Obama says world is ‘failing’ on climate change, and Ryan says Ireland ‘willing to move forward’

Barack Obama said at the COP26 climate summit that the world had not done enough to tackle the climate crisis, and it would be difficult to curb rising temperatures — but humanity has done hard things before.

In a personal speech often in Glasgow, the former US president said there were times when he felt doubt that humanity could unite before it was too late and «images of dystopia» crept into his mind.

But he warned that «cynicism is a haven for cowards» and that the world must mobilize the will, passion and activism of citizens to push governments, businesses and society to meet the challenge.

He criticized the leaders of China and Russia for failing to attend the conference and said their national plans for climate action «reflect a serious lack of urgency and willingness to maintain the status quo».

He said that while advanced economies such as the United States and Europe needed to lead on climate, so did major emitting countries including China, India, Russia, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil.

«We cannot afford to have anyone on the sidelines,» he warned.

In directing much of his speech to the young people, he said they were right to be angry and frustrated — urging them to direct it, keep pushing and get ready for a marathon rather than a quick sprint to solve the problem.

Tell them to “vote because your life depends on it, because it is,” to pressure companies to take action and educate their parents, relatives, and teachers.

«I realize that many young people may be skeptical about politics, but the cold and hard truth is that we won’t have more ambitious climate plans from governments unless governments feel some pressure from voters,» he added.

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Obama also said that while the protests were necessary, there was also a need to listen to and help persuade ordinary people who might be hesitant about climate action, rather than shouting at them or saying they were ignorant.

«It is not enough to annoy them by blocking traffic at a demonstration – we have to actually listen to their objections and understand the reluctance of some ordinary people to see their countries move too quickly on climate change,» he warned.

He also told delegates in a conference room far from the community but packed that America is back and that the United States is now «moving bolder» after four years of «active hostility» from the Donald Trump administration.

He said countries have made progress since the signing of the Paris climate agreement in the French capital in 2015, and more progress was made last week in Glasgow.

But he warned, «Collectively and individually we are still falling short. We have not done enough to address this crisis.»

He told delegates that keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is necessary to prevent the worst effects of climate change, «isn’t going to be easy, it’s going to be hard.»

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He said that the existing political institutions are moving slowly, international cooperation is difficult and increasingly difficult due to misinformation on social media, and getting people to work together on a global scale takes time that the world did not have.

But he said, “The thing we are striving for is that humanity has done difficult things before. I think we can do difficult things again.”

He said that victories would be incomplete, there would be setbacks, and incomplete concessions, but that «they will move the ball around.»

Ireland ‘ready to rise to the next level’

Speaking to reporters in Glasgow, Environment Secretary Eamonn Ryan quoted US climate envoy John Kerry as saying that «this is the week that decides the decade».

«My sense is that the past week has gone reasonably well with some of the methane pledges and the deforestation pledge,» Ryan said.

«I think this cop is about creating momentum for action and creating transparency and imperative for action.»

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The Green Party leader added that Ireland will commit €10 million next year to the International Adaptation Fund.

The Irish people want to do something about it. «I think the Irish people are sick and tired of being labeled as climate retarded,» Ryan said.

“I think the vote in Dáil[on the climate action plan]to some extent reflects a country that is willing to step up to the top. We are good at this.

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«When we put our minds to doing something collectively, we are as well positioned as anyone else to do it,» Ryan added.

severely affected countries

As COP26 talks struggle to mobilize promised funding to help vulnerable nations prepare for the future impacts of the climate crisis, nations already suffering from a climate catastrophe are demanding separate and immediate funds for «losses and damages».

«We can’t adapt to what is already happening,» Daniel Ribeiro, technical coordinator at Justica Ambiental/Friends of the Earth in Mozambique, told AFP.

However, the financing of loss and damage is not even on the agenda of formal negotiations in Glasgow.

Loss and damage «cannot be a side issue,» said Harjit Singh, senior advisor at Climate Action Network International.

«We are seeing impacts on vulnerable communities in poor countries even as these climate talks continue,» he told AFP.

“Small island nations are calling for funding to help people recover from devastating storms and rising seas. It is time for rich nations to stop tokens and empty words and bolster them with action and real funding here in Glasgow.”

With reporting by Orla Dwyer, Simon Burke and AFP

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