The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced its 2021 Champions of the Earth. The Champions were chosen for their transformative impact on the environment and their leadership in advancing bold and decisive action on behalf of people and the planet.
Since its inception in 2005, the annual Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honour, has been awarded to some of the world’s most dynamic environmental leaders. So far, it has been awarded to 101 laureates, including 25 world leaders, 62 individuals and 14 organizations. This year, UNEP received a record number of nominations from all over the world.
“As we enter into a decisive decade, to cut emissions and protect and restore ecosystems, UNEP’s Champions of the Earth demonstrate that all of us can contribute. Every single act for nature counts. The entire spectrum of humanity has both a global responsibility and a profound opportunity,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “This year’s Champions are women who not only inspire us, but also remind us that we have in our hands the solutions, the knowledge and the technology to limit climate change and avoid ecological collapse.”
UNEP’s 2021 Champions of the Earth are:
• • Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, honoured in the Policy Leadership category for her powerful voice for a sustainable world from the global south, consistently raises the alarm about the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States due to the climate emergency. The Prime Minister is a driving force for climate action across the Latin
• American and the Caribbean region – the first to agree on the Action Plan for the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. Under her leadership, Barbados has adopted ambitious renewable energy targets, committing to a fossil-fuel free electricity sector and transport by 2030. At the same time, Barbados is implementing numerous conservation and restoration projects, from forests, through cities, to the coastline and the ocean. She also co-chairs the One Health Global Leaders’ Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.
• • The Sea Women of Melanesia (Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands), honoured in the Inspiration and Action category, train local women to monitor and assess the impacts of widespread coral bleaching on some of the world’s most endangered reefs using marine science and technology.
• • Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (Uganda), honoured in the Science and Innovation category, was the first-ever wildlife veterinarian of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and is a recognised world authority on primates and zoonotic diseases. As the CEO and co-founder of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), she leads the implementation of three integrated strategic programs using the ‘One Health’ approach.
• • Maria Kolesnikova (Kyrgyz Republic), honoured in the Entrepreneurial Vision category, is an environmental activist, youth advocate and head of MoveGreen, an organization working to monitor and improve air quality in the central Asia region. Under Kolesnikova, MoveGreen developed an app called AQ.kg, which collects real-time data every one to three hours from the two largest Kyrgyz cities, Bishkek and Osh, about the concentration of pollutants in the air, including nitrogen dioxide, PM 2.5 and PM 10.
By amplifying the significant work being done on the environmental frontlines, the Champions of the Earth awards aim to inspire and motivate more people to take to address the triple planetary crisis — climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution, chemicals and waste.
This year’s awards highlight the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which runs until 2030, coinciding with the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. By halting and reversing the degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, we can prevent the loss of one million endangered species. Scientists say restoring only 15 per cent of ecosystems in priority areas and thereby improving habitats can cut extinctions by 60 per cent.
There has never been a more urgent need to revive damaged ecosystems than now. Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet – and its people. Ecosystem restoration will only succeed if everyone joins the #GenerationRestoration movement to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.
NOTES TO EDITORS About the UNEP Champions of the Earth The UN Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth honours individuals, groups, and organizations whose actions have a transformative impact on the environment. The annual Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honour. It recognizes outstanding leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector.
About the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations together with the support of partners, it is designed to prevent, halt, and reverse the loss and degradation of ecosystems worldwide. It aims at reviving billions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. A global call to action, the UN Decade draws together political support, scientific research, and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration.
[email protected]: A time to reflect on the past and envision the future The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, was the first-ever UN conference with the word “environment” in its title. The creation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was one of the most visible outcomes of this conference of many firsts. UNEP was created quite simply to be the environmental conscience of the UN and the world. Activities taking place through 2022 will look at significant progress made as well as what’s ahead in decades to come
About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.