Former President of the United States Barack Obama spoke at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Here is the transcript of part of his speech:

Most nations have failed to be as ambitious as they need to be. The escalation, the ratcheting up of ambition that we anticipated in Paris six years ago has not been uniformly realized. I have to confess. It was particularly discouraging to see the leaders of two of the world’s largest emitters, China and Russia, declined to even attend the proceedings. And their national plans so far reflect what appears to be a dangerous lack of urgency, a willingness to maintain the status quo on the part of those governments. And that’s a shame. We need advanced economies like the US and Europe leading on this issue, but you know the facts, we also need China and India leading on this issue. We need Russia leading on this issue just as we need Indonesia, South Africa, and Brazil leading on this issue. We can’t afford anybody on the sidelines.

I recognize we’re living in a moment when international cooperation has waned. A moment of greater geopolitical tension and stress in part because of the pandemic, in part because of the rise of nationalism and tribal impulses around the world. And yes, in part, because of a lack of leadership on America’s part for four years on a host of multilateral issues. I understand that it’s harder to get international cooperation when there are more global tensions, but there is one thing that should transcend our day to day politics and normal geopolitics. And that is climate change.

It’s not just that we can’t afford to go backward. We can’t afford to stay where we are. The world has to step up and it has to step up now. So how is that going to happen? How do we close the gap between what’s necessary for our survival and what seems politically possible right now? I confess I don’t have all the answers, as I’m sure is true for all of you out there. Those of you who are steeped in this work, who are far more expert than me. There are times where I feel discouraged. There are times where the future seems somewhat bleak. There are times where I am doubtful that humanity can get its act together before it’s too late and images of dystopia start creeping into my dreams. And yet whenever I feel such despondency, I remind myself that cynicism is the recourse of cowards. We can’t afford hopelessness. Instead, we are going to have to muster the will and the passion and the activism of citizens, pushing governments, companies, and everyone else to meet this challenge. That’s what allowed the US to do its part over the last few years to meet our climate goals. Even when we didn’t have much leadership on it. It wasn’t just elected officials or CEOs doing the right thing. It was ordinary Americans making their voices heard, making it clear we need to solve this problem, regardless of the obstacles. People who organized and educated others in their communities, people who put pressure on businesses and governments to do better. People who turn their passion into votes.

That’s the kind of commitment we’re going to need going forward, because let’s face it. This is not just about raw numbers. This is not just about science. This is about politics. It’s about culture. It’s about morality. It’s about the human dynamic. How do we work together to get a big thing done? And it’s about participation and power. Thinking back on my own experience as president, I would’ve had the power to do even more to fight climate change during my time in office, if I’d had a stable congressional majority that was willing and eager to take action.

And for the bulk of my presidency, I didn’t have that majority. Gaining such majorities require an engaged citizenry, willing to do what it takes to reward politicians who take this problem seriously and send out of office those who don’t. I am convinced that President Biden’s build back better bill will be historic and a huge plus for US action on climate change. But keep in mind, Joe Biden wanted to do even more. He’s constrained by the absence of a robust majority that’s needed to make that happen. Both of us have been constrained in large part by the fact that one of our two major parties has decided not only to sit on the sidelines, but express active hostility toward climate science and make climate change a partisan issue.

Perhaps some of you have a similar dynamic in your own countries. Although generally speaking, the United States seems to have a more vigorous opposition to climate than in many other places. But my broader point is that that’s got to stop. Saving the planet isn’t a partisan issue. I welcome any faction within the Republican party in the United States that takes climate change seriously. And that may be a rare breed right now, but keep in mind, such Republican elected officials used to be commonplace, used to exist. President George HW Bush, a Republican was one of the first US presidents to officially recognize the threat of climate change, was a signatory to the Rio Accord.

If we are going to act on the scale that’s required, climate change can’t be seen anywhere in the world as just an opportunity to score political points. And for those listening back home in the US, let me say this. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. If your Florida house is flooded by rising seas or your crops fail in the Dakotas or your California house is burning down, nature, physics, science do not care about party affiliation. And what is true in the United States is true in every nation. We don’t just need the Democrats or the Green Party or Progressives to be working together on this existential problem. We need everybody, even if we disagree on other things. And what’s also true around the world, true in the US, true in all the countries represented here is that the most important energy in this movement is coming from young people. And the reason is simple. They have more stake in this fight than anybody else. And that’s why I want to spend the rest of my time today talking directly to young people who may be watching and wondering what they can do to help.


You can see a part of his speech in this video from CNN (8:26):


You can see his full speech in this video from PBS (48:20):