Obama Laments ‘Absence of American Leadership’ on Climate Change in Address to French

In this Aug. 6, 2013, file photo. President Barack Obama laughs as the crowd sings him "Happy Birthday" at the start of his speech about housing at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix. The man who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is more than just another famous face, or the …
AP/Jacquelyn Martin

Former president Barack Obama took advantage of a Paris address Saturday to take a veiled dig at his successor, President Donald Trump, telling his audience that “we have a temporary absence of American leadership” on climate change.

Obama was speaking before a group of some 800 French CEOS, celebrities and public officials at an invitation-only conference in France called the Napoleons, where he lamented the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, an agreement he had signed in 2015.

Asked about his three greatest fears, the former president listed climate change in the first place, followed by nuclear proliferation and a possible global pandemic like the Spanish flu magnified by the development of air transport

Mr. Obama didn’t limit his criticisms of Mr. Trump—while never mentioning his name—to the area of global warming, but also worked in oblique references to the President’s use of social media. Obama reportedly drew laughter from the audience when he said he had more followers than others “who use it more often.”

Mr. Obama praised the efforts of individual U.S. states and cities aimed at reducing carbon emissions, and said that America is still on track to meet climate goals set in past agreements.

During his first international trip as president last May, Mr. Trump underscored a different set of priorities.

In a meeting with the G7 nations in Taormina, Sicily, the President shifted discussions away from climate change to what he declared to be the most critical issue facing the world, namely Islamic terrorism.

Just days before, the President European addressed 55 world leaders from Arab and other Muslim-majority nations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In that speech, Trump called for unity in pursuing “the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test—to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.”

Back in the U.S., President Trump gave a speech in the Rose Garden after deciding to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. The Climate Accord, Trump stated, “is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”

The agreement would have left American workers and taxpayers to “absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production,” he said.

“Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” he said.

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