The goal is a new global climate treaty, involving all nations, that would enter force in the year 2020 and help the world avoid the worst consequences of manmade global warming. This guide to COP21 lays out where each country stands and what these 12 days mean for you. President Obama only met with one negotiating bloc during his visit to the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris: representatives of the Alliance of Small Island States, also known as AOSIS.
The meeting, which took place on Tuesday morning eastern time, was aimed in part at addressing these countries’ concerns about rising sea levels, and their advocacy in favor of a legally-binding treaty with a more stringent temperature target than the U.S. favors. During speeches on Monday, several leaders of small island countries, including Presidents Anote Tong of Kiribati, Christopher Loeak of the Marshall Islands and Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of St. Lucia spoke passionately on about the existential risk their nations face. “Our survival depends on the decisions we take here in Paris at this conference,” Tong said. Obama said he identifies with this point of view. “I’m an island boy. I understand both the beauty but also the fragility,” Obama said, referencing his childhood years spent in Hawaii and Indonesia.
“Their population are amongst the most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change,” Obama said at the meeting. The island states have long comprised the conscience of U.N. climate talks, and they will be a formidable force pushing for a strong agreement. “Their voice in these negotiations will be absolutely vital,” Obama said. Island leaders are pushing for a legally-binding treaty to be agreed to in Paris, which is a nonstarter with Washington, since the Senate would almost surely reject such a treaty. Obama indicated some flexibility on this issue, saying that while emissions targets may not be legally binding, “the process, the procedures, that ensures transparency and periodic reviews, that needs to be legally binding.”