Time to focus on climate change: world leaders

A wake-up call, says Greenpeace

UNITED NATIONS: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday congratulated Al Gore and the U.N. climate change panel on winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, saying the former U.S. Vice-President’s efforts reflect how individuals and groups can change and crystallise awareness of global warming.

Mr. Ban, who has made climate change a key priority of his tenure, cited Mr. Gore’s “exceptional commitment and conviction as an example of the crucial role that individuals and civil society can play in encouraging multilateral responses to global issues,” according to a statement released by the U.N. spokesman’s office.

Central policy

Mr. Ban, who held an unprecedented summit on climate change last month during the U.N. General Assembly, said that largely because of the IPCC’s “lucid and well-documented findings, it is now established beyond a doubt that climate change is happening, and that much of it is caused by human activity.”

World leaders and international bodies on Friday welcomed the joint award as a fitting recognition of the importance of environmental and climate-related issues.

Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), said Friday’s honour must translate into firm climate change policy worldwide.

“The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has today made it clear that combating climate change is a central peace and security policy for the 21st century,” said Mr. Steiner in Nairobi where the organisation is based.

E.U. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said both Mr. Gore and the IPCC had proved “an inspiration for politicians and citizens alike.

The European Union remains committed to its ambitious goals in the field [of climate change]. I call on all our partners to take this Nobel Peace Prize as an encouragement to approach this challenge even more swiftly, and decisively,” Mr. Barroso added.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was pleased that the international fight against climate change had been recognised by the Nobel Foundation.

White House greeting

“Al Gore has been inspirational in focusing attention across the globe on this key issue,” he said in a statement. A spokesman for U.S. President George W Bush, who defeated Mr. Gore in 2000 presidential elections, also offered the White House’s congratulations.

“Of course we’re happy for Vice-President Gore and the IPCC for receiving this recognition,” deputy press secretary Tony Fratto told CBS television. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also conveyed his “warmest congratulations” to Mr. Gore and the IPCC, describing the former as a “remarkable personality,” while in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel described climate change as “among the greatest challenges faced by mankind in the 21st century”. “Like no other, Al Gore has for many years through his personal commitment contributed to heightening global awareness of the need to develop effective strategies to counter climate change,” she said.

Representatives of the European Green Party meeting in Vienna described the award as a “wake-up call” for governments.

“Especially now, ahead of the Bali climate conference, it was a signal that deeds are necessary, not words,” party co-spokesperson Ulrike Lunacek told Deutsche Presse-Agentur DPA.

Previous Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmental activist who won the 2004 prize, said she was thrilled that Mr. Gore and the IPCC took this year’s award. “So I hope that the world will wake up to the fact that we are dealing here with a real crisis, that there is a real risk to the way of life as we know it on this planet,” she told CNN. — Agencies