or the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, heading to next week’s big climate conference in Glasgow to try to convince the world that America is more interested Joe Biden from Donald Trump At least when it comes to fighting climate change. And at least when you look at the country as a whole and not just what’s happening in Washington, where the president’s climate agenda has been severely slashed in Congress.
It is a very unusual appearance by a former president at an event for world leaders, but Obama advisers and friends told CNN Internationally, the former president wants to help Biden restore the world’s confidence in American leadership on this issue, and put the global coalition back on track four years after Trump.
John Podesta, who worked on climate issues in the Obama White House and is still in contact with the former president, said Obama “has a global following.”
Survey after survey shows that young people, in particular, are desperate to know whether democracy can work, if politicians are up to the task. They see Obama as an inspiration and someone who speaks as he is.
Obama’s presence in COP26 It started with suggestions from climate activists. However, that really crystallized in conversation with John Kerry, his former secretary of state and Biden’s special presidential climate envoy, people familiar with the talks told CNN.
The officials said the White House was eager to help, who chose not to reveal names to discuss behind-the-scenes conversations.
However, Obama’s trip reflects not only Biden’s White House recognition and beyond how much international faith in America has diminished during the Trump years. It also reflects an awareness of how far Obama has reached out to people around the world, even now as a former president, than Biden as a president in the Oval Office.
Even when Obama was hugely popular in America, he was always more popular abroad, where his election seemed to symbolize the global superpower embracing internationalism and a new generation looking to the future.
Obama remains an inspiring figure around the world, especially with young people, to whom he will dedicate much of his time while in Scotland.
In coordination with his own foundation and Columbia University’s Climate College, he will hold a roundtable with young activists (including many alumni of global scholarship programs) and urge business leaders to accelerate their investments in clean energy.
A State Department official called Obama “one of the world’s strongest advocates for action,” adding that he would be a “welcome voice” in describing the team’s rare approach to two presidents.
Can you do what they say?
Biden hopes it will be more than aspirational talk and empty promises. Obama hopes to be seen as more than just a geopolitical figure and instead uses his credibility and popularity to support Biden.
This is especially the case with the president trying to persuade the country and the world to see the $500 billion in funding that has survived congressional infrastructure talks as a success rather than a failure, because it has failed so much in its original goal.
Many people think it might work. But after Trump, they have their doubts.
“Obama was one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, and President Biden confirmed that the United States is fully committed to climate action,” said Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s environment minister and chair of the last meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP). It was held in 2019, at a time of intense international panic over Trump’s policy, guided by his conspiracy that climate change is a Chinese hoax.
Trump announced in 2017 his withdrawal from the Paris Accords, which centered around individual country commitments to reduce carbon emissions through government action. Biden re-entered the deal in one of his first job changes.
But, Schmidt added, “Not only do we need leaders, but we need concrete commitments from all countries – but particularly from the major emitting countries – following the signs of being carbon-neutral by 2050 at the latest. In this sense, all commitments are The United States, which is helping to achieve these global agreements, is good news.”
Having asked to speak anonymously, an EU diplomat has been more forthcoming about how Biden’s difficulties in getting his agenda through Congress are viewed, even with the current and former president coming to Scotland.
“It is great to see the United States return to the forefront of the global climate struggle. But what it has been able to do internally is just as important as what it brings to the negotiating table at the international level,” the diplomat said. “So the international pressure is great and without all these diplomatic efforts The additional ones, we’d definitely be in a worse place, but there’s an ongoing question: Can you do what you’re saying?”
Biden sees combating climate change as an existential issue and a top priority for his presidency, and advisers say he is going in the direction that Obama has set, but he is trying to make it a reality. This applies to much of what is in the infrastructure bill, but also to a number of executive actions and regulations that the White House is implementing on its own.
Reverse the role
Biden was selected for vice president in 2008, in part due to Obama’s lack of experience and credibility in foreign affairs at the time.
Now the roles have been reversed and Obama will be the only one supporting Biden. Be careful not to overshadow Biden, however, and Obama won’t make it to the COP until November 8, a week after Biden is shown at the event, which begins on Monday. That moment was carefully arranged: Obama will deliver a formal address to the assembled diplomats, but only after most of the world’s leaders have left.
Podesta helped lead Obama’s White House efforts for the 2015 Paris climate accords and was one of the climate activists who asked the former president to address this year’s COP to help make the case. He said there are crucial messages Obama is uniquely positioned to convey about America’s reassertion after Trump, but also about how domestic efforts to combat climate change in the United States will continue even after Trump withdrew from the international deal.
“Even with someone trying so hard to go in the opposite direction, the United States stayed on the right track because people of goodwill in local offices and in governor’s mansions across the country came out and kept us on the right track,” Podesta said. This is a different story than, “Oh, you can’t trust the United States because they elected Trump.” You hear it a lot. And that’s the other way to think about it.”
As Obama heads to Scotland, his foundation is pumping out material about its own work, taking international climate talk to the point. This includes a video of him recounting, taken from his appearance at COP15 in Copenhagen during the first year of his presidency, where an international climate agreement failed, and follows the diplomatic work that led him through the remainder of his presidency, which culminated. in the Paris Agreements.
With an argument to emerge in Scotland, he says in the video: “Paris gives us a way to make the necessary changes, but what is still needed is the will and activism of citizens who pressure their governments to be ambitious.”
There is also an oral history of climate action that ended with Obama and some of the advisers more involved in the Paris negotiations on the topic of “work left.”
“A testament to their resilience, I think, was the fact that my successor in the White House decided unilaterally to withdraw from the Paris Accords—however, despite what would have been a major symbolic coup that brought down the entire agreement,” Obama said in that story.
“So even though we were on the sidelines, all the other important nations said, ‘No, let’s go on. And now we have a US government ready once again to take the lead in this process.’”
“He knows he’s passing the baton, but he knows he has an important role to play,” said Podesta, who is also part of this oral history.
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