Global environmental challenges
A green Nobel Peace Prize next week? Or one too many?
Will the guardians of the Nobel Peace Prize make another green award in 2009 to encourage sluggish talks on new U.N. climate treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen?
Or is it too early after environmental prizes in both 2004 and 2007?
The five-member Nobel panel likes to make topical awards to try to influence the world – a prize announcement on Oct. 9 linked to climate change could hardly be better timed since 190 nations will meet in Copenhagen in December to agree a new pact for fighting global warming.
And the Nobel prize will be formally handed over at a ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of the death of founder Alfred Nobel – giving any winner a global loudspeaker during the the Dec. 7-18 meeting in Copenhagen.
But any would-be green laureate has a big problem — former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore and the U.N. Climate Panel shared the 2007 prize and Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai won in 2004 for her campaign to plant trees across Africa.
Three prizes so fast might well be one too many.
Bookmakers don’t rate green candidates very highly this year – one has Chinese dissident Hu Jia at 5-1 followed by Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at 11/2. Greenpeace is an outsider at 40/1.
Geir Lundestad, the director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, defends the green choices and says there’s no rotation of themes for peace — disarmament one year, human rights the next, etc.
“When the ice melts in the Arctic, new territorial issues arise. When the waters rise in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of people flee to India, creating difficulties. And when the desert spreads in the Sahara it leads to new difficult issues,” he said.
“There will be many different roads to peace and there is no rotation (of themes), as there is no rotation as far as geography is concerned,” he told Reuters.
Even if there is no green prize from a record field of 205 candidates in 2009, maybe concern about the environment could indirectly influence the choice in other ways?
Lundestad said several years ago that the committee should speak out sooner rather than later this century about the lack of democracy in China — so far it hasn’t done so. But the committee might not want to irritate Beijing, for instance by awarding the prize a prize to a dissident, just when China is offering to do more to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions.
((Pictures – top: A large iceberg is seen on the edge of a morning fog over Frobisher Bay, Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic August 21, 2009. The picture was taken from a Canadian Forces Aurora patrol aircraft flying south of Iqaluit and taking part in military manoeuvers in the Canadian north. REUTERS/Andy Clark. Right: The Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Soweto in 1984, recovered a few days after thieves broke into his home in June 2007. REUTERS/Stringer))