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Obama: U.S. 'Determined To Act' On Climate Change

President Obama addressed the U.N. Climate Change Summit on Tuesday at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Charles Dharapak
President Obama addressed the U.N. Climate Change Summit on Tuesday at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

President Obama warned the United Nations on Tuesday that there is no time to waste in addressing the problem of climate change, and that a lack of global action now would be judged harshly by history.

The president, addressing a U.N. summit on climate change in New York, said his administration has made the "largest ever" American investment in renewable energy and urged other nations, both rich and poor, to rise to the challenge.

"The journey is hard, and we don't have much time left to make it," Obama said. "Our generation's response to this challenge will be judged by history."


Obama acknowledged that pursuing costly environmental cleanup is difficult at a time when the world is trying to recover from a recession, but he said it has to be done.

"All of us will face doubts and difficulties in our own capitals as we try to reach a lasting solution to the climate challenge," he said. "But difficulty is no excuse for complacency."

Obama's speech comes ahead of crucial talks in Copenhagen in December, where nations will try to reach a new global climate change treaty.

"We understand the gravity of the climate threat. We are determined to act," Obama said. "And we will meet our responsibility to future generations."

The president spoke after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admonished leaders to put aside differences and move more quickly.


As the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States is being closely watched by nations such as China and India to see if it will push through clean-energy mandates at home.

The U.S. House passed a bill this summer that would set the first mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, but it has gotten bogged down in the Senate.

Heat waves, droughts, melting glaciers, loss of the Greenland ice sheet and other dangers are fast approaching, said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore in 2007.

"The science leaves us with no room for inaction now," he said.

In the past, developing nations such as India have been reluctant to sign on to caps on greenhouse gas emissions, saying they should not be forced to curb their growth because of a problem that started with the U.S. and other economic giants.

Obama said the world "cannot allow the old divisions that have characterized the debate."

His speech was the beginning of a marathon day of international diplomacy, including a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, a luncheon for sub-Saharan African leaders and a key address to former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative.

On the sidelines of the U.N. meeting, Obama also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, presiding over a symbolic handshake between the two leaders. Following their late morning meeting, the U.S. president said it was "past time to start talking about starting negotiations" on an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Obama said the Israelis "need to translate discussions into real action" on the issue of Jewish settlements and for the Palestinians to do more to insure security and end violence.

Later this week, climate change will again be on the agenda at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

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