The Latest: Negotiators take heart at Obama comments

AP News
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Posted: Dec 01, 2015 12:13 PM
The Latest: Negotiators take heart at Obama comments

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — The latest news from the U.N. climate conference in Paris, which runs through Dec. 11. All times local:

6:10 p.m.

France's environment minister is welcoming U.S. President Barack Obama's pledge to push for a climate accord that includes legally binding promises.

Obama said on the sidelines of climate negotiations in Paris that parts of the accord should be binding to hold countries accountable.

But Obama's remarks were a boost to many negotiators, including host France, who want a strong accord.

Environment Minister Segolene Royal told The Associated Press in Paris that "With Barack Obama's comments we have crossed a new threshold. ... We really feel a collective dynamic that has now been set in motion."

She said "there was doubt before" about the U.S. position. It "is really extraordinary news that comes at a good time, at the beginning" of the conference.

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6:05 p.m.

Amid the talks in Paris, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives was directly challenging President Barack Obama's environmental policies, scheduling votes on Tuesday afternoon that would strike down rules on reducing carbon emissions from power plants, both current and future.

Republicans argue that the administration's climate change policies cost American jobs in a struggling economy.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was asked about the majority support in the United States for action on climate change and whether Congress was out of step with public opinion.

"I don't think we're out of step with public opinion wanting jobs, wanting economic growth, weighing the costs and the benefits," Ryan told reporters. "I think when you weigh the costs and the benefits against these so-called legally binding obligations they don't add up. I think it's very clear people want jobs."

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5:50 p.m.

Indonesia's environment minister says the country is cracking down on those responsible for illegally set fires that have left thousands of square miles of pristine forest a smoldering ruin.

Siti Nurbaya Bakar, who's attending the global climate change talks near Paris, says "We put law enforcement on the ground. Anybody who is at fault regarding this, they have to (be held) responsible for this."

President Joko Widodo said he was "ashamed" that authorities failed to prevent the fires, which are set in order to make the land available for farming. He ordered law-enforcement agencies to punish perpetrators, including revoking forest concessions and blacklisting those responsible.

The ecological disaster has inflicted a staggering toll on the region's environment, economy and human health: 2.1 million hectares (8,000 square miles) of forests and other land burned, 21 deaths, more than half a million people sickened with respiratory problems and $9 billion in economic losses,

The government is drafting new regulations to stiffen penalties, reduce haze pollution and avoid forest fires. But the president has also asked for patience in tackling the problem, saying Indonesia needs three years to solve it. Malaysia has said that is not fast enough.

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4:35 p.m.

Long lines for snacks and drinks have plagued visitors to the COP21 climate talks, with 40,000 delegates, reporters and activists all looking for a place to refuel.

But there was no line at #EnergyJuiceBar, a fun stand inside the so-called "Generations Climate" tent where environmental associations and other NGOs have set up stands.

The catch: to get a glass of juice at this stand, visitors have to work for it.

A pink bicycle and a black one are hooked up via a power generator to the stand's two juicers. Hop up on the bike and start pedaling, and a power meter shows the watts being generated while an attendant shoves carrots, apple slices and beets into the machine.

It takes 130 watts to run the juicer, and about a minute of hard pedaling to get one small glass of juice. Breathless customers step off the bike as a smiling attendant hands them the glass. "Here you go, you earned it," he tells each one.

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4:10 p.m.

One climate expert says it's common for international agreements to have parts that are binding and parts that aren't, and what's being discussed in Paris will likely not need approval by a reluctant Republican Congress.

Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. climate negotiator who is now president of the non-governmental organization Climate Advisers, says the binding parts would be requirements to have a plan to fight global warming, but not the plan itself, and to report and monitor emissions. But he says individual U.S. emission cuts would not be binding.

Purvis told The Associated Press at the Paris climate summit on Tuesday "there's no international climate police that's going to come and tell a country to do something more."

He says Obama has all the authority he needs to enter into this type of binding agreement, thanks in part to a 1992 directive approved by the U.S. Senate. He also says treaties that require approval by the U.S. Senate are only six percent of the international deals that come across a president's desk.

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3:25 p.m.

President Barack Obama says he believes his successor will uphold U.S. commitments in a climate change deal — even if that person is a Republican.

Obama says Republicans who now say they oppose an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions are "playing to a narrow constituency" but would feel differently if they won the presidency and felt the pressure of leading a global community.

He says America's status as a world power and its ability to influence events depends on "taking seriously what other countries care about." He says other countries are taking climate change very seriously.

Obama spoke to reporters before leaving a global climate conference in Paris. He added that he doesn't actually think his successor will be a Republican — he thinks Americans will elect a Democrat in 2016. He didn't name names.

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2:35 p.m.

U.S. President Barack Obama says he's confident the world will forge a major climate change agreement in the coming weeks.

Obama told reporters he's "convinced that we're going to get big things done here."

Obama spoke Tuesday as he ended a two-day trip to Paris for a United Nations conference on climate. He was among dozens of leaders who descended on the city to kick off the final weeks of talks on an international agreement to reduce global carbon emissions

Obama says he wants to see a deal that allows countries to continue to update their carbon-reduction targets regularly and one that allows developing nations to use new technology to "skip the dirty phase of development." He says a deal is critical to the global economy and to U.S. national security.

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2:30 p.m.

Paris police have extended a ban on public demonstrations around Le Bourget until the end of the conference on climate change.

The general prohibition put in place in the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris came to an end on Tuesday but the ban has been extended until Dec. 13 around the Champs-Elysees in central Paris and in Le Bourget, where the COP21 meeting is taking place.

On Sunday, police took 317 protesters into custody after activists seeking to call attention to climate change defied the ban on marches and clashed with police at the Place de la Republique, a central point for commemorations after the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people. All but nine have been released.

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2:15 p.m.

African leaders at international climate talks are stressing the need to address shrinking resources in the troubled Lake Chad region, where the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram carries out regular attacks.

The lake, surrounded by Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria, has shrunk as much as 90 percent compared to 1960, changing the lives of nearby farmers, fishermen and herders. Some also say the increasing desperation is driving people into the extremists' ranks.

Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, meeting at the Paris climate talks Tuesday with other Lake Chad leaders and France, says "there's a close link between the drying-up of the lake and the terrorism of Boko Haram."

He says "we must act quickly, before it's too late" to help people in the region.

The Nigeria-based Boko Haram has expanded attacks this year into Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The group wants to create an Islamic caliphate. Its 6-year-old uprising has killed thousands and driven as many as 2.3 million people from their homes.

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1:30 p.m.

President Barack Obama says without ambitious action on climate change, people may be forced to flee island nations and will become refugees.

Obama is meeting on the sidelines of global climate talks in Paris with leaders from island nations hit hard by rising seas and increasingly violent storms. Presidents and prime ministers from Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, St. Lucia, Barbados and Papua New Guinea are attending the meeting with Obama.

Obama says those countries aren't the most populous or influential. But he says their populations are "among the most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change."

The Hawaiian-born Obama is referring to himself as "an island boy." He says he understands the beauty and fragility of island life. Obama is calling for global financing tailored to the unique needs of island nations as they adapt to climate change.

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1:20 p.m.

U.S. President Barack Obama says the emerging global climate agreement must have transparency provisions and periodic reviews of carbon-cutting targets that are legally binding.

Obama is commenting on the legal framework for the agreement during a meeting with leaders of island nations hit hard by climate change.

Obama says the specific targets each country is setting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may not have the force of treaties. But he says to hold each other accountable, it's critical that "periodic reviews" be legally binding. He's referring to a mechanism sought by negotiators under which countries would ratchet up their commitments every five years.

Whether the climate deal should be legally binding has been a major sticking point in the talks, in large part due to the U.S. Obama would face dim odds at getting the Republican-run Congress to vote to approve a new climate treaty. That set off a search for a compromise where parts of the deal are binding and others are not, sparing the need for a new vote in Congress.

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12:50 p.m.

Chanting "Keep this fair, do your share," protesters at the Paris climate conference are warning that developing countries risk losing out on a global accord under negotiation to fight global warming.

A dozen activists unfurled banners and performed a skit Tuesday outside the exhibition halls hosting high-stakes climate talks through Dec. 11.

"COP is rigged for rich countries," read one banner, referring to the conference's formal name COP21.

A key sticking point in the talks is who should shoulder more economic responsibility for reducing emissions and helping countries cope with effects of global warming already underway.

Peruvian activist Maria Alejandra Rodriquez Acha said her country is facing climate threats on many fronts — from coastal erosion by the Pacific Ocean to shrinking forests in the Amazon.

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12:30 p.m.

France is promising 8 billion euros over the next five years for investment in renewable energy in Africa and to increase Africans' access to electricity.

President Francois Hollande's pledge Tuesday came in a meeting with 12 African leaders about the threats from climate change, including coastal erosion, advancing deserts and rivers that are drying up. The meeting is part of larger talks outside Paris this week and next aimed at an international accord to fight global warming.

"When a young student is forced to go study under a street lamp at night, it clearly demonstrates the electricity issue," Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said.

Hollande said, "The world, and in particular the developed world, owes the African continent an environmental debt."

The meeting also focused on financing for an African Union initiative known as the Great Green Wall, launched in 2007 to gather 11 countries to plant trees to combat the encroaching Sahara Desert and help people adapt to climate change.

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9:45 a.m.

French President Francois Hollande is holding talks with African leaders about what their countries need to cope with and reduce global warming.

The meeting Tuesday is part of broader international diplomatic efforts toward a possible long-term accord for all countries to cut man-made carbon emissions. Those emissions produce heat-trapping gases and scientists say are causing glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise and leading to more and more droughts and other extreme weather.

Hollande hosted President Barack Obama and 149 other world dignitaries Monday to kick off two weeks of U.N.-led climate talks outside Paris. The leaders agreed that something must be done to protect the planet for future generations, but now must overcome disagreements over who should shoulder the economic responsibility for cutting emissions and protecting countries already hit by climate change.

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9:15 a.m.

Envoys at the Paris climate conference say governments and companies need to do more to protect forests, which can help slow global warming.

Prince Charles, South American indigenous leaders and other dignitaries are holding a special meeting Tuesday to call attention to shrinking global forests from South America to Russia and Africa.

Peru's Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal told reporters ahead of the meeting that companies too need to do their part to limit deforestation. Envoys are urging greater efforts against illegal logging.

The world's forests play an important role in absorbing carbon dioxide released by man-made emissions from burning oil, gas and coal.

The meeting is part of two weeks of U.N.-led talks aimed at a worldwide, long-term accord to cut human-made emissions blamed for climate change.