WASHINGTON (AFP) — Former US vice president Al Gore called Wednesday for urgent new US leadership on climate change, "reversing years of inaction," and paving the way to a new global treaty completed by 2010.
Gore urged US lawmakers to quickly pass President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package, highlighting its environmental investments as "a down payment" on clean energy and a job-creating boon amid a paralzying recession.
"How can we afford not to do this?" the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Oscar winner, who jokingly called himself "a recovering politician," told the packed hearing room of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"In order to repower our economy, restore American economic and moral leadership in the world and regain control of our destiny, we must take bold action now," Gore declared.
The committee chairman, Democratic Senator John Kerry, had asked Gore to help map the way through year-long negotiations leading to global climate change treaty talks in December in Copenhagen.
With the lights dimmed, Gore made a dramatic keynote presentation of 57 slides, featuring vanishing polar ice caps, melting glaciers, grim droughts, devastating deforestation, and apocalyptic future costs of inaction.
"This is the one challenge that could completely end human civilization," he said, urging lawmakers to reject "false choices" between the American lifestyle and fighting global warming.
Gore also underlined that major developing countries like China must shoulder their share of any burdens emerging from the Copenhagen talks, which aim at crafting a treaty replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
"This treaty must be negotiated this year. Not next year. This year," said the former vice president.
If Congress "acts right away" to pass Obama's stimulus plan and "takes decisive action this year" to cap carbon emissions, the US delegation to the Danish capital will enjoy "renewed authority to lead the world in shaping a fair and effective treaty," said the former vice president.
"A fair, effective and balanced treaty will put in place the global architecture that will place the world -- at long last and in the nick of time -- on a path toward solving the climate crisis and securing the future of human civilization," he said.
Gore praised Obama's stimulus plan for including environment-friendly items such as investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy grid improvements and a shift to "clean cars."
"These crucial investments will create millions of new jobs and hasten our economic recovery -- while strengthening our national security and beginning to solve the climate crisis," said Gore.
The high-profile appearance came as Democratic lawmakers, bolstered by their broad majorities in Congress and new control of White House, have signaled they will take a more aggressive role in battling climate change than under Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush.
Obama on Monday signed measures to encourage production of fuel-efficient cars and vowing to lead the fight against global warming.
In another sign of change, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton picked a veteran of the Kyoto Protocol talks as her envoy for climate change, as world leaders target a historic global warming pact this year.
Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 dealing a blow to global climate change efforts, warning it would deal damage the US economy and could not work unless global efforts imposed pollution limits on rising powers such as China and India.
The Clinton administration agreed the Protocol in 1997 but never submitted it for ratification by the Senate -- where a 95-0 vote before it was finalized found not one senator willing to sign on to its principles.
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