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 award winners were 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.