PARIS, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday warned climate change could be the most dramatic threat to the world during a speech at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, adding that immediate, global action is needed.
Obama said that although France suffered a terrible loss after the "barbaric attacks" by the Islamic State against Paris on Nov. 13, he praised "the people of Paris for insisting this crucial conference go on -- an act of defiance that proves nothing will deter us from building the future we want for our children."
About 150 world leaders and 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are attending the the two-week long conference, also called COP21. The main goal of the conference is to create a legally binding and universal agreement on reducing global carbon emissions, with the hopes of holding global average temperatures short of a 2 degree Celsius increase over pre-industrial global temperatures.
"This summer, I saw the effects of climate change firsthand in our northernmost state, Alaska, where the sea is already swallowing villages and eroding shorelines; where permafrost thaws and the tundra burns; where glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times," Obama said during the speech. "And it was a preview of one possible future -- a glimpse of our children's fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it."
Obama said economic growth can occur without increasing carbon emissions, adding that increasing pollution puts the world's economy and future generations at risk.
"I've come here personally, as the leader of the world's largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it," Obama said. "That's what we seek in these next two weeks. Not simply an agreement to roll back the pollution we put into our skies, but an agreement that helps us lift people from poverty without condemning the next generation to a planet that's beyond its capacity to repair."
Ahead of his speech, Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Paris. The leaders met to "reaffirm their shared determination to work together and with others to achieve an ambitious climate agreement" during the climate conference.
Obama and Xi set goals for relations between the United States and China for 2016 and discussed the mutual desire for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, according to a White House statement.
Obama "stressed the need to address regional issues, including maritime differences, peacefully and in accordance with international law" -- in reference to conflicts surrounding the South China Sea. Xi said he said it was important for China and the United States to deal with issues in a "constructive way."
"At the present, the world economy is recovering slowly. Terrorism is on the rise and climate change is a huge challenge," Xi said after meeting with Obama. "There is more instability and uncertainty in the international situation. Against this backdrop, it's very important for China and the United States to be firmly committed to the right direction of building a new model of major country relations."
Obama said one of the most important topics between the United States and China is climate change.
"As the two largest economies in the world and the two largest carbon-emitters, we have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action," Obama said after meeting Xi. "The United States and China also come here with a common vision for what's needed in a Paris agreement, including moving toward a low-carbon global economy in this century, enhancing transparency to build trust, and robust financial support to help developing countries adapt."
Obama praised the efforts and cooperation by China to strengthen the global economy and enhance security, adding leaders will discuss China's potential role in combating the Islamic State.
"Of course, as President Xi indicated, there are differences between our countries. That's natural. But on issues like cybersecurity and maritime issues, I think President Xi and I have developed a candid way of discussing these issues.
Earlier in his trip to France, Obama made a surprise visit to the Le Bataclan memorial site late Sunday, where about 89 people died in the Islamic State's coordinated attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.
Obama, French President Francois Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo observed a few minutes of silence in front of the concert hall and each placed a white rose in front of the building.