2021 Laureates of the Champions of the Earth have been announced in four categories, receiving the United Nations’ highest environmental honours for their work.
Business Spirit News reporting⬤Author
The annual Champions of the Earth awards, hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) since 2005, were handed to exceptional leaders who have a transformative impact on the environment and represent bold leadership in taking action on behalf of people and the planet.
Awardees in 2021 were chosen from a record number of nominations in four categories: Inspiration and Action, Policy Leadership, Entrepreneurial Vision, and Science and Innovation.
“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.
Andersen highlighted that 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’.
Awarded for her powerful voice for a sustainable world from the global south, she consistently raises the alarm about the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States due to the climate crises.
The Prime Minister is a driving force for climate action across the Latin American and Caribbean region. 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.
The award goes to this organisation in recognition for their work in training 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.
“When you train a woman, you train a society,” said Evangelista Apelis, a SeaWoman and co-director of the SeaWomen programme based in Papua New Guinea.
“We're trying to educate women, get women on board, so they can then go back and make an impact in their own families and their society as well."
Inspiration and Action category winner of the Champions of the Earth: The Sea Women of Melanesia
She was the first-ever wildlife veterinarian of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and is a recognised world authority on primates and zoonotic diseases.
As the founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), she leads the implementation of three integrated strategic programs using the ‘One Health’ approach. Kalema-Zikusoka, says that she hopes she will inspire young Africans to choose careers in conservation.
“There is a lack of local representation among conservationists. Not many are from the places where endangered animals are found,” she said. “We need more local champions, because these are the people who will become decision-makers for their communities and countries.”
She is an environmental activist, youth advocate and head of MoveGreen, an organisation working to monitor and improve air quality in Central Asia.
Under her leadership, the organisation developed an app called AQ.kg, which collects data every 20 minutes from the two largest Kyrgyz cities, Bishkek and Osh, about the concentration of pollutants in the air, including PM2.5, and PM10 and nitrogen dioxide.
“So often, you can get demotivated as an activist – you work so hard, don't see results of your endeavors and, finally, you feel like you don’t want to keep going. But then you realise, no. Someone has to take responsibility for the future. Why shouldn’t it be me?” Kolesnikova says about what drives her to make change.
Meet the Champions of the Earth 2021
The Champions of the Earth award aims to amplify the impact of leaders working on the environmental frontlines and inspire others to take action in addressing the triple planetary crisis.
The honour goes to individuals, groups, and organisations whose actions have a transformative impact on the environment and recognises outstanding leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector.
This year’s award reflects on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which runs until 2030, coinciding with the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.