Nobel 2020: Will Greta Thunberg win this year’s Peace Prize?

Activist, 17, has become the face of the climate change movement in just two years

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) takes part in a Fridays For Future protest in front of the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen) in Stockholm on September 25, 2020. Fridays for Future school strike movement called for a global day of climate action on September 25, 2020. / AFP / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND
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When the Nobel Peace Prize is announced on Friday, Greta Thunberg’s climate change strike will be in its 112th week.

There is no clear favourite for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize but Ms Thunberg is among the front-runners.

Her Fridays for the Future protest has, in two short years, helped to galvanise public opinion over climate change.

Ms Thunberg has become the face and voice of the campaign agitating for change as climate crisis looms.

When he bequeathed his fortune to create the prizes, Alfred Nobel stipulated that they should be awarded to those “who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind”.

At just 17, Ms Thunberg may fit the bill in a year where a global pandemic is being touted as just a foretaste of the chaos that will be wrought by climate change.

Nobel historian Asle Sveen told The National  last week that there would be a temptation for the committee to select Ms Thunberg as the world grappled with the twin threats of climate change and Covid-19.

“It is a long-term and much more dangerous problem than the pandemic,” Mr Sveen said. “But you can link them.

“No other person has been in the spotlight more or has got more attention [for climate change] than Greta Thunberg.”

The activist began her protest in August 2018 when she was 15.

Holding her now famous “School Strike for Climate” sign, Ms Thunberg initially planned to demonstrate outside Swedish Parliament for only three weeks in the run up to elections.

In days she was making headlines across the world. Her protest snowballed and she started her Fridays for the Future campaign, striking for one day a week.

At times Ms Thunberg has led millions of students and adults in protest.

The September 2019 climate rally she led took place in 4,500 locations around the world. As many as 6 million people took part.

At her 111th Fridays for the Future protest, Ms Thunberg wore a face mask and urge her supporters to remain socially distant during their rallies to protect against coronavirus.

She has in the past who years addressed the US Congress and the UK Parliament, spoken with heads of state and government and met other world leaders. She was Time magazine's 2019 person of the year.

At the 2019 UN climate change summit in New York, Ms Thunberg hit out at the political elite in a now famous speech.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said in the impassioned address.

“People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing.

"We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of endless economic growth.

"How dare you.”

The World Health Organisation and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are also among the front-runners for the Nobel prize.

Notable winners in the past have included Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.

The Nobel panel has been secretive about its selection of laureates.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, consists of five people appointed by Norway's Parliament.

They are often retired politicians but not always. The current committee is led by a lawyer and includes two academics.

Nominations closed on January 31. Members of the committee can make their own nominations, no later than at the first meeting of the committee in February.

They discuss all the nominations, then establish a shortlist. Each nominee is then assessed and examined by a group of permanent advisers and other experts.

The committee meets about once a month to discuss the nominations. They usually make their decision at the final committee meeting, usually at the start of October.

The only thing the Norwegian Nobel Committee will comment on is the number of candidates.

This year there are 318 contenders, comprising 211 people and 107 organisations.