Dubbed the “Godmother of Sustainable Development,” recipient of the inaugural Tang Prize in that field, Gro Harlem Brundtland was in Paris this December 6-7 to observe the progress of negotiations at COP21, the 21st instance of the UNFCCC’s Conference of the Parties. Notwithstanding her busy schedule, Brundtland visited with Tang Prize CEO Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern and the Tang Prize team at its stand at the civil society area on Monday, December 7, where a ring of fans and—fortuitously enough—a group of Norwegian carolers greeter her with song. Following the lively welcome, Brundtland sat in discussion with Chern and several guests and fans of her work.
In addition to the Tang Prize and notable guests from Taiwan in the sustainable development field, the Paris climate conference brought people together from all over the world under one common goal. One of these fighters for sustainability was from the “Youngers,” a term Brundtland uses to refer to some of the younger generation who were present at the previous Rio+20 meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, who met with her on Monday to talk about the changes that have occurred since the meeting three years ago.
On the topic of the day, COP21, Brundtland stressed that if leaders around the globe can perform the actions that achieve sustainable development goals, there is promise of improving quality of life for billions of people around the world, to say nothing of preventing irreparable damage to the environment. But to get leaders to follow, motivation will be necessary. Which is why Brundtland holds that all leaders must agree to a legally binding agreement under the UNFCCC at the Paris conference. Such an agreement would push leaders to keep temperatures below the 2 degree Celsius ceiling agreed to all the way back in 2010. Having clearly defined timetables with actionable game-plans are one crucial part of leaders acting responsibly as they ease their dependence on fossil fuels and replace them with clean renewables.
Brundtland was one of the first political leaders to bring governmental and public awareness to the problems we now face in sustainability. Her visit on Monday struck a chord with the visitors to the stand, who praised the Tang Prize for its international reach, academic rigor, and substantial contributions to humanity.