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White House: Obama going to climate summit regardless of prospects

By Suzanne Malveaux, CNN White House Correspondent
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday called unwillingness to "pursue transparency ... a deal breaker for us."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday called unwillingness to "pursue transparency ... a deal breaker for us."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • White House spokesman: Obama hopes for "strong operational agreement" on climate change
  • Rumors had circulated that Obama would not come if talks fell through
  • U.S. officials confirmed talks with China on emissions "transparency" broke down
  • Robert Gibbs: Obama is after "a political agreement that would lead to a treaty" later
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Washington (CNN) -- President Obama will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, Thursday evening to attend the U.N. Climate Conference as planned, despite growing uncertainty on whether the talks will lead to an agreement, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"The president is going to travel in hopes of making progress for a strong operational agreement" on climate change, Gibbs said. "There are no changes in the president's plans."

The statement came amid rumors from Copenhagen that Obama would not come if talks deteriorated and it appeared no agreement could be reached.

U.S. officials in Copenhagen and at the White House confirmed talks broke down Wednesday after the Chinese delegation rejected U.S. demands that China, along with other nations, be required to provide "transparency" -- proving a commitment to cutting emissions.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday morning in Copenhagen that "we have presented and discussed numerous approaches to transparency with a number of countries, and there are many ways to achieve transparency which would be credible and acceptable. But there has to be a willingness to move towards transparency in whatever form we finally determine is appropriate. So if there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency, that's kind of a deal breaker for us."

Gibbs said the Chinese "balked" at the "strong transparency requirement," though he "hoped that they would reconsider."

The Obama administration is trying to lower expectations for the president's visit. The last time he traveled to Copenhagen -- in October to try to win the 2016 Olympics bid for Chicago -- he came back empty-handed. Regarding this trip, Gibbs said, "coming back with an empty agreement would be far worse than coming back empty-handed."

The agreement Obama is hoping for out of Copenhagen would not be a treaty, nor would it be legally binding. Gibbs acknowledged it would be "a political agreement that would lead to a treaty" later.