On Monday, President Obama admitted the ugly truth about global climate change. In Le Bourget, a suburb northeast of Paris hosting the global conference on climate change, Obama conceded that the United States is partly to blame for the global threat that climate change poses today.
“I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter 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,” President Obama said, as 150 world leaders gathered at the opening of the talks. So far at least 170 nations have put forth emissions resolutions. “No nation — large or small, wealthy or poor — is immune,” he added, recognizing the global effort that must be put forth in order to walk back years of environmental degradation.
President Obama’s speech and the conference itself comes at a time when the capitals of China and India are reporting some of the highest levels of smog in history, with levels reaching into hazardous levels for public health. In New Delhi, the smog became so thick that visibility was reduced to only 200 yards.
President Xi Jinping of China also conceded that China, the largest polluter, needed to make efforts to clean up its act. Though China will face a heavier burden considering the country’s reliance on big industry to drive its powerful economy. Regardless, President Xi said that China is “firmly committed” to working with the United States and other partners to meet the established goals of the conference. “As 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,” President Obama said, mirroring President Xi’s words.
India, on the other hand, is less than willing to meet the emission reduction demands of the conference. Prime Minister Narendra Modi cited emissions demands as too much of a burden for a country like India that relies on burning coal to grow its economy. Although Prime Minister Modi (and President Xi) made it clear that they will not stop burning coal without financial subsidies from fully developed nations, Modi unveiled a solar alliance comprising of 120 nations in order to develop solar energy production in the underdeveloped world. While India will not reduce emissions, they will put in a concerted effort to develop alternative energy technologies to help offset the nation’s “coal rush.”
The Paris climate conference (COP21) runs through Dec. 11. The ultimate goal of the conference is to reach a legally binding agreement on combating climate change, including the implementation of global carbon emissions, from all the nations in the world.