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SEOUL, South Korea, Friday April 23, 2010 – Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo has received the United Nation’s highest environmental award, and he isn’t keeping a cent of the prize money for himself. Jagdeo, who was among six people to receive the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) 2010 Champion of the Earth Award yesterday, will donate the US$40,000 to Amerindian communities in Guyana, according to a government statement. The Guyana President received the prestigious award for his outstanding international leadership on combating climate change and his pioneering model on low carbon economic development.
“President Jagdeo is a powerful advocate of the need to conserve and more intelligently manage the planet’s natural and nature-based assets,”said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in presenting the award. “He has recognised more than most the multiple Green Economy benefits of forests in terms of combating climate change, but also in terms of
development, employment, improved water supplies and the conservation of biodiversity.”
According to the UNEP, the award is given to “people and organisations truly distinguished’ when it comes to making a real difference in protecting the planet earth. It said the Champions of the Earth Award honours the “best and brightest as they strive to take action for our planet through their visionary thinking, unwavering dedication and committed action towards the sustainable use of the planet’s resources for global green growth”.
In his acceptance speech, Jagdeo described the award as an endorsement of the long standing efforts of the people of Guyana to help change the way the world values scarce natural resources. “Without changing this reality, the world will fail to reverse today’s dangerous trends of climate change and biodiversity destruction,” he said. “In Guyana we didn’t want to just despair; we wanted to prove that it is possible to change this economic reality and the emerging climate change agenda’s recognition of the importance of forests as an abatement solution provided us with an opportunity to maybe start changing things.”
President Jagdeo has received several congratulatory messages, including from 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai who said that the Guyanese leader’s tireless work to keep the world’s attention on the importance of saving forests has been an inspiration to many across the world. “His leadership continues to remind us that progress is possible and that we can save the world’s forests while at the same time fostering prosperity and improving the lives of our people,” said Professor Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She was the first African woman to win the prize.
Lord Nicholas Stern, widely credited with changing global understanding of the economic impact of climate change, also tipped his hat to Jagdeo. He described him as “one of the world’s foremost heads of government in advocating for a global low carbon future”.