Can Obama and China’s President Xi find common ground in Paris?

Coordination between the United States and China continues to be critical when it comes to fighting global warming, world leaders say.

Evan Vucci/AP
President Obama delivers remarks during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on Monday.

Close cooperation between the United States and China will be crucial to global efforts to combat the effects of climate change, President Obama said Monday at the opening of the international climate talks in Paris.

Despite enduring differences with China’s President Xi Jinping over cybersecurity and maritime security issues, Mr. Obama said coordination with Beijing has nonetheless been vital and fruitful when it comes to climate change. He credited the two countries’ decision last year to cut emissions with driving 180 nations to make their own emissions-reduction pledges in the run-up to the two-week Paris conference.

On Monday, both leaders pledged to continue to work together to achieve a “low-carbon global economy” this century.

“As the two largest economies in the world and the two largest carbon emitters, we have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action,” Obama said. "Our leadership on this issue has been absolutely vital.”

Obama's meeting with Mr. Xi at the start of the Paris talks was meant to highlight the need for the international community to come together on a strong agreement to combat global warming and other effects of climate change.

China emits about 30 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, making it the globe’s largest emitter. The US is second at about 16 percent.

In a joint announcement last year, Obama pledged to reduce US emissions up to 28 percent over the next 10 years, while Xi announced China would cut its own emissions by 2030 or sooner. The two countries have sought to use their alliance on the issue to convince both developed and developing countries to pledge ambitious cuts.

Xi, speaking through a translator, said that global troubles – such as the terrorist attacks in Paris two weeks ago that killed nearly 130 – made it even more critical for the US and China to work together.

“The world economy is recovering slowly, terrorism is on the rise, and climate change is a huge challenge,” he said. “There is more instability and uncertainty in international situations.”

Obama noted that the two nations have found ways to cooperate despite issues that have long frustrated US-China relations – including allegations of cyberattacks against the US originating in China, and what Obama has regularly denounced as China’s aggressive moves in disputed waters in the East China and South China seas.

"Our teams have found ways to work through these tensions in a constructive fashion," Obama said.

Following the meeting, the White House said Obama urged China to honor its commitments on cyber that Xi made during his September visit to the US. Obama had also "stressed the need to address regional issues, including maritime differences, peacefully and in accordance with international law,” and encouraged Xi to support economic reforms that would allow US companies to "compete fairly in the Chinese market," the White House said.

This report contains material from The Associated Press and Reuters.  

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