From ocean cleanups and ozone science to solar cooking and national conservation

From ocean cleanups and ozone science to solar cooking and national conservation

At a ceremony organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) at the Smithsonian Museum and with the special presence of UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen, the highest environmental award of the United Nations, the Champions of the Earth award, to some of the innovators and policy makers whose services to the environment are saving lives and improving both the livelihoods of many people and the governance and conservation of the environment.

Recognized as a model of environmental leadership, not only among the 52 Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr., is among the winners of this edition.

Under his presidency, Palau created a network of protected areas to promote the country's marine biodiversity. This initiative has generated, since 2009, 1.3 million dollars a year in "green fees", or green fees, for the conservation of the community. His performance has also been critical to the success of the creation of the World Alliance of Islands, which provides leadership and support to dozens of island states, and has mobilized more than $ 130 million to improve conservation and livelihoods in the islands.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner stated: “Leadership and vision are needed at all levels of a system to make change possible on a global scale. Improving livelihoods in Somalia, providing young people with sustainable livelihoods, has had a transformative effect on the environment and on entire communities in a corner of the world where conflict has made even the smallest obstacle extraordinary. of the challenges ”.

“In this sense, policy changes to curb deforestation, protect threatened species, and mobilize green growth can have a real reach and impact on societies, as we have seen in Palau and Indonesia, and the Commitment to scientific research, even if it is refuted in the first instance, can generate momentous advances and ultimately save as many lives as scientific studies on ozone and global warming show.

“What our champions on earth are showing us is that there are going to be many innovations, policies, and attitude changes that will generate the momentum needed for a transition to a better future. The presence here today of these environmental leaders of all ages and from all walks of life is proof that change has already begun and that we all play our role in it ”.

Another of this year's award winners is the young Dutchman Boyan Slat, the youngest Champion on Earth, awarded at just 20 years of age. Slat won the award in the Inspiration and Action category for her work on The Ocean Cleanup initiative.

Slat was still in high school when he came up with a dynamic concept that uses natural ocean currents and winds to passively transport plastic onto a collection platform. Instead of using the nets and boats in which marine species could be trapped, solid floating barriers are used to collect the waste.

The Ocean Cleanup initiative is expected to help address the growing problem that the proliferation of plastic waste is posing to marine life. The most conservative estimates of global financial damage indicate that plastics cause damage to marine ecosystems worth about $ 13 billion a year, according to a UNEP study.

Other winners of the 2014 edition of the Champions of the Earth contest organized by UNEP are: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former President of the Republic of Indonesia; Sir Robert Watson, eminent atmospheric scientist; Fátima Jibrell, founder of Adeso; Sylvia Earle, marine explorer and conservationist; and Mario Molina, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a prominent scientist in the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer.

Palau President Tommy Remengesau stated: “I am very honored to receive this award, which is a welcoming recognition of the work that Palau and, by extension, many small island developing States are undertaking to enhance the policy response. to environmental threats ”.

"Palau and other SIDS are striving to make sustainable economic growth the cornerstone of our development, ensuring that we have a strong and healthy ecological foundation from which to chart the paths of a blue-green economy."

The UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, Giselle Bündchen, was in charge of presenting the event.

The award has the following categories: Political Leadership, Entrepreneurial Vision, a Life of Leadership, Science and Innovation, and Inspiration and Action.

The full list of winners from the 2014 edition of Champions of the Earth is detailed below.


From Asia Pacific - Tommy Remengesau Jr.- President of Palau. Thanks to the visionary leadership of President Remengesau, Palau has strengthened its economic resilience through national initiatives aimed at protecting its biodiversity. Under his presidency, Palau created a network of protected areas to favor the country's marine biodiversity, which has generated, since 2009, 1.3 million dollars a year in "green fees", or green fees, for the conservation of the community.

Palau has also become the world's first shark sanctuary, serving as an example for many other countries, such as the Maldives, Honduras and the Marshall Islands. Together with Seychelles President James Michel, Remengesau successfully founded the World Alliance of Islands, which provides leadership and support to dozens of island states, and has mobilized more than $ 130 million to improve conservation and livelihoods. in the islands.

From Asia Pacific - Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - Former President of Indonesia.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a climate change champion who, in 2009, became the first president of a major developing country to voluntarily commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. His tireless commitment to promoting the sustainable management of Indonesia's increasingly threatened natural resources also led him to impose, in total, a four-year moratorium on logging concessions. In 2013, it went even further by signing the creation of the world's first ministerial body dedicated to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

He worked to raise awareness throughout Indonesia of the importance of adopting responsible management of valuable natural resources, incorporating the issue of environmental conservation into national agendas and making it difficult for perpetrators of environmental crimes to evade the law. As he proclaimed from the State Palace on the occasion of the World Environment Day celebrated last year, "a development that damages the environment is not an option for us."


From North America, the US Green Building Council. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and your community are changing the way we design, construct, and manage buildings and communities. Founded in 1993 by Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried, and Mike Italiano, the USGBC promotes sustainability in the construction industry. USGBC partners include builders and environmentalists, businesses and nonprofits, elected officials, and interested citizens, as well as teachers and students. The USGBC currently has 76 chapters, nearly 13,000 members between businesses and organizations, and more than 198,000 professionals in charge of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system.

LEED-certified buildings save money and resources, as well as have a positive impact on the health of their occupants, while promoting the use of clean, renewable energy. The LEED system certifies approximately 158,000 square meters of built-up space in 150 countries and territories every day, and is the most recognized and widespread sustainable building program in the world. Today, more than 61,800 commercial projects are participating in LEED, which is equivalent to an area of ​​more than 1 billion square meters of construction space.


From Europe, Sir Robert Watson, eminent atmospheric scientist. Robert Watson has dedicated his career to promoting the scientific study of ozone depletion, global warming, and paleoclimatology. Regarded as one of the world's leading atmospheric chemists, Watson has received several awards for his contributions to science, including the 1992 National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Review, the Science Award for Scientific Freedom and the Accountability of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1993, and in 2012, the knighthood for services to the Government of the United Kingdom.

Robert Watson played an important role in the ozone depletion and global warming regulatory efforts, through his collaboration in the process of developing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change consolidated assessments. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, as well as the International Scientific Assessment on Stratospheric Ozone, and has testified numerous times before the United States Congress regarding global environmental issues.


From Europe, Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup initiative. At just 20 years old, Boyan Slat is charting new paths in his search for a solution to the increasingly serious global problem of plastic waste in our oceans. The objective of The Ocean Cleanup is to promote the global fight against marine pollution generated by plastic waste, initiating the largest marine cleanup in history. Slat was still in high school when he came up with an innovative concept that uses natural ocean currents and winds to passively transport plastic onto a collection platform. Instead of using the nets and boats in which marine species could be trapped, solid floating barriers are used to collect the waste. The Ocean Cleanup matrix was awarded the Best Technical Design award from Delft University of Technology. Furthermore, Slat has been recognized by the Intel EYE50 as one of the 20 most promising young entrepreneurs in the world.

Slat's presentation at TEDxDelft 2012 was viewed by more than 1.6 million people and has managed to raise more than $ 2 million through crowdfunding strategies to fund the next phase of The Ocean Cleanup initiative. Slat is currently working with a team of over 100 people to test the feasibility of his concept and has discontinued his studies to focus his efforts on The Ocean Cleanup.

From Africa, Fatima Jibrell, Founder of Adeso (formerly known as Horn Relief). Fatima Jibrell is one of Somalia's leading environmental activists and founder of Adeso, a non-profit organization created in 1991 in response to the devastating humanitarian crisis and civil war in Somalia. Fatima Jibrell founded Adeso to mobilize national and international resources to protect Somalia's pastoral lifestyle and its fragile environment, on which many of its inhabitants depend.

Fatima Jibrell's efforts to build peace, promote better environmental practices, and protect the livelihoods of Somali pastoralists were recognized in 2002 with the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Jibrell's efforts were also instrumental in ending the charcoal trade in northeast Somalia, an activity that had been decimating the region's acacia tree population. In turn, Sun Fire Cooking, an organization of which she is a co-founder, is promoting the large-scale use of parabolic solar cooking as an alternative to burning coal. In 2007, Jibrell received the National Geographic Society / Buffet Award for Conservation Leadership in Africa.


From North America, Sylvia Earle, marine explorer and conservationist. The name Sylvia Earle has become synonymous with underwater research and ocean conservation. An internationally renowned marine biologist, ocean explorer, author, and lecturer, Earle was the first woman to serve as the Chief Investigator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and is currently an explorer in residence in the National Geographic Society. Earle, referred to as a "living legend" by the Library of Congress and referred to by Time magazine as the first "hero for the planet," focuses on the development of a global network of land and sea areas - "points of hope" - to safeguard the living systems that support the global processes necessary to maintain biodiversity, produce basic services that support life, and provide stability and flexibility to ecosystems.

Earle is the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Mission Blue, and the Sylvia Earle Alliance. She is also Chair of the Advisory Board of the Harte Research Institute, The Ocean in Google Earth, and leads the Sustainable Marine Expeditions of the National Geographic Society. His more than 100 national and international distinctions include the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 2011, the Medal of Honor of the Dominican Republic in 2011, the 2009 TED Award and the Order of the Golden Ark of the Netherlands.

From Latin America, Mario Molina, Nobel Prize winner and renowned scientist on ozone issues. Mario Molina is a renowned chemist and advisor on climate policies to President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. Molina was in charge of the investigations that led to the scientific discovery that marked the most important global climate-related agreements in history. Molina, Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Paul Crutzen and Sherwood Rowland, discovered the relationship between chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs) and the degradation of the Earth's ozone layer.

His discovery was followed by an American Chemical Society press conference in September 1974, where Molina and his colleagues called for a total ban on new CFC emissions to the atmosphere. The request was finally materialized in 1985 with the signing, by 20 countries - including most of the major CFC producers - of the Vienna Convention (currently known as the Montreal Protocol), thanks to which it has achieved a substantial restoration of the ozone layer and millions of people around the world have been prevented from developing skin cancer.

Notes to editors

Press releases detailing the credentials of each of the winners are available at

About the Champions of the Earth initiative

The Champions of the Earth Award, which began in 2005, is the most representative environmental award of the United Nations. The award recognizes the experiences of visionaries and outstanding leaders in the fields of politics, science, entrepreneurship and civil society action. Whether it is helping to improve natural resource management, demonstrating new ways of tackling climate change, or raising awareness about new environmental issues, the Champions of the Earth initiative must serve as an inspiration for transformative action around the world. Previous winners include Mijail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderón, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva, Vinod Khosla, and many other exemplary leaders in the field of environment and development.

Visit for more information.

About Guangdong Wealth, Sponsor of the Champions of the Earth Awards

Guangdong Wealth Environmental Protection is a leading provider of water purification products and integrated water treatment solutions in China. The company practices a business model that puts social welfare before economic interests, embodied in its concept of development: "that the sky is increasingly blue and the water increasingly clear." The company invests in environmental scholarships for young university students, organizes clean-up operations, and donates tons of purifying tablets to tackle pollution in the rivers of Guangdong and Beijing.

About the Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution is made up of a collection of museums and research centers run by the United States Government. Named "the nation's attic" for being the repository of 137 million eclectic items, the Institute's core, located in Washington, DC, has nineteen museums, nine research centers, and a zoo - many of them in historic or architectural locations. "It is the largest complex of its kind in the world."

About the United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation links the work of the United Nations with other foundations around the world, mobilizing the energy and expertise of business and non-governmental organizations to help the United Nations tackle issues such as climate change, global health, peace and security, women's empowerment, poverty eradication, access to energy, and US-United Nations relations.

About National Geographic

The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. His interests include geography, archeology and natural sciences, as well as the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

About The Washington Post

The Washington Post is a leading news publisher at the intersection of business and politics. Through his heritage and pedigree, he has pioneered objective, credible and award-winning journalism. The audience of influential leaders depends on the vision and analytical skills of the organization to make the critical decisions that influence their business. The Washington Post ensures its success through technology and engineering, bringing today's readers closer to the journalism of the future. This 137-year-old media company is forging new media consumption experiences for our readers across all platforms.


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