Obama Feared ‘Rising Protectionism, Authoritarianism’ Since He Left Office

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally for Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on September 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Midterm election day is November 6th.  (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Mark Makela/Getty Images North America

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Former U.S. President Barack Obama took a swipe at President Donald Trump’s attitude to the environment Wednesday, saying the world needs “political and social commitment” to achieve sustainability.

“Unfortunately we have a U.S administration that deals differently around these issues,” he said to laughter from the audience as he addressed business leaders in the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

In a wide-ranging talk, Obama outlined the need for a higher global focus on the environment, greater diversity in business, and backed using technology to solve global problems.

“The single highest priority that I see globally at this point is the issue of environmental sustainability,” he said, adding that the 2015 Paris Agreement’s global climate targets were “a first step in the right direction. But only the first step.”

He said environmental sustainability would only come when leaders adopted new technologies. “But that takes political and social commitment that right now is not forthcoming.”

The Obama administration ratified the Paris Agreement in September 2016. Trump dumped the U.S commitment in June 2017.

Obama made no mention of his successor by name but told the audience at the Oslo Business Forum in the Norwegian Capital that he feared “rising protectionism and authoritarianism” in the U.S since he left office.

Dressed in a dark suit over a light blue open-collared shirt, Obama said Norway was a country that used “political and social” levers to achieve social democratic goals. He also praised Norway for its focus on gender equality — it’s one of very few countries that has legislated on women in the boardroom, requiring 40 percent of non-executive board members to be female.

“Companies with a critical mass of women in leadership perform better, are more profitable, have higher stock valuations. If you are on the board of a company and you look around and it is all a bunch of men, you have got a problem. You are not well organized to succeed,” he said.

Obama added that, in a U.S that was undergoing rapid demographic changes, companies which failed to recruit Americans who’re Asian or Latin American in origin were doomed to fail in the long term.

“This is not charity or social policy,” he said. “This is a matter for your business success.”

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