Former Vice President Al Gore is in Australia hosting a project to combat climate change -- a push that is being subsidized by local taxpayers to the tune of $100,000 amid a dispute over a controversial coal mine.
Gore, who spearheaded the 2006 movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” has spent decades calling for action against climate change and founded a nonprofit, The Climate Reality Project. In Australia, he has opposed the building of the Adani coal mine in Queensland.
It was in that context that the Queensland state government announced last year that Gore would lead a Climate Reality Project training conference in the state from June 5-7. According to The Courier-Mail, Queensland taxpayers are paying at least 143,000 Australian dollars (approximately US$100,000) for the hiring of a convention center in Brisbane, and a project coordinator.
The Courier-Mail reports that that could be a low-ball prediction as the state government will only reveal what has been paid in “project milestones.”
According to the project's website, participants at the Brisbane conference will learn from Gore "how to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis to people everywhere" and "learn to inspire others to take action."
"The event will offer a rare opportunity to learn directly from Vice President Gore how to raise awareness of climate change and inspire people everywhere to act -- just as he’s done with the landmark films 'An Inconvenient Truth' and 'An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,'" an advertisement for the event said.
Office of Environment Minister and Labor Party member Leanne Enoch told the outlet that the Queensland government “is supporting the climate leadership training by providing funding for the venue and a Brisbane-based Climate Reality Project manager.
“Al Gore is not being paid by the Queensland Government,” she said.
But Resources Minister and Liberal National Party member Matt Canavan said the move was an example of “hypocrisy” and said he hopes Gore “can hear the message of how our state’s fantastic coal creates jobs, powers the world and produces a better environment because it is cleaner.”
At the event, Gore slammed the decision to build the Adani mine and claimed that financial institutions refused to fund it.
"May I just say. This is nuts. But I doubt [Adani] is ever going to happen anyway," he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Instead, he urged Australia to pivot to solar energy and said it would have hard time selling coal to the increasingly solar-reliant India.
"Since Australia has the best solar resource of any nation in the world, you would only have to capture 0.1 percent of the solar energy that God makes available to you in order to meet 100 percent of your energy needs,” he said.
The climate project was reportedly expected to dovetail with the election of Labor Party prime ministerial hopeful Bill Shorten -- who had campaigned on fighting against climate change. Shorten would have been expected to attend if he had won. But Shorten lost the election last month, with Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morrison unexpectedly winning re-election.
The Courier-Mail reports that Gore will run the three-day session from Wednesday to Friday, and students as young as 8 will be encouraged to join a “Minister’s Climate Challenge” to help solve the climate crisis.