US President Barack Obama has urged all nations, including emerging economies, to act against climate change, warning that time is running out to prevent further damage.
Obama, addressing a UN climate summit hours after ordering strikes on Syria, said that the “urgent and growing threat of climate change” would ultimately “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other” issue.
“We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change,” Obama said.
Obama said he met in New York with Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of China, which has surpassed the United States as the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.
Obama said he “reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. It’s what big nations have to do”.
“Today I call on all countries to join us — not next year or the year after that, but right now — because no nation can meet this global threat alone,” he said.
Obama has put a priority on fighting climate change, but has been forced to rely on executive measures as he faces strong opposition from lawmakers friendly to the fossil fuel industry.
Telling the United Nations that “there are interests that will be resistant to action,” Obama insisted that developing nations must also fight climate change, warning success will on be achieved with every nation — developed and developing — joining in the effort.
But developing countries have scoffed at taking binding action without firmer commitments from the United States, arguing that wealthy nations bear historic responsibility for climate change.
The Obama administration hopes to seal an agreement that does not need ratification from the US Senate.