SYDNEY (AFP) – Climate campaigner Al Gore has challenged Australia to lead the fight against global warming, saying it was well placed to find alternative energy sources.
The former US vice president met Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Sydney to discuss progress on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reaching renewable energy targets ahead of a UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December.
"Australia is in the line of fire where the climate crisis is concerned, no nation is more vulnerable to the impact scientists have predicted," said Gore, at a joint press conference.
"And no nation has greater renewable energy resources and a greater capacity to develop alternative sources of energy and contribute to a solution for the climate crisis," he added.
Rudd, who was elected on a strongly pro-green platform in 2007 and ratified the Kyoto Protocol as his first act in office, said Gore was "absolutely right."
"Australia is the driest continent on Earth," Rudd said. "Therefore the impact of climate change here will be felt earlier and harder than in all other continents in the world, that's the bottom line.
"We have a huge national interest in action on climate change, which is as much environmental as it is economic."
Gore said he chose to be "optimistic about the possibility of a successful outcome at Copenhagen," and urged heads of state to meet personally ahead of the December summit to resolve the political impasse.
"We're making progress, there was a bit of progress at (the recent G8 summit in) L'Aquila and there's been progress here in Australia and in my country," said Gore.
Leaders of the G8 countries, which together account for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, last week set a goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels.
But they failed to spell out how they would achieve this vision or break a deadlock on helping emerging countries meet the climate challenge.
Rudd in May committed to cutting Australia's greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent of 2000 levels by 2020, up from five percent.
But he said the target would only apply if world leaders also signed up to an "ambitious" reduction goal in Copenhagen in December.