People, not politicians key to fighting climate change - Obama

by Umberto Bacchi | @UmbertoBacchi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 9 May 2017 17:17 GMT

Former U.S. President Barack Obama waves after speaking at the Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan, Italy May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

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"The energy to bring about change is going to come from what people do every day"

By Umberto Bacchi

MILAN, May 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The actions of ordinary people, not politicians, are key to fighting global warming, former U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, as the current administration is set to decide whether to pull out of a major climate agreement.

Obama said while politicians can help guide climate policies, it's businessmen seeking to cut on energy consumption and waste or mothers taking action out of concern for the future of their children that can make a real difference.

"The energy to bring about change is going to come from what people do every day," he told a food industry conference in Milan.

"People have a tendency to blame politicians when things don't work. But, as I always tell people: 'you get the politicians you deserve'," he added, calling for more public engagement in politics.

Before taking office, President Donald Trump pledged to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement struck by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015, which aims to limit rising temperatures by phasing out use of fossil fuels.

Obama did not explicitly refer to Trump but his comments came as the U.S. president is expected to announce whether he will scrap the accord for which his predecessor campaigned.

Obama told the Milan conference that climate change was a challenge "that will define the contours of this century more dramatically, perhaps, than any other".

He added he was confident that the United States would keep moving "in the right direction" on climate change, although the process might slow down under Trump.

Policy-making in the last decade has prompted the private sector to invest in both renewable energy and technology to improve fuel efficiency, Obama said.

"Because of current debate in Washington, it could be that policies move more slowly but I am confident that the United States will continue to move in the right direction," he said.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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