In his latest push for action on climate change, US President Barack Obama yesterday called on nations including his own to ramp up their commitments for reducing harmful carbon emissions.
Addressing a summit on global leadership in the Arctic, attended by many foreign ministers and the EU’s Environment Commissioner, Obama demanded that countries move faster and work together to reach an agreement in Paris that “protects the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.”
“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem,” he said. “Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy and infrastructure.”
This year in Paris has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can. This is within our power. This is a solvable problem – if we start now.
His visit was not without controversy, as many are calling the president a hypocrite for talking about protecting the Arctic after he failed to stand up to Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the region.
Yet Obama’s actions such as the Clean Power Plan, and bilateral climate agreements with China and Brazil respectively, mean his repeated calls for climate action have backbone – and the potential to push others to do more.
In recent weeks Obama has travelled to Las Vegas to promote the benefits of renewable energy and New Orleans where he marked the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina for a call for climate resilience.
He also used his latest US tour to criticise those who continue to cling to out-dated fossil fuels, warning that such individuals and organisations are “standing in the way of the future”.
Those climate-change denying heads of state scorned by Obama as “not fit to lead” have a chance to prove him wrong by acting rapidly and ambitiously to phase out fossil fuels, switch to renewable energy and cut emissions, just as many others are already doing.