“This is a solvable problem if we start now,” US president says at close of Glacier summit in Anchorage, Alaska
By Alex Pashley
Barack Obama made an urgent plea for the world to tackle global warming on Monday and throw its weight behind a global pact in December to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
The president made his remarks at a major conference in Anchorage, Alaska to highlight a region imperilled by melting sea ice and thawing permafrost.
“This year in Paris has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can,” Obama told foreign ministers and delegates in an address at the Glacier summit, organised by the State Department.
“This is within our power. This is a solvable problem if we start now.”
Envoys from almost 200 nations will gather in Paris in December to craft a global warming agreement, tasked with holding temperature rises within “safe limits” of 2C.
But with pledges to claw back emissions way off track, the US has launched a diplomacy drive to boost success at the summit in the French capital.
Obama implored all countries to rally together to sign a robust accord after two decades of failed attempts.
“Last year, for the first time in our history, the global economy grew and global carbon emissions stayed flat. So we’re making progress; we’re just not making it fast enough.”
In a 24-minute speech that laid out the scientific base for action, Obama’s wove stark images of a warming climate’s effect on Alaska: an extended wildfire season, methane-releasing permafrost and indigenous communities’ villages slipping into rising seas.
Alaska glaciers are losing the equivalent of 75 blocks the size of Washington’s National Mall, or 75 gigatons, he said.
Obama said the US was on course to meet its commitment to slash emissions by 26-28% by 2025 from 2005 levels, and last month, unveiled its headline policy to curb power plant emissions.
Still, Obama has come under fire for the administration’s approval of Shell’s drilling in high stakes Arctic waters, with demonstrators protesting outside the venue.
Activist group Credo Action, called the president’s perceived double standard his “Mission Accomplished” moment, in a reference to predecessor George W Bush’s premature declaration of victory in Iraq.
Obama will hike Exit Glacier in southern Alaska on Tuesday and travel to the Arctic Circle on Wednesday to meet indigenous communities.