On Tuesday, the recipients of the United Nations’ Champions of the Earth awards were announced: a Caribbean prime minister, a scientist, a group of indigenous women, and an entrepreneur.
The all-female Champions were chosen for their impact and leadership in advocating bold action on behalf of people and the planet.
The UN’s highest environmental honor is the Champions of the Earth award.
Inspiration and Action, Policy Leadership, Entrepreneurial Vision, and Science and Innovation are the four categories recognized this year.
UNEP received a record number of nominations for the 2021 prizes from all over the world.
Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley was recognized in the Policy Leadership category for being a “powerful voice” for a more sustainable world from the global south, persistently sounding the alarm about the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States. The Prime Minister is described by UNEP as “a driving force” for climate action in Latin America and the Caribbean, which was the first area to agree on the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration Action Plan.
Barbados has implemented aggressive renewable energy targets under her leadership, promising a fossil-free electricity and transportation sector by 2030.
At the same time, countless conservation and restoration initiatives are being implemented throughout the country, from forests to towns to the shore and the ocean. She is also a member of the One Health Global Leaders’ Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, which she co-chairs.
In the Inspiration and Action category, the Sea Women of Melanesia from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands were honored. The organization uses marine science and technology to train indigenous women to monitor and assess the effects of widespread coral bleaching on some of the world’s most vulnerable reefs.
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of Uganda took first place in the Science and Innovation category. She is a world authority on primates and zoonotic diseases, having served as the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s first wildlife veterinarian.
She supervises the implementation of three integrated strategic programs as the CEO and co-founder of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH).
Finally, Maria Kolesnikova of the Kyrgyz Republic was recognized in the area of Entrepreneurial Vision. She is an environmental activist, youth advocate, and the founder of MoveGreen, a non-profit that monitors and improves air quality throughout Central Asia.
The organization developed an app called AQ.kg under Ms. Kolesnikova’s leadership, which collects real-time data on pollution concentrations in the air from the two main Kyrgyz cities, Bishkek and Osh, every one to three hours.