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Nobel Peace Prize Could Go to Climate Campaigner

Date: 19-Sep-07
Country: NORWAY
Author: Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

The winner of the US$1.5 million prize, perhaps the world's
top accolade, will be announced in Oslo on Oct. 12 from a field
of 181 candidates. The prize can be split up to three ways.

"There are reasonably good chances that the peace prize will
be awarded to someone working to stop the dramatic climate
problems the world is facing," said Boerge Brende, a former
Norwegian environment minister.

He noted that the UN Security Council, the top forum for
debating war and peace, held a first debate in April about how
far climate changes such as droughts, heatwaves or rising seas
will be a spur to conflicts.

"We have many good candidates for the prize and we are
approaching a decision," said Geir Lundestad, director of the
Norwegian Nobel Institute where the five-member committee meets.

Kenya's Wangari Maathai won the 2004 peace prize for her
campaign to plant 30 million trees across Africa, the first
Nobel for an environmental campaigner. Lundestad declined to say
whether fighting climate change could justify a peace prize.

Brende and another Norwegian parliamentarian nominated Gore
for his Oscar-winning movie about climate change "An
Inconvenient Truth" and Watt-Cloutier, who has highlighted the
plight of indigenous cultures facing a quickening Arctic thaw.

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to record lows this year. The head
of the Nobel committee, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, has praised Gore's
movie and lives in the Norwegian Arctic city of Tromsoe.

PEOPLE TO BLAME

Others suggested candidates include the UN Climate Panel
and its leader, Rajendra Pachauri. The panel said this year that
it was more than 90 percent likely that mankind's activities
were the main cause of warming in the past 50 years.

And Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate change official,
said that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could be a good
candidate, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel for "her
leadership role in Europe" in confronting climate change.

But there are objections to all of them.

"Since the 2004 Peace Prize was given to an environmentalist
(Maathai) it may not be repeated this year," said Shirin Ebadi,
an Iranian human rights lawyer who won the Nobel Prize in 2003.

"Unfortunately there are several other issues in the world
that need to be addressed," she said. Non-environmental nominees
range from former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari for
peace-broking work to Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Others say climate change is an overwhelming issue in 2007.

"The greatest challenge in modern history for humankind may
be climate change," said Norway's Jostein Gaarder, who funds an
annual US$100,000 environmental prize from sales of his 1990s
best-selling philosophy guide "Sophie's World".

"It would be a very good initiative to give the Nobel Prize
to a climate candidate," he said.

Among signs of growing concern, about 70 world leaders will
meet on Monday at UN headquarters in New York for the largest
meeting ever on climate change. President George W. Bush, often
criticised even by his allies for doing too little, has invited
major carbon emitters to talks in Washington on Sept. 27-28.

A prize to Gore would make him the second Democrat laureate
since ex-President Jimmy Carter in 2002 -- two Democrats during
Bush's presidency might be too much of a slap to Republicans.

Canada's Watt-Cloutier, meanwhile, has stepped down from a
former role as head of the main Inuit group. And one member of
the Nobel Committee is from Norway's populist right-wing
Progress Party that is highly sceptical about Gore.

Still, the Nobel committee often seeks to link prizes to
current affairs. The world's environment ministers will meet in
Bali, Indonesia, from Dec. 3-14 to discuss ways to slow global
warming. the Nobel Peace Prize is presented on Dec. 10.

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