President of Palau becomes Champion of the Earth for his pioneering Green Economy Policies

Bangkok, 17 November 2014 – President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, Jr,  was announced today as a winner of the UN’s top environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth award.

The Policy Leadership award, which has been won in previous years by European Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Potocnik, and Brazil’s Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira, will be awarded to President Remengesau for his visionary leadership in spearheading major conservation initiatives, and building his country’s economic resilience through green economy policies.

Under the leadership of President Remengesau, Palau is showing the way to protect its invaluable natural resources while balancing the needs and traditions of its people. Earlier this year the President announced the world’s first Nation-wide Marine Sanctuary that fully protects over 80 per cent of Palau’s 600,000 sq km of Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Sanctuary bans industrial and foreign fishing as well as exports, while establishing a local fishing zone for domestic use. This is a bold step to reverse degradation of the ocean and stands to ignite further global action on oceans.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Palau is an inspiring example of a small island nation courageously addressing the global challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss through a blue-green economy transition, and reflects the level of commitment many Small Island Developing States demonstrated earlier this year to advancing national sustainable development goals at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States through the S.A.M.O.A Pathway Outcome Document.”

“Supporting President Remengesau - and other leaders of other small island nations - on this journey of transition, provides an unprecedented opportunity to be part of game-changing solutions that can be applied in broader contexts and bigger economies."

"In short, we should look upon small island nations like Palau as microcosms of our larger society, and not stand back and leave them to grapple with threats - such as climate change.”

The President has demonstrated the country's capacity to successfully meet its conservation goals, having established a network of protected areas representing more than 50 per cent of marine and 20 per cent of terrestrial areas through the Micronesia Challenge. This was largely funded by a “Green Fee” where tourists pay US$30 on departure from Palau, generating more than US$1.3 million annually for conservation.

The President has spearheaded a range of local to global initiatives, from the world’s first shark sanctuary to establishing the Global Island Partnership alongside President Michel of Seychelles, which has inspired more than 30 leaders to launch major sustainable island commitments.

Tommy Remengesau, President of Palau, said, “I am honored to receive this award on behalf of the traditional leaders, the people of Palau, and the islanders around the world, who are the stewards for the protection of our vast oceans and natural wealth."

“As a fisherman, I have seen first-hand the devastating impacts of overfishing, climate change and pollution on our oceans. As the leader of an island country, I know we have the solutions to tackle these issues. We need to stand together to take action now to protect our oceans and our Mother Earth for our generation and future children.”

Winners of UNEP's 2014 Champions of the Earth Award include:
H.E. Tommy Remengesau, Jr. President of Palau; H.E. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Sixth President of the Republic of Indonesia; Sir Robert Watson, eminent environmental scientist; Boyan Slat, Founder of The Ocean Clean-up Initiative and Mario Molina, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a leading scientist behind the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer.

The award covers the following categories: Policy Leadership, Entrepreneurial Vision, Lifetime Awardees, Science and Innovation, and Inspiration and Action.
Winners will be honoured by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at an awards ceremony attended by UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bundchen at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. on 19 November 2014.

For more information on UNEP’s Champions of the Earth visit http://www.unep.org

Notes to Editors

About Champions of the Earth
Champions of the Earth is the United Nations' flagship environmental award launched in 2005 that recognizes outstanding visionaries and leaders in the fields of policy, science, entrepreneurship, and civil society action. Whether by helping to improve the management of natural resources, demonstrating new ways to tackle climate change or raising awareness of emerging environmental challenges, Champions of the Earth should serve as an inspiration for transformative action across the world. Past laureates have included past laureates Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva, Vinod Khosla, and many other such exemplary leaders on the environment and development front.

Visit http://www.unep.org/champions/ for more details.

About UNEP
UNEP is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP's mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
UNEP is an advocate, educator, catalyst and facilitator promoting the wise use of the planet's natural assets for sustainable development. It works with many partners, UN entities, international organizations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, business, industry, the media and civil society. UNEP's work involves providing support for: environmental assessment and reporting; legal and institutional strengthening and environmental policy development; sustainable use and management of natural resources; integration of economic development and environmental protection; and promoting public participation in environmental management.

About Awards Sponsors

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, using the concept “let the sky be bluer and the water clearer”. 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.

The Smithsonian Institution
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum and research complex. It consists of 19 museums, a zoological park, nine research facilities, and numerous research programs around the globe in the areas of science, art, history, and culture. Its mission is to preserve America’s diverse heritage, to increase knowledge and to share its resources with the world. The Smithsonian's work helps to build bridges of mutual respect and understanding of the diversity of American and world cultures.

The UN Foundation
The United Nations Foundation links the UN’s work with others around the world, mobilizing the energy and expertise of business and non-governmental organizations to help the UN tackle issues including climate change, global health, peace and security, women's empowerment, poverty eradication, energy access, and U.S.-UN relations.

National Geographic
The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.

The Washington Post
The Washington Post is a leading news publisher that sits at the intersection of business and policy. Through its heritage and pedigree, it has been a pioneer at the forefront of objective, credible, award-winning journalism. An audience of influential leaders depend on the insight and analysis of the organization to make critical decisions that impact their business. The Washington Post paves the path for success through technology and engineering by bridging readers from today into the future of journalism. The 137 year old media company is forging new media consumption experiences for our readers across all platforms.

Please see contact information below for Laureates:

President of Palau, H.E.Tommy Remengesau Jr.
Mr Rebluud Kesolei – Deputy Chief of Staff - rebluud@gmail.com
Jessica Robbins – GLISPA – Jessica.robbins@glispa.org

For more information on the Champions of the Earth Award, please contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head, UNEP News & Media. Tel.: +254 713601259, E-mail:  unepnewsdesk@unep.org

Hugh Searight, News & Media, UNEP News Desk.  Tel: +254 726705561 unepnewsdesk@unep.org

Niamh Brannigan, News & Media, UNEP News Desk.  Tel: +254 717733348, unepnewsdesk@unep.org