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Speech by Mr. Achim Steiner, on the Occasion of the Presentation of the 2008 UNEP Champions of the Earth Awards

Singapore, Tuesday 22 April 2008 - Your Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Maldives, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Honoured Champions of the Earth laureates, Distinguished guests.

It is my great pleasure to be with you this evening at the UNEP Champions of the Earth Award Ceremony.

I would specially like to thank our hosts, the Singapore Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the Singapore Tourism Board, as well as our many generous sponsors - especially Asia Pacific Resources International and Dow Chemicals - for making this event possible.

When I look at the list of the achievements of our seven Champions I see a clear thread – climate change.

It is the defining issue of our era, and as such has shaped the environmental agenda on which our Champions have acted with such effect in their careers.

By setting carbon neutrality as a goal for her country, New Zealand's Helen Clark is leading from the front in an arena where only governments can make a true and lasting difference.

For only governments can negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, and only governments can put in place the relevant frameworks and mechanisms, checks and balances, that will encourage or enable businesses, organizations and individuals to follow a climate neutral path.

But, as we know, governments do not work in a vacuum. They need leadership and direction, from within and without. This where Champions such as those we are honouring today have such an influence.

Champions such as His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco, and Tim Wirth from the United States. Both, in their own way have been instrumental in putting climate change high on the international agenda, and they continue to do so.

Of course, their energy could not have been so well spent if it were not backed up by the force of science. By explaining the science –and reality - of climate change so clearly as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, Dr.Balgis Osma-Elasha, from Sudan, has helped quell any remaining scepticism. The fourth IPCC assessment has, I think, impressed everyone with the urgency of taking drastic steps to address this issue that affects us all.

Our other Champions – Dr. Atiq Rahman, from Bangladesh, has H.E Abdul-Qader Ba-Jammel, from Yemen, and H.E Liz Thompson, from Barbados – need no-one to tell them of the urgency of tackling global warming.

Low-lying nations, the arid countries of West Asia and Small Island Developing States are among the most vulnerable to climate change. All three of these Champions have made tangible contributions to promoting sustainable development in the face of this challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These are the Champions we are honouring tonight. Individually they each represent a lifetime of endeavour and achievement. Each of them embodies the true sprit of a Champion – someone who fights for, defends or protects.

Together, they are Champions for a future that I am confident we can bequeath to future generations. A future where the planet's natural resources are used intelligently and equitably - so that those who currently enjoy living standards such as we see around us can continue to do so, and so that those less fortunate can legitimately aspire to the same benefits - of clean air, drinkable water, adequate sanitation, healthy, viable ecosystems and increased life expectancy: in short, sustainable development.




Further Resources

Champions of the Earth Website

Global Business Summit for the Environment (B4E)

Winners of UNEP Champions of the Earth Awards 2008 Call for Urgent Action on Climate Change
UNEP Press Release


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