Obama pledges help on climate change
Washington — President Barack Obama is pledging new U.S. help for other nations struggling to address global warming, as heads of state from around the world converge for a major summit on climate change.
Obama arrived midday Tuesday at the United Nations, where he was to use his speech at a U.N. summit to announce plans to sign an executive order requiring the U.S. government to take climate change into account when it spends money overseas to help poorer countries, the White House said. The U.S. will also offer vulnerable communities abroad new tools to address the effects of climate change through science and technology.
The measures join a host of commitments Obama will announce at the summit, where more than 120 world leaders will gather on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to galvanize 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 to come 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 Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. "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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