Obama likely to focus on climate change in bilateral talks with Modi

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, New York
  • Updated: Sep 25, 2015 20:16 IST
Obama is likely to focus on climate change in his bilateral talks with PM Modi. (HT File Photo)

The United States on Thursday said it hopes to focus on climate change at President Barack Obama’s bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 28.

Previewing Obama’s UN general assembly schedule, the White House said the bilateral will surely give the two leaders a chance to build on the discussions they held during the US president’s trip to India.

“The two leaders will certainly address their shared vision of how to approach the upcoming meetings in Paris,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.

Read: Mixing business and diplomacy: PM Modi’s schedule

Countries are required to announce their carbon gas emission cut targets — called intended nationally determined contributions — before November 1, and India’s is still pending. India is critical to the global combat against climate change.

Both US and Indian officials insist there is no pressure on New Delhi to announce anything, not at least from Washington, but they conceded climate change has become crucial.President Obama is pushing it as a legacy issue for his presidency, which will shortly enter lame-duck phase when the race to succeed him will drown out everything else.

Rhodes said that in the president’s “diplomatic engagements this year, climate has been front and centre” and that it would be high on the agenda at his meeting with Xi Jinping.

The US and China are the world’s worst polluters, followed by India, which has withstood pressure to announce an emission cut target in the hope of securing an assistance deal.

As a late-comer to the polluters’ den, India wants developed countries to shoulder a larger share of the blame and commit more to combat climate change, in money and material.

But after the US got Beijing to announce its emission targets during President Obama’s visit to China in 2014 speculation has been rife about New Delhi being under pressure to match it.

Getting back to Obama’s bilateral with Modi, Rhodes, said, it “will be very important because India, of course, is also another major economy -- major emitter and we’ll want to continue the discussions that we had in India about what Prime Minister Modi is prepared to do to support successful international action against climate change”.

Indian officials refused to respond, saying they don’t want to anticipate what the two leaders will discuss. But they conceded climate change is an ongoing conversation.

But it will be a serious conversation this time, American sources insisted pointing out that the meeting with Modi is only one of two bilateral meetings Obama is doing, so far.

There may be more. But as of now the only other bilateral Obama is scheduled to have is with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with whom he has spent countless hours of silence.

So, sources argued, the bilateral with Modi is unlikely to be a photo-op. And progress on climate change may just be the price for a third meeting with the US president in a year.

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