20th Anniversary Celebration of the United Nations Environment Programme Sasakawa Environment Prize

Geneva, Switzerland

Ladies and Gentlemen, my late father established the UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize in 1982, when he and I attended a UNEP meeting in Nairobi. Until that time, global environmental issues did not interest many people. However, my father’s motto was “The world is one family; all humankind are brothers and sisters.” He believed, even then, that since we only have one earth, the protection of her environment is vital for the survival of humankind. He also believed, as I do, that “one action was more valuable than a hundred discussions.” This is why we established this prize. It was our hope that countries would come together, transcending differences in ideologies, and work toward raising awareness of environmental issues worldwide.

In my reading of the ancient Chinese Book of Rites, I found the following words: “The blessings of nature can be enjoyed by all people. Therefore, humans should humbly work together, respecting nature. We should strive to coexist in harmony with all creation.” This corresponds with my late father’s beliefs. I am convinced that this is the way we need to address today’s environmental issues.

I am pleased with the way that interest in global environmental issues has increased rapidly in recent years. The United Nations Environmental Programme has been expanding the scope and depth of its activities. Since its establishment, the Sasakawa Environment Prize has contributed to people’s growing awareness of the environment.

I am afraid however, that what happened to the Kyoto Protocol shows us that the international community is still immature. It has not yet reached the stage where it is able to completely transcend national interests and work as a whole for the greater good of the environment. I find it ironic and unfortunate that rising living standards have so far lead to the deterioration of the environment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my sincere hope that those of us gathered here today will contribute to the creation of a new system. Together, we must break this vicious cycle. As I said, since ancient times, Chinese poets have written of their great respect for nature and their desire to coexist in harmony with all living things. I am convinced that we must look back at how our ancestors viewed the environment, and learn from this. Ladies and Gentlemen, we must do our best to protect and preserve the environment so that we can share the beauty of this Earth with future generations.

Thank you.