The former US vice president and founder of The Climate Reality Project Al Gore, made the case for developing countries like India and South Africa to join the movement to shift to renewable energy sources like solar and win energy and help combat climate change. He was speaking at The Cannes Debate, alongside WPP CEO and founder Sir Martin Sorrell.
Asked specifically by Sorrell to respond to the stand of Indian energy minister Piyush Goyal (and his South African counterparts), Gore said, "Places like India should not want to repeat the mistakes of the West."
He countered the contention that countries like USA have been using coal to fuel industrialisation for much longer, while advocating restraint and change among developing countries. He reasoned that the sustainable energy sources and technology available today were not available earlier, and must be made use of in the interest of protecting the environment for future generations. Contrary to claims made, these sources were less expensive and could catalyse social progress and empowerment, he noted.
Sales projections for mobile phones were terribly wrong, he pointed out, when the product first hit the market. Like mobile phones grew exponentially overtaking landlines, so too could sustainable energy, he predicted. Like mobile phones, the cost of solar energy is coming down, added Gore: "It's an unstoppable trend. The age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. We (those pushing for climate change) are winning. But we need to get there faster."
"South Africa gets 94 per cent of its energy from coal," he claimed, attributing that to a lobby involving the ruling party of the country. In the case of India, he noted that Delhi is more polluted than Beijing and Shanghai.
Citing Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's push for solar energy in his stint as chief minister of Gujarat, he added that there is currently a rise in awareness among the common public in countries like India and China on the issue of climate change.
The campaigner for climate change noted that setting up of sustainable energy infrastructure could lead to millions of jobs, and also empower those with no electricity. While the energy from coal is going to mines in many countries, he urged governments to 'put a solar panel on each of the shacks'.
Asked by Sorrell if climate change would be an issue in the US elections of 2016, Gore said, "Yes, it will."