President Obama will attend the climate change summit in Copenhagen next month and will commit the United States to reducing its production of greenhouse gases, the White House said Wednesday.
Obama will speak at the Copenhagen conference on Dec. 9, one day before claiming his Nobel Peace Prize in nearby Oslo.
In a statement, the White House called Obama's decision "a sign of his continuing commitment and leadership to find a global solution to the global threat of climate change, and to lay the foundation for a new, sustainable and prosperous clean energy future."
His attendance is designed to give positive momentum to international climate talks. Leaders are hoping to arrive at a tentative agreement in Copenhagen on limiting greenhouse gases that could serve as a steppingstone to a legally binding treaty in the future.
As part of that effort, Obama will put on the table a U.S. commitment to reduce emissions by about 17 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade. That's in line with reductions in a House-passed climate bill. The Senate is still considering its own climate legislation.
White House advisers said earlier this week that America's failure to pass a climate bill before the Copenhagen conference should not be blamed for the slow progress of international talks.
"What the world needs from the United States is two things: clarity and confidence about what we're prepared to do," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "I think he also will need to assure the world that he is personally committed to work with the Congress to get this job done back home so the world will have the confidence that we'll carry through on the commitments he makes."
Aides say Obama decided to attend the Copenhagen meeting after constructive talks in recent days with leaders of China and India.
The European Union has urged the United States, as well as China, to deliver greenhouse gas emission targets at the summit, saying their delays were hindering global efforts to curb climate change.
The 2020 target proposed by Obama would be a first step towards bigger reductions in greenhouse gases. The president's goal would be to cut emissions 83 percent by 2050, with interim targets along the way.
The conference had originally been intended to produce a new global climate change treaty on limiting emissions of greenhouse gases that would replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. However, hopes for a legally binding agreement have dimmed lately, with leaders saying the summit is more likely to produce a template for future action to cut emissions blamed for global warming.
At least 65 world leaders will attend the summit, but unlike Obama, most are expected to attend the final days of the Dec. 7-18 conference.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the host and chairman of the talks, said he was "very happy" with Obama's decision to attend.
"The visit underlines the president's desire to contribute to an ambitious, global agreement in Copenhagen," said Loekke Rasmussen.
With material from The Associated Press