bilateral ties with Iraq

In an op-ed in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, confident in the steps that Iraqi leaders are taking to solidify their country’s sovereignty, called on Congress to support negotiations of a “normal bilateral relationship” between the U.S. and Iraq. The U.N.’s authorization of American presence in Iraq is set to expire at the end of the year, and Rice and Gates, anticipating a longer-term need for U.S. troops, advocate for developing a renewed “status-of-forces” agreement — which dictates the terms under which troops act — directly between the U.S. and Iraq.Critics have contested that this sort of agreement would amount to forming a treaty while conveniently bypassing the Senate’s treaty-ratification prerogative. Rice and Gates contend that, rather than hamstringing the next president, this agreement will actually give him or her more leeway in pursuing US interests in Iraq. Nonetheless, this proposal is sure to make some Democratic lawmakers uncomfortable. Iraqis’ political progress is far from an established fact, and the prospect of a prolonged American engagement in Iraq — particularly one orchestrated by an administration in its last year in office — rankles those opposed to the war.

What Rice and Gates fail to discuss is the the UN’s role in Iraq (a prospect that we’ve frequently addressed). They dismiss the current UN authorization as out of step with normal diplomatic convention and out of touch with Iraqi leaders, but they fail to stress the critical neutral role played by the U.N. and its invaluable and stabilizing humanitarian work (in particular with regard to refugees). While currently a relatively small political mission, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq has performed admirably, and, as Iraq progresses politically, it will continue to need the UN’s valuable political assistance and ability to maintain peace and support stable governance. It will need resources (particularly from the U.S.) to do so.

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The Demand-Side Attack on Climate Change.

Diana Ferrel, the director of the McKinsey Global Institute, is currently making a convincing case for energy efficiency at the UN Investor Summit on Climate Change (the FT has a good summary). The world is obsessed with supply-side solutions to climate change (alternative utilities, renewable fuels, etc.), but demand-side solutions (i.e. increasing energy productivity) could offer remarkable results at, according to Ferrel, a profit. An investment of $194 billion a year (using ideas such as those detailed here) could yield a $17 billion a year profit, as well as getting us halfway to the reduction in carbon emissions that we need. We’re talking about a possible reduction in oil consumption of 64 million barrels a day. As Ferrel puts it, even if you plus up the use of solar energy by 500 percent or wind energy by 1000 percent, you get less savings in carbon emissions than those McKinsey suggests.

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