Obama slams Trump over climate change at COP26

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Obama slams Trump over climate change at COP26

Former President Barack Obama slammed his successor during the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, describing the Trump administration as “four years of active hostility towards climate science.”

During his address at the summit known as COP26, Obama lambasted former President Donald Trump for pulling the US out of the 2016 Paris Agreement, saying the move “stalled” America’s progress on climate change.

“I wasn’t real happy about that,” the 44th president said. 

Obama blamed the lack of international cooperation on environmental issues in part on the “lack of leadership” he said was shown by the US during Trump’s time in office. 

“I recognize that we’re living in a moment when international cooperation has atrophied — in part because of the pandemic, in part because of the rise of nationalism and tribal impulses around the world, in part because of a lack of leadership on America’s part for four years on a host of multilateral issues,” he said. 

While he never explicitly named Trump, Obama referred to him as “his successor.” 

Barack Obama.
Former President Barack Obama says former President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the 2016 Paris Agreement “stalled” America’s progress on climate change.
Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

The 44th president’s address came one week after President Biden spoke at COP26 and touted his $1.75 trillion social spending bill, particularly its outlay on so-called clean energy

Obama also urged allies not to turn away from cooperating with America, saying “the US is back” to battling climate change.

“The rest of the world stayed in the [Paris] deal. And now with President Biden and his administration rejoining the agreement, the US government is once again engaged and prepared to take a leadership role,” Obama continued. 

Donald Trump.
Former President Barack Obama never named former President Donald Trump in his speech, only referring to him as “his successor.”
Ben Gray/AP

During his last few months in office, Obama described climate change as a “dire” threat. However, many have accused the former president of a lack of environmental consciousness.

In 2015, climate activist and former Vice President Al Gore slammed Obama over plans by Royal Dutch Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, calling it “insane.” 

“I think that countries around the world would be very well advised to put restrictions on drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean,” Gore said at the time, adding that he believed such exploration in the region should be banned.

Gore had previously criticized Obama during the 44th president’s first term in office, accusing him of failing to alter the US’s policies on climate change. 

Other experts have also accused Obama of big talk on climate change while failing to match his words with deeds.

“Even as Obama has talked an increasingly tough game on climate change and the need for dramatic reductions [in emissions], he has also pursued policies that have exacerbated the environmental impacts of domestic energy development — and have increasingly exported our dirty energy sources even as we embrace clean renewables,” Paul Sutter, professor of modern US history at the University of Colorado, said in 2015. 

“His environmental achievements, then, have been hamstrung by politics — both the unyielding political opposition as well as his own sense of what’s politic in a nation craving economic growth and energy independence.”

Also in 2015, Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, accused Obama of ignoring “not only bipartisan solutions but Congress itself after it rejected his approach on climate change even when Democrats controlled that body.

Barack Obama.
Al Gore criticized then-President Barack Obama during his first term in office, accusing the 44th president of failing to alter the US’s policies on climate change. 
Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

“He was the president who deepened the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats over these crucial intersecting issues,” Popovich said. “His partisanship has been destructive of any consensus on major enviro-energy issues … Meanwhile, the huge energy event that happened during his watch — the shale oil and gas revolution — flourished not thanks to his administration, but in spite of it.”

Earlier this year, a Chicago environmental advocacy group objected to the site choice for Obama’s presidential library on Chicago’s South Side. In court filings, the nonprofit Protect Our Parks argued that the construction in Jackson Park would “adversely affect the human environment, the historic landscape, wildlife, and migratory birds.”

Despite those claims, ground was broken on the library in September.

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