UNITED NATIONS (AP) — In a forceful appeal for international cooperation on limiting carbon pollution, President Barack Obama warned starkly on Tuesday that the globe's climate is changing faster than efforts to address it. "Nobody gets a pass," he declared. "We have to raise our collective ambition."
Speaking at a United Nations summit, Obama said the United States is doing its part and that it will meet its goal to cut carbon pollution 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. He also announced modest new U.S. commitments to address climate change overseas. The summit aims to galvanize support for a global climate treaty to be finalized next year.
But Obama's strongest comments came as he sought to unify the international conclave behind actions to reduce global warming.
"The alarm bells keep ringing, our citizens keep marching," he said. "We can't pretend we can't hear them. We need to answer the call. We need to cut carbon emission in our countries to prevent worse effects, adapt and work together as global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late."
He said the U.S. and China as the largest polluters have a responsibility to lead. But, Obama added, "No nation can meet this global threat alone."
More than 120 world leaders gathered on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to organize support for a global climate treaty to be finalized next year in Paris. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the summit's host, asked representatives of nations to come to New York with specific pledges in hand to mitigate climate change, as a way to show they're serious about ambitious emissions reductions in the treaty.
Obama's goals at the summit: to convince other nations that the U.S. is doing its part to curb greenhouse gases, and make the case that other major polluters should step up, too.
"It's very clear to the international community that the president is extending considerable political capital at home in order to implement his climate plan, and that's true," said Nigel Purvis, a U.S. climate negotiator in the administrations of presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. "The hope is that when we take action, others will do so as well."
Some of the tools the U.S. will offer developing nations were developed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey and are intended to help communities use data modeling, forecasting and science to anticipate the effects of climate change and make decisions about the best way to deal with it. Secretary of State John Kerry also announced that the U.S. would contribute $15 million to a World Bank program designed to stimulate funding for projects that reduce methane pollution.
But the commitments were modest compared to what some had hoped the U.S. would put forth to show its commitment. By mid-morning, other nations attending the summit had pledged at least $5 billion to help the world become more sustainable. And the development organization Oxfam argued that the U.S. Agency for International Development already incorporates climate change resiliency in its programs.
The one-day climate summit isn't formally part of the ongoing negotiations toward the climate treaty, which leaders hope will be more muscular than a lackluster agreement reached in Copenhagen in 2009. The idea is that by involving heads of state early, rather than leaving it to negotiators until the very end, prospects will improve for reaching a strong deal.
In another attempt to increase political pressure on leaders to take action, tens of thousands of activists, including prominent actors and former Vice President Al Gore, demonstrated in New York on Sunday.
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