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  • Why Did Greta Thunberg Turn Down an Environmental Award?

Why Did Greta Thunberg Turn Down an Environmental Award?

Nov 22 2019 Read 726 Times

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg made yet more headlines this week after she was named as the winner of the 2019 environmental award from the Nordic Council. However, in typically candid and confrontational fashion, Thunberg turned down the award and the £40,000 prize fund that comes with it, announcing her reasons for doing so in a lengthy post on Instagram.

At the heart of her reluctance to accept the award is a deep mistrust for the idea of environmental prize giving altogether. Instead of lavishing gifts and money on people, Thunberg believes that politicians should simply listen to what scientists have been telling them for decades and take the appropriate action. She was also critical of Scandinavian countries’ track record on green issues, despite their world-famous reputation for eco-friendliness.

Actions speak louder than awards

The crux of Thunberg’s argument hinged on the idea that while politicians the world over have been making the right noises with regard to global warming, few have implemented real policies that are designed to effect tangible change. She told them as much to their face at the UN summit last month, delivering a scathing rebuke to a room full of sheepish-looking world leaders about their inertia on urgent environmental matters.

Picking up that thread where she left off, Thunberg took to Instagram to politely thank the Nordic Council for their acknowledgement of her efforts, but also take them to task over the same theme. “The climate movement does not need any more awards,” she wrote, while still currently on tour in the United States. “What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science.”

Nordic nations in the crosshairs

She reserved particular vitriol for the 87 member states which make up the Nordic Council. While Scandinavia enjoys an enviable reputation with regards to their environmental habits, the reality of the situation paints a different picture, according to Thunberg. Factoring into the equation the carbon footprint of Nordic citizens per capita, alongside the excessive emissions of their aviation and shipping industries, suddenly Scandinavia doesn’t represent such a bastion of environmentalism any more.

“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,” she went on. “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 billion tonnes… We belong to the countries that have the possibility to do the most. And yet our countries still basically do nothing.”

Raising awareness

Thunberg first launched her campaign in October 2018, refusing to go to school on a Friday until her country’s government took responsibility for the eco-crisis and implemented concrete steps to countermand it. Her actions inspired activists all over the globe, with similar protests taking place on Fridays even over one year later.

As a result, she has successfully jump-started the conversation on climate change among young people and provoked strong European opinions on emissions within the bloc. As well as being recognised by the Nordic Council, she was considered for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, although ultimately lost out to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

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