Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Al Gore addresses Edinburgh low carbon conference

Al Gore
Image caption Mr Gore is a leading climate change campaigner and Nobel laureate

Former US vice-president Al Gore has strongly praised Scotland for the lead it has taken on renewable energy.

Mr Gore also said its agricultural research was leading moves to regenerate soil which has been weakened by use of synthetic fertilizers.

The Nobel peace prize winner was guest speaker at the Scottish Low Carbon Investment conference in Edinburgh.

Mr Gore, now an environmental campaigner, set out his case for taking action to stem climate change.

He knocked back criticism of scientific evidence of change, voiced by Edinburgh councillor Cameron Rose.

He said scientists were overwhelmingly behind concerns that carbon dioxide emissions were the cause of disrupted and extreme weather.

'Renewable technologies'

Mr Gore, whose team blocked broadcast access to his speech, said business and investment funds should take the lead on shifting the economy to lower carbon emissions, while politicians in many places were "paralysed".

He told the Edinburgh audience: "Hope is on the horizon.

"Scotland has not only provided inspiring leadership, you are exploiting one of the greatest resources anywhere on the planet, with wind onshore and particularly offshore, all sorts of variety of windmills - and the new renewable technologies are especially important".

The Nobel laureate highly praised First Minister Alex Salmond for his role in setting some of the world's most ambitious targets for cutting carbon emissions, and "sparking inspiration" elsewhere.

Mr Gore said: "Alex Salmond has been outstanding in his determination to realise the opportunity that Scotland has.

"People and businesses have this opportunity of enormous potential for jobs.

"Scotland has unique opportunities with an incredible percentage of offshore wind resource, and the excitement of wind and tidal energy, although it's at an early stage.

"The amount of energy to be harvested once it's worked out is enormous."

Mr Gore, who ran as Democratic nominee for the US presidency 11 years ago, said: "One of the areas of particular expertise in Scotland is turbines, and the reason you have companies from all over the world coming here is because of the engineering tradition, the expertise, the intellectual property protection, and you're going to see the lots and lots of jobs."

He added: "The wave technology here: this is a project with great potential. It is at an early stage, (and) the whole world is rooting for you to make this a success.

"If the world follows the lead of Scotland, a nation with long-term targets, and the rallying of business and political and civic leaders, it is clear which direction we are going.

"If the general expectation is that renewable energy has a bright future, because we are going to make the right choice, then the research and development funds will increase, the breakthroughs from innovation will increase.

"Of course the uncertainty in the markets means we have this period of five years or so during which the technologies must continue to gain scale and momentum."

Mr Gore also talked about Scottish research on soil recovery through heat treatment, saying topsoils hold roughly three times all the carbon in vegetation.

"The use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and the chemical industrial agricultural model strips the carbon out of the soil.

"Biochar, pioneered in Scotland as in other parts of the world, is one of the ways to reverse the de-carbonisation of the soil."

With a strong attack on the effect of lobbying and money-raising on the US Congress, and on carbon producers who he said employ four Washington lobbyists for every member of Congress, Mr Gore said business and investors were "eager" to take a leading role addressing climate change.

He said his experience was that business wanted to be "part of the solution rather than part of the problem".

But asked about the difficulty in raising finance for developing unproven wave power technology, he spoke out against the short-term approach of many investors.

Mr Gore, who chairs a US investment fund, said there should be incentives, tax breaks and governance change to increase long-term thinking in investment.

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