Europe's most highly endowed environment prize was awarded Sunday, Oct. 28, in the western city of Aachen to four people responsible for advancing environmental technology and the public's awareness of climate change.
The winners worked to show that dark days may be coming if climate change isn't addressed
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, was the most well-known of the four prize winners.
Schellnhuber said he was glad to have become "part of a very important community of individuals" that can have a "strong influence on social development in a positive way."
The climate researcher was honored for having considerably shaped public discourse on the topic of climate change, according to the German Foundation for the Environment, which awarded the annual prize for the 15th time.
He shared the award, including a cash prize of 500,000 euros ($720,000), with Heidelberg's former mayor Beate Weber and with the founder and long-time development director of the engineering company Konvekta, Carl Schmitt and Jürgen Köhler, respectively.
Köhler, Schellnhuber, Weber, and Schmitt (left to right)
Weber was honored for being a pioneer in communal environmental politics, and for helping Heidelberg reduce its CO2 emissions by 35 percent in the mid-1990s.
"At the beginning it was hard work to convince some people," said the former mayor, who was in office for 16 years.
Schmitt and Köhler, who is now director of the Institute for Thermodynamics at the Technical University in Braunschweig, were chosen for the prize for having developed technology to reduce pollutant emissions from air conditioning systems in vehicles.
The pair praised the German automotive industry for its willingness to implement the new technology, which involves the use of natural carbon dioxide as a coolant, despite the higher costs it represents.
President urged global cooperation
Germany's President Horst Köhler was scheduled to personally present the awards, but had to cancel the trip due to mechanical airplane problems.
"Climate change clearly shows that the nations of the world share a common destiny," the president said in a statement. "The threats presented by climate change make it clearer than any other issue that there is no reasonable alternative to cooperation in global politics in the 21st century."
President Köhler praised the European Union initiative to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020. He also urged world leaders to agree on a successor the Kyoto Protocol at the upcoming international climate conference in December in Bali.