Obama: Private sector is key to tackling climate change

Associated Press

Milan — Former U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he is “confident that the United States will continue to move in the right direction” on climate change despite his successor’s pledges to undo many of his policies.

On his first foreign foray since leaving the presidency, Obama told an audience at a conference on food innovation in Italy that businesses in the United States are already committed to clean energy because it is cost-saving, which would help counteract moves by the Trump administration.

While campaigning for president, Trump pledged to “cancel” the Paris Agreement, the first international deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions from both rich and poor countries. Obama enthusiastically supported the agreement, which was adopted by the United States and more than 190 other countries in 2015.

“The good news is, in part because of what we did over the last eight years, the private sector has already made a determination that the future is in clean energy. Investments are moving into clean energy,” Obama said.

“It may be that some of the steps we put in place may move more slowly than they otherwise would have. But I’m confident that the United States will continue to move in the right direction.”

He said for example California’s strict fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars would undermine the Trump administration moves to roll back on Obama’s own “aggressive standards.”

“So even if the rules change in Washington, there is not a U.S. automaker that can afford to produce a car that is not fuel efficient enough to be sold in California,” the single largest U.S. market, Obama said.

Obama arrived in Milan on Monday, greeted by former Premier Matteo Renzi, a political ally who is mounting a comeback after resigning when his referendum on constitutional reforms failed.

Renzi welcomed Obama in a Facebook post, calling him “a friend and great leader … who still has much to say and give to world politics.”

Obama made a few tourist stops in Italy’s fashion and finance capital before attending a dinner hosted by an Italian think tank attended by friends and business leaders. Before heading to the food innovation summit Tuesday, he went to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” accompanied by Italy’s culture minister.

“So even in our religion and in our art, food is important,” he said.