President Obama expressed urgency and optimism as world leaders met to tackle climate change at the COP21 climate talks in Paris.
“There is such a thing as being too late, and when it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us,” Obama said on November 30. “Here in Paris, we can show the world what’s possible when we come together, united in common effort and by a common purpose.”
Leaders of 196 nations are attending the United Nations COP21 conference from November 30 through December 11 to reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
Obama said that leaders at the summit will fight cynicism and the “notion we can’t do anything about climate change.”
“I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it,” the president said.
Over the last seven years, the U.S. reduced its carbon emissions, making large investments in clean energy that increased its use of wind power threefold and solar twentyfold. These efforts, and other parts of President Obama’s action plan on climate change, also will improve health and boost the economy.
“The advances we’ve made have helped drive our economic output to all-time highs, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades,” Obama said.
The president discussed the impact of climate change he saw firsthand when visiting Alaska in August and September. He said the sea is swallowing villages, eroding shorelines and that Alaskan glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate.
“And it was a preview of one possible future — a glimpse of our children’s fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it. Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow,” the president said.
Obama stressed the importance prioritizing the future needs of today’s young people and the generations that follow ahead of today’s short-term interests. He urged leaders to reach a climate accord for the sake of future generations.
“Our progress will be measured differently — in the suffering that is averted, and a planet that’s preserved,” he said. “Passing that on to our children and our grandchildren, so that when they look back and they see what we did here in Paris, they can take pride in our achievement.”