President Clinton opened the Wednesday morning opening plenary session, talking about current events (and the massive traffic jam in Manhattan because of street closures for the UN General Assembly). Regarding the effect of the Wall Street situation: "The financial crisis is not a reason to walk away from our committments, instead it is a compelling reason to meet them."
He talked aobut how much the CGI has accomplished ($30 billion in committments, how many people helped, I’ll see if I can find a press announcement with the numbers) and introduced the morning plenary speakers.
Then he hilighted some commitments, like Areva and Duke Energy CEOs commitment to avoid 4 million tons of CO2 emmissions by 2014 and create green-collar jobs by building new wood biomass power plants.
Lance Armstrong talked about an $8 million, 5-year commitment to cancer survivors and to raise cancer awareness. He will also start racing bicycles again in "a campaign to spread the word, raise awareness and hopefully save lives."
Mayor Bloomberg talked about how he managed to get a smoking ban in public places, bars, restaraunts, etc., in New York City. Initially it was proposed tho cost revenue, but they did it anyway.
Then the panel came out: Queen Rania of Jordan, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Bono of U2, Neville Isdell of Coca Cola and Al Gore. I’m sorry that I am sitting way at the side and cannot get pictures for you.
(President Karzai of Afghanistan walked by…)
Queen Rania talked about her effort to build public/private partnerships to help Jordan’s schools. The responsibility to educate their children cuts through the sectors and now they have forty-five companies, ifteen NGOs all working on schools along with their government. So far they have imrproved four hundred schools, about half o fthe goal. Everyone being involved brings everyone a stake and ownership of the process.
President Johnson-Sirleaf spoke of the transformation of Liberia since the civil strife she was elected to end. They have been attracting investment, private capital and organizing resources for partnerships. They have been building hotels and paying off the national debt.
Isdell of Coca Cloa talked about investing in Africa and opportunities in emerging countries. He said that all of Coca Cola’s wastewater will go back in a form that supports aquatic life by 2010. (I will post some comments on this later.)
Bono started by mentioning the huge Wall Street bailout proposal. "I assume these people know what they’re doing." This drew laughter from the audience. He said they can find $700 billion for a bailout on less than a week’s notice but in all this time the entire world has not been able to find the money to fight poverty and AIDs. While we are fighting bankruptcy here, "there is also a moral bankruptcy". The crow applauds.
Bono also talked about the world’s current low opinion of America, but that we all have a lot at stake in the idea of America.
Bill Clinton introduced Al Gore, saying that if Gore has been president all the extra money that was floating around after the stock crash looking for investments would have gone into green invetment instead of creating a housing bubble.
Al Gore talked about how this economic crisis came about from a sudden collapse of an assumption. Everyone assumed that the housing prices would keep going up, that the subprime loans were OK, etc. and then suddenly things becan to unravel. Now people are saying that we should have and could have prevented this.
Now the world is stting on several trillion dollars of subprime carbon assets. The wold is losing ground. This is also heading for a sudden collapse.
Stop burning coal. Coal and oil companies have spent $500 million just this year to convince people there is such a thing as "clean coal." But clean coal does not exist. There are not even any demonstration plants — not even any blueprints.
We need a new global energy infrastructure based on fuel that is free: wind and solar.
Stop saying "don’t worry about it" like Wall Street did.
The wealth and power of the oil and coal lobby is overwhelming free debate.
We should tax what we burn not what we earn – replace the payroll tax (Social Security) with a carbon tax.
Companies funding the global warming deniers who are trying to convince people that global warming is a hoax are guilty of a form of stock fraud and state attorneys general should be looking into this. (Because obviously the current Justice Department won’t.)
Gore called for young people concerned aut global warming to engage in a campaign of civil disobedience to prevent the consrtruction of any new coal power plants.
Finally we had a surprise appearance by George H.W. Bush, talking about a joint effort with Bill Clinton to raise funds to help people along the Gulf Coast hit by hurricanes.