NEW YORK - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore slammed the United States and some other big polluters for forming what he called a sham global warming pact separate from the rest of the world.
Those countries -- including Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan -- must join the rest of the world in a new deal to fight global warming, Gore told Reuters ahead of Saturday's Live Earth concerts aimed at raising awareness of climate change.
In an interview, Gore expressed doubts about the motives of the United States and Australia, which both eschewed the Kyoto Protocol, for creating the six-member pact called the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
"With all due respect I think the Asia-Pacific initiative is more of a Potemkin Village approach," he said, referring to the fake villages set up by Russian general Grigory Potemkin in the Crimea in 1787 to impress Catherine the Great.
"It has been organized by the two developed countries that alone among the world community have refused to join in on the Kyoto Protocol," said Gore, whose documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" about global warming won two Academy Awards this year.
The Kyoto Protocol obligates about 35 rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. It expires in 2012 and U.N.-led talks on a replacement pact are expected to start in December.
Gore said the Live Earth concerts were aimed at urging people to pressure their governments for a new treaty by 2009 that would cut global warming pollution by 90 percent in rich nations and by more than half worldwide by 2050.
"This is a planetary emergency," Gore said. "The solutions will be good for our economy and good for us, but we need to not wait any longer and get with it."
The Live Earth concerts are planned for Johannesburg, London, New Jersey, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo and are being broadcast in more than 100 countries.
Gore said he hoped the concerts would get the word out to people to "put pressure on politicians in every party to start solving this crisis."
"This is designed to be the beginning of a three- to five-year campaign that will be sustained at a very high level all over the world," he added.
The United States and Australia refused to ratify Kyoto, claiming the mandatory pollution cuts would threaten economic growth and that excluding large developing nations, such as China and India, from meeting targets did not make sense.
Instead, Washington and Canberra created the Asia Pacific Partnership with China, India, South Korea and Japan in 2005 with the aim of tackling climate change through cleaner energy technologies without sacrificing economic development.
These nations make up almost half the world's greenhouse gas emissions. South Korea and Japan have also ratified Kyoto.
Gore said the United States "has the greatest opportunity to provide leadership in the world and the strongest economy and have contributed the most to the problem thus far, even though China is going to probably surpass the United States."
"The way to get China involved is for the United States to join the rest of the world community," he said.
The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said last month that China had overtaken the United States as the top emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
Scientists say smokestack and tailpipe emissions of heat-trapping gases cause global warming, which could lead to more deadly floods, droughts and heat waves.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found global carbon dioxide emissions must fall 50 to 85 percent by 2050 to stop the planet from heating more than 2 degrees Celsius.
© Reuters 2007