Climate issue an economic, security imperative - Obama

US president tells summit he seeks deal to boost economies and help the environment

US president Barack Obama said on Tuesday the world needs an enduring framework for addressing climate change.

He told the COP21 global summit on climate change in Paris he would seek an agreement that would boost economies as well as help the planet's environment.

“If we let the world keep warming as fast as it is and sea levels rising as fast as they are and weather patterns keep shifting in more unexpected ways, then before long we are going to have to devote more and more and more of our economic resources not to growing opportunity for our people but to adapting to the various consequences of the changing climate,” he said at a press conference.

“This is an economic and security imperative that we have to tackle now,” he stressed.


‘Change is necessary’

A strong climate pact would send a signal to researchers and investors that change is necessary and will spur energy innovation, Mr Obama said at a news conference at the global climate summit.

Mr Obama said he expected the US could uphold its climate commitments to help other countries meet their energy goals.

“We still need a Paris agreement,” Mr Obama said. “So my main focus is making sure that the United States is a leader in bringing a successful agreement home.”

Mr Obama said rising seas and warming climates could be a drain on economic resources.

The best way to drive innovation and reduce carbon emissions, he said, is “to put a price on it” but he does not expect to secure that from the current Republican-dominated US Congress.

“If you put a price on it, then the entire market would respond,” he told the news conference.

Insurance cover

As people come to realise the costs of climate change, he said, they will start to put a price tag on the damage it is doing. Insurance companies are beginning to realise this in terms of how they price risk, he added.

“It may be that the politics around setting up a cap-and-trade system, for example, shifts as well,” he said. “Obviously I’m not under any illusion that this Congress will impose something like that.”

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has blamed a “lost decade” of recession and “unrealistic” targets set by the EU for Ireland’s difficulties in grappling with greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector.

The Taoiseach singled out Irish agriculture as an exception, and said the State would need “time and space” to deal with meeting stringent EU targets of a 40 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

Mr Kenny was one of more than 150 world leaders at the COP21 summit. In his formal address, he said Ireland was "determined to play its part" in reaching an historic agreement before the conference closes on Friday week.