Climate campaigner Al Gore is urging world policy-makers to change laws "not just light bulbs" in tackling global warming, and a UN official said world market turmoil must not be allowed to delay action.An annual meeting of world political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, this year has scheduled a record number of sessions and workshops on global warming. But market downturns and recession fears dominate discussion.
"If we get distracted by the aberrations that you see in the financial market right now it would clearly be very unfortunate," said Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Gore, in a swipe at U.S. President George W. Bush's environmental record, said the election of a new president in November could only bring an improvement.
"In addition to changing the light bulbs, it is far more important to change the laws and to change the treaty obligations that nations have," Gore said, in apparent reference to what he sees as Bush's reluctance to initiate legislation on environmental control.
"Whoever is elected is going to have a different position and a better position. But let's be clear: whoever the leaders are, this issue is going to be dealt with responsibly and effectively only when there is a sufficient degree of urgency on the part of the people themselves."
Irish musician Bono, a vocal advocate of reducing global poverty by providing debt relief to African nations and boosting efforts to treat and prevent AIDS, had similar comments to make on those issues.
"There are now two million Africans on retroviral drugs and that is pretty astonishing," he said. But, he added, efforts by the Group of Eight to pledge $50 billion a year to eliminate poverty had not been met.
"This is a scandal," Bono said.
Davos provides a rare opportunity for business leaders and politicians to debate the means and the costs to economies and industry of reducing greenhouse gases believed to be accelerating global warming.
Nestle SA chief executive Peter Brabeck touched on one of the most sensitive ecological subjects at Davos, the production of biodiesel, from crops such as maize, as an alternative "green" fuel.
Brabeck said the drive for biofuels and industrial usage could severely deplete water resources. Action should be taken to create a market for water to drive conservation.
"It takes 9,000 litres of water to produce one litre of biodiesel. This strategy, which is not the right one, is backed by all major governments," he told a panel at Davos.