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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a call for nominations for the annual Champions of the Earth award – the UN’s highest environmental honour, which recognizes outstanding leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector for their transformative impact on the environment.

This year, UNEP encourages nominations of individuals and organizations developing and implementing sustainable policies and solutions to restore land, enhance drought resilience, and combat desertification.

Since the award’s inception in 2005, Champions of the Earth has recognized 116 laureates, including 27 world leaders, 70 individuals and 19 organizations. In 2023, UNEP received a record 2,500 nominations for the award.

As we approach the halfway mark of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, urgent action is needed to protect and revive ecosystems. Restoration improves livelihoods, reduces poverty, builds resilience to extreme weather and slows the climate crisis. To support the natural world, governments, civil society and the private sector must scale up financing, build capacity and shift behaviours.

World Environment Day on 5 June 2024 will focus on land restoration, desertification and drought resilience. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification, marking its thirtieth anniversary this year, will convene its sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) in December.

Restoring and reviving nature is critical to improving human and planetary health. Leaders from all sectors and regions are actively working to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and pollution and waste. The Champions of the Earth help lead that push. They remind us that environmental sustainability is key to achieving sustainable development.

Individuals, organizations and government entities may be nominated under the categories of
Policy Leadership, inspiration and Action, Entrepreneurial Vision, and Science and Innovation. Nominations are open from 15 April to 5 May 2024 to everyone. The Champions of the Earth will be announced in late 2024.

Nominate a Champion of the Earth In 2023, UNEP recognized individuals, organizations and governments implementing innovative solutions and policies to tackle plastic pollution. UNEP’s 2023 Champions of the Earth were:

Josefina Belmonte of Quezon City, Philippines, honoured in the Policy Leadership category, is driving
environmental and social action through a raft of policies to combat the climate crisis, end plastic pollution and green the urban enclave. Her initiatives include bans on single-use plastics, a trade-in programme for plastic pollution, refill stations for everyday essentials and advocacy for strong global policymaking on plastics.

MacArthur Foundation (United Kingdom), honoured in the Inspiration and Action category, has played a leading role in mainstreaming a lifecycle approach, including for plastics. The foundation has published reports and established networks of private and public sector decision-makers, as well as academia, to develop lifecycle initiatives and solutions to the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution and more. It leads the Global Commitment to UNEP.

Circle (China), honoured in the Entrepreneurial Vision category, uses blockchain technology and the Internet of Things to track and monitor the full lifecycle of plastic pollution – from collection to regeneration, re-manufacturing and re-sale. It has collected over 10,700 tonnes of marine debris, making it China’s largest marine plastic waste programme.

Manuel Moller (Chile), also honoured in the Entrepreneurial Vision category, is the founder of Algramo,
a social enterprise dedicated to providing refill services that reduce plastic pollution and lower the costs of everyday essentials. Moller also works to prevent, reduce and sustainably manage waste through his role as Vice Chair of the UN Advisory Board of Eminent Persons on Zero Waste, an initiative set up in March 2023.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (South Africa), honoured in the Science and Innovation category, uses cutting-edge technology and multidisciplinary research to develop innovations to tackle plastic pollution and other issues. It is a pioneer in identifying sustainable alternatives to conventional plastics, establishing opportunities for local manufacturing and economic development and testing plastic biodegradability.

UNEP’s Champions of the Earth honours individuals, groups and organizations whose actions have a transformative impact on the environment. The annual Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honour. #EarthChamps 

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. 

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