April 19, 2024

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Young Champions of the Earth: Recognizing Youth Leadership in Environmental Protection

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today launched a call for nominations for its Young Champions of the Earth award, which recognizes young people’s contributions and outstanding potential to lead efforts to protect the environment.

This year, UNEP seeks seven young people – aged between 18 and 30 – who exemplify commitment to the environment and are leading projects that protect and revive nature to fight climate change, restore ecosystem functionality, and address pollution. This year’s round of Young Champions of the Earth is jointly run with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and in support of the new Global Biodiversity Framework.

UNEP’s selected Young Champions will receive US$20,000 in seed funding, a chance to attend high-level UN meetings, access to a community of global experts, and intensive training and tailored mentoring to bring their big environmental ideas to life. UNEP is looking for young entrepreneurs, scientists, economists, artists, and communicators from all walks of life who have big, bold ideas – for the environment, for humanity, and for a greener future. To demonstrate the project’s dedication and feasibility, prospective candidates must have actively pursued their ideas for a minimum of six months.

“Outstanding young entrepreneurs, scholars, creators, and activists need our backing to put the planet on track for recovery,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “UNEP is in search of the most innovative minds of this generation, from all disciplines and every region in the world, who are actively recalibrating our relationship with nature.”

Past winners of UNEP’s Young Champions of the Earth award include Adjany Costa, who developed a model for communities in one of the last wildlife hubs in eastern Angola, Lefteris Arapakis, from Greece, who trains, empowers and incentivizes old and new fishermen in the Mediterranean to collect plastic from the sea, and Eritai Kateibwi, whose Te Maeu Project focuses on developing low-impact hydroponics growing system to bring fresh crops to Kiribati.

Children and youth are enduring the worst impacts of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, as well as rising inequality and unemployment. If young people are to have a liveable planet in the future, they will require better access to financing, networks and partnerships, and greater influence on environmental policymaking.

The Young Champions of the Earth programme is supported by Elephant17.org, an initiative focused on ‘Paying It Forward for Climate’ founded by Chris Kemper. Mr. Kemper is UNEP’s Advocate for Partnerships and Chairman, Founder, and Chief Executive Officer of Palmetto Clean Technology, who, through the programme, aims to contribute to the empowerment of young people by promoting environmental stewardship globally.

“To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, much of the world must leapfrog to new technological and nature-based solutions, and such a bold, systemic shift calls for the entrepreneurialism and energy that emerging entrepreneurs bring to the table,” said Chris Kemper. “I believe that entrepreneurs embody the drive, energy, and passion needed to make the necessary and positive changes in today’s world. I’m excited to see the impact that the new Champions create.”

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