President Jagdeo receives UNEP Champion of the Earth award

President Bharrat Jagdeo was one of the six persons who received United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Champion of the Earth awards for their fight in preserving the forest and combatting climate change.

UNEP 2010 Champions of the Earth Laureates with UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner.

According to a UNEP release, the Guyanese leader’s award was in the special category for biodiversity and ecosystem management. Receiving his award in the Republic of Korea yesterday, President Jagdeo said that while his people have demonstrated commitment to the preservation of nature and biodiversity, “they have also struggled against the global economic reality that long-term national development and protecting nature are frequently competing, not complementary, objectives.

“Without changing this reality, the world will fail to reverse today’s dangerous trends of climate change and biodiversity destruction.”

The president along with the other awardees was presented with their trophies and US$40,000 at a gala event during the Earth Day observances in conjunction with the Business for the Environmental Global Summit (B4E), according to the release from the UNEP.

The release said the six winners were drawn from the worlds of government, science, business and entertainment and each are said to exemplify how action, inspiration, personal commitment and creativity can catalyze a transition to a “low carbon, resource efficient 2lst-century Green Economy.”

The Guyanese leader, who was described as a “passionate forestry and ecosystem infrastructure proponent,” was not the only head of state to receive an award as he was joined by the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed. President Nasheed was described as an “international climate change campaigner.”

The other Champion of the Earth laureates were: Afghanistan’s Director General of the National Environmental Protection Agency, Prince Mostapha Zaher said to be an avid sustainability advocate; Japanese earth scientist and pioneer of research into how the oceans cycle carbon, Dr Taro Takahashi; Chinese Actress and popular green life-style guru, Zhou Xun; and American venture capitalist, green energy entrepreneur and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Vinod Khosla.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner described the six winners as representing some “of the key pillars upon which society can build green growth and a development path to unit rather than divide sic billion people.”

In direct reference to President Jagdeo the UNEP head described him as a “powerful advocate of the need to conserve and more intelligently manage the planet’s natural and nature-based assets.”

Further, according to Steiner, President Jagdeo has recognised more than most the multiple green economy benefits of forests in terms of combating climate change, but also in also “in terms of development; employment; improved water supplies and the conservation of biodiversity.”

In the press release the 45-year-old Jagdeo is said have gained “international recognition for his position on environmental issues within his country and on the global scale.”

“As the President of a country with 40 million acres of untouched rainforest, Mr Jagdeo has been working on inviting donors and investors to pay for the protection of the forests through the sale of carbon credits, or investments in eco-tourism and pharmaceutical discoveries. With the money he expects to generate from this trade, President Jagdeo plans to improve the country’s coastal infrastructure to protect it from the potential rise in sea levels,” the release said.

Meanwhile, in his acceptance speech President Jagdeo said he sees the award as an endorsement of the people of Guyana’s “long-standing efforts to help change the way the world values scare natural resources.”

Regrettably, the president said, despite the very valuable efforts of many much of the world’s biodiversity, and more than half of the world’s tropical forests have been lost in the last 60 years.

“I believe that this is because for too long, we focused on stopping the consequences of biodiversity loss, rather than addressing its drivers,” he told those gathered.

However, he said Guyana was not about despair but rather he and his people wanted to prove that it is possible to change the economic reality.

“And the emerging climate change agenda’s recognition of the importance of forests as an abatement solution provided us with an opportunity to maybe start changing things,” the President said.

Making reference to the agreement signed between Guyana and Norway he said his country is “showing that it is possible to create a better, environmentally sustainable national economy without compromising our citizens’ legitimate aspirations for increased prosperity.”

The award

According to the UNEP release the Champions of the Earth awards was established in 2004 by the organization and it recognises individuals who “embody commitment and vision towards environmental leadership through their action and their influence.”

The release said that to date, the award has recognized 34 outstanding environmental leaders including Al Gore, Brazil’s former environment minister Marina Silva, Sudanese researcher Dr Balgis Osman-Elasha and Olympic Committee Chair Jacques Rogge, among others.

Further, the release revealed that this year, members of the public had the opportunity to nominate people online for the prize. It said that more than 100 nominations were submitted from around the world. The nominees were then shortlisted and the finalists were chosen through an internal review.

And it was due to a new partnership with LG Electronics Inc that this year’s recipients received the monetary prize which the release said serves as an incentive and resource for growing and replicating the laureates’ work and their impact on the communities they serve

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