Profiles: President Obama & Premier Wen

Profiles: President Obama & Premier Wen

There’s no doubt these two leaders played the most critical role in getting an acceptable global climate deal in Copenhagen. US President Barrack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met at the crucial late stage to clear the air on the three most contentious issues: verification guarantees, financing for global warming action and permitted emission levels.

US ABC News’ Jim Sciutto and Sunlen Miller report:

President Obama touted that “for the first time in history, all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change,” calling the late-hour agreement struck in Copenhagen, Denmark an “unprecedented breakthrough.”

The President noted that the countries came to the Copenhagen climate change conference with an “ambitious target” to reduce emissions – reaffirming the three components he called for in his speech before leaders earlier today: transparency, mitigation and finance.

Mr. Obama noted that he had a meeting with the leaders from China, India, Brazil, and South Africa before an agreement was reached.

“And that’s where we agreed to list our national actions and commitments, to provide information on the implementation on these actions through national communications, with international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines,” Mr. Obama said, “We agreed to set a mitigation target to limit warming to no more than 2 degree Celsius, and importantly to take action to meet this objective consistent with science.”

The accord is not legally binding, but Mr. Obama said that the hope is that the “we’re in this together” mentality will be a watch-dog of sorts among the countries.

“The way this agreement is structured, each nation will be putting concrete commitments into an appendix of the document and so will lay out very specifically what each country’s intentions are. Those commitments will then be subject to a international consultation and analysis….. it will do is allow for each country to show to the world that they are doing. And there will be a sense on the part of each country that we’re in this together. And we’ll know who is meeting and who is not meeting the mutual obligations that have been set forth.”

While expressing hope for a legally binding agreement in the future, the first goal of the summit which had to be scaled back, Mr. Obama admitted that it is going to “be very hard,” and “take some time.”

“It is still going to require more work and greater confidence building between emerging countries, the least developed countries and the developed countries before I think you are going to see another legally binding treaty signed. I actually think that is necessary for us to get to such a treaty, and I am supportive of such efforts but this is a classic example of a situation where if we just waited for that then we would not make any progress. And in fact I think there might be such frustration and cynicism that rather than taking one step forward, we ended up taking two steps back.”

As he often does, Mr. Obama’s message at the summit was to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

“This is hard within countries, it’s going to be even harder between countries and you know one of the things that I felt very strongly about over the course of this year is that the hard stuff requires not paralysis but it requires going ahead and making the best of the situation at this point.” 

The President said the progress did not come easily but that this alone is not enough.

“Going forward we are going to have to build on the momentum that we established here in Copenhagen to ensure that international action to significantly reduce emissions is sustained and sufficient over time. We have come a long way but we have much more to go.”

Mr. Obama will depart the conference earlier than the rest of the leaders due to the massive winter storm headed for Washington, D.C. But, Mr. Obama said that he’s confident with the status of agreement and can leave before an official vote.

“Because of weather constraints in Washington I am leaving before the final vote, but we feel confident that we are moving in the direction of a significant accord.”

He added, “What we have achieved in Copenhagen will not be the end, but rather the beginning. The beginning of a new era of international action.”


Report on ABC Australia news:

 US President Barack Obama has told the world to stop bickering and embrace even an imperfect new climate deal or risk a disastrous split that would let global warming advance unchallenged.

Mr Obama, addressing other world leaders at Copenhagen, did not offer new American commitments to cut emissions that some see as crucial to a deal.

But he called for transparency from other countries in how their emissions curbs are checked and said his country would continue to fight global warming regardless of what happened at the summit in Denmark.

“The time for talk is over,” he said.

“The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart.

“This is not a perfect agreement and no country would get everything that it wants.

“I believe we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of a common threat. That’s why I come here today – not to talk, but to act.”

The President says if the two-week summit falls short, the result will be a slump back to “the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years”.

“We will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.”

Mr Obama’s presence in Copenhagen has been seen as all that stood between the climate change summit and failure.

Soon after landing in the Danish capital, he met with a number of world leaders, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in a final push to produce a global deal on climate change.

The deadline for an agreement is only hours away and after exhaustive talks overnight negotiators came up with a draft text, however major differences remain to be resolved.

The draft text is said to have abandoned the controversial goal of limiting temperature rises to two degrees Celsius.

There is thought to be a clause committing industrialised countries to a fund worth $US10 billion ($11.2 billion) a year for three years rising to $US100 billion a year by 2020.

China and the US have indicated in the past 24 hours that they will make key concessions and be part of a global agreement that has the best interests of the planet involved.

Mr Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met for 55 minutes on the sidelines of the conference, with officials saying the session was “constructive” and “made progress”.

The two leaders discussed three of the most contentious areas blocking the path to a climate deal, verification guarantees, financing for global warming action and permitted emission levels.

Addressing the summit before Mr Obama, Mr Wen defended his country’s climate commitments.

China has been criticised for not offering stronger carbon emissions targets and resisting international monitoring of its actions.

Mr Wen told delegates that China would honour voluntary targets of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 per cent.

“We will honour our word with real action,” he said.

“Whatever outcome this conference may produce, we will be fully committed to achieving and even exceeding the target.”


Transcript of President Obama’s final Copenhagen address, delivered on 18 December 2009:

“Good morning. It’s an honor to for me to join this distinguished group of leaders from nations around the world. We come together here in Copenhagen because climate change poses a grave and growing danger to our people. You would not be here unless you – like me – were convinced that this danger is real. This is not fiction, this is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet. That much we know.

So the question before us is no longer the nature of the challenge – the question is our capacity to meet it. For while the reality of climate change is not in doubt, our ability to take collective action hangs in the balance.

I believe that we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of this common threat. And that is why I have come here today.

As the world’s largest economy and the world’s second largest emitter, America bears our share of responsibility in addressing climate change, and we intend to meet that responsibility. That is why we have renewed our leadership within international climate negotiations, and worked with other nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. And that is why we have taken bold action at home – by making historic investments in renewable energy; by putting our people to work increasing efficiency in our homes and buildings; and by pursuing comprehensive legislation to transform to a clean energy economy.

These actions are ambitious, and we are taking them not simply to meet our global responsibilities. We are convinced that changing the way that we produce and use energy is essential to America’s economic future – that it will create millions of new jobs, power new industry, keep us competitive, and spark new innovation. And we are convinced that changing the way we use energy is essential to America’s national security, because it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help us deal with some of the dangers posed by climate change.

So America is going to continue on this course of action no matter what happens in Copenhagen. But we will all be stronger and safer and more secure if we act together. That is why it is in our mutual interest to achieve a global accord in which we agree to take certain steps, and to hold each other accountable for our commitments.

After months of talk, and two weeks of negotiations, I believe that the pieces of that accord are now clear.

First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I’m pleased that many of us have already done so, and I’m confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.

Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.

Third, we must have financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least-developed and most vulnerable to climate change. America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012. And, yesterday, Secretary Clinton made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if – and only if – it is part of the broader accord that I have just described.

Mitigation. Transparency. And financing. It is a clear formula – one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities. And it adds up to a significant accord – one that takes us farther than we have ever gone before as an international community.

The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart. This is not a perfect agreement, and no country would get everything that it wants. There are those developing countries that want aid with no strings attached, and who think that the most advanced nations should pay a higher price. And there are those advanced nations who think that developing countries cannot absorb this assistance, or that the world’s fastest-growing emitters should bear a greater share of the burden.

We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be a part of an historic endeavor – one that makes life better for our children and grandchildren.

Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.

There is no time to waste. America has made our choice. We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say. Now, I believe that it’s time for the nations and people of the world to come together behind a common purpose.

We must choose action over inaction; the future over the past – with courage and faith, let us meet our responsibility to our people, and to the future of our planet. Thank you.”


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