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Obama criticizes Russia & China for ‘lack of urgency’ on climate change


At the United Nations climate talks on Monday, Barack Obama expressed confidence that the Biden administration's $555 billion climate package will eventually pass Congress, and he chastised U.S. rivals China and Russia for a "dangerous lack of urgency" in reducing their own climate-wrecking emissions. As countries expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of trust and progress in the climate discussions, Mr. Obama, one of the leaders who helped pave the road for the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement, offered a ray of hope while admitting that "pictures of dystopia" were seeping into his sleep.


“There are times where the future seems somewhat bleak. There are times where I am doubtful that humanity can get its act together before it’s too late,” Mr. Obama said at the two-week-long negotiations. “(But) we can’t afford hopelessness.” His remarks came as conference organizers admitted on Monday that after a week of meetings, there are still a lot of issues to work out. The trust gap between rich and poor countries has resurfaced, with developing countries using the word "disappointing" to describe the discussions' progress thus far.


The former American president is attending his first United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, since helping to secure the 2015 Paris climate agreement, in which nations agreed to reduce fossil fuel and agricultural emissions quickly enough to keep global warming below the catastrophic level of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Worry has taken the place of celebration. Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. And, when President Joe Biden re-entered the climate agreement, Trump's decision set back American efforts. Other major polluters, such as China, India, and Russia, are moving far more slowly than scientists predict in combating climate change.


“1.5 C is on life support now, it’s in ICU,” said Alden Meyer of E3G, an environmental think tank. Obama's visit was intended to remind governments of the excitement surrounding the Paris Agreement and to encourage them to announce more urgent, concrete efforts to implement the 2015 agreement. To save the planet, he argued, optimism and togetherness are essential.


“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. Nature, physics, science – they don’t care about party affiliation,” Mr. Obama said. “We need everybody – even if we disagree on other things.”


On Monday, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate wrote on Twitter that she was 13 years old when President Barack Obama was part of a group of wealthy nations that promised impoverished countries $100 billion a year to help them combat global warming, but that the pledge was broken. "I'm not targeting the former president," Nakate told The Associated Press, "but that is me telling the truth."


Mr. Obama was sure that some form of Biden's ambitious climate bill would pass and be "historic," despite resistance from inside Biden's own Democratic party, which has stalled the president's climate-fighting legislation.


“It will set the United States on course to meet its new climate targets,” he said. While the rapport between US and Chinese negotiators opened the path for the Paris Agreement, Mr. Obama chastised Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday for not attending the climate talks in Glasgow with other world leaders.


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