Accepting the Sophie Prize in Oslo, an unusually modest Persson said he was disappointed that his government had not done more.
“I feel honoured, but we did not do enough. We did too little, too late,” he said.
“We can turn things around, but if we wait for the market to solve the climate crisis, it could be too late. The market is an excellent servant but a terrible master,” he told a press conference.
Under Persson’s government, Sweden’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 13.5 percent. Norway’s emissions rose by 2.7 percent.
Persson faced stiff competition for the $100,000 prize, with former US Vice President Al Gore chief among the other candidates. Others linked to this year’s prize were California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and London mayor Ken Livingstone.
Last year’s prize was awarded to Argentinian human rights activist Romina Picolotti. Previous prizewinners have included France’s Attac organization and journalist John Pilger.
The Sophie Prize was founded in 1997 by Jostein Gaarder, the author of Sophie’s Choice and his wife Siri Dannevig.