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Greta Thunberg Declines $51K Environmental Prize, Says ‘Climate Movement Does Not Need any More Awards’

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"FridaysForFuture" climate protest at Civic Center Park in Denver on Oct. 11. FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images

Greta Thunberg wants action, not prizes.

The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist was awarded the 2019 Nordic Council Environment Prize Tuesday, but refused to accept it, CNN reported.


"I want to thank the Nordic Council for this award. It is a huge honour," Thunberg wrote in an Instagram post from the U.S., where she is currently traveling. "But the climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science."

View this post on Instagram

I have received the Nordic Council’s environmental award 2019. I have decided to decline this prize. Here’s why: “I am currently traveling through California and therefore not able to be present with you today. I want to thank the Nordic Council for this award. It is a huge honour. But the climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science. The Nordic countries have a great reputation around the world when it comes to climate and environmental issues. There is no lack of bragging about this. There is no lack of beautiful words. But when it comes to our actual emissions and our ecological footprints per capita - if we include our consumption, our imports as well as aviation and shipping - then it’s a whole other story. In Sweden we live as if we had about 4 planets according to WWF and Global Footprint Network. And roughly the same goes for the entire Nordic region. In Norway for instance, the government recently gave a record number of permits to look for new oil and gas. The newly opened oil and natural gas-field, ”Johan Sverdrup” is expected to produce oil and natural gas for 50 years; oil and gas that would generate global CO2 emissions of 1,3 tonnes. The gap between what the science says is needed to limit the increase of global temperature rise to below 1,5 or even 2 degrees - and politics that run the Nordic countries is gigantic. And there are still no signs whatsoever of the changes required. The Paris Agreement, which all of the Nordic countries have signed, is based on the aspect of equity, which means that richer countries must lead the way. We belong to the countries that have the possibility to do the most. And yet our countries still basically do nothing. So until you start to act in accordance with what the science says is needed to limit the global temperature rise below 1,5 degrees or even 2 degrees celsius, I - and Fridays For Future in Sweden - choose not to accept the Nordic Councils environmental award nor the prize money of 500 000 Swedish kronor. Best wishes Greta Thunberg”

A post shared by Greta Thunberg (@gretathunberg) on

The Nordic Council is one of the "main forums for official Nordic cooperation," according to its website. It brings together Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland in order to "make the Nordic region the most sustainable and integrated region in the world."

But in her rejection post, Thunberg criticized the Nordic countries for the gap between their rhetoric and their action when it comes to the climate crisis.

"The Nordic countries have a great reputation around the world when it comes to climate and environmental issues. There is no lack of bragging about this. There is no lack of beautiful words," she wrote. "But when it comes to our actual emissions and our ecological footprints per capita—if we include our consumption, our imports as well as aviation and shipping—then it's a whole other story."

She pointed to data from WWF and Global Footprint Network showing that we would require around four planet earths to sustain us if everyone lived like the population of Sweden. She also called out Norway's newly-opened Johan Sverdrup oil field, which is expected to produce oil and natural gas for 50 years.

"So until you start to act in accordance with what the science says is needed to limit the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees celsius, I—and Fridays For Future in Sweden—choose not to accept the Nordic Councils environmental award nor the prize money of 500,000 Swedish kronor," ($51,000) she concluded.

The theme for the council's 2019 prize was "initiatives that promote sustainable consumption and production by doing more with less," according to its website.

Thunberg was nominated by Sweden and Norway, and selected by the jury for "breathing new life into the debate surrounding the environment and climate at a critical moment in world history."

In Thunberg's absence, the award was presented by Swedish environmental activist Noura Berrouba to Isabelle Axelsson and Sophia Axelsson of Fridays For Future, who declined it on Thunberg's behalf.

Fridays for Future was started by Thunberg in August 2018 when she launched a one-person school strike outside Swedish parliament that grew into a global youth movement.

"Like none before her, in a very short space of time Greta has succeeded in raising awareness of climate and environmental issues in the Nordic countries and the rest of the world. She has stubbornly and persuasively urged the world to listen to research and act on the basis of facts," the Nordic Council wrote.

Her refusal message is a case in point.

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