President Obama told fellow heads of state that he came to the United Nations Climate Change Conference not to talk, but to act. However, no major announcements on behalf of the U.S. were made during the speech.
‘We know the fault lines, because we've been imprisoned by them for years,’ he said at the morning plenary session. ‘These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon.’
Obama said mitigation, transparency and financing are factors that should be included in any climate change accord. He acknowledged that as the world's largest economy and second-largest producer of emissions, the U.S. bears a responsibility to address climate change.
By investing in renewable energy, the president said the U.S. is trying to do its share. But Obama also noted that other countries must step up their efforts, as well. He urged the major economies of the world to take action to reduce emissions and noted that the U.S. has called for a cut in emissions of in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The expected pathway in pending legislation would extend those cuts to 30% by 2025, 42% by 2030 and more than 80% by 2050.
Obama said there must be a method to determine whether countries are keeping their commitments and a way to exchange this information in a transparent manner. The president did not directly mention China, but the country has been reluctant to allow such transparency.
But while Obama acknowledged that developed countries have contributed to global warming, he also stressed that all countries must act.
‘We also believe that we will all be stronger, all be safer, all be more secure if we act together,’ he explained. ‘That's why it is in our mutual interest to achieve a global accord in which we agree to certain steps, and to hold each other accountable to certain commitments.’
In order to help developed countries cut emissions, the president said financing must be made available. To that end, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced that the U.S. is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of poorer countries.
Obama ended his speech by saying that time is running out and that climate change continues to accelerate.
‘The time for talk is over,’ he said. ‘This is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of a historic endeavor – one that makes life better for our children and our grandchildren.’