The world's leaders must prioritize the issue of global warming above all else, the Dalai Lama said Monday, adding that he feels encouraged by next month's climate change summit in Copenhagen.
The revered Buddhist figure and Nobel Peace Prize winner, in Australia for a series of lectures on universal responsibility and the environment, said politicians must focus their energy on finding a solution to climate change.
"Sometimes their number one importance is national interest, national economic interest, then global (warming) issue is sometimes second," he said during a news conference. "That I think should change. The global issue, it should be number one."
The Dalai Lama plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize in Australia on Dec. 10. He will present seeds he has blessed to attendees of his talks as a symbol of individuals' responsibility to act on climate change.
The 74-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader said he couldn't predict what the outcome of the United Nations summit would be, but was heartened by the very fact that it is being held.
"I think it's very, very encouraging," he said.
The Dalai Lama's trip to Australia comes as the nation's leaders remain locked in a bitter debate over the fate of a contentious bill aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Last week, several top opposition party officials resigned over their leader's support for the legislation.
Australia is one of the world's worst carbon dioxide polluters per capita because of its heavy reliance on its abundant coal reserves. As the driest continent after Antarctica, it is also considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made climate change issues a priority of his leadership, and said he wants the legislation passed as an example to the world before the Copenhagen summit.
The government plan would institute a tax on industries' carbon emissions starting in 2011 and limit Australia's overall pollution. The government wants to slash Australia's emissions by up to 25 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 if the U.N. can agree on tough global targets at Copenhagen.