WASHINGTON — At a joint news conference here Tuesday with President François Hollande of France, President Obama veered from his focus on the terrorist attacks in Paris to bring up the huge international gathering beginning in the French capital on Monday to hammer out a global response to climate change.
“What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the
world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from
building a better future for our children,” Mr. Obama said of the
The segue brought mockery, even castigation, from the political
right, but it was a reminder of the importance Mr. Obama places on
climate change in shaping his legacy.
During his 2012 re-election
campaign, he barely mentioned global warming, but the issue has
become a hallmark of his second term.
And on Sunday night he arrives in Paris, hoping to make climate
policy the signature environmental achievement of his, and perhaps
“He comes to Paris with a moral authority that no other
president has had on the issue of climate change,” said Douglas
Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University who noted that
Mr. Obama’s domestic climate efforts already stand alone in
American history. “No other president has had a climate change
policy. It makes him unique.”
In Paris, Mr. Obama will join more than 120 world leaders to kick
off two weeks of negotiations aimed at forging a new climate change
accord that would, for the first time, commit almost every country on
Earth to lowering its greenhouse gas pollution.
All year, Mr. Obama’s
negotiators have worked behind the scenes to fashion a Paris deal.
Crucial to Mr. Obama’s leverage has been the release of his
domestic climate change regulations, which he then pushed other
countries to emulate. So far, at least 170 countries have put forth
emission reduction plans.
But even as Mr. Obama presses for a deal in Paris, it faces steep
obstacles, not least the legal and legislative assault on his own
regulations at home.
During the course of the Paris talks,
Republicans in Congress are planning a series of votes to fight Mr.
Obama’s climate agenda.
More than half the states are suing the
administration on the legality of his climate plan.
And all the
Republican presidential candidates have said that they would undo the
regulations if elected. Read more: