October 29, 2010 Tokyo
Erik Solheim, Norway’s minister of the environment and international development, delivered the 2010 Fridtjof Nansen Memorial Lecture at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo on Wednesday, 27 October 2010. UNU rector Konrad Osterwalder warmly welcomed Minister Solheim and thanked him for coming to UNU to deliver the lecture on the occasion of his visit to Japan. Mr. Solheim is attending the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya. In his opening remarks, Norwegian ambassador to Japan Arne Walther highlighted the accomplishments of Fridtjof Nansen, the prominent Norwegian statesman, humanitarian and explorer after whom this lecture series is named. Minister Solheim’s speech, entitled “Climate Change and Loss of Nature’s Diversity: New Actions and Alliances in Response to Key Global Challenges,” called for a new commitment to international cooperation and compromise in today’s multipolar world.
Minister Solheim opened his lecture by noting many positive developments throughout the world such as recent increases in life expectancy, the spread of democracy, and the rise of a global middle class. However, the world also faces many challenges, such as the financial crisis, global poverty, and climate change. One country alone lacks the power and ability to address these matters unilaterally. As such, these issues demand a new global collective approach whereby individual states should work together to forge common positions.
Individual countries, however, can still have a positive impact. Minister Solheim stressed that a country like Norway has an important role to play in dealing with threats like climate change. The economic growth facilitated by Norway’s oil extraction allows the country to fund important overseas environmental projects. By supporting rainforest conservation programmes in Brazil and Indonesia, for example, Norway is able to use its economic strength to play a significant role in global conservation efforts. The challenge for the United Nations member states is to act collectively and not solely unilaterally.
Minister Solheim predicted that COP 16 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will serve in that regard, as a significant assessment of states’ abilities to compromise with each other. The ability to act unilaterally should not serve as a substitute to global cooperation. There are lessons to be learned from COP 15, which took place in Copenhagen in December 2009, where the world’s most powerful countries were somewhat reluctant to accept the need to compromise. Nevertheless, Minister Solheim hopes that we can find ways to reconcile our differences in order to achieve the universal and lasting goal of environmental preservation.
A video of Minister Solheim’s lecture, including the question and answer session that followed, can be viewed on UNU’s video portal.
In a post-lecture video interview, Minister Solheim reflected on global environmental governance in our multipolar world and put forward the ability to compromise as a necessary step to achieve a legally-binding global climate deal, while stressing the benefits that unilateral and bilateral initiatives can provide until this materializes.