Dialogue with Mr. Al Gore

“As human beings, we are vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable. In our everyday experience, if something has never happened before, we are generally safe in assuming it is not going to happen in the future, but the exceptions can kill you and climate change is one of those exceptions.” -Al Gore

Albert Arnold “Al” Gore, Jr. is an American politician and environmentalist who served as the 45th Vice President of the United States from 1993 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton. He is well known for his work on environmental issues. On December 10, 2007, Al Gore was awarded as a Nobel Prize winner, for his unwavering dedication in combating global warming.

I believe everyone who are involved in climate change or environment activism have heard of his name. Yesterday, I had the privilege to attend a dialogue with Mr. Al Gore, along with other observer organizations. It was a day filled with wisdom, hopes and possibilities.

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During his opening speech, he was pleased that the role of civil society in COP21 is the strongest among all the conferences he attended. In fact, the civil society have grown to be more engaged and representative over the years. Al Gore emphasized that it is immoral to continue emitting carbon emission and let the rest of the world suffer due to one’s actions. Private sectors, states and governments (delegates) must take the lead in curbing climate change.

Al Gore also provided insights on how the United States of America takes up rapid progress in curbing climate change despite the differences in political power. Seventy-eight percent of electric utilities that was built in the U.S in 2015 were powered by solar and wind energy. By shifting conventional energy to renewable energy, it will eventually open up possibilities for electrification of transportation. This idea could be adopted by our home country, Malaysia in the near future too. During the dialogue, there was a question asked on how to create and facilitate a soft landing in stranded assets. Many are concerned that if the environment wins the game, fossil fuel will be a total game over. All assets that are regards to fossil fuel and other finite resources will be devalued or converted to liabilities. Al-Gore replied that in order to avoid hard landing, divestment should start now but not later. People should start to discontinue in investing “hard” assets. Furthermore, he believes that the top agenda item after COP21, will be on the accessibility of green money/fund.

Al Gore also expressed his hope that green credit or funds that is affordable to be established. His hope resonates with me. Renewable energy is an excellent investment because there is minimal, in fact, almost no marginal cost aside from capital cost. Traditional energy requires the burning of fossil fuel (margin cost) to generate energy, whereas renewable energy such as solar energy does not undergo any burning, or chemical process that emits undesired side product. it is no doubt that job opportunities need to be opened to all renewable energy sector!

One of the civil society representative expressed her concern on the hard life of Arctic-ian due to climate change, fossil fuel extraction and land intrusion. Al Gore understood the challenges faced by the natives. At the same time, he expressed his gratitude to civil society for their effort in stopping the progress of drilling fossil fuel in Arctic. For those who are not aware, the smoke emitted from various industries, whether transboundary or local, is dispersed into the atmosphere, leading to the formation of black snow. Dark objects have the tendency to absorb more heat. In other words, black snow accelerate the melting process of Arctic ice. This amplifies the impact of climate change. In regard to this issue, Al Gore hopes, wishes, pledges and wants the Arctic to become a fossil fuel free and intrusion free country. My first thought after his speech: There is hope for polar bears!

On top of these, there is also a question related to how civil society can play an active role in COP. Al Gore answer is relatively straightforward. He urged the civil society to lobby their own government and provide assistance if necessary. Furthermore, youth in the room were also actively involved in the dialogue. Their questions were similar, revolving around the concern of how youth can be taken as real stakeholders, to have their voice projected and heard. In response to this, Al Gore gave his assurance to the youth that young people have been the vanguard of reformation. He advises the youth on 3 different approaches. Firstly, YOU-th need to become an activist and at the same time, win the conversation in climate change. Determination and persistence is the key to it. Next, YOU-th should embark and embrace on becoming the shifter for green and sustainable technology. YOU-th possess high consumer power and the market depend on such demand as well. Thirdly, YOU-th should actively involved in political process. Despite the external changes, such as pressure from NGOs and private sectors, change within the system is crucial and indispensable.

“Political will itself is a renewable resources”. Mr. Al Gore ended his speech with this meaningful quote that struck a responsive chord with his audience. He believed that all problems can be overcome if climate crisis is resolved. We should all learn from leaders like Al Gore. I have so much respect for this man, who took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to a country’s economic growth and environmental protection, including the improvements in educational system. He worked to try to improve the quality of life, not just in the U.S, but in a world that we all share.

Written by: Thomas

Edited by: Merryn

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