WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is hoping to generate early momentum for international climate talks in Paris next week by holding one-on-one meetings there with the leaders of China and India.
While in Paris, the president also will meet with the leaders of island nations at risk from the effects of global warming, the White House said Tuesday.
The president's meetings on the opening days of the United Nations climate change talks are aimed at underscoring a need for rich and poor nations alike to embrace the fight against climate change, and to project a sense of urgency about the effort. The climate conference is expected to last two weeks.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the opening-day meeting between the leaders of the U.S. and China, the two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, "sends a strong message to the world about their shared commitment to combat climate change and see an ambitious agreement achieved."
Ahead of Paris, Obama struck major climate deals with China, hoping that a commitment by the world's largest polluter to cut emissions would make it impossible for other developing nations to avoid making promises of their own. China, which is still building coal plants to fuel growing power consumption, plans to max out its carbon emissions around 2030, if not sooner.
Obama's meeting with the islanders will include leaders from the Seychelles, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, St. Lucia and Barbados. It's meant to highlight "the existential challenge that these countries face from rising sea levels," said Rhodes.
Rhodes added that while Obama will be in Paris for just the first two days of the conference, other top administration officials will remain to push for a strong agreement. Those officials include Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.