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Will the Fight Against Climate Change Win the Nobel Peace Prize? Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 October 2007
Already topping the international agenda, the fight against global warming and activists such as Al Gore could take home this year's Nobel Peace Prize when it is announced on Friday, observers say.

Gore, a former US vice president, and another climate change campaigner, Canadian Inuit Sheila Watt-Cloutier, are believed to be among the favourites as the Nobel committee hunkers down to select a winner among the 181 candidates nominated for this year's award.

Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the world has entered "a new era", said Jan Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, noting there is now "50 percent more peace", or fewer wars, in the world.

"For the first time there are less than one billion people living on under one dollar a day, more mouths fed, more children vaccinated than ever before," he said.

"The one really big cloud on the horizon is the climate change cloud. Because that will reverse all of this unless there are much bigger efforts to curb emissions and adapt," the former UN emergency relief coordinator said.

Gore, 59, who served as vice president under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001, helped propel global warming to the top of the international agenda with his 2006 film "An Inconvenient Truth," which received an Oscar for best documentary.

In March, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, attended a presentation by Gore in Oslo.

Less known to the public is Watt-Cloutier, 53, also a die-hard defender of the planet.

The former head of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, she has championed the rights of the Arctic peoples, whose way of life is dependent on the ice and cold and which is now threatened by temperatures that are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth.

But is the climate really a threat to peace? The argument can be made, as evidenced by the fact that the United Nations' Security Council in April held its first ever debate on "Energy, Security and Climate Issues" -- the first time the impact of climate change on security has been addressed by the council.

In Norway, an Arctic nation that is already experiencing the dramatic effects of global warming, there appears to be no doubt about the link between the climate and peace.

"It would be good if the Nobel were to honour the fight against climate change but I'm a little doubtful," Asle Sveen, a historian who specialises in the Nobel Peace Prize, told AFP.

After having broadened the concept of peace, "the committee could choose to return to the fundamentals," he said, suggesting it could go with a more conventional choice such as former Finnish president turned peace mediator Martti Ahtisaari.

Over the years, the Nobel committee has broadened the prize's scope from the traditional fields of conflict prevention and resolution and disarmament to include humanitarian aid work and human rights.

And recently, the prestigious award has honoured the defence of the environment -- Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai won in 2002 -- and the fight against poverty, with Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank winning last year.

The head of the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo, Stein Toennesson, said meanwhile that "awarding the Nobel to Al Gore and Sheila Watt-Cloutier would be timely to provide them with a tremendous arena to urge the international community to reach an agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions." The Nobel prize ceremony is held, as tradition dictates, on

December 10. That falls smack in the middle of the December 3-14 UN conference in Bali aimed at finding a roadmap for the post-Kyoto Protocol period, he pointed out.

Other possible Nobel winners in the same field are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), gathering the world's top climate scientists, and its chairman Rajendra Pachauri of India.

Among the outsiders for the prize are human rights advocates, such as Chechen human rights lawyer Lidia Yusupova, Chinese exile Rebiya Kadeer who has fought for the rights of Uighur Muslims and Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do.

The Nobel committee keeps the list of candidates a well-guarded secret, but those entitled to nominate are allowed to disclose their nominees.

The prize comes with a 10-million-kronor (1.55-million-dollar, 1.08-million-euro) cheque.
Source: Sapa-AFP
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