Climate Change Links 2008 Champions of the Earth

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 29, 2008 (ENS) – A prime minister, a former prime minister, and a prince are among seven Champions of the Earth selected for recognition as outstanding environmental achievers by the UN Environment Programme. The work of this year’s champions – one from each region of the world – is all related to global warming in some way.

Prime Minister Helen Clark is being honored with a UNEP Special Prize in addition to the Champion of the Earth recognition. “By setting a carbon neutral goal for New Zealand, Prime Minister Clark has put her country at the forefront of today’s environmental challenges,” UNEP said, announcing the awards on Monday.

New Zealand Prime
Minister Helen Clark
(Photo courtesy
Govt. of New

Three major policy initiatives launched by Clark attracted UNEP’s favorable attention – the Emissions Trading Scheme; the Energy Strategy; and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy.

Clark said the Champion of the Earth Award is an honor. “For New Zealand to become a truly sustainable nation, it requires government, business, and community to each take special responsibilities and pursue a common interest,” she said.

“It is clearly the responsibility of government to give leadership. It reflects our belief that pursuing sustainability is not only the right thing to do, but is also a strategic investment in New Zealand’s overall future, said Clark. “Further sustainability initiatives will be unveiled by the government this year.”

“We also look forward to hosting World Environment Day on June 5, which will focus on opportunities for countries, companies and communities to ‘kick the carbon habit’ and make the transition to a low carbon economy and lifestyle,” she said.

The Champions of the Earth prizes will be presented at a ceremony in Singapore on Earth Day April 22. No monetary reward is attached to the prize; each laureate receives a trophy made of recycled metal designed by the Kenyan sculptor Kioko and representing the fundamental elements for life on Earth – sun, air, land and water.

The 2008 Champions of the Earth:

* Africa: Balgis Osman-Elasha, a senior researcher at Sudan’s Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources;

* Asia and the Pacific: Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies

* Europe: Prince Albert II of Monaco

* Latin America and the Caribbean: Liz Thompson, the former energy and environment minister of Barbados

* North America: Timothy Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund, former U.S. Senator from Colorado

* West Asia: Abdul-Qader Ba-Jammal, secretary-general of the Yemen People’s General Congress, former prime minister of Yemen

“Today, we face environmental challenges of unprecedented magnitude. More than ever, our planet needs committed leaders and achievers like the 2008 Champions of the Earth who spur real, positive change and fuel innovative solutions to environmental problems,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“In doing so, these inspirational individuals demonstrate not only that action and different development paths are possible but also the abundant opportunities arising as a result of a transformation towards a green economy,” he said.


Balgis Osman-Elasha
(Photo courtesy ENB)

Dr. Balgis Osman-Elasha, a senior scientist from Sudan, is at the forefront of global research on climate change. A leading author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, reports, she has produced groundbreaking work on global warming in Africa, with an emphasis on northern and eastern Africa.

Dr. Osman-Elasha’s emphasis on global warming and adaptation in Sudan is vital given the strong interlinkages between climate change and conflict in the country. Her work as a prominent researcher on climate change makes her a true role model for women in Africa, UNEP said.

The award also recognizes Dr. Osman-Elasha’s efforts to educate Sudanese university students about the issue of climate change, raising awareness among the country’s new generation.

Asia and the Pacific:

Atiq Rahman
(Photo courtesy

Dr. Atiq Rahman is an eloquent advocate for sustainable development from Bangladesh – a country highly vulnerable to climate change and flooding. As one of the top specialists in his field, the executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies transformed the nongovernmental organization into a leading think-tank in South Asia on sustainable development issues.

Dr. Rahman is a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He played a leading role in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and in negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. He participates in the current climate talks leading to a successor agreement after Kyoto expires in 2012.

Dr. Rahman’s extensive publications on the subjects of environment and development in Bangladesh are a reference for his peers, and he has also developed an innovative post-graduate course on sustainable development and North-South dialogue.


Prince Albert II
(Photo courtesy
Govt. of Monaco)

One of Prince Albert II’s first acts as sovereign of Monaco was to sign the Kyoto Protocol – an eloquent sign of his longstanding commitment to the environment. Prince Albert has been a prominent voice on environmental issues since the early 1990s and he has been strongly involved in raising awareness on climate change, leading an expedition to the North Pole in 2006 to draw attention to the consequences of global warming.

The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which he created in 2006, works actively on protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development, with a focus on biodiversity loss, water and the fight against climate change. Prince Albert is also a patron of the Billion Tree Campaign, which successfully led to the planting of well over a billion trees across the planet in 2007.

Prince Albert has also shown remarkable commitment to sustainable development on his home turf of Monaco. Under his leadership, Monaco is now applying an exemplary policy on carbon dioxide reduction in every sphere of society as well as in the business sector.

Latin America and the Caribbean:

Liz Thompson (Photo
courtesy Barbados
Labour Party)

Liz Thompson has become one of the recognized leaders on environmental issues of the small island developing states.

During her time as minister of energy and the environment of Barbados, which ended in 2006, she enacted a range of progressive policies for sustainable development and environmental protection.

She also became a key voice to raise awareness of global warming in Barbados – a country where the challenges of climate change and conservation are of particular relevance.

Thompson has also played a role in environmental awareness and protection across the Caribbean region. She has encouraged small island states to diversify their economies, undertake sustainability assessments, and promote community-based programs that have positive environmental impacts.

North America:

Timothy Wirth
(Photo courtesy
UN Foundation)

For the last 30 years, Timothy Wirth has been an advocate for environmental issues in the United States. As the president of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund, Wirth has established the environment as a key priority and is mobilizing strong resources to address crucial issues from biodiversity to climate change and renewable energy.

A strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol, Wirth was instrumental in raising awareness and calling for policy action on global warming during his time as United States Under-Secretary of State for Global Affairs from 1993 to 1997.

Wirth was a steadfast advocate on environmental issues during his time as a member of the U.S. Senate, when he engaged in a number of conservation and natural resource issues in his home state of Colorado. Wirth authored the Colorado Wilderness Bill as well as other successful legislation on energy, conservation and environmental protection.

West Asia:

(Photo courtesy

Abdul-Qader Ba-Jammal has had a pioneering influence on environmental protection in Yemen – a country which faces acute challenges from water scarcity to desertification.

During his time as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, he established Yemen’s Ministry of Water and Environment and Environment Protection Authority, solicited national and international funding for environmental conservation and sustainable water management, and implemented a series of groundbreaking environmental policies in Yemen and the region.

Ba-Jammal orchestrated conservation efforts for the Socotra archipelago, a site of global importance for biodiversity. The Socotra conservation fund came into being under his patronage, and the archipelago was listed as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere reserve in 2003.

Among other achievements, Ba-Jammal supported the declaration of several marine and land protected areas in Yemen and established a state agency for the development of Yemeni islands with a focus on marine resources conservation. Along with Ba-Jammal’s work on Yemen’s water sector, all these projects serve as key examples of environmental awareness in a region where water and conservation issues are of vital importance – increasingly so in a climate-constrained world.

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