Barack Obama Urges Young People to 'Stay Angry' About Climate Change: 'The World Is Full of Gretas'

"We are nowhere near where we need to be," the former president said in a speech Monday at the COP26 climate change summit

Barack Obama speaks at the COP26
Barack Obama. Photo: ROBERT PERRY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

While arguing that notable progress had been made addressing climate change in the years since the landmark Paris agreement in 2015, former President Barack Obama on Monday nonetheless said that the world was still "falling short."

"Paris showed the world that progress is possible and created a framework. Important work was done there and important work has been done since here. That is the good news," the 60-year-old Obama said in remarks delivered at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26. "Now for the bad news: We are nowhere near where we need to be."

He warned elsewhere in the speech: "The consequences of not moving fast enough are becoming more apparent all the time."

Still, Obama said he believes young people might be the key to future change.

The former president finished his speech with a plea to the younger generations who are frustrated with a lack of progress on climate change, saying "the world is full of Gretas" — a reference to 18-year-old activist Greta Thunberg.

"To all the young people out there, as well as those who consider yourself young at heart, I want you to stay angry," he said. "I want you to stay frustrated. But challenge that anger and harness that frustration. Keep pushing harder and harder for more and more — because that is what is required to meet this challenge."

Obama also used part of his COP26 speech to criticize his successor Donald Trump, who pulled out of the Paris agreement in 2017 and said its terms were unfair to the U.S.

"Some of our progress stalled when my successor decided to unilaterally pull out of the Paris agreement," Obama said on Monday. "I wasn't real happy with that."

Now, under President Joe Biden, Obama said the U.S. was "once again engaged" in the fight against climate change.

Barack Obama speaks at the COP26
Barack Obama. Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

The first day of the COP26 event saw more than 100 countries agree to end deforestation by 2030, according to CNN. Together, the countries make up more than 85 percent of the planet's forests, the network reported. The coalition include Russia, Colombia, Canada, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Other global pledges, however, were less sweeping: A push to phase out the use of coal power was not supported by China, India and the U.S., who together comprise almost three-fourths of the world market, according to Reuters.

Last Tuesday, in his own remarks at the summit, President Biden announced his administration would introduce regulations to mitigate methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.

(Conservatives insist such policies harm the economy more than they help the environment. Conversely, Biden has been criticized by some activists who say he needs to act more urgently to help the warming planet.)

Lauding Biden's announcements as "significant accomplishments," Obama said on Monday it was up to world leaders to follow through on their pledges in order for change to take place.

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