President Barack Obama is engaged in a week of diplomatic activities in New York and Pittsburgh to tackle many of the world's major challenges. How's he doing?
Obama gave the issue high-profile treatment by addressing a U.N. climate change summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, telling his audience that unless the threat from climate change is confronted, we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.
He said his administration had done more in its first eight months to reduce carbon emissions than the United States had done at any previous time. But he drew fire from environmentalists for offering no new proposals.
With European nations impatient for more U.S. action, Obama is finding rough going on the issue at home. Caught up in a debate over an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, Obama has been unable to dwell on climate change.
A bill mandating cuts in U.S. emissions is unlikely to be passed by the U.S. Senate by December as opponents raise concerns over whether paying for emissions cuts would raise taxes.
Obama made clear the United States is prepared to do its part but cannot go it alone, saying rapidly growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part, as well. It was a message similar to that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Obama managed to bring together for a three-way summit the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mohammed Abbas. That in itself was no easy feat, which speaks to the difficult nature of Obama's first major leap into Middle East peacemaking.
U.S. envoy George Mitchell was in the region last week holding talks to try to restart peace talks. Mitchell came away with little, which may be why Obama said it was time for a sense of urgency to take hold.
It is past time to talk about starting negotiations. It is time to move forward, Obama told Netanyahu and Abbas.
Obama managed to coax a handshake between Netanyahu and Abbas. There was no sign of a breakthrough although Netanyahu noted afterward there was a general agreement that negotiations should resume as soon as possible.
REBALANCING THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
Ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh late this week that Obama will host, support grew for a U.S. plan to build a more balanced global economy. The idea is to create a new framework in which exporters, which include China, Germany and Japan, should consume more, while debtors like the United States ought to boost savings.
One of the concerns the summit countries are grappling with is whether signs of economic recovery will undermine efforts to regulate the world financial order as countries return to the old way of doing business.
(Writing by Steve Holland; editing by David Storey)