In one of his first international speaking engagements since leaving office, former President Barack Obama laid out his defense of his administration’s goals, including reforming immigration policy, ending extreme poverty and curbing carbon emissions through the Paris climate agreement.
“When it comes to the threat of climate change, we have shown that environmental sustainability and economic progress are not contradictory, but rather are complementary,” Obama said in a speech to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, disputing President Trump’s claim that the Paris Agreement would disadvantage the American economy. “In the United States, under my administration we doubled production of renewable energy at the same time as we saw a record duration of job creation.”
Obama also referred to the United States’ lack of involvement in the climate change accord as “temporary.”
In addition to criticizing the current administration’s policy decisions, Obama warned against the populist distrust of the federal government.
“That’s a recipe for more cynicism and more polarization, less trust in our institutions and less trust in each other,” Obama said. “And it’s part of what leads people to turn to populist alternatives that may not actually deliver.”
Obama cautioned the audience against adopting an “us vs. them” mentality as a result of economic uncertainty, saying that such attitudes helped cause World Wars I and II.
“It is important to remember that the world has gone through similar moments, in the shift from, for example, agriculture to industry,” Obama told his sold-out audience in Montreal. “And then too there was a temptation to respond to great uncertainty and economic upheaval by falling into the comforts of tribe and extreme nationalism and xenophobia and the politics of ‘us vs them.’”
“The First and Second World Wars showed us all too terribly what happens when we fail to adapt to changes. But our history also shows that there is a better way,” Obama said.
The former president was addressing the Montreal Chamber of Commerce as part of a series of events celebrating the city’s 375th anniversary. Obama is said to charge a speaking fee of $400,000 for such appearances, according to the Toronto Star.
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