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Pacific News Minute: President Obama meets with Small Island Leaders in Paris

www.francebleu.fr Via Creative Commons
www.francebleu.fr Via Creative Commons

On his last day at the UN Climate Conference, President Obama met with six leaders from small island states. "Their populations are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of climate Change," he said afterwards.  We have more from Neal Conan in Paris, with today's Pacific News Minute.

Recalling his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia - The President described himself as an island boy.  “The threatened island nations may be small,” he said, “they may not have big armies, but they have sense of place and culture, they have a right to dignity.” The President warned that some if these nations may disappear entirely and he said, "As weather patterns change, we might deal with tens of millions of climate refugees in the Asia Pacific region."

President Obama's remarks and his decision to make time for this meeting will please Pacific leaders.   But they will also note what he did not say.  The President at no point budged from his stated goal to contain global warming to 2-degrees Celsius by the end of this century.  Pacific Island nations argue that any more than 1.5 degrees spells catastrophe - and the President did not change US opposition to another principal demand of the small island states.  A loss and damage clause to provide compensation for both the physical and the cultural effects of rising tides and more violent storms.  One change that did emerge: the President agreed for the first time that every nation's carbon emission targets should be legally binding. That could mean trying to win approval from Congress and given republican hostility to the President's environmental goals that could be extremely difficult.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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