WASHINGTON • President Barack Obama will meet the leaders of China and India on the opening day of talks in Paris to reach an international climate agreement, a symbolic gesture that the White House says underscores the commitment of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases to tackle rising global temperatures.
The announcement last year by China, the world's largest polluter, of a commitment to cut its carbon emissions after secret negotiations with the United States is credited with helping drive momentum for the Paris meeting. Under the agreement, China said its emissions will peak by 2030 as it increasingly turns to clean energy sources.
The Obama administration has had more difficulty winning agreement with India. Officials there reacted angrily after Secretary of State John Kerry said in an interview last week with the Financial Times that the nation posed a "challenge" for the Paris talks.
The meetings with China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi, both on Monday, the first day of the United Nations summit, are intended to "send the strong message to the world about their shared commitment", White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said in a conference call with journalists on Tuesday.
The Obama administration hopes that the President's attendance at the first two days of the climate talks can help "generate momentum for a successful outcome", Mr Rhodes said.
In addition to his meetings with the Chinese and Indian leaders, Mr Obama will meet next Tuesday with representatives of island nations most at risk from rising sea levels. Those countries and other developing nations want the industrialised world to provide money to help them mitigate the effects of climate change and subsidise their own transitions from carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
The White House hopes the talks will produce specific, verifiable pollution-reduction targets for the next 15 years and also lay groundwork for further reductions in the future, said Mr Paul Bodnar, the senior director for energy and climate change with the National Security Council.