Obama-Hollande meeting may boost larger climate goals

Climate change made the cut as one of four major themes that are important in the U.S.-France relationship, a senior White House official said on Monday.

On a call with reporters, ahead of a joint press conference and state dinner at the White House on Tuesday, a senior administration official said Obama plans to discuss expanding cooperation on protecting the environment and addressing climate change with French President François Hollande.

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Obama plans to bring up his new standards for funding of coal-fired power plants overseas, which might be the start of pushing larger climate rules leading into the Paris climate talks in 2015.

"We'll also be talking to President Hollande about our new initiative to end public financing of coal-fired power plants overseas except in the poorest of countries, and discussing ways in which France can help support that initiative," the senior administration official said on Monday.

The administration is optimistic it would get France and other countries to sign onto the new standards as a means to combat global climate change.

"We feel confident that the steps that we've taken domestically are in a good position to converge with our efforts internationally," an administration official said. "We continue to look at what are the emissions reductions targets that the world's major economies can agree to; what type of support can we provide for poorer developing countries as they aim to bypass some of the dirtier phases of development."

Referencing the Paris climate talks coming up in 2015, the administration expects an agreement would be made despite what it claims are "ambitious goals."

"We have an ambitious goal here of reaching an agreement in 2015 that has been set, and the only way we're going to do that is if countries like the United States and France can, over time, come to a common position, and bring in countries like China and India as well so that this is a truly global coalition that goes beyond simply the Kyoto coalition," the official added.

In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Obama was under no illusion that U.S. climate policies alone would significantly curb the impacts of global warming.

Obama said "it's not feasible" to think that nations like China would stop building coal power plants.

"And so if we can figure out a carbon-capture mechanism that is sufficiently advanced and works, then we are helping ourselves, because the Chinese and the Indians are going to build some coal plants, and even if we don’t build another coal plant in this country, there are going to be a lot of coal plants around the world that are built," Obama said in the interview, released late last month.