Glasgow climate talks must mark a new era for humanity, says Al Gore

US former vice-president backs rewildling and reveals ‘high hopes’ for Joe Biden on environment

Jane Dalton
Wednesday 09 December 2020 16:50
Mr Gore advocated mixing grazing and tree cover on farmland
Mr Gore advocated mixing grazing and tree cover on farmland
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The world’s largest greenhouse gas-producing countries should ratchet up their targets for cutting emissions at next year’s climate conference, former US vice-president Al Gore has said.

All eyes will be on Glasgow, which is hosting the UN Cop26 talks, he said, hoping the event will mark “a new era, with humanity finally going serious” about solving the climate emergency - “this existential threat to our existence”.

Mr Gore, a climate writer and chairman of the Climate Reality Project, said he hoped nations would not just fulfil their Paris Agreement obligations to cut carbon output, but also increase their ambitions, including encouraging rewilding.

He also told a UK online webinar on the biodiversity crisis of his optimism that Joe Biden will bring “real leadership” on the climate.

“My main hope for Cop26 is that all the large emitting countries will respond to the mandatory provisions of the Paris Agreement,” he said. “That they review and ratchet and increase their ambitions to make much larger commitments - and they should be able to do so because of advances in technology that make it much easier.”

Referring to all countries’ failure to meet UN biodiversity targets, he said: “This is a critical moment in time,” and the world could not go on treating the atmosphere “like an open sewer”, leaving up to half of land-based species and fish at risk of extinction this century.

With human interference in nature, zoonotic diseases had quadrupled in 50 years, and increasing animal migration to the poles, forced by rising temperatures, was spreading zoonotic pathogens.

But there was hope, he said - the world was in the early stages of a “global sustainability revolution”, and businesses that had made the boldest and biggest environmental changes early were already seeing the biggest gains, he said.

“Of course, the political lobbying power in networks of fossil fuel companies have in many countries been very effective in slowing down the needed progress. But the advantages in moving quickly are now much greater than they were in the past.”

The Nobel peace prize winner pointed to an Oxford study that found money spent on renewable energy and other sustainability solutions would create three times as many jobs as money spent in the “older, dirty sectors of the economy”.

He also hailed fundamental changes to farming as a solution. “We can plant another trillion or 2 trillion trees, but even more significant and needed greatly is the adoption of regenerative agricultural techniques with a sharp reduction in the amount of ploughing and reliance on the chemical farming and instead begin to build up soil carbon,” Mr Gore said.

“We face losing so much topsoil in the world, and the way to save it is to keep roots in the soil, to use diverse cover crops, use agroforestry and silvopasture [having trees and grazing livestock on the same land].”  

"If land use change was measured as a nation, it would be the third largest CO2 emitter behind the US and China. "

Giving farmers credits in return for building up soil carbon, together with rewildling, would “have great benefits for saving species”.  

“I’m very optimistic that Joe Biden is going to bring real leadership. In his campaign he had by far the most ambitious climate plan ever in a presidential campaign in the US,” Mr Gore told the webinar, hosted by the On the Edge conservation group.  

“President-elect Biden has made the complete decarbonisation of the US electricity grid by 2035 the centrepiece of his economic plan.

“His proposals on climate have received the highest support in public opinion polls of any public policies discussed so it’s not only that we have high hopes for his leadership, but high hopes that he will be supported in his efforts to get the congress to go along with these proposals, because we have crossed a tipping point in that young people are leading all of us toward much more ambition.

“But all eyes will be on Glasgow less than a year from now – this is actually when we will determine that the tipping point has been crossed and that we are beginning a new era, with humanity finally going serious about solving this existential threat to our existence.”

The will to act was a renewable resource, he said.

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