The activist Vanessa Nakate wrote on Twitter that she was 13 when Mr. Obama promised that the countries of the global north would provide $100 billion in climate financing a year by 2020. That money hasn’t yet materialized. “The US has broken that promise, it will cost lives in Africa,” she tweeted. “You want to meet #COP26 youth. We want action.”
To the extent President Biden has been able to restore Mr. Obama’s climate agenda, it has been through diplomatic moves, like rejoining the Paris Agreement, or through legislation that, if it wins passage, will do so almost entirely on Democratic votes because Republicans have withheld support.
“One of our two major parties has decided not only to sit on the sidelines, but express active hostility toward climate science and make climate change a partisan issue,” Mr. Obama said.
“Saving the planet isn’t a partisan issue,” he said, adding that politics don’t matter “if your Florida house is flooded by rising seas, or your crops fail in the Dakotas or your California house is burning down. Nature, science do not care about party affiliation.”
His agenda was carefully curated. In addition to a plenary address, Mr. Obama spoke to leaders of several island countries already feeling the acute impacts of climate change, emphasizing the need for money to help vulnerable countries adapt to a hotter planet. He joined a closed-door meeting with a bloc of countries that call themselves the High Ambition Coalition and ended his day with a round table with young advocates, organized by the Obama Foundation along with Columbia Climate School.
At the round table event in the late afternoon, a large group of students waited at the entrance to see his arrival at the University of Strathclyde. An even larger group gathered near the gates when he left, nearly two hours later.
Luisa Neubauer, 25, a leader of the Fridays for the Future movement in Germany, who was part of the round table, said afterward that it was a positive sign that the United States, under Mr. Biden, was making new pledges, though she felt it hadn’t been honest about its past failings. “Young people, me included, we are very reluctant to be hopeful just because a new leader makes a promise or a former president goes around making promises,” she said. “Because we have been betrayed again and again.”