In the face of ever increasing fuel prices, exploding utility bills and fewer jobs, Americans are fully aware that going green is good not just for the environment but for the economy as well, former President Bill Clinton told ABC News's Bob Woodruff in an exclusive interview.
Chiding President George Bush for refusing to do address greenhouse gas emissions before the end of his term, Clinton said the next president would have to set a global example and make climate change a major issue of his administration or risk the ecological and financial consequences.
"I think that, in terms of how real Americans live, over $4 gasoline, exploding utility bills because of the rising price of oil and coal and natural gas, the absence of jobs, which is being made more severe because of the energy prices, that along with health care are the major domestic agendas for the next president, no matter who is elected," he said.
Clinton defended his own environmental record, blaming a hostile Congress in 1998 for refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but praised politicians on both sides of the aisle -- including presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain -- for recognizing the importance of sound environmental policy.
"I do think it's fair to say that, among all the Republicans, Sen. McCain had the best position on climate change. I think that Sen. Obama and the Democrats have a better position, but I think McCain deserves credit for moving his party."
In the premiere episode of Planet Green network's "Focus Earth with Bob Woodruff," airing on Planet Green, Clinton called Bush's efforts at this week's at the G8 summit in Lake Toya, Japan to cut emissions by 50 percent over 40 years a "net plus," but he added, "I would like to have seen more done."
"Most of the climate scientists believe we'll have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent. And they did not agree to a more ambitious target in the interim, by 2020, which I think should have been done," he said.
Clinton said solid science, new political will and the economic downturn have made it easier to convince Americans and their representatives that moving forward on climate change is a necessity.
"So we know what to do. If you just change the economic incentives for utilities, we can dramatically increase the number of jobs we create through energy efficiency. We can dramatically increase our production of solar and wind power. And we can rapidly move to cars that use the most efficient biofuels and that are plug-in electric vehicles.
"So we need to do this smartly. I think if the American people understood how many good economic opportunities there were here, you wouldn't have nearly as much reluctance to move to a post-carbon economy, which is plainly where we're going," Clinton said.
Despite the world's wealthiest countries committing this week to curb emissions, the world's fastest developing countries -- China and India -- said they would not join the agreement.
The United States must set an example to the world, Clinton said, that countries can make commitments to the environment while still doing well economically, or efforts by the U.S. are for naught.
"Well, if India and China and the other emerging economies don't join in some sort of limitation, then they can burn up the planet without any of our help."