U.S. President Barack Obama boards Air Force One for travel to deliver speeches on climate change in Nevada and Hawaii, on his way to his last presidential visit to Asia, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst(reuters_tickers)
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday embarked on a 10-day trip during which he will stress the urgency of curbing climate change and try to achieve some final agreements on the issue with world leaders at a G20 meeting in China.
Obama, who is racing to cement his legacy on climate before his presidency ends on Jan. 20, will showcase both progress on climate and looming threats in stops at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Honolulu, and an ocean refuge in the remote Midway Atoll.
On Saturday, he will discuss further steps on climate change with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is hosting the summit of the G20 group of leading economies, where climate is part of the agenda.
Obama and Xi worked together to secure a global deal to cut carbon emissions at a Paris conference last year and are expected to take the next steps soon to help bring the agreement into force.
At a Nevada summit on the health of Lake Tahoe, known for its clarity, Obama will talk about drought, wildfires and gains the United States has made in renewable energy. He will point to U.S. carbon emissions that are at their lowest level in almost two decades, the White House said.
"He has not backed off," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is hosting the summit.
"He is somebody who has been unrelenting in recognising that climate change is not a scientific hoax," Reid said in an interview.
Green groups have cheered Obama but also are prodding him not to rest on his laurels.
"We’re hoping that he will actually withdraw the Arctic from his five-year plan on offshore drilling, like he did with the Atlantic, because it’s an even worse place to drill, frankly," said Jackie Savitz, a marine biologist with the Oceana conservation group.
Later on Wednesday, Obama will speak with leaders of Pacific Island nations at risk from climate change and a congress of conservation leaders in Honolulu.
Last week, he quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, banning commercial fishing and drilling from a huge area known for its coral reefs, sharks and seals.
He will venture deep into the monument on Thursday during a rare presidential stop at Midway Atoll, where climate advocates hope the pictures tell the story.
"Having the president standing in a place that could disappear would be a powerful message on climate change and ocean health," said Seth Horstmeyer, a director with Pew's Global Ocean Legacy project.
(Additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Bill Trott)