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UNEP names winners of 2020 Young Champions of the Earth challenge

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 named seven young scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and activists from across the globe as its 2020 Young Champions of the Earth.

Inger Andersen
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Young Champions of the Earth prize is awarded every year to seven entrepreneurs under the age of 30, with bold ideas for sustainable environmental change.

The seven prize winners, all 30 years old or younger, were selected by a global jury of experts following a competitive public nomination.

Hailing from different regions around the world, the winners received $10,000 in seed funding, tailored training, and communication support, to help scale up their ideas.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, in a statement said these change-makers showed how innovative ideas, coupled with ambitious action, can help solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

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“With solutions to harvest water from the air, recycle plastic into paving slabs, and motivate fishing boats to haul tonnes of plastic out of the ocean, these change-makers show how innovative ideas, coupled with ambitious action, can help solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

“Globally, young people are leading the way in calling for meaningful and immediate solutions to the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – we must listen,” she said.

The statement also quoted Andersen as saying that as the world enters a decisive decade to cut emissions, restore and protect ecosystems, “UNEP Young Champions” demonstrate that “all of us can contribute, starting where we are with what we have”.

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“Every single act for nature counts, and we need the entire spectrum of humanity to share this global responsibility and this profound opportunity.”

The 2020 Young Champions of the Earth are: Nzambi Matee, a 29 year old Kenyan, who produced a sustainable low-cost construction material made of recycled plastic waste and sand, Lefteris Arapakis (Greece), Max Hidalgo Quinto (Peru), Niria Alicia Garcia (USA) and Fatemah Alzelzela (Kuwait).

Others are Xiaoyuan Ren (China), who used MyH20 app to collect clean water data, diagnose water problems on a case-by-case basis, with the goal of connecting data-driven water resources and solutions to underprivileged communities in need, to improve their overall health.

Vidyut Mohan, an Indian and co-founder of Takachar, a social enterprise, enabling farmers to prevent open burning of their waste farm residues and earn extra income by converting the residues into value-added chemicals, like activated carbon on-site.

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UNEP, a UN agency, is the leading global voice on the environment, providing leadership and encouraging partnerships in caring for the environment, by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve the quality of their lives.

The Young Champions of the Earth prize is UNEP’s leading initiative to engage youth in tackling the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Since inception in 2017, 28 environmental trailblazers had been recognised from every corner of the globe.

By Tosin Kolade

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