Obama calls for global emissions pact ‘before it is too late’

Source: John McArdle, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013

In weather so warm that he removed his suit jacket, President Obama delivered a speech at Germany’s historic Brandenburg Gate this morning in which he called for “bold action” by every nation to fight the threat of climate change.

“With a global middle class consuming more energy every day, this must now be an effort of all nations, not just some, for the grim alternative affects all nations: more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise,” Obama said.

Coming 50 years after President Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” address and nearly five years after his own speech in Berlin during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama told the crowd that it comprised not only citizens of America or Germany but also citizens of the world whose “fates and fortunes are linked like never before.

And climate change is the “global threat of our time,” the president said.

With environmental groups eagerly awaiting a new climate action plan from a president who has made the issue a key topic in major speeches at the outset of his second term, Obama’s comments today reflected a sense of urgency on the issue.

While noting U.S. efforts to boost renewable energy from clean sources and double the fuel efficiency of vehicles, Obama said “we will do more” to curb carbon emissions.

“For the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late,” he said. “That is our job. That is our task.”

German authorities estimated the crowd size for this morning’s speech at 4,500, which is well below the estimated 200,000 that showed up for then-presidential candidate Obama’s 2008 address.

Even as he spoke in Germany this morning, Obama’s top climate aide, Heather Zichal, was in Washington, D.C., talking about the strategy that the White House plans to release on the issue, including efforts to promote clean energy development on public lands, increase energy efficiency and take regulatory actions through U.S. EPA (see related story).

Along with the global threats of international terrorism and extreme poverty, another worldwide menace that Obama said the world needed to address together is the danger posed by tactical nuclear weapons.

“Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons, no matter how distant that dream may be,” Obama said.

The president said that after conducting a recent assessment, he believes the United States can reduce its deployed strategic nuclear weapons “by up to one-third” and still protect the U.S. and its allies and maintain a credible deterrent.

Obama’s remarks were praised by policy experts in Washington, D.C., who are pushing for the United States to do more to combat climate change.

Dan Weiss, the director of climate strategy at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said in a tweet after the speech that Obama gave “great” remarks and that to accomplish his goal, the president must take action to slash carbon emissions from U.S. power plants.

But Marc Morano of the skeptics blog Climate Depot wrote that the president has misplaced priorities.

“Forget global warming!? Earth undergoing global COOLING since 2002,” Morano wrote, linking to a round-up of global cooling predictions.