Obama: Private sector is key to tackling climate change
10 May 2017 | Mitigation
Former U.S. President Barack Obama says he's "confident that the United States will continue to move in the right direction" on climate change despite his successor's pledges to undo many of his policies.
On his first foreign foray since leaving office, Obama told an audience Tuesday at a Milan conference on food innovation in Italy that businesses in the United States are already committed to clean energy, in part due to cost-savings, which would help counteract moves by Donald Trump's administration.
While campaigning for president, Trump pledged to "cancel" the Paris Agreement, the first international deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions from both rich and poor countries. Obama enthusiastically supported the agreement, which was adopted by the United States and more than 190 other countries in 2015.
"The good news is, in part because of what we did over the last eight years, the private sector has already made a determination that the future is in clean energy. Investments are moving into clean energy," Obama said.
"It may be that some of the steps we put in place may move more slowly than they otherwise would have. But I'm confident that the United States will continue to move in the right direction," he said.
Obama referred to Trump by name only once, discussing efforts to roll back on Obama's own "aggressive standards" on fuel efficiency for passenger cars.
"The Trump administrative made a change," Obama said, but he added that those moves would be up against even stricter standards in California, the country's largest car market.
"So even if the rules change in Washington, there is not a U.S. automaker that can afford to produce a car that is not fuel efficient enough to be sold in California," Obama said.
More than 3,000 people, including government and business leaders, attended Obama's keynote address focusing on the intersection between climate change and food security, two issues that have long been an Obama focus.
Obama noted that food production was the second-largest driver of climate change after energy production. At the same time, he said, climate change is creating shrinking agricultural yields and spiking food prices that "in some places are leading to political instability."
"In fact, some of the refugee flows into Europe originate not only from conflict, but also places where there are food shortages. That will get far worse as climate change continues," Obama told the conference. "So if we don't take the necessary action to slow and ultimately stop these trends, the migration that has put such a burden on Europe already will just continue to grow."