US president says every nation has a responsibility to do its part and ‘overcome old divides, look squarely at the science and reach a strong global climate agreement next year’
Barack Obama has stared down both Republican hostility at home and the reluctance of his Australian G20 hosts to insist that the world can clinch a new climate change deal next year.
The president used a speech on the sidelines of the G20 in Brisbane, Australia, to confirm what was revealed by the Guardian on Friday: that the US would be contributing $3bn to the Green Climate Fund that aims to help developing nations cope with the effects of global warming.
And he insisted nowhere had more to lose from rising temperatures than the Asia Pacific region and Australia in particular.
“No nation is immune and every nation has a responsibility to do its part,” Obama said. “You will recall at the beginning I said the US and Australia has a lot in common. Well one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon … which means we’ve got to step up.”
In the backrooms of the G20 meeting, Australia was continuing to resist language in the official communique encouraging countries to make pledges to the Green Climate Fund, but to a rousing reception at a local university, Obama announced the $3bn US commitment.
Obama said the new funding would help vulnerable communities with early-warning systems, stronger defences against storm surges, and climate-resilient infrastructure, while supporting farmers to plant more durable crops.
He hailed the deal he struck in Beijing on Wednesday, saying China’s pledge to ensure its carbon emissions peaked by 2030 was historic.
“The reason that’s so important is because if China as it develops adapts the same per capita carbon emissions as advanced economies like the US or Australia, this planet doesn’t stand a chance because they’ve got a lot more people,” Obama said.
“So them setting up a target sends a powerful message to the world that all countries, whether you are a developed country, a developing country or somewhere in between, you’ve got to be able to overcome old divides, look squarely at the science and reach a strong global climate agreement next year.
“And if China and the US can agree on this then the world can agree on this, we can get this done and it is necessary for us to get it done.”
Obama faces domestic political challenges implementing greater curbs on greenhouse gas emissions in the US after the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress in mid-term elections last week.
Mitch McConnell, who will take over as the majority leader of the Senate, has called the China deal part of Obama’s “ideological war on coal” and signalled that Republicans would seek to ease the burden of power station emission regulations.