2 October 2018
UN Environment Award Ceremony Honors Champions of the Earth
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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UNEP hosted its 2018 Champions of the Earth Awards Ceremony, which honors young people and world leaders for their environmental work.

Seven Young Champions from around the world received seed funding for initiatives on coral restoration, black carbon capture, gender and recycling, among other initiatives.

UNEP also recognized institutional champions and world leaders for their work in five areas: policy leadership, science and innovation, entrepreneurial vision, inspiration and action, and lifetime achievement.

26 September 2018: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) hosted its 2018 Champions of the Earth Awards Ceremony, honoring young people and world leaders for their efforts to create positive environmental impact. The event, held in the margins of the 73rd UNGA’s high-level week and Global Goals Week, highlighted the 2018 Champions’ work and emphasized the importance of youth, innovation and collaboration to achieve environmental goals.

Hosted by actor and environmental activist Alec Baldwin and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Dia Mirza, the event featured remarks from Satya Tripathi, UNEP, and leaders from the evening’s co-sponsors, Weibo and Covestro. Charles Chao, Weibo, emphasized the role of social media in connecting people, pointing to Weibo’s alliance for public welfare and strategic partnership with UNEP as means of raising awareness on global environmental challenges.

Christian Hessler, Covestro, underscored that sustainability is no longer just about contributing to environmental solutions, but “contributing more and more over time.” He emphasized the importance of combining environmental protection with economic success, and asked that the Young Champions never lose their motivation and spirit.

Prizes were awarded to seven Young Champions of the Earth between the ages of 18 and 30, each representing a different region of the world. Selected from a pool of 35 finalists out of thousands of candidates, each Young Champion will receive US$15,000 in funding, training and mentoring as well as support from UNEP and partners including Covestro, The DO School and CoalitionWILD. The champions are:

  • Shady Rabab, who has been turning trash into musical instruments and highlighting the interface between art and the environment;
  • Hugh Weldon, for a smartphone app, Evocco, that scans a customer’s grocery receipt to calculate a sustainability score;
  • Gator Halpern, whose organization, Coral Vita, accelerates reef and ecosystem restoration;
  • Miranda Wang, for BioCellection, which developed a process that derives chemicals from unrecycled plastic waste to produce new materials;
  • Miao Wang, whose ‘Better Blue’ initiative connects people to the ocean and empowers divers;
  • Arpit Dhupar, who has been capturing black carbon and soot with Chakr Innovation, and turning it into ink for printing; and
  • Heba Al-Farra, for her work advancing the role of women in energy and the environment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region

UNEP also recognized Champions in five areas. For policy leadership, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, was recognized for his role in launching the Global Pact for the Environment, and Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India was recognized for his commitment to end single-use plastics in India by 2022. In the area of science and innovation, the Champions are Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, for innovating in the production of plant-based meat. Accepting the award, the CEOs noted that you don’t need an animal to produce meat, and that, through science, one can mimic nature in a manner that allows consumers to choose their products, rather than attempting to force dietary shifts. The Champion for entrepreneurial vision is Coachin International Airport, which is fully-powered by solar energy, and plans to continue its visionary efforts around green entrepreneurship and resilience, particularly in the face of natural disasters such as flooding in Kerala, India. Zhejiang Province was recognized as a Champion in the area of inspiration and action, for its Green Rural Revival Programme, which ensures that no rural refuse is dumped, among other initiative. Finally, Joan Carling was presented with the lifetime achievement award for her advocacy for indigenous peoples’ and human rights. In her acceptance, Carling recognized the dangers that environmental activists face, and highlighted the disproportionate impacts on mining towns and communities from a recent typhoon in the Philippines.

The event and awards were sponsored by Weibo and Covestro, and featured an entirely plant-based menu conceived by Chef Elizabeth Falkner. [Champions of the Earth homepage] [UNEP press release, 13 September] [UNEP press release, 26 September] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]

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