Friday, 4 December 2009

Copenhagen targets not tough enough, says Al Gore

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

Even if a deal is reached at the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen next week it will only be the first step towards the far more radical cuts that are needed in global carbon emissions, Al Gore, the former US Vice-President, told The Times last night.
Mr Gore said that to avoid the worst ravages of climate change world leaders would have to come together again to set more drastic reductions than those now planned.
“Even a final treaty will have to set the stage for other tougher reductions at a later date,” he said. “We have already overshot the safe levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.”
He insisted that the present goal set for Copenhagen of stabilising world emissions of carbon dioxide at or below 450 parts per million — enough to prevent a rise in average global temperatures of no more than 2C — was insufficient and a safer target would be 350 parts per million.

“Are we doing enough? The answer is obviously no — 450 is not the right target. But it is presently seen as beyond the capacity of governments around the world. We are stretching the capacity of governments even to hit a 450 target.”
“We are gambling with the future of human civilisation in accepting odds that by any definition make our present course reckless . . . But it’s still the most likely path to success.”
Speaking from San Francisco, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and veteran climate campaigner also raised the pressure on President Obama to offer more stringent cuts in US emissions than the present offer of a 17 per cent reduction by 2020.
Mr Gore said that figure from the US, the world’s second-biggest carbon polluter, was “weaker than it should be” although he expressed sympathy for the challenges that Mr Obama faces in driving tough carbon regulation through a resistant House of Representatives. He said: “I’m glad that he is putting reduction targets on the table. I wish that they were stronger but I recognise the difficulties he faces in the Senate.”
Mr Gore also threw his weight behind calls for a system of international carbon taxes in order to slash fossil-fuel consumption although he warned that huge political obstacles existed to this which meant that it would be many years before such a system could be applied globally.
He said that a system of carbon emissions trading was a more realistic first step on this path and rejected criticism from James Hansen, the pioneering climate change scientist at Nasa, who has condemned both Mr Gore and the Copenhagen meeting for their focus on carbon markets as a solution to climate change.
Mr Gore said: “The correct policy response will include both of these powerful tools. But the degree of political difficulty associated with a carbon tax is a degree of difficulty much higher than the cap and trade approach.”
He also brushed aside questions over the reliability of climate science that have followed the publication last month of leaked e-mails between climate experts. He claimed that the scientific consensus around climate change “continues to grow from strength to strength”. He added: “The naysayers are in a sunset phase with a spectacular climax just before they subside from view. This is a race between common sense and unreality.”