The West Midlands had the skill and ingenuity to kick-start the Industrial Age and can lead the revolution needed to combat climate change, a leading international diplomat and former US senator has said.
Senator George Mitchell – who is best known in the UK for his role in the Northern Ireland peace talks – said the West Midlands had a chance to play a major role in preventing global warming.
Speaking at Warwick Castle at a dinner organised by law firm DLA Piper, the Mr Mitchell said: "The people who were capable of creating the Industrial Revolution are equally capable of creating the technological revolution that is needed to deal with climate change – in the end it comes down to human ingenuity, knowledge and skill.
"I have heard good things about the economic revival of the West Midlands and, ultimately, it comes down to its people."
Mr Mitchell also expressed regret at the US stance on global warming. He said: "It is unfortunate that the US has not led the way on climate change.
"The failure of our government to respond effectively and aggressively to this issue has been a wrong policy and I hope it will change with the next administration."
Last week the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that global warming was "very likely" to be caused by humans.
Mr Mitchell said it was now essential the US took a world lead on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. He said: "I think the US can and must lead the world on climate change.
"It is necessary not only because of the amount of emissions we produce, but also because it would difficult to engage other countries such as China if we were not part of the process."
But he said it was still difficult to judge US public opinion on the issue as the Iraq war and terrorism continued to dominate national debate.He added: "You have to remember that the US is a large, diverse country so its always difficult to gage attitudes.But they can change very fast. I spent many years trying to pass a Bill on oil spill prevention and clean up that got very little support.
"But the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill changed public opinion overnight and the Bill was passed.
"I hope it won’t have to get to that with climate change. The problem is that the ice caps are already starting to disappear and if an ice sheet collapsed completely it would mean we were too late."
The senator made his comments as he outlined a sustainability action plan for DLA Piper, of which he is chairman.
The plan, which will apply to DLA Piper's 62 offices in 24 countries, focuses on four areas including energy, waste, business development and procurement. Mr Mitchell said: "I have been involved in environmental issues for a long time. Coming from Maine, I am surrounded by forest and am aware of its importance.
"The global sustainability project will seek to reduce any adverse effect that DLA Piper has on the environment. We will purchase carbon credits to offset our emissions from travel and seek out energy efficient technologies in our companies.
"There is something every firm can do and we are trying to do something in our own way. This is a global problem, we are a global company and we have to be part of the solution."
The plan will also involve providing pro bono work to re-forestation projects in Africa.