UNITED States President Barack Obama told hundreds of Queenslanders he would do everything he could to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the threat of climate change.

"Because I have not had time to go to the Great Barrier Reef and I want to come back, and I want my daughters to be able to come back and be able to bring their daughters or sons," he said.

His comments come after the International Union for Conservation of Nature this week labelled climate change a "very high threat" to the reef.

Mr Obama, speaking at the University of Queensland on Saturday ahead of the G20 Leaders' Summit, said if nations like China and the US could make climate change commitments, referring to an historic agreement during the week, then the whole world could.

"It is necessary," he said.

"The G20 has a responsibility to act, to boost demand and invest more in infrastructure, create good jobs for the people of all our nations.

"As we develop, as we focus on our economy, we cannot forget the need to lead on the global fight against climate change."

The mention of climate change evoke a huge response from the crowd, with loud cheering and clapping.

A similar response came after he told them the United States would stand up for Equality for gay and lesbian people and for gender Equality.

Mr Obama said he knew there had been healthy debate in Australia about climate change, noting he tweeted a University of Queensland study on the topic to his 31 million followers last year.

US President Barack Obama addresses a crowd at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. President Obama is attending the G20 world leaders summit taking place in Brisbane November 15-16.
US President Barack Obama addresses a crowd at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. President Obama is attending the G20 world leaders summit taking place in Brisbane November 15-16. AAP Image - Dan Peled

He said America and Australia had not traditionally been the most efficient nations but they must step up.

"Here in the Asia-Pacific nobody has more at stake when it comes to thinking about and then acting on climate change," he said.

"Increases in temperatures will be mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands.

"Here in Australia it means longer droughts, more wild fires, the incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.

"Worldwide this past summer was the hottest on record.

"No nation is immune and every nation and every nation has its responsibility to do its part."

Mr Obama announced he was committing $3 billion to a green climate fund to help developing nations deal with the issue.

"Along with the other nations that have pledged support, this gives us the opportunity to help vulnerable communities with an early warning system, stronger defences against storm surge, climate resilient infrastructure," he said.

"It allows us to help farmers plant more durable crops and it allows us to help developing countries break out of this false choice between development and pollution, let them leap Frog some of the dirty industries.

Mr Obama told the young people in the crowd that combatting climate change could not be the work of governments alone.

"Citizens, especially the next generation, you have to keep raising your voices because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and is healthier and that is sustainable," he said.

"But that is not going to happen unless you are heard.

"Those of us who start getting grey hair are a little set in our ways.

"Companies start depending on certain energy sources and change is uncomfortable and difficult.

"That's why it's so important for the next generation to be able to step in and say no it doesn't have to be."

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during his speech at the University of Queensland, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia.
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during his speech at the University of Queensland, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia. AP Photo - Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Mr Obama won the crowd over early through a bunch of Australianisms and clichés.

"The only problem with Australia is that every time I come here I've got to sit in conference rooms and talk to politicians instead of going to the beach," he said.

"This city, this part of Australia, is just stunning - beautiful one day and then perfect the next.

"We travel a lot around the world, my staff was very excited for BrisVegas.

"When I arrived they advised I need some XXXX."

When he was met with laughter, he chuckled and asked the predominately student audience: "Do you have some?".

More laughter ensued.

"Part of the reason I have fond memories of Australia is I spent some time here as a boy when I was travelling between Hawaii and Indonesia, where I lived for several years," he said.

"When I returned three years ago as President I had the same feelings I remembered as a child, the warmth of the people of Australia, the sense of humour.

"I learned to speak a little 'strayn - I'm tempted to give it a burl.

US President Barack Obama (C) greets attendees after speaking at the University of Queensland on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Brisbane on November 15, 2014. Australia is hosting the leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies for the G20 summit in Brisbane on November 15 and 16.
US President Barack Obama (C) greets attendees after speaking at the University of Queensland on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Brisbane on November 15, 2014. Australia is hosting the leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies for the G20 summit in Brisbane on November 15 and 16. AFP PHOTO - Mandel NGAN

"There is a bond between the two countries and Australia is everything you would want in a friend and an ally.

"We're cut from the same cloth.

"We're inspired by the same ideals, Equality and opportunity, the belief that everybody deserves a fair go, a fair shot.

"Our future is ours to make and that's why I'm here today.

"We can leave this world a better, safer more just place for future generations.

"Even with today's challenges this is the best time in history to be alive.

"You are living in an extraordinary time.

"(But) there are genuine dangers that could undermine progress.

"We can't look at those problems through rose-tinted glasses, North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, and disputes over territory ...failures to uphold universal human rights.

"And energy demands on growing cities that also hasten trends towards a changing climate.

"The same technologies that empower citizens like you also give oppressive regimes new tools to stifle dissent.

"We're leading the international community in the fight to destroy the terrorist group ISIS.

"We're leading in dealing with Ebola in West Africa and in opposing Russia's aggression against Ukraine which is a threat to the world which we saw in the appalling shoot down of MH17, a tragedy that took so many innocent lives among them your fellow citizens.

"As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability."

Mr Obama said there was a need for more cooperation global challenges from Ebola to climate change.

He said dealing with Ebola was not just out of charity but self-interest.

"What we have learned from the Ebola outbreak is that in this globalised world where the Pacific is like a lake, if countries are so poor they can't afford basic public health infrastructure that threatens our home," he said.

"We cannot build a moat around our countries and we shouldn't try.

"What we should be doing is making sure everybody has some basic public health systems that allow for early warning when outbreaks of infectious diseases may occur.

"That if somebody, some child is stricken with a curable disease on the other side of the world at some point that could have an impact on our child."

Obama's arrival at UQ a hit even for regional Queenslanders

POWERFUL American ballads have been blasting through the speakers at the University of Queensland to gear up the hundreds of people keenly awaiting United States President Barack Obama's arrival.

Signed Sealed Delivered, Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Beautiful Day were on the playlist.

The huge auditorium, where about 11,000 UQ students receive their graduate degrees each year, is filled with politicians, students and other dignitaries.

There is a huge section set aside for the Whitehouse Press Corp journalists, with Australian and other international journalists filling the space around them.

Rockhampton's Dominic Jorgensen, who is studying law at UQ, was with a bunch of mates who got a special invitation to the event.

"It's a massive privilege, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see someone like Barack," he said.

"There's not too many other people I'd want to see … maybe the Pope."

Civil engineering student Stuart Kinsella, 21, from Goondiwindi, said: "I just want to listen to what he has to say, he's just such an influential person, he knows so much on all these topics and he knows how to get stuff done".

Toowoomba physiotherapy student Sam Moyle, 20, said: "It's a story for the grandchildren … being able to say you were in the same room as the first African American president".

Mackay commerce student Charl Van Den Berg, 20, said he was "just excited to see one of the most influential, powerful people of the world at the moment".

Among those waiting more than an hour for the President's arrival were Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, former Governor-General Quinten Bryce and former Australian treasurer and now backbencher Wayne Swan.

Queensland Supreme Court Justice Martin Daubney, Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, Transport Minister Scott Emerson, Agriculture Minister John McVeigh and other Queensland Government ministers were also interacting with others in the crowd.

University of the Southern Queensland Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas and Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane from Toowoomba were spotted too.

The streets in St Lucia have been lined with people awaiting the US President's motorcade since mid-morning.

Twitter suggests the President has just left the Queensland Parliament to make his way here to speak at 1.10am.

- APN Newsdesk

 



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