The environment has a decisive influence on the daily lives of millions of people, especially in the poor parts of the world. When the environment is ruined, it is the poorest who suffer the most. Those of us who live in the Western world are much better equipped to protect ourselves against climactic change, air pollution and a reduction in the quality of water. The poor, on the other hand, often stand completely unprotected and vulnerable in the face of environmental destruction. They are the ones who have to pay – both for their own as well as our transgressions against the environment.
People are in the process of destroying the global environment. We use too much water, overexploit the world’s fishing resources, pollute the air, change the climate and wipe out animal species. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, we use 60 percent of the resources the ecosystem supplies us with in a non-sustainable way. The economic cost of the destruction of the ecosystem is significant and it inhibits the growth that developing countries must have in order to reduce poverty. It is possible to reverse this negative trend, but it demands the will to change our behaviour and, especially, our political vigour and courage.
The current Norwegian government’s goal is that the country will be a global leader in the area of environment-related assistance. We know that we have to get environmental problems under control in order to solve the problems of poverty facing the world. We also see constant examples of how environmental collaboration makes an important contribution to peace, security and regional development. Environmental consideration must be safeguarded in all developmental cooperation.
Norway shall be a driving force for the environment becoming an area of focus for the UN and World Bank. The environment will also be a constant theme in the dialogue we have with authorities in other countries, just as it was when the Minister of Environment and I were in China in September 2006. China has made enormous economic progress during the last few years – hundreds of millions of people have been brought out of poverty, new industries are growing, and many people can now afford to buy a car. However, economic growth also entails environmental problems. Therefore, China is interested in collaborating with Norway on technology that can improve the environment. A small contribution towards solving China’s environmental problems is also in our own interests.
Environment-related assistance has been a neglected area in recent years in Norwegian development policy. This is due partly to the fact that the political focus has been elsewhere and partly because it hasn’t sunk in until recently how strong the connection between combating poverty and the environment is. This is in the process of changing. The environment and combating poverty are inextricably linked together. It is a question of life and death, and if we are going to combat poverty then we also have to combat the destruction of the environment.
The Norwegian Minister of International Development