Former US Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore has been spreading the message of climate change, but his own country the United States, which is the world’s second largest polluter, has failed to pass a law to fight global warming. He spoke to Chetan Chauhan on wide range of issues including the US's failure on this front.
Who do you blame for the failure of Copenhagen climate conference?
It was a collective failure on part of the global leaders. For me, the biggest disappointment was my own country (United States). Had they passed the climate legislation, the end result of Copenhagen climate conference could have been different. There would have been dramatic chances of success of the summit. I wouldn't like to single out the villain.
What is the reason that US has failed to pass the law even after Copenhagen?
A strong lobby serving particular interests. It was an important policy challenge. The House of Representatives passed the law but the government failed to get it through the senate. It was a big setback.
What is the way to get US climate law back on track?
We all will have to redouble our efforts. We will have to build strong grass root support to overcome opposition to the climate law by special interest groups. People will have to be made more aware about the dangerous impact of climate change and their voice can bring about the change at the policy level.
You have spoken about a price on carbon to fight climate change. Can you elaborate?
There are several options available. One can be carbon tax and another incentive to cap carbon emissions. It should be a democratic process in which the market forces will have to play an important role. It is all about demand and supply. We will have to think about consequences on earth and the solution is not possible without involving the market. They have to be a part of the solution.
There has been a lot of talk about the numerous impact of climate change. But not much has been done on adaptation. Do you agree that the rich countries have not provided much of the funds to help poorer nations to adapt to combat the consequences?
Adaptation has been an important part of climate solution. Since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the accepted formula has been assistance by wealthier nations to the poor. It meant financial pledges made by rich countries to help the poor. I don’t know whether the actual aid was less than what had been pledged. To me, it was one of the objectives of the Copenhagen climate summit. Some commitments were made and it is time to follow them up at next summit in Cancun. The need for adaptation is growing as evident from recent floods in Pakistan or drought in Russia and its cost is also growing.
What is your message for Cancun climate summit?
There should be meaningful progress on several issues including forestry and finance mechanism for adaptation as I referred earlier.
How can individuals contribute to fight the climate change?
Some sensible choices like using more energy efficient light bulbs, more insulation and adopting less carbon consuming technologies can help. But, the bigger change will come at the policy level by the politicians. Leaders will have to become political activists and go at the grass root levels to speed up the process of fighting global warming.