GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Barack Obama expressed confidence at UN climate talks Monday that the Biden administration will eventually get its $555 billion climate package through Congress, blaming US rivals China and Russia for what it called a “dangerous lack of urgency” in cutting their own climate-destroying emissions.
As countries lamented lagging confidence and progress in climate talks, Obama, one of the leaders who paved the way for the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement, threw in a whiff of his signature hopes, but admitted that “images of dystopia” are creeping in. his dreams.
“There are times when the future seems a bit bleak. There are times when I doubt humanity can get its act together before it’s too late,” Obama said during the two-week negotiations. “(But) we cannot afford hopelessness.”
His comments came as conference leaders acknowledged Monday that many key sticking points remain after a week of talks. A confidence gap has reopened between rich and poor countries, and developing countries used the word “disappointing” as leaders spoke on Monday about progress so far in talks.
The UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, is the former US president’s first since he helped achieve the triumph of the 2015 Paris climate accord, when countries committed to cut emissions from fossil fuels and agricultural products fast enough. to keep global warming below the catastrophic 1.5 level. degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
That celebration has given way to worries. Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement. And while President Joe Biden put America back into the climate deal, Trump’s move set back American efforts. Other top polluters — including China, India and Russia — are moving much slower in their fight against climate change than scientists say is necessary.
“1.5 C is now on a ventilator, it’s in the ICU,” said Alden Meyer of E3G, an environmental think tank.
Obama’s appearance was intended to remind governments of the elation at the Paris agreement and urge them to announce more immediate, concrete steps to put the 2015 agreement into practice. Optimism and unity are needed to save the planet, he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat if your house in Florida is inundated by the rising sea, or if your crop fails in the Dakotas, or if your house in California is on fire. Nature, physics, science – they don’t care about party membership,” Obama said. “We need everyone, even if we disagree on other things.”
Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate wrote on Twitter on Monday that she was 13 when Obama was part of rich countries that promised $100 billion a year to poor countries to help them fight global warming, but said those countries broke the promise. Nakate told The Associated Press she wasn’t attacking the former president “but that’s me speaking the truth.”
“This money was promised, but it hasn’t been delivered,” she said, adding that the $100 billion a year was the “absolute minimum” for climate finance.
Despite opposition within Biden’s own Democratic party that has blocked the president’s climate change legislation, Obama was confident that a version of Biden’s ambitious climate bill will pass and be “historic.”
“It will put the United States on track to meet its new climate targets,” he said.
And while the understanding between US and Chinese negotiators paved the way for the Paris accord, Obama on Monday criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin for failing to join other leaders in the climate talks in Glasgow.
“It was particularly disheartening to see the leaders of two of the world’s biggest emitters, China and Russia, even refusing to attend the proceedings, and their national plans reflecting what appears to be a dangerous lack of urgency,” he said. Obama.
Obama spoke at a session earlier Monday about countries in the Pacific, including countries whose survival is threatened by rising oceans.
“We all have a role to play. We all have work to do. We all have to make sacrifices” on climate, he said. “But those of us who live in rich countries, those of us who have helped accelerate the problem… we have an added burden.”
Agreements have not yet been reached on three main goals of the UN conference. These are commitments to halve emissions by 2030 to maintain the climate target of 1.5 degrees Celsius; the need for $100 billion a year in financial aid from rich countries to poor countries; and the idea that half of that money will go toward adapting to the worst effects of global warming. Several other issues, including carbon trading and the transparency of national emissions obligations, were also unresolved.
Representatives from 77 developing countries, along with China, said that until this climate conference raises funding to help poor countries, the talks cannot be considered successful.
“There is a history of broken promises and unfulfilled obligations by developed countries,” said Diego Pacheco Balanza of Bolivia.
Scientists say Earth is only a few years away from the point where it becomes impossible to achieve the goals set in the Paris Agreement, due to increasing damage from coal, oil, agriculture and other pollution sources. In recent days there have been massive protests in Glasgow and across Europe by young people and others demanding faster action from countries in the fight against global warming.
Obama later Monday met with a dozen climate activists, many in their twenties, and urged them to keep up with public pressure despite frustrations they may feel about government inaction.
“The question is, where are the countries that have really met our expectations? And it turns out that these are the places where there was pressure, where there was political mobilization, where there were activists,” said a shirt-sleeved Obama.
Associated Press reporter Frank Jordans contributed to this report.
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