DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Climate campaigner Al Gore urged world policymakers on Thursday to change laws “not just light bulbs” in tackling global warming, and a UN official said world market turmoil must not be allowed to delay action.
An annual meeting of world political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, this year has scheduled a record number of sessions and workshops on global warming. But a sharp downturn on markets and fears of recession have dominated discussion.
“If we get distracted by the aberrations that you see in the financial market right now it would clearly be very unfortunate,” said Rajendra Pachauri, head of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Gore, in a swipe at U.S. President George W. Bush’s environmental record, said the election of a new president in November could only bring an improvement.
“In addition to changing the light bulbs, it is far more important to change the laws and to change the treaty obligations that nations have,” Gore told delegates, in apparent reference to what he sees as the Bush administration’s reluctance to initiate legislation on environmental control.
“Whoever is elected is going to have a different position and a better position. But let’s be clear: whoever the leaders are, this issue is going to be dealt with responsibly and effectively only when there is a sufficient degree of urgency on the part of the people themselves.”
Davos provides a rare opportunity for international business leaders and politicians to debate the means and the costs to economies and industry of reducing greenhouse gases believed to be accelerating global warming with its accompanying dangers of rising sea levels and climate change.
Nestle SA Chief Executive Peter Brabeck touched on one of the most sensitive ecological subjects at Davos, the production of biodiesel as an alternative “green” fuel from crops such as maize.
Brabeck said the drive for biofuels and industrial usage could severely deplete water resources. Action should be taken to create a market for water to drive conservation.
“It takes 9,000 liters of water to produce one liter of biodiesel. This strategy, which is not the right one, is backed by all major governments,” he told a panel at Davos.
The demand for biofuels in Europe and the United States has also contributed to pressures pushing the cost of maize and soya upwards as world food prices have hit record levels.
The head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation said in Davos the economic slowdown and possible recession in the United States and other rich countries would not have an impact on food prices, at least in the short term.
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told Reuters the fundamentals that have pushed food prices to records in recent months — climate change, emerging country demand, demand for biofuels and population growth — remained in place.
Writing by Ralph Boulton; editing by Sue Thomas