It looks like Al Gore is already making good on his promise to “[build] support for the bold changes that we have to make to solve the climate crisis.” In a recent visit to the UN climate talks in Poznan, Poland, Gore warned that even the most ambitious existing targets would be unable to hold temperature rise to safe levels, and called for a new global goal of limiting carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm), according to the Guardian. (Essentially, Gore is echoing the similar calls of other activists like Bill McKibben and climate scientists like James Hansen.) Currently, the levels are already more than 380 ppm, up from 280 ppm before the industrial revolution.
Said Gore, “I call on the people of the world to speak up more forcefully. We need to focus clearly and unblinkingly on this crisis rather than spending so much time on OJ Simpson, Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith.”
You tell ‘em, Al!
Gore also advised that world leaders meet several times over the next few months to help make sure that a new global pact on climate change is established at a UN meeting in Copenhagen next year, though some are skeptical that a deal will be reached at this time. This deal will take effect once the Kyoto Protocol (which the US never signed) expires in 2012.
The Guardian hailed Gore’s speech as a “rare show of ambition at the Poznan talks, which are edging towards the low-level achievements predicted at the start by negotiators.”
Speaking of low-level achievements, today was also a big day for European Union leaders, who just reached a deal on an agenda to help curb global emissions. The EU’s so-called 20-20-20 plan, which will cut greenhouse gases by at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, will hopefully resuscitate new life into the UN climate talks in Poznan, which are ending today. Unfortunately, many critics are crying fowl before the ink has even dried on the deal, claiming that too many concessions were made in order to reach an agreement and that these concessions will lessen the package’s long-term impact. As a result, we’re betting that Gore’s speech may have had just a little more effect on the Poznan talks than the EU’s plans.
Nevertheless, the 20-20-20 target is notable in that it signals the EU’s intent to set a global example on sharing the heavy burden of combating climate change. According to this BBC article, the plan also calls for a 20 percent increase in use of renewable energy by 2020 and a 20 percent cut in energy consumption through improved energy efficiency by 2020. Not bad, considering that it will (hopefully) be a warm-up to the measures that will be agreed to in Copenhagen next year.
The silver lining in all this is that because the EU targets are so blasé, it’s more likely they’ll be approved by the European Parliament and become law. And with the countdown to Bush still just a little too far away, we at Plenty will take all the good news we can get.
Story by Jessica A Knoblauch. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December, 2008.