Saihanba Afforestation Community is awarded UN"s highest environmental honor. [Photo by Pan Zhongming/chinadaily.com.cn]
The United Nations on Tuesday awarded three of its highest environmental honors to an environmental project in China, to Shanghai-based Mobike, the world"s largest bike-sharing company, and to the chairman of China"s largest private green industries enterprise, during the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.
The three are among the six winners of this year"s award of the Champions of the Earth. The other three are from Chile and the United States.
"As we face unprecedented threats to our environment, strong leadership at all levels is more important than ever," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. "This year"s Champions embody the commitment, vision and energy we so desperately need."
Saihanba Afforestation Community from China was awarded the honor in the category of Inspiration and Action due to its efforts to transform degraded land into a lush paradise.
Saihanba, which covers 92,000 hectares, had by the 1950s become barren due to excessive logging, allowing sand to blow into Beijing from the northern deserts.
In 1962, hundreds of foresters began planting trees in the area. Three generations of these foresters have increased forest cover from 11 percent to 80 percent. The forest now supplies 137 million cubic meters of clean water to the Beijing and Tianjin areas each year, while discharging 550,000 metric tons of oxygen. It has spurred economic growth with green sectors, generating $15.1 million in 2016 alone, according to the release from the UN Environment.
"In the 55 years the farm has existed, people have been growing trees and protecting the forest like their own children," said Liu Haiying, director of Saihanba Forest Farm. "I believe that, as long as we continue to promote ecological civilization, generation after generation, China can create more green miracles like Saihanba and achieve harmony between humans and nature."
Mobike was awarded the honor in the category of Entrepreneurial Vision for exploring market-driven solutions to air pollution and climate change.
Wang Wenbiao, chairman of Elion Resources Group, was awarded the honor in the category of Lifetime Achievement for his lifetime of leadership in the green industry. Better known in China as the "Son of the Desert", Wang, 61, is the chairman of China"s largest private green industries enterprise, Elion Resources Group
Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile, was awarded the Policy Leadership honor for outstanding leadership in creating marine protected areas and boosting renewable energy. The Science and Innovation honor was given to Dr Paul A. Newman and his team at NASA"s Goddard Space Center for outstanding contributions to the Montreal Protocol, which has phased out 99 percent of ozone-depleting substances and led to the healing of the ozone layer. The Inspiration and Action honor was given to Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, for his work on spreading powerful environmental messages to a global audience Orlowski is the founder of Exposure Labs, which uses the power of storytelling to create impact.
The annual Champions of the Earth prize, is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment. Since being founded 13 years ago, the awards have recognized 84 laureates – ranging from leaders of nations to grassroots activists – in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society.
View of Saihanba [Photo by Chen Jie/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]