In a bilateral meeting on the first day of the United Nations climate summit in Paris, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed their shared commitment to international cooperation on climate change.
“As the two largest economies in the world and the two largest carbon emitters, we have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action,” Obama said. “And since our historic joint announcement of our post-2020 climate targets in Beijing last year, more than 180 countries have followed in announcing their own targets.” The global results show that “our leadership on this issue has been absolutely vital.”
Xi stressed China’s interest in “a new model of major country relations” based on “the principle of non-confrontation and non-conflict, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.” He affirmed the two countries’ shared interest in “partnering with each other to help the climate conference deliver its expected targets.”
In his remarks to the summit plenary later in the day, Obama called for a global agreement that turns national emission reductions to date “into an enduring framework for human progress—not a stopgap solution, but a long-term strategy that gives the world confidence in a low-carbon future.”
He expressed support for “regularly updated targets” that increase countries’ ambition on GHG reductions, a “strong system of transparency” to ensure that countries meet their commitments, financing for developing countries that are “willing to do their part to skip the dirty part of development,” loss and damage funding for nations facing the unavoidable impacts of climate change, and clear market signals to “unleash the creative power of our best scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs to deploy clean energy technologies.”
Obama also pointed to the milestone news that greenhouse gas emissions have decoupled from economic growth. “What this means can’t be overstated,” he said. “We have broken the old arguments for inaction. We have proved that strong economic growth and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another; they can work in concert with one another.”
Obama opened his remarks by acknowledging the people of France for insisting that the conference proceed in the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
“We have come to Paris to show our resolve,” he told participants, describing the UN summit itself as “an act of defiance that proves nothing will deter us from building the future we want for our children. What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshaling our best efforts to save it?”