President Obama urged more than 100 world leaders on Monday to act decisively in Paris in the coming weeks to come to a sweeping climate change agreement, marking the start of negotiations that share more consensus abroad than in the United States.
Calling for action at the Paris COP 21 UN climate change talks, Obama sought to set the stage to limit the warming of the planet, and overcome skepticism at home and strong opposition from Republicans in Washington DC.
“I’ve come here personally as the leader of the world’s largest economy and second largest emitter” of greenhouse gases, Obama said at the opening of the conference, “to say the U.S.A. not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”
Without a deal at the high-stakes Paris summit, the planet will continue on a pathway of rapidly rising temperatures that scientists say will lead to more frequent floods, worsening droughts, extreme weather conditions and mass plant and wildlife extinctions. Obama seeks at the Paris talks to show a united front at home in Washington.
But Obama has struggled to convince a Republican-controlled Congress to pass legislation restricting carbon emissions, and GOP members have sought to subvert the president’s push ahead of the Paris talks, planning a series of votes to fight his climate agenda. The Republicans candidates for president have all said they would undo Obama’s regulations if they are elected.
Absent congressional backing, Obama has passed a series of executive actions intended to limit emissions, including one key action that regulated coal-fired power plants. Republicans are fighting the actions in courts.
Opposition in Washington DC has limited the ability of the Paris talk participants to reach a sweeping climate resolution that countries are bound to by law.
“Our task here in Paris is turn these achievements into an enduring framework for human progress,” Obama said. “Not a stop gap solution but a longterm strategy that gives the world confidence for a low carbon future.”
He called for an agreement that sets emissions reductions by each country and a “strong system of transparency.”
Obama was one of a slate of world leaders who were scheduled on Monday to call for decisive actions to address climate change, including the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Chinese President Xi Jingping.
“The Paris conference is not the finishing line but a new starting point,” said President Xi Jingping on Monday. “Tackling climate change is a shared mission for mankind. All eyes are now on Paris.”
The United States and China reached a breakthrough climate agreement last year, with President Obama announcing the United States sould cut emissions up to 28% by 2025 and President Jingping committing to a national cap-and-trade system on industrial emissions. The agreement between the world’s largest carbon polluters was crucial for laying the groundwork for the Paris talks this year.
“What should give us hope that this is a turning point that this the moment that we finally determined we would save our planet is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and the growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it,” Obama said.