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19th Nov 2019

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Thunberg rejects climate prize in hometown Stockholm

  • The Nordic Council awards in Stockholm was hosted by Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven. Greta Thunberg declined her prize, saying Sweden is emitting too much CO2 (Photo: Nordisk Råd og Nordisk Ministerråd)

The Nordic Council's prestigious annual awards ceremony held in Stockholm on Tuesday (29 October) turned into a youth revolt.

At first, Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, was awarded the Nordic Council's environment prize 2019 for her "initiatives that promote sustainable consumption and production by doing more with less".

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But Thunberg declined to receive the prize.

"The climate movement does not need more awards. What we need is that those holding power starts listening to the researchers", she explained in a message sent from California, where she is currently traveling to attend the UN climate negotiations in Chile in December.

Thunberg's message was read aloud from the stage in Stockholm by two representatives of the 'FridaysForFuture' movement, Isabelle Axelsson and Sophia Axelsson.

FridaysForFuture is the global movement that started when Thunberg, in August 2018, began a strike of school, and sat outside the Swedish parliament to protest against the lack of climate action from politicians.

Thunberg criticised in her speech in absentia her home country, Sweden, for emitting too much CO2 and scolded Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg, also present for the awards, for plans to keep pumping oil from the North Sea for another 50 years.

Thunberg's rejection came as as a big surprise to everyone in the hall, not least to the Nordic prime ministers seated on the first row in Stockholm's Concert Hall for the awards ceremony,

It is the first time ever that the Nordic Council has had one of its awards, worth €47,000 turned down.

The Nordic Council this year had chosen climate and sustainability as the main theme for their debates.

In August the Nordic prime ministers had agreed a new joint vision on making their region the most sustainable and integrated one in the world by 2030 and to align all future policies with the overall climate targets.

But this appears as not enough for a young generation, entering the political scene with much more radical demands for change.

And Thunberg's decline was not the only surprise on the Nordic awards evening.

Young Danish author, Jonas Eika, scooped the Nordic Council's literature prize 2019 for a collection of short stories Efter Solen (After the Sun) which had surprised the jury with its "global perspective" and for dealing with "contemporary political challenges".

Eika accepted and thanked for the award from stage, but then confronted the Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, sitting on first row, and accused her government for continuing the former government's "racist language and policies".

He criticised all Nordic countries for placing refugees in prisons or remote camps, where they break down, get ill and some attempt to commit suicide.

"Many of you are contributing to the militarising of the EU borders in a process that risks the lives of thousands of migrants, while at the same time benefitting the security and arms industries, including several Nordic companies," Eika said.

After the awards, winners and nominees, politicians and guests were served a climate-friendly beetroot steak with potatoes.

While Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen commented to EUobserver on the unexpected events of the evening:

"Well, we live in a country with free speech."

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