In Cop26 Address, Obama criticizes Trump, Russia, China

Former U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the U.N. Climate Change Summit Cop26 on Monday, telling attendees, “We are nowhere near where we need to be.” 

The former president arrived at the Cop26 today alongside US climate envoy John Kerry to much public applause. Speaking a full room at the summit, Obama said that while he does not need to attend conferences such as the climate summit now that he is no longer a world leader, he said they’ll have a hard time keeping him away when it comes to the world’s future. 

Obama said that while there has been progress since the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the world is nowhere near where it needs to be. Obama helped strike the Paris accord five years ago, which was signed by 197 countries.

The Paris agreement created a framework for climate action, but countries, including the U.S., failed to follow through on commitments. When Donald Trump took office, he unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the Paris deal. Biden quickly rectified this after taking office, but Obama said that the Trump years stalled progress and set back the fight against climate change.

Obama said that the U.S. is reengaging with the world on climate. He also expressed confidence that the Biden administration will succeed in passing its $555 billion climate package through Congress, despite opposition within the Democratic party that has thus far blocked the legislation. 

Obama criticized China and Russia for a “dangerous lack of urgency” in addressing climate change, specifically cutting their own emissions. China, Russia, and the U.S. are all in the top five for worst emissions worldwide. 

Obama criticized both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin for declining to attend the proceedings, especially as two of the largest emitters. He also said their national plans reflected that they lack urgency in the matter.

Obama also directly addressed the world’s youth, saying they have a right to be frustrated. He urged them to vote like their lives depended on it, saying that the cold truth was that there will not be more ambitious climate change plans unless governments back them. 

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