Addressing the United Nations Climate Change Summit, Obama announced two new policy initiatives for the US in working with developing countries. He said that he was launching "a new effort to deploy the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States, from climate data to early-warning systems." Secondly he said that he is ordering federal agencies to factor in climate resilience into international development programs and investments.
The technology effort, he said, " includes a new partnership that will draw on the resources and expertise of our leading private sector companies and philanthropies to help vulnerable nations better prepare for weather-related disasters, and better plan for long-term threats like steadily rising seas."
Developing nations have maintained that the global warming and climate change problems have arisen because of the polluting technologies used by the developed nations as they industrialised and that they continue to put out pollutants at levels several times that of developing countries on a per capita basis.
In a bold assertion, Obama said, "We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs." But, he added, "We can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation-developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass."
Obama said that US was giving climate change assistance to more that 120 countries, "helping more nations skip past the dirty phase of development, using current technologies, not duplicating the same mistakes and environmental degradation that took place previously."
He listed several achievements by the US in cutting emissions through a trebling of wind-generated electricity and a tenfold increase in solar electricity and requiring higher environmental standards for vehicles. Highlighted a controversial action last week by which he bypassed Congress to order power plants to cut pollution by 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030.
"None of this is without controversy." he said. "In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don't that we will be at an economic disadvantage.But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about."
The top leaders of three major economic powers, India, China and Russia, were noticeable by their absence among the120 heads of state or government at the summit. India sent Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and China, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pleaded with all countries to commit to reaching a universal climate agreement at the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change in Paris next year and do their fair share to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius, beyond which is considered the tipping point for dangerous and irreversible environmental harm.
Ban said that this can be achieved at "minimal extra cost" and called for private financial investments. He calso alled for carbon-pricing, saying "There is no more powerful way to drive the market transformation we need."