COP26: President Obama tells young to channel their anger and get to work on climate change

The former US president, Barack Obama, told young people to stay angry and prepare for a marathon on tackling climate change.

Barack Obama at COP26, 8 November 2021. Photo: Livestream

Speaking in a packed hall at COP26 in Glasgow, he said young people had to put pressure on governments and business:

“I want you to stay angry, I want you to stay frustrated.

“But channel that anger and harness that frustration. Keep pushing harder and harder for more and more because that’s what’s required to meet that challenge. Gird yourself for a marathon not a sprint.”

Likening climate change to a wound on the earth, he said:

“Those wounds won’t be healed today, tomorrow or the next day but they can be healed by degrees.

“They start with that spirit that each of us can fight through the frustration, do our part and follow through on those commitments. I believe we can secure a better future. We have to.”

Applause of Barack Obama speech to COP26, 8 November 2021. Photo: Livestream

To applause, President Obama said:

“What a profound and noble task we have set ourselves. I’m ready for the long haul if you are, so let’s get to work.”

The speech came at the start of the second week of the climate talks.

A draft of the final text, described by the summit’s organisers as a “non-paper”, was published today, prompting disappointment from some environmental organisations.

President Obama said keeping temperature rise to 1.5C would be hard and it would not happen at once. He said:

“International co-operation has always been difficult. It is made more difficult by misinformation and propaganda that comes out of social media these days.”

The process would be messy, he said, and every victory would be incomplete. But he said:

“If we work hard enough, for long enough, those partial victories add up. …

“If we stay with it, we will get this done.”

President Obama at COP26, 8 November 2021. Photo: Livestream

President Obama acknowledged:

“collectively and individually, we are still falling short. We have not done nearly enough to address this crisis. We will need to do more. The world has to step up and it has to step up now.”

People had to muster “the will of citizens to push government and companies to meet this challenge”, he said.

Quoting advice from his mother when he felt frustrated, he said: “don’t sulk, get busy, get to work and change what needs to be changed”.

He urged young people not to ignore politics but to “vote the issue”.

“Vote like your life depends on it, because it does.

“We will not have more ambitious climate plans coming out of government unless governments feel more pressure coming out of voters.”

President Obama also said it was “particularly disappointing” that President Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia had not joined other global leaders in Glasgow. He said the pandemic and a rise of nationalism had led to a breakdown in international relations that had affected dealing with the climate crisis.

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