Brasília / Nairobi -- Brazil's Minister of Environment Izabella Teixeira is to receive the United Nations 2013 Champions of the Earth award. The prize - the UN system's highest environmental accolade - is awarded to leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a significant and positive impact on the environment.
Ms. Teixeira will receive a Policy Leadership award for, among other achievements, her key role in reversing deforestation in the Amazon forest and her contribution to high-level UN panels on sustainable development.
She joins an eclectic group of laureates, including a sustainable food pioneer, the developers of Google Earth, and a pioneering air pollution researcher, and will receive her award at a special ceremony in New York on 18 September 2013.
Ms. Teixeira was central in implementing land use policies in Brazil that have aided the control and prevention of deforestation. According to government figures, over the past eight years Brazil has seen a reduction in deforestation of 84 per cent, from an annual loss of over 27,000 sq km in 2004 to around 4,500 sq km in 2012.
As part of deforestation efforts, the Brazilian government has invested in greater enforcement measures by police, and in the use of satellites to track changes in forest cover.
An additional 250,000 sq km of conservation area has also been introduced - equivalent to 75 per cent of the globe's total forested protected areas.
'To be a Champion of the Earth is an honour, but also a responsibility. Just one year ago, the global community was discussing how to achieve the ambitious goals of Rio+20, and now we are already seeing some of these goals becoming a reality,' said Ms. Teixeira
'We are witnessing a positive change in the way sustainable development is seen, and embraced, by policymakers. This award recognizes the achievements we have made to date, and encouraging us to take action in the face of future environmental challenges. I know I can always count on UNEP and the rest of the UN family as partners in these efforts,' she added.
'Izabella's commitment to the environment has been central to her professional career in science and politics. She has been at the centre of some of the most highly debated and transformational topics of our time from the Rio+20 Summit to the reform of Brazil's forest policy. Izabella has throughout taken a principled but also politically pragmatic approach while building bridges to others,' said UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
In 2010 and 2012, Ms. Teixeira was invited by the UN Secretary-General to join the High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, which was tasked with formulating a new vision for sustainable growth and prosperity.
Ms. Teixeira played a prominent role in the preparation and outcome of last year's UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), hosted by the Government of Brazil. Following the summit, Ms. Teixeira was nominated to join the UN's High Level Panel on Post-2015 Development, which advised the organization on the global development framework beyond 2015, the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
'This award recognizes Ms. Teixeira's excellent work at international environmental conferences, her tireless defense of Brazil and sustainable development on the international stage, and her capacity to work effectively with different sectors of society. The environment can continue to count on Izabella Teixeira's dedication at a global level,' said UNEP's Representative in Brazil, Denise Hamú.
Other winners of the 2013 Champions of the Earth award, which is organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), include: Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment; Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement; Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD; Google Earth; Jack Dangermond, founder of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), and Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo , Director of the Sierra Gorda Ecological Group in Mexico.
The Champions of the Earth award ceremony, sponsored by Guangdong Wealth, will be held in the American Museum of Natural History in New York on 18 September 2013. A host of celebrity activists including supermodel and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen are set to attend.
Ms. Teixeira, who was nominated in the Policy Leadership category, becomes the third Brazilian winner of the award, following the CEO of Grupo Abril, Fabio Barbosa, and former Minister of Environment, Marina Silva.
The full list of 2013 Champions of the Earth winners is as follows.
Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for the Environment is recognized for his work advocating a shift from the current global model of intensive resource consumption, including setting 2020 targets for the European Union to halve food waste and practically eliminate landfill. His role in tackling resource inefficiencies across the food chain has contributed substantially to the ongoing UN campaign on food waste, Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Foodprint.
Google Earth is recognized for providing a powerful tool to monitor the state of the environment, allowing researchers to detect deforestation, classify land cover and estimate forest biomass and carbon, thus demonstrating the scale of problems and illustrating possible solutions. In Australia, for example, a scientist used Google Earth to discover a previously unknown coral reef in a region that had been marked for oil and gas development.
Jack Dangermond, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) is recognized for his commitment to ensuring that international, research, education, and nonprofit organizations working in the fields of conservation and development have access to the best geospatial analytical and visualization technology. In 1989, the ESRI Conservation Program was started to change the way non-profit organizations carry out conservation missions. The programme provides GIS software, data, and training, and helps to coordinate multi-organizational efforts
SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, is recognized for his pioneering work on black carbon, which included co-leading a team that first discovered widespread Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs), and pionerring research into how cutting emissions of black carbon or soot can mitigate climate change significantly. Dr. Ramanathan showed that ABCs led to large-scale dimming, decreased monsoon rainfall and rice harvest in India and played a dominant role in the melting of the Himalayan glaciers. A member of the Science Advisory Panel on the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, he also runs Project Surya, which aims to cut air pollution and improve human health by phasing out inefficient cookstoves in rural India.
INSPIRATION AND ACTION
Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, Director of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda is recognized for her work in the Sierra Gorda bioregion of Central Mexico, which demonstrates how a broad range of advocacy, public education and community stewardship of the environment, can secure livelihoods, and support healthy ecosystems. She was responsible for achieving Biosphere Reserve status for Sierra Gorda under an innovative public-private system. Through her work and advocacy, 33 per cent of the State of Querétaro is now protected as a Biosphere Reserve. Hundreds of families in Sierra Gorda now receive a total of over US$2 million from the sale of carbon credits.
Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food movement is recognized for his visionary work to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the world's agriculture and food supply 'one bite at a time'. Slow Food has over 100,00 members and supporters in over 150 countries, supporting local food traditions, protecting local biodiversity and promoting small-scale quality products.
About Champions of the Earth
Champions of the Earth, which was launched in 2005, is the UN's flagship environmental award. To date, it has recognized 59 individuals and organizations for their leadership, vision, inspiration and action on the environment. The list of previous Champions laureates include Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Chinese actress and environmental advocate Zhou Xun, the Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) and global music legend Angélique Kidjo. Visit http://www.unep.org/champions/ for more details.
About Guangdong Wealth
Guangdong Wealth Environmental Protection is a leading supplier of water purifying products and water treatment integrated solutions in China. The company practices a business model that puts social welfare before economic interests. Their development concept 'let the sky be bluer and the water clearer' supports UNEP's goals of maintaining, if not improving, the health of our natural resources. The company invests in environmental scholarships for young university students, organizes clean-up operations and donates tonnes of purifying tablets to tackle pollution in rivers in Guangdong and Beijing.