Former Vice President Al Gore is urging Congress not to be sidetracked by the current financial crisis and to take "decisive action" this year to reduce the heat-trapping gases responsible for global warming.
Gore, scheduled to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, planned to tell lawmakers that a bill capping greenhouse gas emissions is needed if the U.S. is to play a leading role in negotiations for a new international climate treaty.
He also was pressing Congress to pass President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, saying investments in clean energy and green jobs will help dig the country out of its economic rut, according to his prepared testimony.
The Bush administration pulled out of the last treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, because of the lack of participation by developing countries. Negotiations on a new agreement are scheduled for later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Gore — recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize whose book on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," became an Oscar-winning documentary — said the economic recession and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should not cause another delay.
"The road to Copenhagen is now very clear. It starts with the passage of President Barack Obama's stimulus bill in its entirety. And then, secondly, we need to put a price on carbon by passing cap and trade legislation," Gore said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "In other words, this crisis is an opportunity."
Gore's appearance is another sign that the Democratic-controlled Congress plans to act quickly on climate change. It comes days after Obama signed orders that will boost the fuel efficiency of the nation's cars and trucks and could allow states to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from exhaust pipes.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also named a special climate envoy this week to lead U.S. negotiations on a new international treaty. She picked Todd Stern, a former White House assistant who was the chief U.S. negotiator at the Kyoto talks.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he asked Gore to testify before the panel so "the message can go out loud and clear that the committee is going to be relentless and super-focused" on preparations for Copenhagen.
Gore is the perfect messenger, Kerry said.
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