Former U.S. president Barack Obama says more international co-operation is needed if the world is to meet crucial climate targets. In a speech to an adoring crowd at the UN climate conference in Glasgow Monday, Obama expressed empathy with the younger generation’s anger and frustration towards world leaders, and recognized both the progress made on international climate efforts and the lack of action from countries still hammering out details of the Paris Agreement.

The conference room cheered Obama’s arrival with perhaps the warmest greeting received by anyone at COP26 to date. As he spoke, a wave of nostalgia washed over the room. Obama himself mentioned how he had become a private person in the past few years. “Traffic is a thing again,” he said with his signature sense of humour.

The former U.S. leader summed up the good and bad news to arise from COP26 so far. Every time he paused to let his words sink in, the room remained silent. He listed all the ways in which world leaders and governments have failed to meet the targets they were aiming in Paris six years ago. “Back in 2015, we knew that even if the commitments made as a part of the Paris Agreement were fully met, we would still fall short of our goal of keeping global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” he pointed out. “That’s why Paris was designed to be a framework for countries to constantly ratchet up their ambitions as they got more resources and as technology reduced the cost of transitioning to a clean energy economy.”

Obama also listed the successes that have come out of Glasgow these past few days. He emphasized the importance of co-operation in work being done to tackle climate change. At a country level, he urged leaders to push past geopolitical conflicts to put climate change on their top priority list. He implored citizens to do likewise. “Saving the planet isn’t a partisan issue,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or a Democrat if your Florida house is flooded by rising seas. Nature, physics, science do not care about party affiliation.”

The former president expressed his own fears that the world as we know it today could head towards a “dystopian” future. Half of his speech was addressed to the younger generation, encouraging them to convert their anger, sadness and fear into the necessary energy to fight.

"Humanity has done hard things before," said Barack Obama in a hopeful address to an adoring crowd at #COP26 Monday. #POTUS44 #climateemergency #climatecrisis #Parisagreement

Obama noted the absence of two top greenhouse gas emitters, China and Russia, at the global climate conference, but said it was more important to work hard at changing what we can than fixating on what we cannot. Little things can make a difference, he said, urging young people to vote as if their life depends on it, “because it does,” and to help educate their family and peers. He was nonetheless hopeful about the future: “The thing we have going for us is that humanity has done hard things before.”

Obama ended his speech by quoting William Shakespeare’s Othello: “What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” It is the little victories that add up, he said, that will “build momentum” in the fight against climate change.

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Obama is the ultimate in blah, blah, blah.

I disagree that Obama's speech is more "blah blah blah." I have just listened to most of his speech. While he may not have said everything we would have hoped for, he definitely gave an accurate overview of where we are with respect to climate change and what needs to happen now. He expressed the urgency of the crisis facing us and that we can't afford cynicism nor hopelessness right now. His message to young people was especially inspiring. While others have given similar speeches, Obama's unique gifts as a great orator seem to distill everything and give it power.

No world leader is omnipotent, though having the U.S. on the side of the angels is crucial. Now if we could just stamp out the fossil fuel subsidies there (and elsewhere) ...