The world’s governments will meet in Copenhagen in December to hammer out a new global climate deal. But Al Gore, speaking on Wednesday at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York, said success hinges on the U.S. Senate’s progress on legislation that would limit the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. “The road to Copenhagen goes through the U.S. Senate,” Gore said.
The United States must play a crucial role in the Copenhagen negotiations but in order for that to happen, President Obama must go there with a credible bargaining position, the former U.S. Vice President said. To do that, the U.S. Senate must pass climate legislation, even if the House and Senate haven’t worked out differences between their proposed bills by the time of the international meeting. The House passed climate legislation in the summer that would put in place a nationwide cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gasses, but the Senate is still debating its version of the bill.
With all the attention being paid to health care and the economy, however, there’s a real chance that the Senate might not vote on the bill before the end of the year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested as much to reporters last week.
The U.S. bill contains what Gore calls the most crucial step for mitigating climate change: putting a price on carbon. Gore said he’s participated in more than 30 “solution summits” over the last three years to identify the best ideas for stopping climate change, and pricing carbon was the single most important solution that has emerged.
Beyond putting a price on carbon in the U.S., Gore said the world needs to move toward “sustainable capitalism” in general, which would incorporate externalities, like pollution, into business models. Part of this new capitalism would be rethinking the way money is managed. “If people are paid to maximize earnings on a quarterly basis, that is what they’ll do,” Gore said, referring to business executives who put short-term profits ahead of long-term growth. Gore said capitalism is required to solve the “climate crisis,” but in order for businesses to be part of the solution they need to operate in a more sustainable manner.
Meanwhile, President Obama spoke on Tuesday at the U.N. summit in New York where he said the U.S. understands the gravity of climate change and is “determined to act.” But according to this report, some observers were disappointed that he didn’t call for Senate action on climate legislation.
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