Former US President Barack Obama implores world leaders to step up their climate goals and action, singling out China and Russia for their emissions failure at the COP26 climate summit.

What is Happening?

Former US President Barack Obama is urging rich nations to provide much-needed climate financing for developing countries to combat climate change while criticising China and Russia for their “dangerous lack of urgency” in cutting emissions at the COP26 climate summit

Speaking at the second and final week of the UN climate talks in Glasgow, Obama said that while some progress has been made over the past week, including updated climate pledges made by countries to achieve net zero emissions and to end deforestation by 2030, the world is “nowhere near where we need to be at” limiting global warming under 1.5C pre-industrial levels, and that “most nations have failed to be as ambitious as they need to be”.

“The brutal tempests of the warming climate are making it even clearer that we cross that line at our peril,” Obama said, while taking aim at top emitters China and Russia for their emissions failure. “[Their] “national plans so far reflect what appears to be a dangerous lack of urgency and willingness to maintain the status quo on the part of those governments, and that’s a shame”.

Both China and Russia failed to update and commit to more ambitious climate pledges, with the former reiterating its stance to carbon peak by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060 at the start of the conference. Both countries also refused to join global pacts to phase out domestic coal production and consumption – China accounts for more than half of global coal consumption in 2020 – as well as cutting methane emissions. Experts have said commitments to quitting coal and slashing methane are key to limiting 1.5C global temperature increase and to avoid a climate catastrophe. 

Obama urges rich nations to make good on their promises made 12 years ago to provide USD$100 billion a year of climate financing by 2020 to pay for climate-related damages and for greater protection against climate change. Countries failed to deliver that promise and have said to meet the target in 2023 the latest. 

Despite Obama’s criticism, the US failed to deliver any updated climate pledges the week prior at COP26 as well. President Joe Biden, who faced significant obstacles in Congress to push through any climate-related legislation ahead of his attendance at the conference, simply restated the country’s commitment to cut emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Biden also avoided joining the pact of phase out coal, considering they are one of the world’s biggest coal consumers. However, the US agreed to end public financing for all overseas fossil fuels projects by the end of 2022.

The former president also took the opportunity to take a swipe at his successor, Donald Trump, and how he set the US back in the fight against climate change by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. He went on to criticise US lawmakers from the Republic Party as well, which he said had expressed “active hostility toward climate science”. 

“For those listening back home in the US, let me say this: It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat if your Florida house is flooded by rising seas, or your crops fail in the Dakotas or your California house is burning down,” he said. 

You might also like: More Than 40 Countries Pledge to Phase Out Coal Power Generation

Featured image by: Wikimedia Commons