Speaking before a United Nations summit on climate change, the president’s first address to the world body, Obama touted steps the U.S. has taken to slow global warming and attempted to reassure the world that Americans are committed to the cause.
“We understand the gravity of the climate threat,” Obama said. “We are determined to act. And we will meet our responsibility to future generations.”
The president also urged world leaders to work toward an international agreement on global warming as they draw closer to a U.N. summit in Copenhagen the end of this year.
The remarks come at a time of rising concern about progress in those talks. Aides to Obama say things aren’t proceeding as quickly as they would like, and are leaving open the possibility that talks will extend into next year.
While there are dire predictions coming from other quarters — European officials say the talks are close to deadlock — administration officials think there still is cause for hope.
This morning, Obama tried to make the case for it. He ticked off a list of steps the U.S. has taken, including investing economic stimulus money in clean energy projects and raising its vehicle emission standards.
Notably, he did not call for the Senate to pass a bill before the Copenhagen meeting in December, or even to get one out of committee by then.
But the president laid down a personal marker on the issue, speaking in starker terms than he has used in months to describe the risk of not acting.
“The security and stability of each nation and all peoples — our prosperity, our health, our safety — are in jeopardy,” Obama said. “And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.”
Obama also offered a case for every nation to rise to the challenge, asserting that individual countries can still pursue economic prosperity while doing their part to protect the planet.
“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. “We must seize the opportunity to make Copenhagen a significant step forward in the global fight against climate change.”
The poorest nations have more to gain by correcting course, Obama suggested, arguing that they suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change.
“For these are the nations that are already living with the unfolding effects of a warming planet – famine and drought, disappearing coastal villages and the conflict that arises from scarce resources,” Obama said.
“Their future is no longer a choice between a growing economy and a cleaner planet, because their survival depends on both.”
Chinese President Hu Jintao is also addressing the climate change summit today, in addition to meeting with Obama privately this afternoon.