PRESIDENT Obama represents an inspirational opportunity to tackle some of the world's gravest problems.

He will need to address the deep financial crisis and the threat from terrorism.

He personally symbolises the potential for greater understanding between people of different nations, ethnicity and religions.

But in this column I will focus on an area where he can offer global leadership but where we can all contribute: the environment.

Many people were dismayed by President Bush's dismissive attitude towards the danger posed by climate change.

The world needs America to be at the forefront of the green agenda.

President Obama has already shown that he understands the urgency of the situation and that he is committed to seeking solutions.

On this agenda, the European Union has demonstrated vision and leadership. We need to go further, improving home energy efficiency, designing more fuel efficient cars and better harnessing renewal energy sources.

Here in Somerset many people care deeply about our environment. I welcome the introduction of plastic and cardboard recycling in Taunton Deane.

We can also do more to support local producers and cut waste.

Britain, like America, is confronted by a serious economic downturn.

But we must be optimistic that we can come out of this recession and create a better society which is socially, financially and environmentally more sustainable.

For more from the Barack Obama inauguration, click on the Related Link, right