Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has gotten the United Nation’s highest environmental honour, having been named a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 2021 ‘Champion of the Earth’.
In being named the 2021 UNEP ‘Champion of the Earth‘, the Barbadian leader was honoured in the Policy Leadership category for her powerful voice for a sustainable world from the global south, consistently raising the alarm about the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States due to the climate emergency.
According to the UNEP “the Prime Minister is a driving force for climate action across the Latin American and the Caribbean region – the first to agree on the Action Plan for the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration…Under her leadership, Barbados has adopted ambitious renewable energy targets, committing to a fossil-fuel-free electricity sector and transport by 2030.”
The UNEP also took note of the fact that Barbados under Mottley’s leadership is implementing numerous conservation and restoration projects, from forests, through cities, to the coastline and the ocean. She also co-chairs the One Health Global Leaders’ Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.
Prime Minister Mottley was one of four ‘Champions of the Earth’, who got the award this year for their transformative impact on the environment.
Other noted female honourees
Also honoured were the Sea Women of Melanesia (Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands), in the Inspiration and Action category, for training local women to monitor and assess the impacts of widespread coral bleaching on some of the world’s most endangered reefs using marine science and technology.
Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, who was the first-ever wildlife veterinarian of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and is a recognised world authority on primates and zoonotic diseases, was honoured in the Science and Innovation category.
Maria Kolesnikova of the Kyrgyz Republic, an environmental activist, youth advocate and head of MoveGreen, an organisation working to monitor and improve air quality in Central Asia, received the award in the Entrepreneurial Vision category.
UNEP said the four ‘Champions of the Earth’ were chosen for their transformative impact on the environment and their leadership in advancing bold and decisive action on behalf of people and the planet.
Since its inception in 2005, the annual ‘Champions of the Earth’ award has been given to the world’s most dynamic environmental leaders. So far, it has been awarded to 101 laureates, including 25 world leaders, 62 individuals and 14 organizations.
This year, UNEP received a record number of nominations from all over the world. UNEP executive director, Inger Andersen remarked, “As we enter into a decisive decade, to cut emissions and protect and restore ecosystems, UNEP’s Champions of the Earth demonstrate that all of us can contribute. Every single act for nature counts. The entire spectrum of humanity has both a global responsibility and a profound opportunity.”
She highlighted that, “this year’s Champions are women, who not only inspire us, but also remind us that we have in our hands the solutions, the knowledge and the technology to limit climate change and avoid ecological collapse.”
This year’s awards highlight the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which runs until 2030, coinciding with the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.