Tang Prize Laureate Brundtland Appeals to the World not to Close Its Eyes to Climate Crisis

  • Laureate of the inaugural Tang Prize in Sustainable Development Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland
  • Laureate of the inaugural Tang Prize in Sustainable Development Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland
  • Brundtland and representatives from the Tang Prize attend COP21 held in Paris in 2015
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The 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP27, is now in progress in Egypt, where delegates from different countries congregate to discuss issues including stricter standards for reducing carbon emissions and climate loss and damage compensation. Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway, laureate of the inaugural Tang Prize in Sustainable Development, and dubbed by many as the “godmother of sustainable development,” was the chair of the UN-sponsored World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), which in 1987 released the report “Our Common Future.” In a recent interview, Dr. Brundtland drew attention to the limited time left before 2030 and 2050 arrive[1], and called for the world to tackle the climate crisis with a higher degree of seriousness and urgency. She noted that “we are in a difficult phase. But like I said, back in 87, it can be done. What is needed is political will” and exhorted everyone not to “close your eyes,” but instead to “know that there is little time, and do what you have to do.”     


With regard to what has to be done, Dr. Brundtland felt that we could have committed more to energy efficiency improvement and renewable energy development, because these are areas that would become decisive in the coming years in terms of us avoiding a climate catastrophe on all fronts. She also thought that “the 2015 Paris Agreement was a turning point. But an agreement at a climate summit must also be followed up in practice.” In addition, she pointed out that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 have provided ways for all countries to realize the Paris Agreement. Believing that climate issues are closely connected to the food and energy crises facing the world now, she emphasized the need for us to focus on the climate, and hoped more climate solutions would come out of the discussions currently being held at COP27.


If we look at the history of COP, as early as 1995 when COP1 took place, Dr. Brundtland already put forward the idea of a “climate revolution.” However, she admitted that the speed at which the progresses was made in the past thirty years was far too slow in comparison with the speed of climate change. At the 2009 COP15 in Copenhagen, a goal was established to limit the warming to below 2℃. The 2015 Paris Agreement reached at COP21 further specifies that the temperature rise must be contained within 2℃and preferably within 1.5℃. Unfortunately, “based on the targets the world’s countries have submitted to the UN, an increase in global temperature of 2.5℃is expected.” For Dr. Brundtland, that means the efforts pledged by these countries “were not enough.” She stressed that “we have to go down to 1.5℃, and that’s why it’s going too slowly.”


Dr. Drundtland was awarded the first Tang Prize in Sustainable Development in 2014. She served three terms as Norway’s prime minister and chaired the WCED. Her innovation, leadership and the implementation of sustainable development laid the foundation for humanity to create a sustainable future. “Our Common Future,” the history-making report she helped prepare, gives sustainable development an official definition, describing it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” As a global leader of great eminence, Dr. Brundtland has guided the world on how to balance economic development, environmental protection, and social justice, turned the ideal of sustainable development into reality, and helped draw up important international agreements such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). All these achievements have earned her the reputation as the “godmother of sustainable development.”



About the Tang Prize

With the advent of globalization, mankind has been able to enjoy the convenience brought forth by the advancement of human civilization and science. Yet a multitude of challenges, such as climate change, the emergence of new infectious diseases, wealth gap, and moral degradation, have surfaced along the way. As a response, Dr. Samuel Yin established the Tang Prize in December 2012. It consists of four award categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. Every other year, four independent and professional selection committees, made up of many distinguished international experts and scholars, including Nobel laureates, choose from a pool of nominees who have influenced and made substantive contributions to the world, regardless of ethnicity, nationality or gender. A cash prize of NT$50 million (approx. US$1.7 million) is allocated to each category, with NT$10 million of it (approx. US$ 0.35 million) designated as a research grant to the laureate to support relevant educational projects. The hope is to encourage more people with professional knowledge and skill to address mankind’s most urgent needs in this century, and to become leading forces behind the development of human society through their outstanding research and civic engagement.



[1] The Paris Agreement states that we need to slash carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 in order to keep global warming below the threshold of 1.5℃. For more information, see https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/net-zero-coalition.