Speech by Minister of the Environment Mr. Børge Brende

Oslo Sophie Prize Ceremony June 12, 2002

Your All Holiness Archbishop Bartholomew,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s a great privilege for me to present this year’s Sophie Prize to Your Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.

I am greatly impressed by Your Holiness’ tireless efforts to teach the world to take better care of the Creation and to share its gifts.Above all, I have deep respect for Your Holiness’ spiritual courage and Your ability to inspire others. This world badly needs inspiration.

I know that Your Holiness is deeply concerned about the climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the protection of freshwater. And we know that poor people and poor countries, their health and their economies, are by far the most vulnerable to climate change and environment degradation.

  • Global warming, caused by emissions of greenhouse gases, may increase the sea level and cause storms and floods, making millions of people refugees.
  • Thousands of species, plants and animals, disappear every year, threatening the very basis for food and medicine, and for the nature’s ability to adapt climate changes.
  • 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty. 800 million people are starving. 20 percent of the world’s population don’t have access to safe drinking water.

We can no longer shut our eyes to the fact that taking care of the environment and the natural resource base is a requirement for eradicating poverty.We can no longer deny that we have a moral obligation to preserve the planet and secure the future for our children and grandchildren.

In a few months the global community has the opportunity to act on these challenges, meeting at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. While the decade after Rio has been the decade of making environmental treaties. However, the preparations so far give us little reason to be optimistic.

Politicians meeting and negotiating is important and necessary, but not sufficient alone. I am more and more convinced that we need the kind of spiritual wisdom that Your All Holiness represents, to bring us forward in the global efforts to save our planet. We need a spiritual force, like ”the green patriarch”, showing the way, encouraging not only politicians, but the civil society and every man and woman as well.

Therefore I can hardly overestimate the importance of involving the religious movement in the struggle to save the planet from environmental degradation.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Jostein Gaarder and Siri Dannevig for contributing so generously with the Sophie Prize, for the fifth time this year.

I also hope that the Sophie Prize will inspire You, Your All Holiness – as You have inspired all of us – to continue to raise awareness of our moral obligations to take better care of our natural environment, and to share its benefits more equally among us.

Mahatma Gandhi said: ”Never underestimate the individuals ability to change the world”. You are one of those individuals, Your All Holiness. I therefore congratulate you, and invite you to step forward to receive this year’s Sophie Prize.