Al Gore counsels against ‘despair’ amid fears climate talks will collapse

Failure would send a ‘disastrous message... It would be suicidal,’ says UN chief

Former US vice president Al Gore criticised  the three big oil and gas producing countries including the US as they were ‘at least temporality unwilling to contribute to the progress we need in policy’.  Photograph: Agencja Gazeta/Grzegorz Celejewski/via Reuters

Former US vice president Al Gore criticised the three big oil and gas producing countries including the US as they were ‘at least temporality unwilling to contribute to the progress we need in policy’. Photograph: Agencja Gazeta/Grzegorz Celejewski/via Reuters

 

Former US vice president Al Gore arrived at the UN climate change talks on Wednesday to underline the cost of failing to implement joint actions, and in the process sought to inject hope into stalled negotiations.

Last year, it was a Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron duet performance that succeeded in getting the talks back on track at the exact same stage of the summit in Bonn. This year, heads of heavyweight states were notably absent, and Mr Gore stepped up to try to fill the gap.

He told delegates they faced “the single most important moral choice that humanity has ever faced”.

“The Paris agreement gives us hope. It still gives me hope,” he declared, but he repeatedly stressed the need for urgency: “We do not have time for despair. We can’t afford the luxury of feeling discouraged. Too much is at stake.”

He outlined how an unstoppable “sustainability revolution” had already begun including a trillion dollar building retro-fitting industry empowered by digital tools, “but it’s not fast enough to solve the climate crises”.

Public support – “grassroots uprisings all over the world” – technology, the moral authority and solutions were all in place. “We need policies. We need to stop subsidising the destruction of the world,” he roared.

He cited the three big oil and gas producing countries, including the US, which were “at least temporality unwilling to contribute to the progress we need in policy”.

Mr Gore’s rallying call was strongly echoed by UN secretary-general António Guterres who returned to the talks inan attempt to secure a meaningful agreement by calling on countries to “make compromises and sacrifices” in tackling global warming.

He made the appeal amid fears that COP24 might collapse without an agreement on key issues.

Mr Guterres told ministers and senior negotiators from 193 signatory countries to the Paris agreement that they should consider the fate of future generations.

Failure would send a “disastrous message”, he added. “This is the time for political compromises to be reached. This means sacrifices, but it will benefit us all collectively.”

“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal,” Mr Guterres said.

Earlier, Ralph Regenvanu, foreign minister of the south Pacific Ocean country of Vanuatu, told Reuters technical negotiators were exhausted and had almost given up.

The UN and the EU believes China could play a stronger role in the absence of leadership from the US in advancing the talks and in helping to ensure countries all follow the same rules in being transparent over their carbon emissions under the Paris agreement rulebook.

NGOs including Climate Action Network Europe warned of the risks of failure and accused powerful players such as the EU of not pushing hard enough to reach an agreement.

“A new leadership must step up,” said Vanessa Perez-Cirera of the environmental group WWF. “We cannot afford to lose one of the 12 years we have remaining.”

She was referring to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which suggested average global warming could only be halted at 1.5 degrees if urgent action was taken by 2030.

Jean-Pascal Ypersele, a former IPCC deputy chair said whether or not countries believed the conclusions of the report was irrelevant because the science was clear. “Nobody, even the so-called superpowers, can negotiate with the laws of physics.”

Poland, which is chairing the talks, circulated a condensed draft text on Wednesday running to about 100 pages, down from about 300 at the start of the talks. But it has come in for criticism for not addressing its own high dependency on coal.

Jennifer Morgan, head of Greenpeace, said current drafts contained too many loopholes to be effective, including how countries calculate the amount of emissions absorbed by trees when submitting their reports.