‘Champions of the Earth’ proclaimed by UN environmental agency

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme

22 April 2009 – A French aerial photographer, an Ethiopian youth organization and the largest manufacturer of wind turbines in Asia are among the innovators named as 2009 Champions of the Earth by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The annual prize, established in 2004, rewards individuals who have made a notable contribution to the protection and sustainable management of the Earth's environment and natural resources.

“Today we celebrate and honour seven catalysts of positive environmental change who…have challenged the status quo and demonstrated across communities and countries new and transformational solutions to persistent and emerging environmental threats,” Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director said as he presented the awards at a Paris gala.

This year, the awards – which are hosted in conjunction with the annual Business for the Environment Summit (B4E) – moved away from geographical distribution to recognize achievements in the areas of Policy Leadership, Science and Innovation, Entrepreneurial Vision, Inspiration and Action, and Next-Generation Champions.

“Passion, creativity, intellect, vision and drive unites each of our 2009 winners—key qualities urgently needed with less than 230 days to go to the crucial UN Climate Change Convention meeting in December,” Mr. Steiner said.

This year’s winners are: Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim; tropical forest and climate campaigner Kevin Conrad; photographic and public awareness pioneer Yann Arthus-Bertrand; wind power entrepreneur Tulsi Tanti; biomimicry specialist Janine Benyus; recycling innovator Ron Gonen; and the Ethiopian youth organization Tena Kebena.

No monetary reward is attached to the prize - each laureate receives a trophy specially designed for the occasion and realized in environmentally-friendly materials.

Past Champions of the Earth winners include, among others: Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and present head of the UN Development Programme; Prince Albert II of Monaco; Ms. Massoudeh Ebtekar, the former Vice President of Iran; Mikhail Gorbachev of the Russian Federation; Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan; Jacques Rogge and the International Olympic Committee; and Al Gore, the former Vice-President of the United States.

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