The Mulch: Tepid Accord Reached in Copenhagen

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

After two weeks of negotiations for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop15), global leaders produced a limited, non-binding agreement that was noted, but not adopted. President Barack Obama presented the Copenhagen Accord to the summit on Friday night, calling it an "important milestone." The accord promises global cooperation to combat climate change, recognizes the need to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, and commits funding for developing nations to battle the impacts of global warming.

But on Saturday, after President Obama had returned to Washington, leaders from Europe and the least developed nations announced that the accord was not definitive and represented the views of only a few countries. In particular, Lumumba Stanislas Dia-ping, chair of the Group of 77, which represents the poorest nations in the world, pushed back, claiming that their interests had been abandoned.

As David Roberts reports in Grist: "Since the ... process requires unanimity to move forward, Danish Prime Minister Lokke Rasmussen could only look on, bewildered, as country after country restated its position in increasingly emotional terms."

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told reporters that the more powerful countries overlooked the interests of their less fortunate neighbors, according to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!

"I think the countries that can really make a difference have not really got sensitive enough to the plight of the poorest of the poor. I think that's a harsh reality which we have no choice but to accept," Pachauri said.

The accord left out crucial elements that tripped negotiators up throughout the week. David Corn and Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones report that the accord "...contains few specific numbers--beyond "recognizing the scientific view" that a global temperature rise should be 'below 2 degrees.' It dropped language from an earlier draft calling for cutting global emissions in half by 2050. The agreement urges developed nations to implement reductions they have already pledged--without spelling out those numbers or [establishing] baseline years. Developing nations would establish their own emissions curbs."

During the summit, China objected to requirements that would allow outside monitoring of its emissions. That issue remained one of the thorniest points during Friday's negotiations. Corn and Sheppard report that President Obama proposed that instead of "examination and  assessments," countries would commit to "international consultations and analysis."

"A 'consultation' is obviously less intrusive than an 'examination,' Corn and Sheppard write. "But what does "international consultations and analysis"--soon to be referred to as ICA--mean? Asked this, [Brazil's climate ambassador Sergio] Serra shrugged and said, "Ehhhh." He added, "The definition will be negotiated by a panel of people. They will decide what it means, like everything else."

The deal that Obama and major developing nations drafted on Friday represented the best result of a tumultuous conference. Going back to Grist, David Roberts writes that even at the beginning of the summit, leaked draft agreements were more promising than the actual outcome. The final accord, according to Roberts, "achieved only the barest of Obama's aims: One, to draw the major emitters among the developing nations--China, India, and Brazil--into a process that would yield concrete commitments on their part, and two, to get funding flowing from developed countries to developing countries to aid their efforts to deal with climate change."

Throughout the two week summit, activists from around the world gathered to pressure leaders into significant action. But, thanks to Cop15's tepid outcome, some climate change advocates already are looking towards the next major global meeting, which will be held in Mexico, in 2010.

Beverly Keene, the international coordinator of Jubilee South, told Inter Press Service that "the primary challenge is to broaden and strengthen the links between the different civil society movements and networks in the region."

And outside the conference in Copenhagen, activists gathered to broadcast their opinions of the summit's achievements and their continuing commitment to change. As Jamie Henn writes in Yes! Magazine,

"In less than an hour, hundreds of us will gather in a snowy courtyard outside the Osknehallen to stand with candles and torches and form the words "Climate Sham" and then transform into the words "Climate Shame" for an aerial photograph. The image will express the frustration and anger that we want to convey to the world leaders who are blocking progress here at the talks yet still trying to spin Copenhagen as some sort of success.

"Yet, we'll also be forming another message: "Climate Hope," Henn says. "It's a reminder that this fight isn't over."

Although the accord is a small step forward, politicians around the world have their work cut out for them. A few reminders of the consequences, should they fail to stop the effects of climate change on the planet:

  • AlterNet's Tara Lohan lists eight great things we could lose, including French wines and coral reefs.

  • At TAPPED, Alexandra Gutierrez posts about the island nation Tuvalu, which is "highly vulnerable to rises in sea level."

  • For Mother Jones, Jen Phillips writes that "If we don't get emissions on track, fast, it'll be today's babies and kids who'll have to do it twice as quickly in 2050."

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Threats Against the President Beyond Alarming

While the number of threats against the President

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The President's Thanksgiving Address

President Obama calls to our attention the men and women in uniform who are away from home sacrificing time with family to protect our safety and freedom. He also talks about the progress of health care reform, the Recovery Act, and job creation to ensure that next Thanksgiving will be a brighter day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Stuck in the Middle with Obama

Chris Bowers over at Open Left has a post wondering if President Obama might be vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2012. He further asks if is there any chance that challenge might come from the left of the Democratic Party?

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Weekly Audit: Unemployment Fueling Political Storm

By Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger

Unemployment figures in the U.S. are staggering: The official rate stands at 10.2%, the highest in 26 years. A broader measure that includes people who are involuntarily working part-time or who have given up looking for work is at 17.5%. That's a full-blown economic emergency.

But, as Joshua Holland explains for AlterNet, President Barack Obama's response to the unemployment crisis has not matched the urgency of his response to the crisis on Wall Street. This isn't just unfair, it's bad economics.

"It's important to understand that the economic crisis in which we find ourselves is not just a function of a shaky financial system but of a crash in consumption that's come along with the evaporation of $14 trillion worth of the wealth of American families," Holland writes.

Widespread joblessness can be every bit as damaging to the economic structure as a financial crisis. When people are out of work, they buckle down on household expenses. When several million people cut back at the same time, the economic machine grinds to a halt. If people are not buying and selling stuff, the economy isn't working.

As Mary Kane explains for The Washington Independent, about 40% of families don't have enough money to cover expenses through a three-month stretch of unemployment--even if one member of the household is receiving unemployment benefits. Kane highlights a Brandeis University study that reveals the haggard state of the American household and the unfair distribution of wealth along racial lines. A full 66% of African-American and Latino families can't afford three months without work. At a time when 5.6 million workers have been jobless for at least six months, the study highlights just how dire finances have become for many households.

GRITtv's Laura Flanders discusses potential labor market remedies with economist Dean Baker and The Nation's John Nichols. Baker suggests a work-share arrangement, in which employers cut back on their workers' hours to allow more people to work. To prevent losses for households, the government would step in and pay for the shortfall in hours. Employers would have more part-time jobs available, but the government would make sure everyone was paid as if they were working full-time. Baker also endorses a public jobs program, which he says could be especially useful in cities like Detroit and Cleveland that have been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn.

Nichols highlights the political consequences of failing to fix the unemployment mess. Unemployment directly affects the lives of voters. If widespread joblessness persists through November 2010, Democrats will net huge Congressional losses. If Obama thinks it's hard to garner bipartisan support for his legislative priorities now, imagine a few dozen more Republican obstructionists.

It's not that Obama failed to respond to the unemployment crisis. He did. That's what the stimulus package was all about. Today's 10.2% unemployment is a catastrophe, but it would be more like 12% without the stimulus package. But, given the seriousness of the issue, Obama is not giving unemployment enough attention.

In fact, Obama's economic priorities are a mirror-image of his campaign promises, as Robert Scheer argues in both a column for TruthDig and an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! After talking tough about reining in recklessness on Wall Street and making the financial system more accountable, Obama has hired many of the very policy makers who pushed through the deregulatory agenda back in the 1990s. Top Obama administration officials like Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, Gary Gensler and Neal Wolin helped make this mess in the first place.

"This is not a minor criticism," Scheer says. "I think the guy is betraying his own presidency."

Obama's timid efforts to rein in Wall Street and heal the ailing job market are setting the stage for a political disaster. If Obama and Congressional Democrats can't take strong action to fix the economy, they will find themselves with much narrower majorities next November. The economy, and the public institutions that support it, are supposed to work for everyone, not just the financial elite.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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