HOLLYWOOD:

Can Jack Bauer save the world? Television’s secret agent, played by Kiefer Sutherland in the addictive thriller 24, is to take the war against global warming into millions of homes has been welcomed by environmental campaigners as a seminal moment in the ‘greening’ of Hollywood.

This week Leonardo DiCaprio, arguably the most environmentally active star, releases an alarming documentary he has produced and narrated entitled The 11th Hour.

But it is 24 that has the most mainstream appeal and which, with its presentation in ‘real-time’ corresponding minute by minute to the life of Bauer as he strives to beat the clock and avert disaster, provides an opportune metaphor for the race to salvage the planet.

Fox studio has announced that 24 will aim to become the first ‘carbon-neutral’ TV programme. Environmentally friendly production measures will include using biodiesel for generators and vehicles, buying energy from wind, water and solar power sources, rewiring a production stage to use electricity instead of diesel-generated power and phasing in hybrid vehicles for cast and crew.

The campaign will be evident on screen too. The official 24 website includes a video appeal by Sutherland, who warns: ‘Global warming is a crime for which we are all guilty,’ and a list of tips for the public, including turning off lights, riding a bike and printing on both sides of the page.

Media power is matched by political power in the Golden State. As an actor and bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first American civilian to own a gas-guzzling Humvee, but as a politician he has undergone a Damascene conversion. The state governor signed pioneering legislation to reduce California’s carbon emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050, as well as initiatives to encourage solar power. The chart also included Cameron Diaz, Robert Redford, a veteran campaigner; Cate Blanchett, who has converted her home to solar power; George Clooney, who launched Oil Change, a campaign to wean America off oil; and Brad Pitt, who advocates eco-friendly buildings.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2004 The Day After Tomorrow was the first carbon-neutral movie after Fox paid $200,000 for a reforestation project to offset some 10,000 tons of carbon emissions. Other studios such as Warner Brothers are following suit, encouraged by the Environmental Media Association, which awards a ‘Green Seal’ to productions that meet its list of eco-standards and offers one-on-one consultations ‘to suggest and brainstorm ways to incorporate environmental topics into subtle storylines and character arcs’. Syriana and Evan Almighty were both carbon-neutral productions.

Now 24 is aiming to become the first TV drama to do the same, a critical step towards deflecting criticism by practising what it preaches. Jack Bauer alone might not save the world, but environmentalists hope he can help deliver public opinion. Ho-ward of The Climate Group said, ‘We need the right level of political leadership, business innovation and investment, and public engagem-ent, so popular cu-lture is hugely important.’