President Barack Obama today insisted the United States was serious about 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,” Mr Obama said in brief remarks at a high-level UN climate summit.
Mr Obama sought to show US resolve ahead of crucial talks in Copenhagen in December, when nations will try to reach a new global treaty to address climate change.
“We understand the gravity of the climate threat. We are determined to act,” Mr Obama said. “And we will meet our responsibility to future generations.”
He spoke after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admonished leaders to put aside differences and move more quickly.
Mr Obama is under pressure to put political capital behind getting a serious clean-energy law at home and show that the US, an economic giant, will do its part to cut heat-trapping emissions. The US 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.
“Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history,” Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama said his administration had 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,” Mr Obama said. “But difficulty is no excuse for complacency.”
The UN 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.
Mr 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.
During his visit to the United Nations, Mr Obama moved from one massive challenge to another: Middl East peace.
No one in the White House, the Israeli government or among Palestinian officials was publicly predicting a breakthrough out of the three-way meeting that Mr Obama was hosting, and yet the session is seen as a crucial step for Mr Obama.
After seeing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas separately, Mr Obama is 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 Mr Obama, a 12-hour sprint through many high-profile global problems and disputes.
Mr Obama’s agenda also included meeting the Chinese president 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 ending the day with a UN-sponsored leaders dinner.