22 December 2016

Johan Rockström receives French Legion of Honour

Johan Rockström can now call himself a Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, France’s foremost award. He has received this distinction for both his own and the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s contributions relating to the Climate Summit in Paris, and for having boosted public awareness of climate change.

‘It’s a great honour that the French President has recognised my work.’

Rockström, head of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is not the first Swede to be awarded the Legion of Honour. This by no means makes the distinction less valuable. There is still only a small group of people entitled to wear the white and green medal of the order on its red ribbon.

‘The honour’s as unexpected as it is great,’ he comments.

The fact that it is a French President who has now accorded this recognition to him gives him extra pleasure, not least because he did his postgraduate studies in France and worked for many years in the former French colonies in West Africa.

‘That means that I’ve often worked close to proficient French researchers — something we’re otherwise not that good at in Sweden. We turn a bit too much to the Anglo-Saxon world, thereby missing out on establishing relationships in other parts of the world.’

What does the distinction mean to you personally?

‘It’s not just for myself. It’s just as much a matter of appreciation for the research we do in the Stockholm Resilience Centre, but also because the research findings we’ve obtained formed part of the foundation on which the Paris Climate Agreement is based. It’s a shot in the arm for our continued future efforts.’

Why were you made a Knight of the Legion of Honour?

‘I assume it’s because of the work my colleagues and I did ahead of the Climate Summit in Paris — not least the part we called the Earth Statement, in which we collected eight key points as key requirements for what we believed politicians must unite on for the Summit to be considered a success. We managed to push through six of the eight demands. That means that we weren’t entirely successful, but the Agreement now says that the world’s politicians must pursue the science-based climate objectives. It gives us an incentive to keep gathering researchers to develop scientific syntheses that help to bring about sustainable development.’

What bearing has Mistra’s support had on your success in gaining your current position?

‘Without the generous initial contribution received from Mistra when we started the Stockholm Resilience Centre, this distinction could not have been considered. But the long-term initiative has also been crucially important in enabling us to become a leading international research institute. This means that we are now an important hub in terms of pushing forward the research frontline in our area. So I’ve no hesitation in claiming that there’s a straight line leading from Mistra’s investment to my award.’

Facts about the Legion of Honour

L'Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur, founded by Napoleon on 19 May 1802, is France’s highest state order. It is awarded by the French President, who is the Grand Master of the Order, by decree and following recommendations from the Government and the Grand Chancellor. French citizens of both sexes may be admitted as members of the Order for outstanding merits in military or civil activities. Foreign citizens who have served France can be awarded insignia of the Order but, by law, can never be admitted as members.

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