International Climate Talks Begin In Paris Amid Shadow Of Terror Attacks
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
International climate talks are underway in Paris this morning. Representatives of nearly 200 countries have gathered there in the shadow of this month's terror attacks. They're looking to confront a more insidious threat, the rise of global temperatures. President Obama arrived in Paris last night and addressed the climate talks today.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: To say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president and joins us now from Paris. Good morning, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: So Scott, Obama began his day by meeting privately with Chinese President Xi Jingping in a summit devoted to global warming. These two men are very important.
HORSLEY: They are, Linda. China and the U.S. rank 1 and 2 in the carbon pollution that's associated with climate change. So any government effort to rein in those heat-trapping gases has to pass through Washington and Beijing. It was a year ago these two presidents announced their own ambitious plans to cut carbon pollution. That helped set the table for other countries to follow. And by meeting with Xi this morning, the White House hopes to send a signal to other summit participants. Here's some of what the president had to say.
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OBAMA: The two largest economies in the world and the two largest carbon emitters. We have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action.
HORSLEY: Already, countries responsible for some 90 percent of the world's carbon emissions have pledged steps to dial back those greenhouse gases. But climate scientists say even if all those pledges are met, it won't be enough to check the most dangerous impacts of climate change. That will require even deeper cuts in the future.
WERTHEIMER: We're also seeing promises today from both governments and the private sector to put more money into alternative energy.
HORSLEY: That's right, Linda. One of the big challenges is how do you rein in carbon pollution while still providing the kind of energy that advanced economies have grown accustomed to and that developing countries would like to have? One possible answer is to develop more clean energy technology. So today, Bill Gates and other private-sector backers are announcing plans to boost their investment in trying to find that kind of clean energy breakthrough. What's more, the U.S. and other governments are pledging to double their R and D budgets over the next five years. Though in the case of the U.S., it's not clear where that extra $5 billion a year would come from.
WERTHEIMER: Presumably, that's a very big question because President Obama is still facing considerable opposition to his climate initiatives back here, isn't he?
HORSLEY: He is. Just yesterday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell published an op-ed in The Washington Post reiterating his objections to the president's carbon crackdown. Of course, McConnell represents Kentucky, a big coal-producing state. So even as the president tries to forge an international climate agreement, there's still a lot disagreement back home.
WERTHEIMER: Finally, Scott, the focus this week is on climate. But of course, the Paris terror attacks cannot be far from anyone's mind. What can you tell us about that?
HORSLEY: Linda, the president's first stop here in Paris was the Bataclan concert hall that was the scene of the bloodiest of the November 13th attacks. He and French President Hollande met there. They placed flowers on a memorial outside the darkened concert hall. These two leaders also have a working dinner tonight, at which they're expected to continue the conversation they began in Washington about how to step up the military campaign against the ISIS terror group behind the Paris attacks.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's White House correspondent is traveling with President Obama in Paris. Scott Horsley, thank you.
HORSLEY: My pleasure, Linda.
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