Barack Obama, former President of the USA, gave a powerful 45-minute speech on Monday 8th November – Day of Adaptation, Loss and Damage at the COP26 Proceedings in Glasgow.
He included a summary of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the progress made so far and what still needs to be done to meet those targets plus a round-up of what has been achieved so far at COP26. He said, “Paris showed the world that progress is possible – important work was done there and important work has been done here – that is the good news.” but also, “Bad news – we are nowhere near where we need to be yet.”
He expressed disappointment that two of the world’s largest CO2 emitters, China and Russia, declined to attend COP26 and seem to be keeping the climate status quo by not really making future commitments and showing “a lack of urgency” on tackling climate change. There was also a focus on ‘putting politics aside’, looking through a USA two-party lens, to try and work together towards a common goal. He praised the Biden administration for re-joining the agreements and getting the USA (the second largest emitter of CO2) back on track to meet the targets.
Throughout, there was a constant address to the youth, both in the room and watching, listening and following across the world, pertaining to the importance of their voices. He acknowledged that not every young person has the time to devote their life to the climate cause but suggested that they can take part in a variety of ways, including advocating for continued protest, so that their voices are heard. He praised the work of Greta Thunberg but also recognised that there are millions of Gretas all over the world, each and every one of them important and doing great work. In addition, he mentioned a forum with youth to be held after the Address, and it was positive to see the Plenary Room filled with a large number of young people nodding in agreement.
He closed with a blunt and heartfelt statement: “To all the young people and all those who consider themselves young at heart – I want you to stay angry and I want you to stay frustrated, but channel that anger and harness that frustration, keep pushing harder and harder for more and more, because that’s what’s required to meet this challenge. Prepare yourself for a marathon, not a sprint… Our planet has been wounded by our actions. Those wounds won’t be healed today, or tomorrow or the next… We pledge to do our part and follow through on those commitments, I believe we can secure a better future. We have to. I’m ready for the long haul if you are and let’s get to work!”
You can watch his address here:
Lucy Meredith and The Team