Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today became the first person to publish in its entirety the text of a ground-breaking speech on the looming climate crisis delivered by former Vice President Al Gore at the global warming summit in Indonesia last Thursday. Lantos ensured that a verbatim version of Gore’s remarks went into the Congressional Record this afternoon.
“With a candid and clear-eyed address, Vice President Gore provided a powerful bridge of hope to world leaders who were struggling to make real progress in setting a roadmap toward a treaty designed to stave off the most devastating impacts of global warming,” Lantos said as he introduced the remarks into the Record. “In his speech, Vice President Gore courageously confronted the ‘inconvenient truth’ that right now, at this moment in history, the principal obstruction to progress in the global effort to confront the Earth's greatest existential threat is the United States of America. … The Vice President also offered a solution, suggesting that rather than trying to move the Bush Administration, the climate summit simply should circumvent it by leaving ‘a large open space’ in the document to be filled in when U.S. leadership is finally restored.”
Lantos encouraged his colleagues to read the full text, adding, “Al Gore's words should inspire all of us to work to fill in the ‘large open space’ that our current Administration has left in the place where U.S. leadership normally resides.”
Here are Chairman Lantos’ remarks, followed by the transcript of the Gore speech:
Madam Speaker, at a watershed moment in global diplomacy last week, our distinguished former vice president, Al Gore, stepped in to fill an enormous U.S. vacuum in leadership. At the world summit on global warming in Bali, Indonesia, this new Nobel laureate once again took on the necessary role of the nation's conscience in the effort to save our planet from a looming climate catastrophe. With a candid and clear-eyed address, Vice President Gore provided a powerful bridge of hope to world leaders who were struggling to make real progress in setting a roadmap toward a treaty designed to stave off the most devastating impacts of global warming.
In his speech, Vice President Gore courageously confronted the "inconvenient truth" that right now, at this moment in history, the principal obstruction to progress in the global effort to confront the Earth's greatest existential threat is the United States of America. He urged the assembled delegates in Bali to overcome their anger and frustration at this obstacle, vowing that "over the next two years, the United States is going to be in a place it is not now." The Vice President also offered a solution, suggesting that rather than trying to move the Bush Administration, the climate summit simply should circumvent it by leaving "a large open space" in the document to be filled in when U.S. leadership is finally restored.
Inspired by the vice president's address, the UN delegates finally and resolutely rebuffed the Administration's effort to block consensus on a "Bali Roadmap" by reaching a consensus that commits all nations to negotiate a new, scientifically valid deal to fighting global warming by 2009. The resolve to face down the White House was best perhaps best articulated by the delegate from Papua New Guinea -- who, addressing the U.S. delegation in the final diplomatic showdown, declared, "If you cannot lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way."
Madame Speaker, our distinguished former congressional colleague, Al Gore, has provided our nation and our global community with great leadership. At a time when our own Administration has let us down, Vice President Gore has reminded the world that, in his words, "political will is a renewable resource."
I commend the text of the vice president's historic address to my colleagues. To date, this landmark in the global climate discussion has not been published in its entirety anywhere, but I am honored now to place a verbatim transcript of it in the Congressional Record. Al Gore's words should inspire all of us to work to fill in the "large open space" that our current Administration has left in the place where U.S. leadership normally resides.
Speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Bali Indonesia, December 13, 2007
I am not an official of the United States, and I am not bound by the diplomatic niceties. So, I am going to speak an inconvenient truth. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that.
We all know that. But, my country is not the only one that can take steps to ensure that we move forward from Bali with progress, and with hope. Those of you who applauded when I spoke openly about the diplomatic truth here have a choice to make. You can do one of two things here. You can feel anger and frustration and direct it at the United States of America, or you can make a second choice. You can decide to move forward and do all of the difficult work that needs to be done and save a large open blank space in your document and put a footnote by it. And when you look at the footnote, write the description of the footnote. This document is incomplete, but we are going to move forward anyway on the hope – and I am going to describe for you why I think you can also have the realistic expectation – that that blank will be filled in.
This is the beginning of a process designed to culminate in Copenhagen two years from now. Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now. You must anticipate that. Targets must be a part of the treaty that is adopted in Copenhagen. And the treaty, by the way, should not only be adopted in 2009: I urge you in this mandate to move the target for full implementation of this treaty to a point two years sooner than presently contemplated. Let’s have it take effect fully in 2010, and not 2012. We can’t afford to wait another five years in order to replace the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.
So we must leave here with a strong mandate. This is not the time for business as usual. Somehow we have to summon, and each of you must summon a sense of urgency here in Bali. These are not political problems, they are moral imperatives. But our capacity to strip away the disguise and see them for what they really are and then find the basis to act together to successfully address them is what is missing.
The greatest opportunity inherent in this climate crisis is not only to quickly deploy the new technologies that will facilitate sustainable development, to create the new jobs and to lift standards of living. The greatest opportunity is that in rising to meet the climate crisis, we in our generation will find the moral authority and capacity for long term vision to get our act together in this world and take on these other crises, not political problems, and solve them. We are one people, on one planet. We have one future, one destiny. We must pursue it together, and we can.
The great Spanish poet from Sevilla Antonio Machado wrote, “Path walker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”
There is no path from Bali to Copenhagen unless you make it. It’s impossible given the positions of the powerful countries, including my own, and the instructions from which they are not going to depart. But you can make a new path. You can make a path that goes around that blank spot. And you can go forward.
There are two paths you can choose. They lead to two different futures. Not too long from now, when our children assess what you did here in Bali, what we in our generation did here in this world. As they look backward, at 2007, they will ask one of two questions. I don’t know which one they will ask, I know which one I prefer they ask, but trust me, they will ask one of these two questions.
They’ll look back and either they will ask, “What were you thinking? Didn’t you hear the IPCC four times unanimously warning the world to act? Didn’t you see the glaciers melting? Didn’t you see the North Polar ice cap disappearing? Didn’t you see the deserts growing and the droughts deepening and the crops drying up? Didn’t you see the sea level rising, didn’t you see the floods, didn’t you pay attention to what was going on? Didn’t you care? What were you thinking?”
Or they will ask a second question, one that I much prefer them ask. I want them to look back on this time and ask “How did you find the moral courage to successfully address a crisis that some many have said was impossible to address? How were you able to start the process that unleashed the moral imagination of humankind to see ourselves as a single global civilization?” And when they ask that question, I want you to tell them that you saw it as a privilege to be alive at a moment when a relatively small group of people could control the destiny of all generations to come. Instead of shaking our heads at the difficulty of this task and saying “woe is us, this is impossible, how can we do this? We’re so mad at the ones that are making it harder; we ought to feel a sense of joy that we have work that is worth doing that is so important to the future of all humankind. We ought to feel a sense of exhilaration that we are the people alive at a moment in history when we can make all the difference. That’s who you are. You have everything you need. We have everything we need, save perhaps political will. But political will is a renewable resource. Thank you very much.