Former US Vice President Al Gore is scheduled to visit Australia this month to lead a climate leadership training drive, shortly after US President Barack Obama’s historic announcement early this week directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate massive cuts on dirty carbon emissions.

The Climate Reality Project Chairman Al Gore. Pic: CRP.

The 25th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training program will kick off on June 25-27 in Melbourne in partnership with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) to teach participants about the science of climate change and how to communicate its effects.

US President Barack Obama announces plans to cut carbon emissions. Pic: AP.

Gore’s leadership training  will mark another important event following initiatives of various NGOs towards decarbonising Australia. Last month, US economist Jeffrey Sachs led the launch of a low carbon economy initiative.

Gore, the Climate Reality Project chairman, praised  Obama’s announcement to cut the nation’s dirty carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels by 2030. This is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year. The former VP said the clean energy initiative is the most crucial step towards combating the climate crisis.

We simply cannot continue to use the atmosphere as an open sewer for dirty and dangerous global warming pollution that endangers our health and makes storms, floods, mudslides and droughts much more dangerous and threatening – not only in the future, but here and now.

Gore reiterated that actions are taking place worldwide to address climate change but remained wary about special interest groups that continue to deny and spread misleading information to muddle and obfuscate the issue. He said denial of the linkage between carbon emissions and climate change is like denial of the link between tobacco and lung cancer. He warned that further inaction would be extremely dangerous and destructive for America and the rest of the world. He added that there are now technologies that can offer alternative sources of clean, efficient, and competitive renewable energy.

He backs Obama for facing challenges through a series of critical actions and empowering the EPA to enforce limits on CO2 emissions for new power plants and accelerating the shift to  renewable energy.  He said America has taken another historic step in leading the world towards a green and sustainable economy.

Not all businesses are happy

Pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants (Photo:Getty Images/AP)

Not all businesses are happy and merchants of doubt are expected to block climate initiatives. Christopher Helman of Forbes notes the “casualties” of the plan: “Coal miners and owners of coal-fired power plants. Don’t expect their shares to sell off on today’s rule revelation though — EPA has been telegraphing its plans for months, so the bad news is baked in.”

…..it is clear to analysts that coal will bear the brunt of this anti-carbon crusade, while natural gas will be the big winner. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in America. Per megawatt-hour, coal plants emit about 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide. Compare that to natural gas turbines, which emit just .4 metric tons per mWh.

The EPA reportedly estimates that investments needed to meet the emission limits will cost about $8 billion a year, but would save 6,600 lives and more than $50 billion a year in health care costs tied to air pollution.

While the announcement is widely praised, not everybody is positive. Bloomberg reported how the US zero emission would only be defeated by the rising emissions of China, India, and Indonesia, for example.

Burning fossil fuels in the U.S. released 5.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2012. China emitted 9.0 billion tons and by 2020 is forecast by the U.S. Energy Department to reach 11.5 billion metric tons, while the U.S. stays flat. India, Indonesia and other developing nations are expected to grow, as well.

Were U.S. emissions cut to zero, “global emissions would continue to increase,” Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program, said in an e-mail. “So, the direct impacts of the new power plant rules on atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations will be small.”

Optimism in the Pacific

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

Scientists in the Pacific welcome Obama’s clean energy plan. Radio Australia interviewed Dr. Padma Lal,  an independent researcher on Climate Risk in the Pacific, who applauds the announcement and said it is urgent to take action to make the plan a reality.

She noted other countries – the major polluters – have already started taking action to reduce their carbon emissions, such as China, India, Brazil.

…..we would like to see other countries such as Australia and European nations to follow suit. Perhaps it’s a bit too early to say that this is actually going to happen, it’ll be interesting to see in tangible terms what actions are taken by the American state. From the Pacific point of view it really is urgent that they do take such measures…

Gore leads climate training in Australia

The former US VP will lead the leadership training in Australia, alongside world-class climate scientists, political strategists, communication experts, community organisers and activists. He said:

We have taken these trainings around the world, and in every community committed leaders are standing up to take action on the climate crisis. Our goal is to provide them with the best possible tools to become even more effective leaders in their schools, businesses, houses of worship, and local and national governments.

The intensive program is expected to formally train a new group of Climate Reality Leaders, who can become change agents in their own communities. They will emerge from the program as “energised and skilled communicators” with the knowledge, tools and drive to educate diverse communities on the costs of carbon pollution and what can be done to solve the climate crisis.

Australia leads the world's highest carbon emissions per capita. (Image: Supplied)

ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said that is the absence of government support to educate and train leaders on the urgency of climate change, her organization welcomes Gore’s project to Australia.

Australia is on the front line when it comes to climate change impacts, yet our national government is unravelling hard-won progress to price pollution and boost renewable energy. In the absence of government leadership on climate change, the people need to lead the way.