Speech by the Minister of Environment Mr. Knut Arild Hareide

Oslo Sophie Prize Ceremony June 15, 2005
Prize Ceremony - Speech by the Minister of Environment, Mr. Knut Arild Hareide

 Over the past 50 years, humans have changed the structure and functioning of the world’s ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any other period in human history.

We have used nature to develop a modern lifestyle that is far removed from nature.

But not everyone lives a life far from nature. Indigenous peoples - like the Inuit - continue to rely directly on the natural world for basic needs. Nature – also in the form of ice - continues to be the key to indigenous cultures and lifestyles.

We should take inspiration from indigenous traditions. We should learn from their knowledge of earth's ecosystems. We should listen when indigenous peoples like the Inuit tell us that their Arctic homeland is threatened by global change.

The Arctic is experiencing some of the most rapid and severe climate change on earth. 

Elin Enge just mentioned the important Arctic Climate Impact Assessment: Over the last few decades, the annual average temperature in the Arctic has increased at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world. Glaciers, sea ice and permafrost are melting. By the end of this century, the permanent ice sheet may be gone in summer. This will not only affect life in the Arctic. It will also affect the global climate.

These alarming messages call for political action, also at a global level. The Kyoto Protocol is only a first step to cut emissions up to the year 2012. We need new global commitments after 2012. This time around, we must cover more global emissions and involve more countries and groups. We must all do more, and not less.

 As we have already heard, the Artic is also at the receiving end of toxic chemicals from other parts of the world. These make their way up to the Arctic – and into the people that live there. Inuit people with traditional lifestyles – and their children- are at a special health risk.  

This is also an area that can only be solved through global action. Last year, the Stockholm Convention to eliminate major pollutants, including DDT and PCB, entered into force.

Norway will continue to take every opportunity to push for a new global instrument to cover mercury and other heavy metals of global concern. We also give priority to the development of a global chemicals strategy to reach the United Nations' goal of minimising the harmful effects of chemicals by 2020.

The Sophie Prize is awarded to individuals that bring new approaches to sustainable development.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier,
You are known as a fiery advocate for the fragile Arctic.

You have given the Arctic and its indigenous peoples a voice at the global level.

You have used your background and position to help forge global legally binding instruments on some of the world's most important challenges.

You have shown us that there are important links between biological diversity and cultural diversity.

You are a reminder to us all that loosing touch with nature can mean losing touch with ourselves and our identities. 

I congratulate you with your achievements. 

I thank Jostein Gaarder and Siri Dannevig for the initiative and generosity behind this prize.

I invite Sheila Watt-Cloutier to step forward to receive the Sophie Prize 2005.