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Obama presses for deal to limit global warming

Published 18/11/2015

US president Barack Obama, left, with Alibaba founder Jack Ma at the CEOs meeting (AP)
US president Barack Obama, left, with Alibaba founder Jack Ma at the CEOs meeting (AP)

Barack Obama has sought to build momentum for a potentially legacy-burnishing world climate change agreement, saying bold action will be a boon for businesses in Asia and across the globe.

Weeks away from a deadline, a t a meeting of chief executives in the Phillipine capital Manila, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, the US president urged business leaders to reduce emissions in their operations and use their sway to pressure governments to sign on to the international pact.

Mr Obama and dozens of other leaders are will convene in Paris at the end of the month to finalise the carbon-cutting deal.

"Your businesses can do right by your bottom lines and by our planet and future generations," he said. "The old rules that said we can't grow our economy and protect our economy the same time - those are outdated."

The Apec summit is an annual forum for 21 member nations typically used to thrash out the region's overlapping economic interests.

This year, security issues seeped on to the agenda. In the wake of the brutal attacks in Paris, talk of a response and containing the spread of Islamic radicalism filled both the formal meetings and hallway chatter.

But while Mr Obama privately discusses ways of ramping up pressure on the Islamic State (IS) 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. With no hope for passing legislation through the US Congress, Mr Obama has shifted to international lobbying.

The White House points to some success - 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.

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

Mr Xi sought to reassure regional economic and political leaders that his government would keep the world's number two economy growing.

He told the business conference that China was committed to reforming its economy and raising the living standards of its people. He also said Beijing was stepping up efforts to counter climate change and clean up its environment.

Although Mr Obama said no nation was immune to climate change's consequences, he added that the Asia-Pacific region was particularly affected because of its low-lying islands.

He said without action to curb emissions, businesses would make less money amid economic disruption and dampened agricultural production.

"We have to come together around an ambitious framework," Mr Obama said of the emerging climate deal.

Mr Obama also plans to step up his global lobbying campaign on another front during the Asia trip. The president is due to meet leaders from the 11 other countries backing the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal and urge them to quickly ratify it.

As with climate, Mr Obama faces his own hurdles at home on trade. Large portions of the president's party - including the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton - oppose the deal.

Meanwhile, many Republicans appear willing to deviate from their past support for free trade to avoid giving Mr Obama a major campaign-year win.

About two hundred protesters trying to march on the venues for Apec meetings were blocked by riot police in Manila.

Some protesters jostled with police and burned a mock US flag.

Vincent Crisostomo of anti-globalisation group Anakbayan said "Apec is an enemy of the Filipino people."

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