Former US President Barack Obama was the guest of honour at the Les Napoleons conference on Saturday. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP
Obama also vouched for the superiority of female leadership as “men seem to be having some problems these days”, alluding to the sexual assault and harassment scandals currently engulfing the United States.
Speaking to a group of communications and media leaders as well as financiers and academics known as Les Napoleons, Obama regretted what he called a “temporary absence of American leadership” on climate change.
He was referring to Trump's threat to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord, the day after making similar remarks during a visit to New Delhi. Trump has said the accord is crippling US business and has called for the agreement to be renegotiated.
Asked to list leadership qualities for the future, Obama advocated “more focus on putting women in power, because men seem to be having some problems these days.”
“Not to generalise, but women seem to have a better capacity than men do, partly because of their socialisation,” said the 56-year-old Democrat who left office in January.
Obama also used the occasion to hone his post-presidential vision of hope and change as he seeks to build support for the foundation he launched in September.
“If we can adapt to change we can make extraordinary progress. Hope is not being blind to problems,” Obama said. “Hope is facing problems and then still believing that we can work them out.”
He insisted that the world is “healthier, wealthier and less violent than at any time in human history”, with “only a few things that are irreversible”.
'Deeply embedded inequality'
But he also warned of the dangers of “deeply embedded inequality”.
“Going forward we need to modernise our economies in a way that is inclusive,” he said.
Obama lunched earlier Saturday with Emmanuel Macron, meeting him for the first time after backing the French leader's presidential campaign.
Macron, 39, emulated Obama's youth-oriented campaign, focusing on mobilising grassroots support for his upstart centrist movement En Marche.
Macron had rolled out the red carpet for Trump in July, hosting him as guest of honour for Bastille Day celebrations when he sought — unsuccessfully — to change the US leader's mind on pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement.
Obama also met Saturday with France's former president Francois Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
“We discussed the big challenges of the planet and especially the subject of the climate. We are confident the accord will be implemented,” Hollande tweeted afterward.
Hidalgo said the C40, an international network of mayors that she heads, would build ties with the Obama Foundation focusing on climate change.
Obama was seen as a major catch for Les Napoleons, a relatively unknown networking group set up in 2014 and claiming a membership of some 3,000.
The former US president's fee has not been disclosed, but a rampant rumour mill suggested the figure of $400,000 (€336,000). That was the paycheck Obama cashed after speaking to a Wall Street bank in September.
By AFP's Gina Doggett