26 Sep 2019 Speech Climate change

Champions of the Earth Award Ceremony and Gala

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am truly honoured to welcome you here tonight to celebrate the United Nations Environment Programme Champions of the Earth Award for 2019. Tonight we will honour women and men who are showing us every day that the race against climate change is a race we CAN win. This has been a critical week for global cooperation on climate change and sustainable development. Now it is time to act. What we need is willpower, determination and vision. It is therefore very fitting that tonight we gather to celebrate those very qualities. 

On many occasions I have sat where you are sitting now and each time, I have been inspired by the power of individuals to fundamentally reshape their world. I have been struck by the grit and determination of individuals who refuse to back down in the face of daunting challenges but instead seek, and find, solutions. 

This year’s Champions of the Earth, and this year’s Young Champions of the Earth, have stepped up to provide concrete solutions to the climate crisis, the defining issue of our time. Tonight we celebrate them. From entrepreneurs putting sustainability at the heart of their business strategy, to online pioneers using technology to protect our fragile ecosystems.

We have all seen the effects of the climate emergency. Global emissions are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking. Devastating storms and other extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. We have seen fires demolish forests across the world. We are swimming in dirty seas and we are breathing polluted air. The science is clear. The urgency is undeniable. But equally undeniable is the fact that we have the solutions. We have the knowledge. We have the technology. We have the tools. As we embark on this journey of discovery tonight, we are deeply grateful to our two sponsors Weibo and Covestro.

Our 2019 Champions and Young Champions, dare to dream bigger; they try harder, and they go further.

Their actions speak louder than words.

I know we will all leave here with hearts full of hope, heads full of ideas and a deep conviction that we WILL win the race against climate change. 

Thank you all. 

Inger Andersen

Executive Director

UN Environment Programme