US president tells leaders at UN summit to act to prevent ‘irreversible catastrophe’.
Obama said on Friday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that the US’ economic future is inextricably linked to strategies aimed at combating climate change.
He said that innovation on green technology is intrinsic to saving the world’s natural resources, while establishing a new US economy that would ensure continued competitiveness.
“I do believe a consensus is growing,” Obama said.
The speech came as the US congress considers its next move on the climate bill, which Obama has called one of his priorities.
“The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy,” he said. “I am convinced of that.”
Obama wants significant progress in congress on climate legislation in advance of a meeting of 192 nations on the environment in December in Copenhagen, Denmark.
But with congress mostly focused on a controversial healthcare reform effort and support for climate change legislation uncertain in the senate, the Copenhagen summit is likely to start without clear carbon-reduction goalposts in the US.
The US is among the world’s leading producers of carbon emissions and its progress setting pollution-reduction goals is seen as key to success in Copenhagen.
Most US Republicans have criticised legislation mandating cuts in carbon emissions, saying it would eliminate jobs, encourage more companies to relocate factories abroad, and significantly raise consumer prices.
The US, although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol to combat greenhouse gases, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the treaty, adopted in the eponymous Japanese city in 1997.
The US was, as of at least 2005, the largest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
The US senate environment committee will next week take up its version of a bill aimed at combating climate change.
The legislation, if passed, would cut climate-warming greenhouse gases by about 80 per cent by 2050 – a level that Obama called for in his campaign.
The bill would also require more domestic energy to come from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydropower.
The US House passed a similar bill in June.
“This should not be a partisan issue,” Obama said of the climate change bill negotiations.
“The closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight.”