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Nobel winner Gore sees CO2 prices rising

OSLO (Reuters) - Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore said on Monday he expects the price of carbon dioxide emission permits to rise from current levels as the drive to prevent climate change picks up pace.

Gore, who will receive his Nobel along with co-winners the U.N. panel on climate change later on Monday, said setting a price on carbon emissions was a must for the world to stop ignoring the invisible, odourless but harmful pollutant.

The European Union has the world’s biggest market for the greenhouse gas, which scientists widely blame for global warming and which now is priced at around 22 euros ($32) per tonne of CO2 exhaust.

Asked if this price was high enough to prevent the worst scenarios of climate change, Gore told Reuters in an interview: “The markets will find the right price, my guess is that eventually it will be higher.”

He said carbon prices would rise as the “value all of us will place on saving the earth’s environment (drives) towards a realistic recognition of how important it is to reduce CO2 quickly.”

Gore said a global carbon trading system could be “quite efficient if the world’s top polluters, the United States and China, fully joined.

The former U.S. vice president and leading voice in the climate debate said a tax on carbon would be “an even simpler and more direct measure”, especially if the new levy did not increase the overall burden but simply discouraged pollution.

Traders have already began buying rights to emit planet-warming CO2 after the present Kyoto treaty commitments expire in 2012, hoping that countries will agree new, tougher emission limits and drive demand for such permits.

“This invisible pollution that is causing this unprecedented crisis is considered irrelevant to the economy at present, so we are dumping 70 million tonnes (of CO2) every day into the atmosphere, as if it were an open sewer,” Gore said.

By pricing carbon, it could be brought into the economy, Gore said.

“I do favour CO2 taxes as an even simpler and more direct measure in addition (to pricing CO2),” he said.

Gore said that CO2 taxes should be neutral in terms of overall taxation, but in a way that discouraged polluting.

Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa and John Acher; editing by James Jukwey