BRISBANE, Australia - A Sino-US breakthrough on reducing carbon emissions proves a global deal on climate change is achievable, US President Barack Obama said Saturday, as campaigners hailed new momentum in long-stalled talks.
Announcing a $3 billion (S$3.9 billion) contribution to a UN-backed climate change mitigation fund, Obama said the China-US deal showed the way forward.
"If China and the US can agree on this, then the world can agree on this - we can get this done," he said in a speech on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Brisbane.
The UN and environmental campaigners welcomed the funding pledge, saying it confirmed global warming is now central to the world political agenda following the surprise deal between Washington and Beijing earlier this week to curb their greenhouse emissions.
Climate experts conceded that Republican opposition meant Obama could struggle to fulfil his $3 billion commitment, but said he was fuelling momentum for change in an area where talks have faltered since the historic Kyoto Protocol of 1997.
"You can sense the energy lifting in this critical conversation across the planet - the game has changed," Greenpeace Australia chief executive David Ritter told AFP.
"A global deal has become more likely, no question. Climate is now front and centre for the US, it's front and centre for China, that means it's front and centre for all of us. It's now up to all governments to build on these huge steps forward."
'Leapfrog' dirty development
Obama outlined his pledge to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in a speech at the University of Queensland, telling the Australian audience he wanted his grandchildren to be able to visit the country's famed Great Barrier Reef "50 years from now".
He said the fund would help developing nations cope with climate-related issues such as rising seas while also backing environmentally friendly infrastructure projects.
"(It will) let them leapfrog some of the dirty industries that powered our development and go straight to a clean energy economy," he said.
Obama's announcement stymied efforts by G20 host Tony Abbott - who questions the science of man-made climate change - to reduce the issue to the margins of the Brisbane summit.
"I know there has been a healthy debate in this country about it," the American leader said, adding that "change is uncomfortable and difficult".
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described climate change as "the defining issue of our times" and urged other G20 leaders to contribute to the GCF, which will hold a donors' meeting in Berlin on November 20.