Obama, Hollande Talk Global Warming With Eyes Toward U.N. Summit

Obama and Hollande plan to discuss global warming in meetings in Washington.

President Obama and French counterpart Francois Hollande disembark from Air Force One at Charlottesville Albemarle Airport in Charlottesville, Va., on Feb. 10, 2014. The two leaders planned to discuss climate change, security, trade and development, senior White House officials say.

President Obama and French counterpart Francois Hollande disembark from Air Force One at Charlottesville Albemarle Airport in Charlottesville, Va., on Feb. 10, 2014. The two leaders planned to discuss climate change, security, trade and development, senior White House officials say.

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Looking toward a  United Nations summit on global warming next year, President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande, whose country will be hosting the conference, made climate change one of “four key themes” they planned to discuss in meetings this week in Washington, senior administration officials said Monday.

Conversations between Obama and Hollande were expected to focus on “some ambitious targets and outcomes from that summit,” set to take place in Paris in December 2015, officials said in a call with reporters.

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The climate conference next year is expected to bring together thousands of diplomats from nearly 200 countries. The goal: establish a new international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, one to replace the Kyoto Protocol after it expires in 2020.

“It’s a big test: whether or not the world can get its act together,” says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center.

In bringing up climate change in their meetings this week, Obama and Hollande “are doing their best to corral countries and figure out what they are going to be in a position to sign on to. France doesn’t want to be in the position of failing at that agenda,” she says.

As Obama and Hollande declared in a joint op-ed published in The Washington Post and Le Monde Monday, “We continue to urge all nations to join us in pursuit of an ambitious and inclusive global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions through concrete actions.”

Experts greeted the call with some skepticism.

“International climate talks still have a pulse, but we remain far away from developed and developing countries reaching agreement on mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reductions, or agreement on the degree of financial assistance necessary to help developing nations employ more low-carbon technologies and to adapt to climate change impacts,” says David Konisky, a professor of environmental policy at Georgetown University.

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Steven Cohen, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, agrees.

“Given the fact that you’ve got a developed world and developing world with fairly different interests with regard to energy, it’s unlikely you’re going to have agreements that address the problem,” he says. “We’re a few years away from that.”

Obama and Hollande visited Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello Monday, and the French president is scheduled to fly to San Francisco to meet with entrepreneurs Wednesday.