By Matthew Knott in Copenhagen

In an impassioned attempt to save the UNFCC process from bogging down indefinitely, Al Gore today demanded world leaders commit to signing a legally-binding treaty by July next year, not the end of 2010 as has been flagged previously.

And in a move destined to ignite debate in the US, Gore also called on Barack Obama to make climate change a top priority in the new year and pressure the senate into passing climate change legislation by April. This would provide the type of certainty on US reduction targets that has held back progress at Copenhagen.

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The emotional speech was a return to form for the former US Vice President who made an embarrassing slip up yesterday when he claimed that the Artic could be completely free of ice within five years – a claim, it turns out, devoid of any scientific basis.

Gore told the packed crowd at the Bella Centre that if negotiations on a new treaty are not finished within the first half of next year the momentum that has been built up in the lead up to Copenhagen will fizzle out, potentially leaving talks stalled for years.

“We can not afford for Copenhagen to turn into another Doha,” Gore said in reference to the deadlocked free-trade talks. “I do not believe we can wait until next November or December.”


The Inconvenient Truth star said those environmentalists hoping for failure in Copenhagen, in the belief that it will lead to the signing of a stronger treaty in the future, are mistaken.

“We have to crawl before we can walk,” he said, pointing to the Montreal Protocol´s success in reducing ozone-depleting substances despite targets that were initially criticised as too weak.

“This meeting is crucial; it must be a turning point…The future of our civilisation is at stake like never before.”

Gore said there were two keys to getting the runaway Copenhagen negotiations back on track in the final days:

  • Big new offers of financial assistence from developed countries to help poorer nations pay for mitigation and adaption efforts. These must be more than simply re-packaged aid deals or assisting agreements
  • All nations – including emerging economies such as China – commit to making their emission reduction pledges open to scrutiny by the international community (MRV, or “Monitoring, Reporting and Verification” in UNFCC lingo).

Gore got a standing ovation at the end of his speech when he invoked the wrath of generations yet to be born if today´s leaders do not take courageous action to bring emissions down.

“They would be justified of asking of us: ‘Who are you?’  ‘Didn´t you care?’ ‘Didn’t you feel any concern for us?'”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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