Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev picked up rare special honor at the German Environmental Awards. The accolade, only the third of its kind, was to recognize his efforts to promote environmental protection.
After the wall fell, Gorbachev focused on the environment
Former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded a rare special prize at the 2010 German Environmental Awards in Bremen on Sunday.
This was only the third time that a special honor has been presented as part of the awards - with Gorbachev selected for his work on environmental protection.
Gorbachev's organization is concerned with issues such as climate change
Gorbachev, who is chairman of the environmental group Green Cross International, was handed the award, which includes a financial prize of 10,000 euros ($13,900), by German President Christian Wulff.
Wulff praised Gorbachev's current work and likened his efforts to change attitudes to the environment to his policy of "perestroika" - or restructuring - in the former Soviet Union during the 1980s.
"Today you work with an admirable passion for a global ecological perestroika, for a move to a greater conservation of resources and more energy efficiency and for a way of living in harmony with nature rather than against it," said Wulff.
Climate change and contamination
After the collapse of the USSR, Gorbachev turned his focus to environmental issues.
Following the United Nations Rio Conference of Environment and Development in 1992, the former leader launched Green Cross International, which is concerned with issues such as climate change and chemical contamination.
He is also chairman of the European Green Belt initiative, which aims to provide a green backbone from north to south across Europe along the length of the Cold War Iron Curtain.
Griesshammer was one of three to win the lucrative main prizes
Speaking at the ceremony, Wulff said that moves towards sustainable lifestyles were more pressing than ever, adding that environmental technology had the potential to be a leading industry of the 21st century.
Most lucrative green prizes
The main German Environmental Award prize was shared among three individuals, who each received 245,000 euros.
Business partners Dr. Winfried Barkhausen and Edwin Buechter from near Aachen in western Germany were honored for developing an environmentally-friendly cleaning technique using lasers instead of chemicals.
Dr. Rainer Griesshammer, who is co-managing director of the Institute for Applied Ecology in Freiburg, in southwestern Germany, received the award for raising the profile of environmental sustainability.
Author: Richard Connor (KNA, dpa, epd)
Editor: Chuck Penfold