Dozens of major world leaders gathered in Paris on Monday to discuss global efforts to combat climate change. The conference, COP21, occurs annually and tackles the global implications of climate change—this year, leaders from over 150 nations and 40,000 delegates from 195 countries came together to establish legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the negative ramifications of climate change continue to increase alarmingly, France’s President Hollande succinctly put it best: “Never have the stakes been so high because this is about the future of the planet, the future of life.”
The United States, as the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases after China, is vital to this conversation. Thus, the world was looking to see how President Obama would approach the U.S.’s involvement in fighting the threat.
Obama not only acknowledged the U.S.’s culpability, but also affirmed the growing urgency of the issue: “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…No nation—large or small, wealthy or poor—is immune.”
This holds particularly true considering the current Syrian refugee crisis can be traced back to problems arising from climate change: excessive drought is one of the leading causes that contributed to its political instability.
Obama also addressed concerns from countries such as India that are reluctant to curtail their economic progress in order to stop a situation primarily caused by other nations. He openly admitted that their misgivings were more than fair, stating, “We know the truth that many nations have contributed little to climate change but will be the first to feel its most destructive effects.” According to the New York Times, he also “promised money to help the poorest nations transition to economies that depend less on burning fossil fuels.”
Obama nevertheless exhorted for a global push to fight the problem, to which time is of the essence. “The growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other,” he declared.
This is why international cooperation is more crucial than ever, and Obama conceding that much of climate change can be attributed to the U.S. is an ideal step in keeping global discourse open and effective.
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