MADRID Ė Former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore described the United Nations climate summit in Madrid as a crucial opportunity to boost ambitions in the fight against the climate crisis but warned that a current lack of consensus in the international community could lead to failure.
In an interview with EFE, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner said he nonetheless held on to some hope that an agreement would be landed in the final crunch hours of the COP25, as is usually the case in his experience.
What do you expect from COP25?
Thereís a danger that this conference will not succeed, I hope it will and I hope that increased ambition will be adopted as a formal outcome and that it will set the stage for significant new progress in Glasgow (the host city for COP26 in 2020).
Next year is the first of the five year review periods after the Paris Agreement which means that countries are called upon to adopt higher ambition and steeper reductions. But this is a crucial preparatory step here in Madrid.
There is always danger in the final week of these conferences, so thatís not unusual. But I would say itís a bit more this year than usual.
Which countries are holding up negotiations at the conference?
Countries like Saudi Arabia are trying to block progress. They will not even endorse the science. And theyíre demanding to be paid for any reduction in their oil output.
And there are some others, Brazil is demanding dishonest accounting, double-counting of emissions reductions, theyíre the only country making such a demand.
And I could go through a list of other difficulties but I want to say again that itís not unusual to have uncertainty and risk in the final week and it is common for the progress to be made in the final day.
Sometimes the final day is two or three days long with an overtime period.
What are the risks of failing to act on the climate crisis?
Weíre not solving this crisis anywhere nearly rapidly enough. We must do more, quickly. Itís difficult to overstate the danger weíre facing from these emissions of global warming pollution.
Itís an absurd situation, weíre trapping as much extra heat in the Earthís system every day as would be released by 500,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every day. Itís insane.
More than 90 percent of it is going into the ocean, but that doesnít mean it stays in the ocean, it comes back to the places where we live in the form of these huge downpours and the kinds of floods that Spain has experienced very recently.
The hurricanes and cyclones and typhoons that are getting worse around the world, the rising seas, the spread of tropical diseases like Dengue and Zika into areas where hundreds of millions of people live. These and other consequences, including climate refugees. We could see, according to the experts, 1 billion climate refugees during this century, and itís already begun.
And the absurdity of our situation is enhanced when we recognize that the solutions are available to us right now, we have them. But the fossil fuel companies are using their political power and campaign contributions and lobbying and revolving door system to slow down the changes that are desperately needed.
What kind of solutions are at hand to combat the climate crisis?
Europe along with every other part of the world should stop subsidizing fossil fuels, should give more support for a rapid transition to renewable electricity, a rapid transition to electric cars and trucks, to regenerative agriculture, to much higher levels of efficiency and recycling in industry and to more building efficiency to reduce the emissions for inefficient buildings.
The United States has begun the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, whatís your view on Donald Trumpís stance?
Donald Trump is an outlier in almost every respect. But there is a common misunderstanding about his announcement that the US wishes to leave the Agreement; under the law, he cannot do that until the first day after the next presidential election, 11 months from now.
So, this decision is in the hands of the American voters and if a new president is elected, that president could give 30 days notice and the US would reenter the Paris Agreement.
What is Greta Thunbergís role in the COP25?
Iím a big admirer of Greta Thunberg. I think that she has an extraordinary ability to inspire people and articulate difficult truths about our situation and I have nothing but admiration for her work.
I donít think itís a fad, I donít think itís a passing fashion. I think this is the beginning of a growing movement by young people all around the world.
I see it in my country, I see it in every country. And again, these young people are absolutely right, theyíre telling us the truth.
Weíre not solving this crisis anywhere nearly rapidly enough. We must do more, quickly.
Itís difficult to overstate the danger weíre facing from these emissions of global warming pollution.