Maathai Presents People's Orb to World Leaders at COP 15 with a Strong Call to Seal the Deal!
15 December 2009, Copenhagen / Denmark – Moments following her induction as UN Messenger of Peace, Nobel Laureate and UNEP Patron of the Billion Tree Campaign, Wangari Maathai, addressed the opening of the High Level Segment of the UN climate conference, calling on leaders to reach a fair, ambitious and legally-binding agreement in Copenhagen.
Maathai told politicians that while "They cannot negotiate with the environment they can negotiate with each other."
Maathai's call reiterated that of the UN Secretary General's, who told heads of state attending the opening, "Our job here and now is to seal the deal … a deal that is in our common interest. For three years I have sought to bring world leaders to the table to solve climate change. Now they are coming. Three years of effort have come down to three days of action."
In her address, Maathai said it was up to the developing world to convince the developed world that the threat of climate change is real, calling on nations to invest in the preservation of forests as a first line of defense against climate change.
Maathai directed the attention of her audience to a metal Orb placed near the head table, saying, "There is an Orb at the end of the table. This orb contains stories, images, voices and messages collected from around the world to create a global mandate for action. It is the sound of the collective spirit which should bring together all the efforts of all major climate campaigns from civil society this year."
She added, "The Orb will also have a space reserved on its drive for one final but significant document on how nations will deal with climate change."
The Orb, a 20cm sphere contains a 350 gigabyte mosaic of stories, voices, images and action on climate change collected from people around the world. A symbol of solidarity, the Orb unites campaigns calling for urgent action to combat climate, including, Seal the Deal!, tcktcktck, Vote Earth, 350.org, Raise Your Voice, Hopenhagen, the Copenhagen Climate Council and the Earth Journalism Awards.
"Here, in Copenhagen, we have a unique chance to challenge ourselves and give the world more than hope. We need an ambitious, fair and legally binding agreement," Maathai said.
In conclusion, the Nobel Laureate thanked the UN Secretary General for designating her Messenger of Peace with focus on the environment and climate change.
Maathai, of Kenya, was inducted as a Messenger of Peace at a ceremony held at the Bella Centre, where the UN climate change conference is taking place, hours before the opening of the High Level Segment of COP 15.
The ceremony was conducted by the UN Secretary General and was attended by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
"Professor Maathai's lifetime record of environmental achievement, education and grassroot activism makes her an ideal choice," said Achim Steiner. "This designation recognizes her tireless work as one of the world's most effective and persuasive advocates for a greener world, where everyday citizen actions combined with policy go hand in hand to catalyze a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient green economy so urgently needed," he added.
Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, founded the grassroots group known as the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 40 million trees on community lands across Africa and has worked to improve environmental conservation and reduce poverty.