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Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way
WEB MAGAZINE - March 2019

Awards around the world

One of the most prestigious prizes is the UN Champions of the Earth award, which is considered the organisation’s highest honour for environmental issues. The receiver of the annual award has done something that has had a transformative, positive impact on the environment in one of the five recognised areas, including categories such as Lifetime Achievement, Policy Leadership and Entrepreneurial Vision. Launched in 2005, the prize is awarded to figures both within the public and private sectors, as well as from civil society. The winners in 2018 included French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Young Champions

The UN also awards the Young Champions of the Earth prize to outstanding initiatives from young people on protecting or restoring the environment. The prize is awarded to initiatives in each of the seven global regions, and the winner receives seed funding from the UN, participates in high-level meetings, and is given a mentor for the following year.

The prize was set up by entrepreneurs and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman, and has since been nicknamed the "green Nobel"

Grassroots initiatives

Another prize awarded to winners in different parts of the world is the Goldman Environmental Prize. This is the largest environmental award in the world, and more than USD 16 million has been awarded to 157 people from 79 countries since the inaugural award in 1989. The prize rewards grassroots initiatives, often involving people in remote villages or inner cities who take great personal risks in their efforts to make a greener world. The prize was set up by entrepreneurs and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman, and has since been nicknamed the ‘green Nobel’. From the Nordic countries we have had two winners: in 1991, Swedish teacher Eha Kern and her student Roland Tiensuu won the award for efforts to purchase and preserve rain forests. Orri Vigfússon received the award in 2007 for his efforts to stop destructive commercial salmon fishing in the region.

Coexistence between Nature and Mankind

An environmental prize awarded far from the Nordic region is the annual International Cosmos Prize. It was created in 1993 to commemorate the Expo ’90 event held in Osaka, Japan. The theme for the Expo in 1990 was “The Harmonious Coexistence between Nature and Mankind”, and this is reflected in the prize, which is awarded for outstanding research work and achievements within this field. The winners since 1993 include David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, as well as the Swedish professor Johan Rockström.

Mapping peatlands

Environmental prizes can also be very local, and may even be awarded for specific initiatives tackling a certain problem. One example is the 2018 Indonesian Peat Prize, an award of USD 1 million granted to a group of scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands for their work in finding new ways of mapping Indonesian peatlands. The peatlands are often burned when the soil is wanted for something else, such as oil palm plantations or farming, but the burning releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. It is important to avoid peatlands when establishing new industries, so the Indonesian government needed new ways of mapping the peatlands.

In addition to these awards, a number of environmental prizes are handed out locally, regionally and globally, by NGOs, states and foundations.

Photo: 2018 Goldman Envitonmental Prize winner Liz McDaid at a protest with SAFCEI. Credit: Goldman Envitonmental Prize