Former President Obama received a welcome so warm it verged on metaphor inside COP26 on Monday, though the youth activists outside, to whom he directed much of his speech, gave him a far chillier reception. Obama said it was “particularly discouraging” that China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin did not attend the conference. He also criticized U.S. Republicans for their “express active hostility toward climate science and [decision to] make climate change a partisan issue.”

The former leader of the world’s wealthiest nation and largest historical contributor to the climate crisis exhorted young activists to “stay angry” but not to be “too pure” for politics because “we will not have more ambitious climate plans coming out of governments unless governments feel some pressure from voters.”

Responsibilities to developing countries

Obama acknowledged “Those of us who live in big wealthy nations, those of us who helped to precipitate the problem, we have an added burden to make sure that we are working with and helping and assisting those who are less responsible and less able and more vulnerable to this oncoming crisis.” The United States and other wealthy nations have long resisted any agreement that could open them to liability for the losses and damages suffered by more vulnerable countries.

“I was 13 when you [Obama] promised $100 billion” in climate aid, Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate said on Twitter — a promise rich countries have repeatedly failed to honor. “The US has broken that promise, it will cost lives in Africa,” she added. “You want to meet #COP26 youth. We want action.” In addition to his plenary address, Obama met with leaders of several island nations, a closed-door meeting with the High Ambition Coalition, and a roundtable of youth organized by his foundation. (New York Times $, Reuters, The Guardian, Forbes, Reuters, BBC, AP, Washington Post $, WBUR, Axios, Politico, AP, The Guardian, Washington Post $, Bloomberg $, The Hill, Business Insider, CNN, E&E News, NBC)