Stockholm (NordSIP) – As we are quickly approaching November and this year’s big climate summit, COP27 in Sharm el Sheik, a host of events compete to set the scene and prepare us for discussing in earnest climate’s most pressing issues. On 20 September, NordSIP tuned in to a climate conference organised by the New York Times, Climate Forward, featuring an impressive number of distinguished speakers.
To kick off the event, the organisers have, hardly surprisingly, chosen a conversation with Al Gore, the legendary former Vice President of the United States. The veteran environmentalist, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder and chairman of the Climate Reality Project does not disappoint. Embracing wholeheartedly the rather optimistic topic, Waves of Change: The Power of Positive Tipping Points, he delivers his message with customary clarity and eloquence.
The rule of holes
Gore is adamant that, at this point, we have plenty of tested and economically viable solutions to the climate crisis, all within easy reach. According to him, the world is indeed on the verge of a positive tipping point, and we can stop the planet from heating up further. “All we need to do is obey the simple rule of holes: stop digging if you are in one,” he jokes. It is, however, a race between solutions and the political actions necessary to implement those.
He does acknowledge that political will is still somewhat scarce. “It is a renewable resource, however,” he reminds us. To that end, the signature activist program that he leads, the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, has trained over 50,000 change makers worldwide since 2006. The enthusiasm of the students participating in the program is what gives him the most hope for the future. Some of them go on to run for office; others change their work as business leaders profoundly.
The geopolitics of climate
Commenting on the wave of authoritarianism sweeping across the world, Gore affirms that, in his opinion, democracy, respecting the people’s desires, is still a prerequisite to solving the climate crisis. He also believes we urgently need to revise our current version of capitalism and focus on long-term, multi-stakeholder profits.
Speaking respectfully of the enormous investments that China is making into climate solutions (by far the biggest globally), Gore points out that these are still not enough. “China needs to be much more ambitious,” he says, adding that he hopes the shift will happen, given the dire consequences of climate change that the country is currently experiencing.
The former VP doesn’t spare his words of appreciation for his successor, Joe Biden, and the Inflation Reduction Act that was passed recently. “It is a terrific law,” he exclaims, pointing out that the US has finally stepped up, climate-wise.
It is obvious that Gore is somewhat less impressed by the climate progress achieved by the World Bank. According to him, a change in top leadership there is a must. As the moderator points out that the president of the World Bank would be on stage shortly, the outspoken VP doesn’t rein in his criticism. “Tell him I said Hello. And tell him I said Goodbye!” he exclaims.
The myth of clean gas
Gore is deeply concerned by the fact that fossil fuel subsidies doubled in 2021, according to a recent report by OECD and IEA. New gas projects popping up all over the world are a huge concern to him. “It is a mythology that gas is cleaner than coal,” he points out. “Gas is the classic bridge to nowhere.”
Ending up on a more positive note, Gore claims that he is optimistic that we can prevail, but we need to work hard for it.
“And did I mention that there is an election coming up,” he finishes. (He did, by the way, at least three times throughout the conversation.)
 On stage later the same day, David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group, did not manage to disperse the lingering suspicions that he is a climate denialist and that the bank under his leadership is not doing enough to meet the climate challenge.