Courting business, Obama presses for climate action in Asia

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:19 pm IST

Published - November 18, 2015 04:32 pm IST - Manila

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the CEO Summit, attended by 800 business leaders from around the region representing U.S. and Asia-Pacific companies, in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, ahead of the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the CEO Summit, attended by 800 business leaders from around the region representing U.S. and Asia-Pacific companies, in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, ahead of the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Aggressive action to fight climate change will be a boon for businesses in Asia and beyond, President Barack Obama asserted at an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, on Wednesday.

World leaders are just weeks away from a deadline for an unprecedented carbon-cutting deal that environmentalists say offers the last, best hope to avert the worst effects of climate change. At the meeting, Mr. Obama sought to build momentum toward that still-unfinished agreement, as he prepares to travel to Paris in late November for the deal’s long-awaited conclusion.

Mr. Obama also urged business leaders to reduce emissions in their operations and use their sway to pressure governments to sign on to the international pact.

“Your businesses can do right by your bottom lines and by our planet and future generations,” the president said. “The old rules that said we can’t grow our economy and protect our environment the same time those are outdated.”

Joining Mr. Obama on stage were Jack Ma, chairman of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, and Aisa Mijeno, whose startup called Salt sells low-cost lamps run on salt water.

Although Obama said no nation is immune to climate change’s consequences, he added that the Asia-Pacific region is particularly affected because of its low-lying islands. He said without action to curb emissions, businesses will make less money amid economic disruptions and dampened agricultural production.

“We have to come together around an ambitious framework,” Mr. Obama said of the emerging climate pact.

The CEOs gathered on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, an annual forum for 21 member nations typically used to hash out the region’s overlapping economic interests.

While Mr. Obama privately discussed ways of ramping up pressure on the Islamic State group, he came ready to use his public spotlight to zero in on the landmark climate deal. The president has made the issue a top priority as his term in office winds down.

On his last trip through Asia, Mr. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a joint declaration that set a 2030 deadline for carbon emissions to stop rising in China. The deal seemed to mark a shift in China’s approach to carbon reduction, and a diplomatic win for the president.

Some critics say that in an effort to clinch a deal, Obama and U.S. negotiators have already acquiesced to an agreement that will be too weak to prevent the worst effects of climate change. The White House says it iss searching for “significant commitments” that will ratchet up over time. The U.S. has pushed for each nation’s contribution to be revisited every five years.

“It’s going to require countries making good on promises to cut carbon pollution, and to doing so in a transparent, verifiable manner,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, as Mr. Obama left for a string of summits in Turkey and Asia.

In Washington, the Senate approved two GOP-sponsored resolutions disapproving of Mr. Obama’s plan to force steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants and rendering the rules inoperative. Both measures were narrowly approved under a little-used law that allows Congress to block executive actions it considers onerous with simple majority votes. The maneuver is subject to a presidential veto and has rarely been successful in overturning executive branch rules.

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