President Obama will attend the United Nations climate summit in New York in September, a move that would put a stamp on his administration's agenda ahead of pivotal international negotiations next year in Paris.
A White House aide confirmed Obama's planned attendance in an email to the Washington Examiner. The news was first reported by Responding to Climate Change, which also noted Chinese President Xi Jinping is slated to appear.
Obama has fewer miles to travel than his Chinese counterpart, but his presence is just as symbolic.
He'll be backing proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules on emissions from both new and existing power plants that Obama says will serve as a model for other nations, though the administration has caught heat from the Right and industry groups who say few countries -- namely, China and India -- will follow.
The Paris talks are viewed as a last-ditch effort to secure enough commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to avoid a 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by that year. Obama is no stranger to making such pledges — in the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations, he vowed to cut U.S. emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
"A key part of the president's climate change strategy is to have us believe that he and his environmental and diplomatic all-star team can arrive in Paris in 2015 at the U.N. climate change conference and convince the world to follow his lead," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said at a Wednesday Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the proposed power plant rule.
Xi's reported attendance might foretell action from China. Some in the environmental community have for months suggested Xi wants to make a splash at the summit as a way to position China as a leader on climate change -- and doing so while on U.S. soil -- that also would serve to address domestic air quality concerns.
China has made strides on climate change in recent months, as it has tried to subdue its coal demand -- though it will still be responsible for a bulk of global coal growth through 2035, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. China also has been nibbling at the margins of greenhouse gas emission reductions through a series of bilateral pacts struck in the past year with the U.S., the most recent of which came earlier this month.