UNEP Champions of The Earth Award

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the United Nations’ highest environmental honour, the ‘UNEP Champions of the Earth’ award at a special ceremony in Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra, New Delhi.

The award was announced on the sidelines of 73rd UN General Assembly at New York City, was presented by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Prime Minister Modi has been selected in the leadership category for his pioneering work in championing the International Solar Alliance and for his unprecedented pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in India by 2022.

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.

He was among the six winners who got the award this year. The award was for his “unprecedented pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in India by 2022.” Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron were recognised in the ‘Policy Leadership Category’ for their “pioneering work in championing” the International Solar Alliance and “new areas of levels of cooperation on environmental action”.

The Cochin International Airport took home the ‘Entrepreneurial Vision’ Award for its leadership in the use of sustainable energy.

The other winners include environmental and indigenous rights defender Joan Carling and the ‘Beyond Meat and Impossible Food’ in the Science and Innovation category for their popular, plant-based alternative to beef and “their efforts to educate consumers about environmentally conscious alternatives.”

China’s Zhejiang’s Green Rural Revival Programme was awarded for the Inspiration and Action for the “transformation of a once heavily polluted area of rivers and streams in East China’s Zhejiang province.”

The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) established Champions of the Earth in 2005 as an annual awards programme to recognize outstanding environmental leaders from the public and private sectors, and from civil society. Typically, five to seven laureates are selected annually. This awards programme is a successor to UNEP’s Global 500 Roll of Honour.

In 2017, the program was expanded to include Young Champions of the Earth – a forward looking prize for talented innovators, 18 to 30, who demonstrate outstanding potential to create positive environmental impact. The initiative is run in partnership with Covestro.


Narendra Modi and Emmanuel Macron – Policy Leadership

Beyond Meat – Science and Innovation

Impossible Foods – Science and Innovation

Cochin International Airport – Entrepreneurial Vision

Zhejiang’s Green Rural Revival Programme – Inspiration and Action

Joan Carling – Lifetime Achievement Award


Michelle Bachelet – Policy Leadership

Paul A. Newman & NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center – Science and Innovation

Mobike – Entrepreneurial Vision

Jeff Orlowski – Inspiration and Action

Saihanba Afforestation Community – Inspiration and Action

Christopher I’Anson – General Champion

Wang Wenbiao – Lifetime Achievement Award


Afroz Shah – Inspiration and Action

Berta Cáceres – Inspiration and Action

José Sarukhán Kermez – Lifetime Achievement

Leyla Acaroglu – Science and Innovation

The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) – Entrepreneurial Vision

Paul Kagame – Policy Leadership


Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh – Policy Leadership

Black Mamba APU – Inspiration & Action

The National Geographic Society – Science & Innovation

Natura Brasil – Entrepreneurial Vision

Paul Polman – Entrepreneural Vision


Boyan Slat – Inspiration and Action

Fatima Jibrell, Somalia – Environmental conservation

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – Policy Leadership

Tommy Remengesau, Jr – Policy Leadership

Mario José Molina-Pasquel Henríquez – Lifetime Leadership

Robert Watson (scientist) – Science and Innovation

Sylvia Earle – Lifetime Leadership

S. Green Building Council – Entrepreneurial Vision


Janez Potočnik – Policy Leadership

Brian McClendon – Entrepreneurial Vision

Carlo Petrini – Inspiration and Action

Izabella Teixeira – Policy Leadership

Jack Dangermond – Entrepreneurial Vision

Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo – Inspiration and Action

Veerabhadran Ramanathan – Science and Innovation


President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Mongolia – Policy Leadership category

Fabio Coletti Barbosa, Brazil (CEO of Grupo Abril) and Dr Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, United Arab Emirates (CEO of Masdar)- Entrepreneurial Vision category

Bertrand Piccard, Switzerland – Inspiration and Action category

Sander Van der Leeuw, Netherlands – Science and Innovation category

Samson Parashina, Kenya – Special Category for Grassroots Initiatives


President Felipe Calderón, Mexico – Policy Leadership Category

Olga Speranskaya, Russia – Science & Innovation Category

Zhang Yue, Broad Group, China – Entrepreneurial Vision Category

Louis Palmer, Switzerland – Inspiration & Action Category [co-winner]

Angélique Kidjo, Benin – Inspiration & Action Category co-winner [Veerabhadran Ramanathan]


President Mohamed Nasheed, Maldives – Policy Leadership Category

Taro Takahashi, Japan – Science & Innovation Category

Vinod Khosla, India – Entrepreneurial Vision Category

Prince Mostapha Zaher, Afghanistan – Inspiration & Action Category [co-winner]

Zhou Xun, China – Inspiration & Action Category co-winner

Special Award: President Bharrat Jagdeo, Guyana – For Biodiversity Conservation & Ecosystem Management