Co-operation needed for new climate change plan: Obama

UN Climate Talks
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the Summit on Climate Change, Tuesday, September 22, 2009, as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon listens at the United Nations. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Obama: US ‘determined to act’ on climate change

by Jennifer Loven, AP White House Correspondent

AP (September 22, 2009) UNITED NATIONS — President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared that the United States is a serious partner in combating global warming, telling world peers “we are determined to act.”

“The journey is hard. And we don’t have much time left to make it,” Obama said in brief remarks at a high-level climate summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Obama sought to show U.S. resolve ahead of crucial talks in Copenhagen in December, when nations will try to reach a new global treaty to address climate change. He spoke at the start of a busy day of diplomacy at the United Nations that also was to include a three-way meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an effort to nudge forward the Mideast peace process.

“We understand the gravity of the climate threat. We are determined to act,” Obama said. “And we will meet our responsibility to future generations.”

He spoke after Ban admonished leaders to put aside differences and move more quickly on global warming.

Obama is under pressure to put political capital behind getting a serious clean-energy law at home and show that the U.S., an economic giant, will do its part to cut heat-trapping emissions. The U.S. House passed a bill this summer that would set the first mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, but a Senate version appears increasingly unlikely this year.

In his first presidential visit to the United Nations, Obama also sought to show a clear break from former President George W. Bush without referring to his predecessor by name. Bush’s critics said he didn’t take climate change seriously enough.

“It is true that for too many years, mankind has been slow to respond to or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat. It is true of my own country as well,” Obama said. “We recognize that.”

Environmental experts warn of catastrophic changes, from rising sea levels to more drought, if industrial and developing nations cannot collectively address a warming planet.

“Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history,” Obama said.

Obama said his administration has made the “largest-ever” American investment in renewable energy. And he called on other nations – the rich and the developing countries alike – to rise to the challenge. He said undertaking costly environmental clean up work is difficult at a time when the world is trying to recover from a recession, but that it has to be done.

“All of us will face doubts and difficulties in our own capitals as we try to reach a lasting solution to the climate challenge,” Obama said. “But difficulty is no excuse for complacency.”

Tuesday’s U.N. summit and the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh later this week seek to put added pressure on rich nations to commit to greenhouse gas cuts and to pay for poorer nations to burn less coal and preserve their forests.

Obama sought repeatedly to hold everyone accountable. He said developed nations such as the United States have a “responsibility to lead” but rapidly-growing nations must do their part.

As for Obama’s Mideast diplomacy efforts, there were no expectations of a breakthrough from Tuesday’s three-way meeting. But it was seen as a crucial step for the president nonetheless.

After seeing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas separately, Obama was bringing the two together for the first Israeli-Palestinian meeting since Netanyahu took office in March.

Even if little more than a photo opportunity, it will probably be the most-watched portion of a marathon day of international diplomacy for Obama, a 12-hour sprint through many high-profile global problems and disputes.

The Israeli-Palestinian sit-down wasn’t announced until Saturday and comes with the two sides still far apart on what it would take to resume peace talks that broke off in 2008.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell failed last week to bridge the gap between the two sides on the issue of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, putting the long hoped-for three-way meeting in doubt. Obama has asked Israel to freeze all settlement construction, a condition for Abbas to resume negotiations. But Israel has only committed to a partial halt.

Still, the sides decided to go ahead, even though Obama is considered unlikely to resolve the settlement showdown and announce a relaunching of peace talks.

“We have no grand expectations out of one meeting,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

One reason to have the meeting is the need to get momentum going.

“The U.S. wants to and the U.S. needs to negotiate in public,” said Jon Alterman, a senior fellow in Middle East policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former State Department official in President George W. Bush’s first term. “There’s a perceived need for the U.S. to visibly be involved in making progress on Arab-Israeli issues.”

Obama’s agenda on Tuesday also included meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao at a fraught time in the Washington-Beijing relationship; playing luncheon host, as America’s first black president, to sub-Saharan African leaders for talks on boosting opportunities for young people in their poverty-stricken nations; delivering key speeches to former President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative and to a U.N. heads-of-state session on the stalled issue of climate change; and ending the day with a U.N.-sponsored leaders dinner.

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Climate change plan needs teamwork: Obama

by CBC News

CBC News (September 22, 2009) UNITED NATIONS — U.S. President Barack Obama urged world leaders in New York for a one-day climate change summit to work together to prepare a new carbon emissions treaty.

U.S. President Barack Obama urged world leaders in New York for a one-day climate change summit to work together to prepare a new carbon emissions treaty.

“The threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent and it is growing,” Obama said. “Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it ? boldly, swiftly and together ? we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.”

World leaders are in New York at the request of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in an attempt to generate political momentum ahead of December’s UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that is meant to create a global treaty on carbon emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is one of about 100 high-profile guests who will be meeting with Ban during the one-day summit to discuss the environment and climate change.

“Failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be morally inexcusable, economically short-sighted and politically unwise,” Ban said as the summit opened. “The science demands it. The world economy needs it.”

‘We must all do it together’

“Each of us must do what we can when we can to grow our economies without endangering our planet ? and we must all do it together,” Obama said, urging countries to be ready to move forward in time for the meeting in Copenhagen.

Former U.S. president George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto accord based on its exclusion of major developing nations such as China and India.

Developed countries that have damaged the climate over the last century have a responsibility to lead, Obama said.

“But those rapidly growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part as well.”

Developing countries must be supported because they do not have the same resources to combat climate change but have the most at stake in a solution, he said.

“It will do little good to alleviate poverty if you can no longer harvest your crops or find drinkable water,” Obama said.

Little progress expected

Analysts have said Tuesday’s unofficial discussions are not likely to lead to any major progress unless significant plans are laid out by China or the United States.

China and the U.S. each account for about 20 per cent of all the world’s greenhouse gas pollution created when coal, natural gas or oil are burned. The European Union is next, generating 14 per cent, followed by Russia and India, which each account for five per cent.

The EU is urging other rich countries to match its pledge to cut emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, and has said it would cut up to 30 per cent if other rich countries follow suit.

In his opening speech, Obama said the U.S. has entered a “new era” and promoted his country’s passing of an energy and climate change bill, investment in renewable energy and efforts to become more energy efficient.

His administration has announced a target of returning to 1990 levels of greenhouse emissions by 2020.

Billions are also being invested in wind energy projects and carbon capture technologies to clean up coal plants, he said.

Push to continue at G20

Obama said he will push G20 members to phase out fossil fuel subsidies when they meet in Pittsburgh on Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile, China has already said it is seeking to draw 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Chinese President Hu Jintao told the summit his nation will continue to take “determined” action.

He laid out new plans for extending China’s energy-saving programs and targets for reducing “by a notable margin” the “intensity” of its carbon pollution. He also said China will boost its forest cover and invest in “climate-friendly technologies.”

India is also expected to outline plans that include becoming more fuel-efficient, burn coal more cleanly, preserve forests and grow more organic crops.

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