Former US Vice President Al Gore Photo: KACPER PEMPEL
The Gillard government's carbon price has already "inspired the world" to press ahead with measures to tackle climate change, former US vice-president Al Gore says.
Labelling Australia one of the "canaries in the coalmine" for the effects of global warming, Mr Gore told a breakfast launch in Canberra of a new Climate Commission report there was much cause for optimism about global efforts to solve the problem.
Speaking via video presentation, Mr Gore said that the Queensland floods and Black Saturday bushfires of recent years showed that "we must act now".
"The consequences of the climate crisis, of course, are already visible all round the world, and some of the worst, unfortunately, can be seen in Australia over the last few years," Mr Gore said.
"Australia is one of the proverbial canaries in the coalmine of the climate crisis. Just as that canary once warned of toxic gasses that build up in coalmines, Australia today is one of the places that is an early alert signal for the climate as a whole."
But there were also encouraging signs that the world was beginning to act to solve the problem, he said. The world's leading economies were taking steps to cut their emissions, with Australia prominent among them with the $23-a-tonne carbon price, which started on July 1.
"This year in Australia, for the first time, in a move that has inspired the world - I hear it everywhere - carbon polluters are being held accountable for the global warming pollution they pour in the atmosphere every single day.
"Policy actions like Australia's historic achievement are beginning to unlock innovative approaches to the climate crisis that will provide new sources of sustainable economic growth and good jobs while simultaneously solving the climate crisis. We're not there yet, but fortunately we are gaining momentum and we can solve this problem.
"I salute Australia's strong commitment to solving the climate crisis and I know it's going to continue to be a crucial player in building a global solution to this global problem."
The Climate Commission's report, The Critical Decade: International Action on Climate Change, seeks to counter the criticism at home that the Gillard government's carbon price is getting too far ahead of the rest of the world, making Australia economically vulnerable.
It puts Australia around the middle of the pack when it comes to dealing with climate change. Ninety countries representing about 90 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions were taking some sort of action to cut emissions, the report says.