Pushing for a powerful climate deal, President Barack Obama called the global talks opening Monday outside Paris an “act of defiance” against terrorism that proves the world stands undeterred by Islamic State-linked attacks in Europe and beyond.
Obama used his speech to more than 150 world leaders to salute Paris and its people for “insisting this crucial conference go on” just two weeks after attacks that killed 130 in the French capital. He said leaders had converged to show resolve to fight terrorism and uphold their values at the same time.
Obama’s remarks came at the start of two weeks of make-or-break negotiations to finalize a sweeping global agreement to cut carbon emissions. Obama exhorted leaders here to fight the enemy of cynicism — “the notion we can’t do anything” about the warming of the planet.
Efforts to secure a climate deal have been hampered by a long-running dispute about whether developing nations share the same burden as industrialized nations that have historically polluted much more. The U.S. and other nations have insisted that all countries chip in under the new agreement.
Aiming to put a finer point on that argument, Obama met Monday with President Xi Jinping of China, which has started taking aggressive action to curb emissions, and with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has argued repeatedly that climate change isn’t India’s fault.
In his meeting with Xi, Obama said nowhere had coordination with Beijing been more critical or fruitful than on climate change. He credited U.S. and Chinese leadership with leading 180 nations to make their own pledges to curb emissions in the run-up to the Paris talks.
Yet Obama also invoked hot-button issues that have long vexed U.S.-China relations. The United States has complained bitterly about cyberattacks against the U.S. emanating from China, and Obama has spoken out regularly against China’s assertive moves in disputed waters in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
As the conference kicked off, the Obama administration announced it was pledging $51 million to a global fund to help poorer countries adapt to climate change. The U.S. contribution joins pledges from Germany, Canada, Italy and others to total $248 million.
The Obama administration didn’t specify where the U.S. dollars would come from.
Meanwhile, U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says the House will not go along if President Barack Obama tries to commit taxpayer money to support a climate accord reached in Paris.
He says Congress has the authority to decide how to spend U.S. taxpayer dollars, “and I don’t think that’s the best use of our money.”
The California Republican also criticized Obama’s overall approach at the Paris talks, saying he should be focusing on America’s progress in switching to natural gas and thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In Paris, Obama also said the U.S. would participate in a new private-sector partnership aimed at boosting investment in clean energy technology. Announcing the initiative on stage with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, one of the backers of deal, Obama said new, cheaper technologies would be critical to helping poorer nations “skip the dirty phase of development.”
Obama capped his day of climate diplomacy at a working dinner with French President Francois Hollande. The president is slated to continue his talks with world leaders on Tuesday. Obama plans to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and will host a meeting of island nations hit hard by climate change before returning to Washington.