By Imelda V. Abano
MANILA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - World leaders must show their commitment to tackling global warming by signing the Paris climate agreement at a ceremony in April at the United Nations, climate change activist and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said.
Gore said there was a “tremendous push” for heads of government to formally ink the accord, to keep up momentum for the deal struck by around 195 countries in December and to avert the worst impacts of climate change on vulnerable nations.
“There is an overwhelming amount of hope that the Paris climate agreement could be a turning point towards a more resilient, low-carbon future,” Gore told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview. “While the deal is not enough by itself, it is a major step forward.”
At the Paris climate talks, governments agreed to limit global temperature rise to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5 degrees.
Segolene Royal, France's environment minister who recently took over as chair of the U.N.-led climate negotiations, has said that between 80 and 100 countries are expected to sign the agreement in New York on April 22.
The agreement is due to take effect in 2020, but requires at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions to ratify it first.
Gore, who was in Manila to lead training for more than 700 local advocates for climate action under an international program he launched in 2006, praised the efforts of countries at high risk of climate impacts that had pressed for the lower 1.5 degree cap in Paris, led by the Philippines.
“I certainly hope that we can meet that 1.5 degrees goal, and I am very grateful to the Philippines for helping to include that goal in the Paris agreement,” Gore said.
“Conventional economic analysis has convinced many people that it’s not a realistic goal,” he added.
But “non-conventional analysis that takes into account the unconventional dramatic change in renewable energy competitiveness has convinced others that actually we may have a chance to meet that goal,” he said.
The key is for countries to switch to renewable energy, Gore said. "With the Paris agreement, we send a signal to the business community that the way to a low-carbon future is going solar or wind or geothermal,” he said.
As more and more people become aware of the challenges posed by the "climate crisis", more legal changes can be expected that support action, he noted, citing moves by China to adopt a national carbon emissions trading scheme next year.
"If you and I had been told three or four years ago that China would have a nationwide cap-and-trade program, it would have been hard to believe - but they will, and many other countries are moving in the same direction.”
RICH "MUST DO MORE"
Philippine Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation his country would sign the Paris agreement in April.
The Philippines has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 70 percent from business as usual by 2030, conditional on international financial support, as part of the Paris deal.
"The agreement tells the world that human rights will be upheld, that the big and powerful have stood up for the small, poor and vulnerable, and that the world is determined to rise to this great challenge," de Guzman said.
The Paris accord promises $100 billion per year from 2020 to fund projects enabling vulnerable countries to adopt clean energy and adjust to the impacts of climate change such as rising seas and fiercer droughts, floods and storms.
Gore said rich nations “must do more in helping poor nations to adapt to the changing climate”.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was set up under the U.N. talks to support climate action in the developing world, "still needs to be completely funded and I will be among those working to make sure that it is”, Gore added.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who gave an hour-long presentation on climate disruption and its solutions in Manila this week, said there was “basis for genuine hope” that the world can curb climate change.
"It matters a lot how long it takes to prevail, because we are programming into the Earth's system a lot of distractive changes every day, so the sooner we make the transition, the less damage we will do," he said. "But I am filled with hope that we actually will win this struggle."
(Reporting by Imelda V. Abano; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)