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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Obama in Copenhagen Calls for Climate Action

WASHINGTON (CN) - President Obama on Friday called for an urgent climate agreement in Copenhagen, and pressured China and India to accept external emissions auditors, a major sticking point in negotiations. "There is no time to waste," the president said. "Without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page."

"We are ready to get this done today," Obama said during a 10-minute speech to the plenary session. "I come here today, not to talk, but to act."

Today (Friday) is the last day of the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen. After two weeks of negotiations, there has been no all-encompassing agreement.

But Obama insisted that an agreement could be reached, indirectly urging China and India to forego their opposition to emissions auditors, a major point of contention.

"I don't know how you have an international agreement where we all are not sharing information and ensuring that we are meeting our commitments," he said. "That doesn't make sense. It would be a hollow victory."

He appealed to the diplomats themselves. "We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," Obama said. "We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of a historic endeavor."

But cooperation may have been undermined Friday morning, when Obama and other world leaders met in a hastily assembled meeting. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao did not attend, but sent his vice foreign minister, He Yafei. European and American leaders were incensed.

In admitting to doubts over whether an accord will be reached, Obama seemed to place the United States - the world's largest economy - as a beacon to those who might hesitate to act alone.

"America is going to continue on this course of action to mitigate our emissions and to move towards a clean energy economy, no matter what happens here in Copenhagen," the president said.

Obama rejected the notion that acting alone to combat emissions would sacrifice one's nation for others.

"We're convinced, for our own self-interest, that the way we use energy, changing it to a more efficient fashion, is essential to our national security, because it helps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and helps us deal with some of the dangers posed by climate change," Obama said.

Industrialized nations have already made individual pledges to aid developing nations and have put forward plans to cut emissions.

The United States has said it will join an international effort to pay $10 billion to developing nations by 2012, and $100 billion by 2020.

Industrialized nations also pledged $350 million in aid - including $85 million in U.S. aid - to be distributed over 5 years, in addition to a separate $3 billion pledge by European nations.

The United States, Japan, Australia, France, Norway and Britain have also pledged $3.5 billion - of which the U.S. portion was $1 billion - to protect rain forests.

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