ABC’s Jordyn Phelps reports:
President Obama says that if the international community does not act swiftly to deal with climate change that “we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.”
“The security and stability of each nation and all peoples—our prosperity, our health, and our safety—are in jeopardy,” Obama said at a climate change summit Tuesday. “And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.”
The climate change summit, which was attended by 100 other heads of state in addition to President Obama, was the President’s first major address in a series of high-level meetings scheduled during his three-day long visit at the United Nations General Assembly.
During his address, the President pointed to the efforts the United States is taking to grapple with the challenges of global warming. He highlighted a bill that the House of Representatives passed in June that would put limits on greenhouse gas emissions as particular important. The Senate—busy dealing with the health care reform debate—has only had the bill considered by one committee so far.
Carol Browner, the President’s assistant on energy and climate change, said in a briefing, “The health care has obviously taken up more time than was originally anticipated.”
In addition to pointing out the efforts being made on a domestic level by the United States, the President appealed to other nations—developing nations included—to take up their share of the responsibility in addressing climate change.
President Obama said that “rapidly growing nations…need to commit to strong measures at home and agree to stand behind those commitments just as the developed nations must stand behind their own.”
Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, explained in a briefing after the President’s speech that these countries will be responsible for most of the increase in emissions in the next 30 years.
“They also have to take actions,” Stern said. “And they have to stand behind those actions to the same degree that the United States and the developed countries do.”
The president made a distinction between countries who are “rapidly developing,” such as China, and smaller developing countries that don’t have the “same resources to combat climate change.”
Browner said that these countries “don't have the same kind of obligations.”
Some environmental activist groups say the President’s speech didn’t go far enough in committing the United States as a leader on climate change issues. The World Wildlife Fund said in a statement that the President’s speech was an “opportunity missed.”
“While other countries announced specific targets and timetables, including China, Japan and the Maldives, President Obama did not address these critical elements,” WWF said.
China’s president, Hu Jintao, was quoted by Bloomberg.com as saying China will “cut carbon-dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by a notable margin by 2020.”
President Jintao did give specific numbers or figures on this planned cut in emissions.
It remains unclear what specific actions would be taken China and the U.S., the two largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. But President Obama pointed to the G-20 summit, which begins Thursday in Philadelphia, and the Copenhagen talks scheduled for December, when nations are expected to sign a treaty addressing climate change, as important opportunities for nations to make progress on climate change issues.