The UN Climate Summit + Discerning and Helpful Ratings of NY Ramen Houses

A dark line hundreds of people long winded outside the UN headquarters. “Good luck,” says the police officer, waving me toward them. Because yes, those are the hordes of journalists I have to contend with for the next nine hours in getting an eye and foot in the door of the summit proceedings. They hail from all over the world, speaking French, Hindi, Japanese, etc. and they tote along unwieldy, leggy cameras, recording gear, and their chatty colleagues. Some of them are filming the actual serpentine line, and are shooed away by security (I guess the journalists aren’t allowed to record how long of a line they have to stand in?).

Ability to record themselves aside, the gale of journalists descended upon the UN Headquarters on a bright, sunny Tuesday like a giant sea of hopping, twitching black-grey locusts writhing/shimmering iridescent butterflies fluttering their way under and over each other in the confines of a large playground, devoid of maps of the campus and sorely lacking in immediate directions on where to go.

Two hours after standing in various lines, I’m inside trying to make sense of such a chaotic place. The media “room” (gym-like space) has been staked out into territories. Each media group has claimed a segment of a table, which are periodically fitted with black audio devices, at present the only sources of audio for the video of the proceedings, projected at the front of the room (the audio on the website did not work during the key sessions in the morning. Someone did manage to fix the audio on their website for the afternoon sessions, after the big announcements. Ahem?) There’s Middle Eastern CNN. There’s Austrian Broadcasting. There’s a guy handing out delicious bowls of ramen. JK, if only. And most of all, there is no internet. This creates some difficulty in filing stories.

*Begin mini- rant* UN headquarters, be more organized. *End mini-rant*

The big takeaways from the summit, as well as ratings of the major players:

President Barack Obama emphasized the importance of climate change, saying that climate change is “one issue that will define the contours of this planet more than any other.” He urged all countries to pull their weight, as “no nation is immune,” but himself made no firm pledges. He did issue an executive order for all US federal agencies to consider climate change in their policies, but the language of the order is somewhat vague and it remains to be seen its results. Running late from talks on Syria in the morning, he attended the event for only a brief time, enough to meet China’s delegate to the summit, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and then give his speech. He said he “reiterated my belief [to Zhang] that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do,” but did not mention anything concrete out of his chat. Bonus points for meeting with Zhang and issuing an executive order, which bumps his score up from a C to a B-.

Zhang likewise was blustering with a small sword. China will more than double financial support for UN efforts to address climate change in the southern hemisphere, announced Zhang, but there was no pledge to the Green Climate Fund, the main money pot for developing countries to combat climate change. (It is debated whether China, technically a developing country, ought to contribute to this fund. China says no. Developed countries differ.) China is aiming to reach a carbon peak as soon as possible, Zhang said, remarking on its existing policy to cut emissions intensity — emissions per unit of GDP — by 40%-45% by 2020 from 2005 levels. There was no new pledge on emissions cuts. Bonus points for meeting with Obama and announcing something, bumping China’s score to a C+.

India did not commit to new targets. India’s minister of environment and forests Prakash Javadekar did say that his country will aim for a doubling of its wind and solar power by 2020. Come on, C.

The EU announced that it will slash its emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, though this proposal will not be ratified by its 28 member states before October 2014 at the earliest, if then. Hey, it’s something! A-

President Francois Hollande, as host of the December 2015 UN summit in Paris, said France would contribute $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund. Germany has already allocated $1 billion, while South Korea, Switzerland, Denmark, Mexico and Luxembourg are pledging amounts from a few million dollars to $100 million. A- all around.

The private sector was out in a big way at the summit, as well as prior to the summit. Before the summit, a group of more than 350 global institutional investors called for carbon pricing and aggressive measures to fund low-carbon technologies. High-profile philanthropies, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, announced that they are divesting a total of $50 billion from fossil fuels.

At the summit, several CEOs, including from Saudi Aramco, Chinese state giant Sinopec and France’s GDF Suez, attended a lunch with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Young Kim. A lot of them, including Norway’s Statoil and Royal Dutch Shell, voiced support for carbon pricing, with Statoil’s head Helge Lund saying that it would be a “powerful” incentive for oil and gas firms to bring down emissions. Many firms have adopted carbon prices of $40 per ton or so already for internal planning purposes — Statoil’s is $50/ton — but that’s far above current levels: EU carbon prices are around $8/ton and prices in carbon markets elsewhere are averaging $10-$20/ton.

The companies also announced a number of initiatives for creating a global standard on emissions reduction and for setting best practices on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and gas flaring. A good start, private sector. A-

Now, the moment you have been waiting for. A very Helpful and Discerning Guide to Select NY Ramen Houses.

Ramen houses have become my New York tradition in the past year, because despite my cravings for the opague, porky broth, I am loathe to stand four hours in line at Toki Underground in DC. It is decent, but not that good. I remember my main beef with it, when I did manage to snag a seat during a downpour last year, was that it was too salty. In fact, all the ramen places I’ve tried in New York are also too salty. Come on, American purveyors of ramen, cut back the salt – it makes one think you’re masking a lack of depth and richness in the broth. If your broth be good, then let the true beauty shine.

(Alas if it only didn’t take an entire day on a stove to make proper ramen broth at home. That said, I like ramen, and obviously I’m still happy to get a steaming bowl where I can.)

But on to the ratings.

Totto – been to both locations around 52 St. Tonkotsu, spicy – Awesome and hits the spot, but broth could still be creamier. And I have to get cash, because no credit card. This is a limiting factor! A- for original location, B+ for second location

Ippudo – I got the Akamaru Modern that everyone seems to recommend. It’s supposed to be super rich. I’ve had richer. And too salty. Egg is good though. So is the hirata milk dessert, good for sharing. B for ramen, A for dessert

Hide-Chan – Yay little drops of pork fat float on the top. But still too salty. Egg also good. I got curly noodles, medium done which I thought were somewhat firm. I wonder how firm the firm noodles are. I may opt for straight noodles next time, if I go again. B

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