Monday, December 15, 2008

Al Gore: World cares more about Paris Hilton than saving the planet

By Louise Gray and Bruno Waterfield

Al Gore gave a rousing speech at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland
Al Gore gave a rousing speech at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland Photo: EPA

As key international talks on climate change drew to a close in Poland with little progress on a global deal and anger against the EU for failing to lead the way on targets, the Nobel Prize winner attempted to get efforts to stop global warming back on track.

In a rousing speech to hundreds of delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan, the former US Presidential candidate echoed President-elect Barack Obama in calling for change.

"It is wrong for this generation to destroy the habitability of the planet and ruin the prospects of every future generation. That realisation must carry us forward. Our children have a right to hold us to a high standard when the future of all human kind is hanging in the balance."

The star of the Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth called for global targets to cut carbon emissions to be toughened to take account of new scientific evidence that claims the world is warming faster than expected. He called for world leaders to meet regularly over the next year until they achieve a binding agreement on climate change.

Mr Gore said the celebrity-obsessed world had lost its way.

"The political systems of the developed world have become sclerotic. We have to overcome the paralysis that has prevented us from acting and focus clearly and unblinkingly on this crisis rather than spending so much time on OJ Simpson, Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith."

But he was optimistic that Obama's idea of a new "green deal" would be copied all around the world.

"Once he [Obama] is president, the US will engage vigorously in theses negotiations and help to lead the world towards a new era on global co-operation on climate change."

It could be the only hope for a deal on climate change after the EU watered down its target to cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 according to environmental groups.

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, hailed the "historic" agreement that will force the EU to cut emissions but protects the interests of different countries by giving allowances for important industries like coal and aluminium.

However environmental groups said it was a failure for letting these highly polluting industries continue and because two thirds of the cuts could be made by buying carbon "offsets" from abroad.

Traditionally the EU has always led the way on climate change and the perceived fudging of targets, cast doubt over the conference in Poland.

The talks mark the half way point between Bali, where the world agreed that a deal needs to be made on climate change, and Copenhagen, when an agreement must be made to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

But after two weeks of meetings the world has yet to decide the targets needed to keep temperature rises below two degrees centigrade.

Although there has been some progress on setting up an adaptation fund to help poorer nations cope with climate change and halting deforestation, there was also disappointment on the failure to commit more cash to the huge investment needed in new low carbon technologies and other measures to help slow global warming.

Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said progress had been made where possible and was hopeful of the US coming on board.

"The world has to raise its game if it is to reach an agreement next year, there is no question we have to up the pace, " he said. "[But] I am optimistic."

However the Tearfund was so disappointed the charity said the £23 million spent organising the conference could have been better spent going directly to poorer nations.

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