Meet the 2022 Champions of the Earth

Arcenciel (Lebanon), Constantino (Tino) Aucca Chutas (Peru), Sir Partha Dasgupta (United Kingdom, Dr Purnima Devi Barman (India) and Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet (Cameroon) bagged the 2022 Champions of the Earth, which is UN’s highest environment award.

“Healthy, functional ecosystems are critical to preventing the climate emergency and loss of biodiversity from causing irreversible damage to our planet. This year’s Champions of the Earth give us hope that our relationship with nature can be repaired,” said IUNEP Executive Director nger Andersen.

“This year’s Champions demonstrate how reviving ecosystems and supporting nature’s remarkable capacity for regeneration is everyone’s job: governments, the private sector, scientists, communities, NGOs and individuals,” she said.

Since its inception in 2005, the annual Champions of the Earth award has been awarded to trailblazers at the forefront of efforts to protect our natural world. It is the UN’s highest environmental honour. To date, the award has recognized 111 laureates: 26 world leaders, 69 individuals and 16 organizations. This year a record 2,200 nominations from around the world were received.

Arcenciel: an environmental non-profit group in Lebanon, they are honoured in the Inspiration and Action category. They work to create a cleaner, healthier environment has laid the foundation for the country’s national waste management strategy. Today, arcenciel recycles more than 80 per cent of Lebanon’s potentially infectious hospital waste every year.

Constantino (Tino) Aucca Chutas; Co-founder and President of Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos and Co-founder of Acción Andina, he is honoured in the Inspiration and Action category; He has pioneered a community reforestation model driven by local and Indigenous communities, which has led to three million trees being planted in the country. He is also leading ambitious reforestation efforts in other Andean countries.

 The Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN), which Aucca founded in 2000, has planted more than 3 million trees in Peru and protected or restored 30,000 hectares of land. Aucca’s community-led conservation has helped indigenous communities, a traditionally marginalized group, to secure legal rights to their land and establish protected areas for their native forests. As President and co-founder of Acción Andina, Aucca now oversees plans to protect and restore 1 million hectares of critically important forests in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as Peru, over the next 25 years with support from Global Forest Generation.

Sir Partha DasguptaHe is honoured in the Science and Innovation category. He is an eminent economist whose landmark review on the economics of biodiversity calls for a fundamental rethink of humanity’s relationship with the natural world to prevent critical ecosystems from reaching dangerous tipping points.

Grasslands, forests and freshwater lakes are some of Dasgupta’s favourite ecosystems. He believes children should be taught nature studies from an early age and that the subject should be as compulsory as reading, writing and arithmetic. “That’s one way to generate some affection for nature. If you have affection for nature, then she is less likely to be trashed,” he said.

Dr Purnima Devi Barman: The Indian is honoured in the Entrepreneurial Vision category. She is a wildlife biologist who leads the “Hargila Army”, an all-female grassroots conservation movement dedicated to protecting the Greater Adjutant Stork from extinction. The women create and sell textiles with motifs of the bird, helping to raise awareness about the species while building their own financial independence.

For Barman, safeguarding the adjutant stork means protecting and restoring their habitats. The Hargila Army has helped communities to plant 45,000 saplings near stork nesting trees and wetland areas in the hope they will support future stork populations. There are plans to plant a further 60,000 saplings next year. The women also carry out cleaning drives on the banks of rivers and in wetlands to remove plastic from the water and reduce pollution.

Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet: Co-founder of Cameroon Ecology and President of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests, she was honoured in the Inspiration and Action category. She is a tireless advocate for the rights of women in Africa to secure land tenure, which is essential if they are to play a role in restoring ecosystems, fighting poverty and mitigating climate change. She is also leading efforts to influence policy on gender equality in forest management across 20 African countries.

Since its inception in 2005, the annual Champions of the Earth award has been given to trailblazers at the forefront of efforts to protect our natural world.  

To date, the award has recognized 111 laureates: 26 world leaders, 69 individuals and 16 organizations.  

Last year’s laureates included Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, The Sea Women of Melanesia, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka from Uganda, and Maria Kolesnikova from the Kyrgyz Republic. 

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