WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama is hoping to marshal strong global action against climate change at the historic conference in Paris and reassure the world that the U.S. can deliver on its own commitments.
Obama, due to arrive in the French capital late Sunday, and more than 150 world leaders were assembling for the opening days of a two-week conference where countries are trying to negotiate an agreement aimed at avoiding a calamitous increase in global temperatures.
Obama and French president Francois Hollande planned to attend the launch of a clean technology initiative by Bill Gates, according to a French source not authorized to publicly discuss details before the announcement and speaking on condition of anonymity. The United States, France, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada and Norway have committed to participate in the project to develop clean energies, the source said.
Eager to leave a legacy of environmental protection, Obama scheduled meetings with the leaders of China and India to underscore how developing nations are embracing the effort to combat climate change. Also on the agenda were sessions with the leaders of a few island nations, to highlight “the existential challenge” they face from rising sea levels, in the words of the president’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes.
Obama, with just a year left in office, wants to lead the world by example on climate change. But he faces pushback at home that makes it harder for him to credibly make the case on the world stage that the U.S. will honor its promises.
The U.S. is the world’s second largest climate polluter, surpassed only by China, and the president has pledged that the U.S. will cut its overall emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2030.
But his climate action plan has run into stiff opposition from Republicans who control Congress. They say his commitment to reduce emissions from U.S. power plants would cost thousands of American jobs and raise electricity costs for businesses and families.
Half the states are suing to block the power plant rules, claiming Obama has abused his authority under the Clean Air Act. The president also faces congressional opposition to committing U.S. dollars to a U.N. Green Climate Fund designed to help poorer countries combat climate change.
Adele Morris, a climate and energy expert at the Brookings Institution, said all the turmoil at home “makes it a challenge rhetorically, at least, for the U.S. to commit significantly to the targets that it’s announced.”
Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.
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