Global climate talks are currently underway in Durban, South Africa. However, few are holding out hope for any serious progress towards forging an international treaty that would reduce worldwide carbon emissions worldwide. The negotiations have long been held hostage by a familiar dynamic: The United States (and now, Canada) says it won't agree to reduce its carbon pollution unless developing giants like China and India do, too.
This, of course, is primarily an excuse to validate inaction. The United States has been unable to pass meaningful emissions-reducing measures at home, and therefore has little actual leverage in the proceedings.
"Today the international negotiating session is opening in Durban, South Africa, former Vice President Al Gore said today. "The United States is, how can I say this without making news? Well, it's not really news. The United States is not a force for progress there, but rather, is one of the obstacles to progress there."
Gore was addressing a small audience at an exclusive 'Games for Change' salon organized by PSFK when he gave the remarks.
By failing to act at home, the United States is left in a perennially awkward position at climate talks. Indeed, it emerges time and again as the primary delayer of concerted action to mitigate global warming. Until the U.S., the largest historic polluter of greenhouse gas emissions by a wide margin, makes a significant effort to curtail its pollution, other nations too can justify inaction.
But Gore sees signs of hope outside the parameters of state-level climate policy.
"The world as a whole, at least at the governmental level, is really not doing very much to address this crisis," he said. "But at the social level, people all around the world are expressing a very strong conviction that we have to shift to low carbon technologies. We have to make our economies sustainable and not destructive to the ecosphere."
"And companies are making strategic plans to change the way they do business," he added.
The absence of leadership from the United States has indeed all but stymied a state-led approach to reducing worldwide emissions; the signs of hope now lie in improving clean energy technology and impassioned social movements to move the needle.