Obama, in Canada, Warns Against Isolationism and ‘Populist Alternatives’

Former President Barack Obama in a speech in Canada on Tuesday said Western values are still the envy of the world, and cautioned against embracing isolationism in the face of economic uncertainty.

Obama, speaking in Montreal at a Chamber of Commerce event, said that the world must do more to combat income inequality, noting that the concentration of wealth fans fears that governments exist solely to benefit the powerful.

"That's a recipe for more cynicism and more polarization, less trust in our institutions and less trust in each other. And it’s part of what leads people to turn to populist alternatives that may not actually deliver," Obama said.

Touching on his successor's recent moves, Obama also said that despite the "temporary" lack of U.S. involvement in the Paris climate deal, companies in America and around the globe have pledged to move toward renewable resources.

Image: Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama delivers his keynote speech to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce at the Palais de Congres on June 6, 2017 in Montreal. Dario Ayala / Reuters

"Obviously I'm disappointed with the current American administration’s decision to pull out of Paris, but all that work that we did is now embedded in decisions that are being made by companies all around America and all around the world," Obama said.

"It's not as if Wal-Mart is now going to suddenly reverse itself — they're going to continue to build on the clean energy they’ve already invested in because it turns out it saves them money,” Obama said.

Related: A Climate Scientist Explains Worst That Could Happen After Paris Withdrawal

President Donald Trump last Thursday announced the United States would withdraw from the non-binding voluntary agreement, a compact that includes more than 190 countries. Trump said the deal put America at an economic disadvantage.

Obama called the Paris deal "an agreement that even with the temporary absence of American leadership will still give our children a fighting chance."

Related: California and Other States Step Into Climate Policy Void

What Happens Now? A Look at Consequences of Ditching Global Climate Agreement 1:51

Obama said that in times of economic uncertainty it can be tempting to turn to isolationism and "the politics of us-vs.-them" and said World War I and World War II were the result. He said the U.S. and other nations showed there was a better way "in creating an international order that was based not just on self-interest but also on principles."