President Barack Obama kicked off the climate conference in Paris on Monday by urging global leaders to take lasting action on climate change before time runs out.
“The knowledge that the next generation will be better off for what we do here -- can we imagine a more worthy reward than that?” Obama said at the conference's opening session. “Passing that on to our children and our grandchildren, so that when they look back and they see what we did here in Paris, they can take pride in our achievement.”
The president admitted that fighting climate change would be difficult because it wouldn't produce tangible results in the short term, but encouraged leaders to look into the future.
“Let that be the common purpose here in Paris. A world that is worthy of our children,” he said.
Delegates from nearly 200 nations attending the two-week conference hope to finalize an international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions and to update nations' emissions targets regularly in the future. Such an agreement would be the largest ever signed by a majority of world leaders.
The conference closely follows the recent terror attacks in Paris. Obama credited the city for carrying on and hosting the summit, calling it an act of “defiance.”
The president declared the talks a sign of global recognition that the challenge of climate change “could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other.” Republicans back in Washington aren’t on board with that assessment, however, and are ramping up efforts to undercut any commitments the president makes during his Paris trip.
Still, Obama said the conference was a "turning point."
"What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it," he said.
The Obama administration hopes to avoid signing a legally binding treaty, which would have to go through Congress. The president hinted at this goal on Monday by pressing for an agreement that would allow each country to set its own targets, but under a “strong system of transparency.” The White House has long said one of Obama's main goals is to foster a system that ensures countries continually come back to update their commitments to reduce emissions and curb their use of fossil fuels.
Obama also stressed the need for industrialized powers to aid poorer countries in combating global warming. Last year, the U.S. pledged $3 billion to the U.N.'s Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries transition to cleaner energy sources and fight extreme weather. On top of this, Obama said Monday that the U.S. would also contribute to a fund aimed at helping vulnerable populations rebuild after climate-related disasters.
“That’s what we seek in these next two weeks,” he said. "Not simply an agreement to roll back the pollution we put into our skies, but an agreement that helps us lift people from poverty without condemning the next generation to a planet that’s beyond its capacity to repair.”
Also on HuffPost: