Global environmental challenges
Will Nobel Prize also take Obama to Copenhagen climate talks?
The surprise award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama just nine months into his presidency on Friday may put pressure on him to visit a 190-nation meeting on a new U.N. climate treaty in Copenhagen.
The prize will be handed over in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of the award’s founder Alfred Nobel, and the U.N. talks will run in Copenhagen from Dec. 7-18. It takes about an hour to fly between the two Scandinavian capitals.
And the Norwegian Nobel Committee heaped praise on Obama, including his climate policies, in its citation.
“Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting,” the secretive five-member committee said.
Some Norwegian politicians said they hoped the award would stiffen Obama’s resolve to push the U.S. Senate to pass early legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the years to 2020.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush dropped efforts to get the Senate to ratify the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol, a pact adopted by all other industrialised nations for curbing greenhouse gas emissions until 2012. Obama wants the United States to have a bigger role in a new global treaty to be agreed in Copenhagen.
Environmental group Greenpeace said Obama should visit Copenhagen.
“In accepting the award in Oslo on 10th December President Obama has an incredible opportunity, and responsibility, to then travel to the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit to help avert climate chaos and conflict,” Greenpeace’s International Executive Director Gerd Leipold said in a statement.
And Denmark’s Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard also expressed hopes that Obama would come to Copenhagen: “It’s hard to imagine that he will be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec. 10th and then come empty-handed to Copenhagen a week later.”
And what a difference a week makes — the award of one of the world’s top accolades in Oslo is a stunning turnaround just a week after Obama went to Copenhagen and suffered a defeat by unsuccessfully lobbying for Chicago to get the 2016 Olympic Games.
But a problem is that the first week of the Copenhagen talks will be run only by senior government bureaucrats — environment ministers from around the world are due to turn up only from Dec. 16 to decide on a new pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
So, to have the most impact on the negotiations, should Obama go for a few days’ vacation skiing in Scandinavia after collecting the Nobel Prize before travelling to Copenhagen?
(Picture credits: top - U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and first lady Michelle Obama arrive for an event to look at the stars with local middle school students and astronomers from across the country on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, October 7, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young. Right: The Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu)