Former US president Barack Obama made hissecond visit to Argentina yesterday, delivering the keynote address at the Green Economy Summit 2017 (Cumbre Economía Verde) summit in Córdoba.
The trip comes 19 months after his March 2016 state visit to Buenos Aires, following the assumption of President Mauricio Macri. Now visiting as an ex-president, Obama began his speech yesterday by praising the government’s policies and desire to reintegrate Argentina with the rest of the world.
“I’m impressed with the work that is being done in Argentina. I think President Macri has initiated efforts to reconnect this country with the world community and has laid the groundwork for more sustainable and inclusive economic growth,” he said. Obama emphasised the importance of Argentina maintaining and enhancing its leadership role, not only in the region but also on a world stage so nations can work together to address the many challenges that exist such as growing economic inequality, terrorism, and failed states, but he highlighted – aptly considering the event – that the most important one was climate change.
“There is one issue that I believe will define the contours of this century more dramatically, and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate,” he said, noting how the 15 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 17 years.
Obama, who is estimated to be receiving US$ 400,000 per speech since he left the presidency, spoke in front of a packed audience at the Quorum hotel, where 300 leaders from Argentina and different parts of the world gathered to discuss the importance of environmental sustainability and responsible business practices to protect the environment. The speech lasted for less than 20 minutes, with a Q&A session held after with Juan Verde, the host and founder of the event.
When Verde asked about the decision of US President Donald Trump to leave the Paris climate accord, leaving the US as one of only three countries outside the deal, Obama chimed in, and “that’s not great company.” The former president, without mentioning Trump by name, said the move wasn’t helpful. “I prefer they (the US) stay in the Paris accord and they meet the standards and continue the work aggressively to do what needs to be done,” Obama said.
Obama had landed in a private plane at Córdoba airport at noon where a massive security operation of an estimated 200 security officials were waiting for. He first met with Córdoba’s Governor Juan Schiaretti and a small group of businessmen and local Peronist mayors.
After he finished his interview with Verde, the former president left for Buenos Aires where he had a cocktail reception at the Palace Duhau Park Hyatt hotel restaurant organised by the Werthein and Sielecki families along with the Advanced Leadership Foundation. Business leaders, journalists and politicians participated in the event.
He later had dinner with Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña and Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Larreta, along with 10 other people. This will be followed by a golf game this Saturday morning with Macri at the Bella Vista golf club, and a yet to be decided lunch at the Abrojos hotel. Nobel prize winning economists, business leaders representing multinational tech companies such as Uber, Waze and other leaders participated giving speeches and holding discussion panels at the summit, where they emphasised the need for new sustainable business practices to protect the environment.
Nobel laureate and economist Edmund Phelps, whose research has been fundamental in creating the theories of full employment, inaugurated the event on Thursday morning.
An open panel debate followed with a focus on ow insurance companies could contribute. The President of Argentine Chamber of Insurance Companies for Environmental Risks (CAARA) Jorge Furlan highlighted how only 10 percent of companies have a contract with an obligatory environmental insurance in their contract. “The lack of controls in environmental risk insurance is worrying, when it’s a tool that can be used to effectively repair damage,” he said.
Another highlight of the event was a speech given by Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Ndaba Mandela, who leads the NGO Africa Rising, an organisation dedicated to developing Africa’s youth.
Katie McGinty, the environmental minister of Pennsylvania emphasised how the use of economic incentives had contributed to improving the environment, for example through the use of the “bottle law.” This programme allowed a recycling centre to become the main provider of aluminium in the United States. “Its much cheaper to make products from recycled cans than mined aluminium,” she revealed.
This was the second Green Economy Summit, which was founded by Verde, the resident of the Advanced Leadership Foundation. He has been involved in both the Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns and has been an advisor to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Obama and Hillary Clinton.