(CN) – President Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that the United States would no longer drag its feet on addressing global warming. But in his first speech to the world body, Obama said he would maintain American policies toward Iran, North Korea, and al Qaeda.
Referring to global climate change, the president said, “Future generations will look back and wonder why we refused to act, why we failed to pass on an environment that was worthy of our inheritance. And that is why the days when America dragged its feet on this issue are over.”
Obama’s speech signaled changes from some policies of the George W. Bush administration, in regard to Israel, and U.S. relations with the international community.
He highlighted the actions he already has taken: ordering that the Guantanamo Bay prison be closed, investing $80 billion in clean energy, and paying the nation’s outstanding dues to the United Nations.
“Every nation must know America will live its values, and we will lead by example,” Obama said.
The assembly is part of a diplomatic whirlwind. On Tuesday the United Nations held a climate change summit, and the G-20 is scheduled to meet today in Pittsburgh.
Obama pointedly warned Israel about that country’s diplomatic shortcomings: “The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians,” he said.
Obama had even harsher words for North Korea and Iran. He asked the U.N. to reprimand them for their nuclear weapons programs: “The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced.”
And in what has become a trademark of an Obama speech, the president called for unity and cooperation in addressing the world’s problems, asking world leaders to forgive past grievances and seek a better world.
“In this hall, we come from many places, but we share a common future,” Obama said. “The choice is ours. We can be remembered as a generation that chose to drag the arguments of the 20th century into the twenty-first, or we can be a generation that finally gives meaning to the promise embedded in the name given to this institution, the United Nations.”
The president added: “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone. This body was founded on the belief that the nations of the world could solve their problems together.”