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Obama speaks out about climate change as G7 pressure Trump to honour Paris pact

© How Hwee Young, POOL, AFP file picture | Former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and then US president Barack Obama shake hands during a ratification of the Paris climate change agreement

Text by Louise NORDSTROM

Latest update : 2017-05-26

Barack Obama on Friday said climate change remains a key challenge for the world, noting a lack of knowledge can fuel public resistance. His comments came as G7 leaders pressured his successor Donald Trump to honour the Paris climate deal.

The forrmer US president on Friday published an opinion piece in British daily The Guardian, saying he firmly believes that of the world’s current challenges, climate change “is the one that will define the contours of this century more dramatically perhaps than the others”.

“No nation, whether it’s large or small, rich or poor, will be immune from the impacts of climate change,” he wrote.

During his two terms in office, which ended when Donald Trump succeeded him as US leader in January, Obama made climate change one of his top political priorities, pledging under the 2015 Paris agreement to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The US is the world’s second largest carbon emitter after China.

In contrast, Trump represented himself as an avowed climate sceptic during his election campaign, casting doubts over the fact that climate change is man-made and promised to exit the UN Paris pact to limit global warming.

On Friday, the leaders of seven wealthy democracies, or the G7, gathered for a summit in Sicily in Italy, prior to which many of them had signalled they intended to push Trump hard on whether he plans to respect the Paris deal or not.

Trump's economic advisor, Gary Cohn, on Friday told the AFP news agency that "the levels that were agreed to [in Paris] by the prior administration would be highly crippling to the US economic growth," and that the president would make a decision on the matter after his return to Washington.

Cohn said Trump "wants to do the right thing for the environment. He cares about the environment. But he also cares very much about creating jobs for American workers".

According to AFP, Washington is currently considering different solutions of which one would be to remain in the 196-nation Paris pact but with the intention of launching a re-examination of US objectives. Such a solution would allow the US to stay in the negotiations but simultaneously signal to the US electorate a break from the Obama administration’s policies.

Food production a big emitter

In Obama’s opinion piece, which appeared to be published to coincide with the G7 summit, the former US leader focused on the second biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions after energy emissions: food production and food waste. According to Obama, these issues are not being paid nearly as much attention as they should, and said this could largely be explained by a lack of knowledge.

“People naturally understand that big smokestacks have pollution in them – they understand air pollution, so they can easily make the connection between energy production and greenhouse gases,” he wrote.

“Most people aren’t as familiar with the impact of cows and methane. So part of the problem that we need to address is just lack of knowledge in the general public.”

The way to get there, he wrote, would be to invest more in science and climate-smart innovation, to produce better seeds and better storage, as well as crops that use less water and which are fitter to resist harsher climates.

“All these things can help to make sure that food security exists in poor countries, but it can also help us ensure that, in producing the food that we need to feed the billions of people on this planet, we’re not destroying the planet in the process.”

He also touched on the issue of food waste.

“We have to create a food culture that encourages a demand for healthier, more sustainable food,” he said, but noted it is a “very emotional issue” and that many “people are more resistant to the idea of government or bureaucrats telling us how to eat, what to eat, how to grow it."

Date created : 2017-05-26

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