Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Climate Change Looms Large in Obama's Final Trip to Asia

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park, California, U.S., June 18, 2016. (Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
When President Barack Obama sets out this week to meet world leaders in China and Laos during his final presidential trip to Asia, he will make an unusual stop along the way.

With time running out for more action on climate change during his time in office, Obama will drop in to Midway Atoll, a far-flung and largely uninhabited coral reef that is a refuge for sharks, albatrosses and endangered turtles and seals.

The photo-rich stop is aimed at both raising awareness about the threat posed by climate change, and showcasing Obama's decision to protect a larger part of the ocean around Hawaii.

But the trip to the middle of the Pacific Ocean will also highlight the high stakes of climate change just before Obama meets world leaders in China.
The rare trip is both a signal of the importance Obama gives to climate change - and a sign of his focus in bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two leaders have clashed on economic and security issues, but forged common ground on climate, which helped secure a global deal to cut carbon emissions at a Paris conference last year.

"We have to recognize that climate change and clean energy cooperation has really helped to create better overall stability in the U.S.-China relationship, writ large," said Andrew Light, a former senior climate official in Obama's State Department.

Light, now with the World Resources Institute think tank, said he expects Xi and Obama will try to push other G20 leaders to agree to timelines for implementing the Paris agreement and work on cutting other greenhouse gases like methane and hydrofluorocarbons.

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