UN Environment Programme names its ‘2012 Champions of the Earth’ winners
A country president, a banker, an aeronaut, a scientist, a renewable energy businessman and a conservationist were today named as the six winners of the United Nations Champions of the Earth 2012 award, given to those whose actions and leadership have had a positive impact on the environment.
“As the world heads to Brazil for Rio+20 later this month, these six individuals, deservedly named as Champions, demonstrate that committed, concrete action can have a transformative effect on countries, communities and businesses,” said Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, which organizes the awards.
The awardees are Mongolia’s President, Tsakhia Elbegdorj; Brazilian banker Fábio C. Barbosa; renewable energy entrepreneur Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber from the United Arab Emirates; Swiss aeronaut Dr. Bertrand Piccard; Dutch scientist Dr. Sander van der Leeuw; and Kenyan Maasai conservationist Samson Parashina.
Mr. Steiner presented the LG Electronics-sponsored awards at a ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also attended by the Secretary-General of the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20), Sha Zukang, UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen and Brazil’s Minister of the Environment Izabella Teixeira.
According to UNEP, the winners have demonstrated commitment to building a sustainable future for the planet through their work, which encompasses active green policies, groundbreaking clean energy developments and community work that has helped conserve critical ecosystems.
In the case of President Elbegdorj, his award was in the area of policy leadership, for delivering on promises to put the environment at the forefront of policies; Mr. Barbosa and Dr. Al Jaber were recognized in the area of entrepreneurial vision, for their business efforts in sustainability and promoting renewable energy and clean technology, respectively.
Dr. Piccard was awarded in the area of inspiration and action, for raising global awareness of the possibilities of renewable energy-driven transport; while Dr. Van der Leeuw was recognized in the area of science and innovation, for his research, which applies lessons learned from history to understand why humanity is not facing up to the long-term issue of environmental change.
The award for Mr. Parashina was in the special category section, for leading community efforts to conserve Kenya’s Tsavo-Amboseli ecosystem.
“On the eve of Rio+20, the Champions of Earth 2012 should be an inspiration for world leaders to take the bold decisions needed on behalf of seven billion people,” Mr. Steiner said. “In other words, to put in place the pathways that will scale-up and accelerate a Green Economy while reforming the international institutions charged with realizing sustainable development and poverty eradication in order to deliver the ‘Future We Want’.”
Past Champions of the Earth have included Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva and Vinod Khosla.Back to Top
Access to low-cost energy vital in fight against poverty
The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, today underlined the urgent need to provide sufficient and low-cost energy to people across the world who lack access, stressing that making energy readily available can boost efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
“More than a billion people continue to live without access to electricity,” said Mr. Al-Nasser in an address to a conference organized by the Foreign Policy Association on the topic of ‘The Future of Energy.’
“It is clear that the basic energy needs of their daily lives are not being met. Today, more than any time in the past, there is an urgent need to ensure the sustainable use of energy and to address the challenge of energy poverty,” he added.
Mr. Al-Nassir noted that it is widely acknowledged that the more energy is available to communities, the greater the impact on food security, health, education, transport, communications and water and sanitation.
“Energy has therefore become an important component, if not an essential means, of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, over the past decade, the international community has not managed to agree on meaningful action to tackle the challenge of climate change, including energy poverty,” he stated.
The Assembly President called for the adoption of a new paradigm of consumption and production designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions; develop mechanisms to improve energy efficiency and ensure clean technologies are applied to fossil fuels; build capacities; facilitate access to renewable energy; and transfer technology.
Mr. Al-Nasser emphasized that international collaboration in boosting energy availability is a crucial way to ensuring success, adding that the cooperation should be between governments, academia, private sector and civil society.
“I would call for leaders in policy technology and business to work together, to develop new ways to shape the future of renewable energy, while also focusing on sustainability. Environmentally friendly means of using clean fossil fuels, including natural gas, must be found,” he said.
Mr. Al-Nasser also stressed that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro next month, will be “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure a sustainable future and a more equitable world.”
“My hope is that the international community will formulate global strategies for increasing access to clean energy, improving energy efficiency, and accelerating the spread of renewable energy technologies throughout the world,” he added.Back to Top
New UN website fosters sharing of successful sustainable development projects
The United Nations today launched a new online database to strengthen partnerships between sustainable development projects in developing countries and enable communities to better manage their natural resources and local environment.
The first online portal of its kind, the South-South Cooperation Exchange Mechanism will feature a host of initiatives – such as a biomass project at a Kenyan sugar factory and sustainable mining in Sierra Leone – and provide a forum where various actors working on environmental issues in developing countries can submit content, as well as share their expertise and experiences with peers.
“This new initiative is the latest development in UNEP’s ongoing efforts to support South-South cooperation and capacity-building,” the Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Amina Mohamed, said at the launch of the mechanism at UN Headquarters in New York.
“Central among these is UNEP’s Green Economy initiative, which has assisted and encouraged developing countries to embed sustainability within their national economies – from organic agriculture in Cuba to solar energy in Barbados,” she added. “These are projects which have the potential to be scaled-up and replicated elsewhere in the global South.”
South-South cooperation refers to the exchange of technology, skills, resources and information between governments, organizations and individuals in the developing world.
Currently, around 30 case studies from Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean can already be consulted on the website, available at: www.unep.org/south-south-cooperation.Back to Top