By Celine Lai
Barack Obama’s speech at COP26, the Conference of Parties, in Glasgow,on November 8th, is summarised below.
Today, more than one-fifth of the world’s largest companies have set net-zero emissions targets, not just because it’s the right thing to do for the environment, but in many cases because it makes sense for their bottom line.
More than 700 cities in more than 50 countries have pledged to cut their emissions in half by the end of the decade and reach net-zero by 2050.
About a third of the global banking sector has agreed to align their work with the Paris Agreement.
Today, the price of solar and wind energy has dropped to the point where in some places clean energy is cheaper than fossil fuels
In the U.S. alone, more than three million people now work in clean energy-related jobs. That is more than the number of people currently employed by the entire fossil fuel industry.
The UK government, our hosts, announced a plan to cut emissions by almost 80% by 2035.
This summer, the European Union put themselves on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050.
Korea passed a Carbon Neutrality Act in September that requires the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions 35% or more by 2030.
The Canadian government has laid out a path to carbon neutrality by 2050, with milestones to hit along the way.
For starters, despite the progress that Paris represented, most countries have failed to meet the action plans that they set six years ago, and the consequences of not moving fast enough are becoming more apparent all the time.
More than 100 countries this past week have committed to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. As all of you know, curbing methane emissions is currently the single fastest and most effective way to limit warming.
More than 100 countries have also promised to stop and reverse deforestation by the end of 2030. Businesses from around the world, name brands, some of the biggest businesses on this planet, have agreed to help create a market for the technologies we need to transition to clean energy.
Nations have also committed to help poorer countries move away from fossil fuels and deal with the effects of climate change.
And the U.S., along with 20 other countries, agreed to stop publicly financing international fossil fuel development with limited exceptions.
And I’m confident that a version of President Biden’s Build Back Better Bill will pass through Congress in the coming next few weeks.
Here’s what it will mean when that bill does pass. That legislation will devote over half-a-trillion dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over a billion metric tons by the end of the decade, at least 10 times more than any legislation previously passed by Congress.
Along the way, it will reduce consumer energy costs, it will invest in a clean energy economy.
It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and it will set the United States on course to meet its new climate targets, achieving a 50% to 52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030.
Meaningful progress has been made since Paris, and the agreements made here in Glasgow. What is also true is that collectively and individually we are still falling short. We have not done nearly enough to address this crisis.
I understand that it’s harder to get international cooperation if there are more global tensions, but there is one thing that should transcend our day to day politics and normal geopolitics, and that is climate change.
People who are organized and educate others in their communities help. People who put pressure on businesses and governments to do better. People who turn their passion into votes.
The first and most important thing to do, if you are age eligible, is to vote on the issue. Vote like your life depends on it, because it does. I recognize that a lot of young people may be cynical about politics, but the cold, hard fact is we will not have more ambitious climate plans coming out of governments unless governments feel some pressure from voters.
Second way you can have an impact on climate change is by pressuring companies to do the right thing.
Protests are necessary to raise awareness. Hashtag campaigns can spread awareness, but to build the broad-based coalitions necessary for bold action, we have to persuade people who either currently don’t agree with us or are indifferent to the issue.
Yes, the process will be messy. I guarantee you every victory will be incomplete. We will face more setbacks. Sometimes, we will be forced to settle for imperfect compromises, because even if they don’t achieve everything we want, at least they advance the cause, at least they move the ball down the field.
But if we work hard enough for long enough, those partial victories add up.
If we push hard enough, stay focused enough and are smart about it, those victories accelerate and they build momentum.
If we listen to those who are resistant and we take their concerns seriously, and we work with them, and we organize, and we mobilize and we get our hands dirty in the difficulties of changing political dynamics in our countries, those victories start happening a little bit more frequently.
If we stay with it, we will get this done.
Read the complete speech on Medium here.