OSLO, Norway, December 10, 2009 (ENS) – President Barack Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Prize for Peace at a ceremony today at Oslo City Hall. Delivering a Nobel lecture focused on the uses and limits of military force in creating a worldwide just and lasting peace, President Obama underlined the importance of environmental protection.
“A just peace includes not only civil and political rights,” he said, “it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.”
“It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can’t aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family,” said President Obama. “The absence of hope can rot a society from within.”
“That’s why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It’s also why the world must come together to confront climate change,” said the President, with the ongoing UN climate change conference taking place in the capital of nearby Denmark this week and next.
“There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement – all of which will fuel more conflict for decades,” said President Obama.
“For this reason,” he said, “it is not merely scientists and environmental activists who call for swift and forceful action – it’s military leaders in my own country and others who understand our common security hangs in the balance.”
President Obama will travel to Copenhagen on December 18 to participate in talks with world leaders on the final day of the UN climate conference. There, governments are expected to finalize the terms of a political agreement to limit heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. This agreement is supposed to lead to an international treaty to control global warming sometime in 2010.
Demonstrators thronged the streets of Oslo in front of the Grand Hotel where the Obamas were staying, pressing the President to negotiate a strong climate deal in Copenhagen.
The UN Environment Programme warned Wednesday that there is only “a narrow window of opportunity to have the possibility of achieving the global political and scientific consensus of avoiding a global warming of more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels or the 1.5°C goal of 100 developing nations.”
“The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is increasing every day and, without significant reductions in emissions, will soon reach levels at which the consequent changes in the Earth’s climate will have very serious, and potentially disastrous and irreversible, impacts,” warned the UN agency.
At a joint news conference in Oslo this morning with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, President Obama affirmed that curbing climate change is of central concern to both leaders.
“Something that obviously is pressing right now is the issue of climate change,” said President Obama, “and the Prime Minister and I discussed the ongoing meeting in Copenhagen, in which we’re both strongly committed to a positive outcome.”
“The United States has done a lot of work this year to transform the way we think about energy and our use back home, and to help to move international climate negotiations forward in an effective way,” Obama said.
Prime Minister Stoltenberg called climate change “the most pressing challenge of our time” and said the world needs “a strong political agreement in Copenhagen.”
He briefed the President on the Norwegian-Mexican initiative on financing, which is a key issue in Copenhagen,” the Prime Minister said. “Developed countries must provide more funding for climate action in the developing world. We need money both for the short term and the long term, and we need funding both from the public and from the private sector.”
Tabled at the Copenhagen conference on Wednesday, a joint paper co-written by the Norway, Mexico, Australia and the United Kingdom proposes a new Green Fund to help developing countries take action to combat climate change. The fund would be overseen by an independent body, and directed through existing channels to finance flowing immediately after a politically-binding agreement is signed.
The Norwegian Prime Minister complimented the American leader on “the cap and trade system championed by your administration” which he said is “truly in keeping” the Norwegian approach.”
“By capping emissions we reduce emissions and we put a price on carbon which is very, very important. This will bring strong incentives to develop new and cleaner technologies,” Stoltenberg said.
The two leaders agreed that Norway and the United States will work together to ensure that efforts to reduce emissions from tropical forests will be an important element in a deal in Copenhagen.
President Obama said he is “impressed with the model that has been built between Norway and Brazil that allows for effective monitoring and ensures that we are making progress in avoiding deforestation of the Amazon.”
“We all understand that it’s probably the most cost-effective way for us to address the issue of climate change – having an effective set of mechanisms in place to avoid further deforestation and hopefully to plant new trees,” Obama said.
At the news conference, a reporter asked President Obama to address criticisms that the Nobel Prize has been awarded to him prematurely, during his first year in office.
President Obama reiterated that the award was “a great surprise” and said, “I have no doubt that there are others who may be more deserving.” That said, the President emphasized environmental protection in his response.
“My task here is to continue on the path that I believe is not only important for America, but important for lasting peace and security in the world,” he said. “That means pursuing a world free of nuclear weapons over time and strengthening our mechanisms to avoid nuclear proliferation. That means addressing climate change in an effective way.”
Prime Minister Stoltenberg called the Nobel Peace Prize award, “very well-deserved and important.”
Stoltenberg praised the American president’s disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives, his vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and his work toward preventing conflicts by fostering international cooperation.
“Fighting global warming, taking leadership as he has done when it comes to trying to reach an agreement in Copenhagen, is an important part of creating a world with less conflicts, more peace, and less ground for war and conflicts,” Stoltenberg said. “So it is a well-deserved Peace Prize, and hopefully it is really in the best spirit of Alfred Nobel.”
The Peace Prize acceptance ceremony is held each year on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896. The Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, armaments manufacturer was the inventor of dynamite. In his last will, Nobel used his enormous fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes, which were first awarded in 1901.
The banquet that follows the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony is held in Sweden, in the Blue Hall of Stockholm City Hall, where 1,300 guests in their formal best dined tonight in honor of the newest Peace Laureate.
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