The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is under fire from the EU for being protectionist, but former U.S. Vice President and current climate campaigner Al Gore defended the legislation as a “truly historic accomplishment.”
“It’s by far the most significant climate legislation ever passed by any country and in all of history,” he said at POLITICO’s Sustainable Future Summit, adding that “it took a great deal of political acumen on the part of President Joe Biden and the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to get it done.”
Last August, Washington announced the $369 billion industrial subsidy scheme to support low-carbon businesses. However, the law mandates that a lot of key technology — like batteries used in electric cars — has to be made in North America, throwing European leaders into panic over the economic implications for their domestic industries.
But for Gore, the U.S. effort should act as a catalyst for other nations — and the EU — to take even bolder climate steps in a bid “to match what the U.S. has done.”
He noted how the bloc’s proposal to set up a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism to mitigate the risk of carbon leakage is rooted in the same ideology; the EU’s carbon border tax has been critiqued by the bloc’s partners for potentially violating global trading rules.
Gore also took a poke at the EU for including natural gas in its new definition of renewable technologies for investors, saying he was “disappointed” that the fuel made it into the so-called taxonomy.
He called it a “widespread myth” that natural gas — which he insisted on calling “fossil gas” — is cleaner than coal, noting that if methane leaks along the production chain are included, then the gas is even more harmful to the climate than coal.
Gore’s remarks come as the U.S. and the EU face an escalating trade spat over the green subsidies adopted by Washington. French President Emmanuel Macron will fly to Washington on Tuesday evening in the hopes of persuading Biden to listen to European concerns and avoid a trade war.
Gore has become one of the world’s most active voices on the dangers of climate change — warning darkly that polluting industries were “using the troposphere as an open sewer” and that the “survival of our civilization is potentially at risk.”
He’s in charge of a $36 billion investment fund targeting companies that contribute to lowering emissions. That fund is a tiny fraction of the world’s financing needs — something he estimated at an “urgently needed” $45 trillion.
Despite the gloom of rapidly accelerating climate change, Gore remained optimistic that if the world gets serious about hitting net-zero targets by mid-century, the planet can avoid the worst effects of global warming.
He noted that last year, 90 percent of all new power-generating installations were renewable, that a new space-based project he’s involved with will allow the monitoring of every significant source of greenhouse gas emissions by the end of next year, and that if the world stops pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, temperature increases could end in as little as three years.
“It’s always impossible until it’s done,” Gore said.
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