Major greenhouse gas emitters including China, India, Russia and Indonesia need to be prepared to lead the way in combatting climate change, said former US president Barack Obama.

“We cannot have anyone on the sidelines,” he told delegates on Day 8 of the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

“The world has to step up and step up now.”

He noted the positive agreements reached in the first week of the landmark climate change conference but said that “most nations have failed to be as ambitious as they need to be”.

Obama said it was “particularly discouraging” to see the leaders of China and Russia effectively snub COP26, leaving the UK, European Union and the US to take the lead.

“Time really is running out. While meaningful progress has been made since Paris and we see the promise of more progress this week, collectively, individually we’re still falling short,” he said.

Most nations have failed

Obama noted that Paris was always supposed to be the beginning – not the end point – in combatting climate change.

“Most nations have failed to achieve their Paris commitments. We are nowhere near where we need to be.”

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Obama described Donald Trump’s four-year presidency as a time of “active hostility” which made climate change a partisan issue in the US

Obama hailed current President Joe Biden’s recently announced Infrastructure Bill that pledges to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

This could see the US, currently the world’s second largest GHG emitter, reduce pollution by 1 billion tonnes of CO2 by the end of this decade.

Even so, Obama admitted that keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is going to be difficult, with challenges including the slow speed at which existing political institutions move and the sometimes lack of international co-operation – all played out against a backdrop of misinformation on social media.

He also acknowledged the frustration felt by young people who view some of his generation as acting like climate change doesn’t exist or refuse to do anything about it.

“Folks of my generation have not done enough to deal with the cataclysmic problem that you have to inherit,” Obama said to the youth in the audience.