[Update: following extraordinary scenes where the US contingent were booed by the rest of the delegates when it was announced they would reject the compromised plan, they performed a dramatic U-turn and have agreed to adopt the ‘road-map’ (wouldn’t ‘path way’ be greener?!). A huge relief. Now we just need some non-automobile metaphors :-]
Gore has given a truly stirring speech as he accepted his Nobel peace prize, offering a clarion call to the US to get on and start taking climate seriously. Good on him. Quoting Churchill – and if the world had to rise against fascism, it surely must rise in equal force to battle climate change – who said in ’38 of those vascillating about action,
"They go on in strange paradox, decided only be undecided, resolved only to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent"
He goes on to urge the world to forget about the US and press ahead, leaving a blank place for them to sign once
the muppet Bush is out of the way in a year or so…
I am not an official of the United States and I am not bound by the diplomatic niceties. So I am going to speak an inconvenient truth. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that. But my country is not the only one that can take steps to ensure that we move forward from Bali with progress and with hope.
Over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now. You must anticipate that. Just in the last few days, on the eve of this meeting, I have received more than 350,000 emails from Americans asking me to say to you: "We’re going to change in the United States of America."
During this upcoming two-year period there will be a national election in the United States. One year and 40 days from today there will be a new inauguration in the United States.
If you decide to continue the progress that has already been made here on all of the items other than the targets and timetables for mandatory reductions; on the hope (and with the expectation) that, before this process is concluded in Copenhagen, you will be able to fill in that blank (with the help of a different position from the United States) then you can make great progress here.
I think he is right. The rest of the world must press ahead if the US – and Canada and China – keep holding things back. He goes on:
Not too long from now, when our children assess what you did here in Bali, what we and our generation did here in this world, as they look backward at 2007, they will ask one of two questions.
They’ll look back, and either they will ask "What were you thinking? Didn’t you hear the IPCC four times unanimously warning the world to act? Didn’t you see the glaciers melting? Didn’t you see the deserts growing, and the droughts deepening, and the crops drying up? Didn’t you pay attention to what was going on? Didn’t you care? What were you thinking?"
Or they’ll ask a second question, one that I’d much prefer them to ask. I want them to look back on this time, and ask: "How did you find the moral courage to successfully address a crisis that so many said was impossible? How were you able to start the process that unleashed the moral imagination of humankind to see ourselves as a single, global civilisation?" And when they ask that question, I want you to tell them that you saw it as a privilege to be alive at a moment when a relatively small group of people could control the destiny of all generations to come.
Instead of shaking our heads at the difficulty of this task, and saying "Woe is us, this is impossible, how can we do this?", we ought to feel a sense of joy that we have work that is worth doing that is so important to the future of all humankind. We ought to feel a sense of exhilaration that we are the people alive at a moment in history when we can make all the difference.
I have a funny sense that we might look back on a speech like this as a classic. I hope so, for the right reasons: that it stirred people to action. If it is read in the future as a condemnation of our failure, it will be tragic indeed.