24 Nov 2017 Press Release Ecosystems

UN Environment reveals Young Champion of the Earth for Latin America & the Caribbean

The United Nations Environment Programme today announces Ecuadorian biologist Liliana Jaramillo Pazmiño as a Young Champion of the Earth for her work in bringing back flora and fauna and reducing air pollution and vulnerability to natural disasters by encouraging more use of native plants in the green rooftops of our urbanized planet.

Liliana, 29, is one of six young winners – each representing a region of the world – being awarded a prize by the United Nations Environment Programme and polymer-producing giant Covestro given to support outstanding individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 who have big ideas to protect or restore the environment.

Beginning in her native city of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, a towering city with high rates of air pollution that causes inflammatory disease, Liliana has focused her research on identifying and cataloguing which native plant species are better adapted to urban environments and resilient to climate change.

As more of the world’s population inhabits dense urban environments, Liliana hopes her research into which plants can best save and serve the environment will be replicated across other urban settings. She dreams of a future where the urban sprawl sees cities bursting with green life across their concrete structures.

‘Native plants have a great potential to be used in green roofs because they’re adapted to the local conditions of the cities, plus their spread and use will allow the conservation of native flora and the fauna they bring that have been disappearing with urbanization,’ Pazmiño says.

Building on her research identifying native species suitable for green roofs, Pazmiño is currently researching how to integrate conservation and the development of green infrastructure into cities.

“Being a Young Champion of the Earth is a great opportunity because I feel that my ideas are powerful.  All of us have this seed inside us, this green spark for making a change.”

Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim says: "From boosting food crops in the Pacific to sustainable fashion solutions in North America, it's a delight to announce the first Young Champions of the Earth.

"The breadth of innovation and ambition shown by the inaugural winners is nothing short of exceptional, and proof that we must continue to channel support to the world's younger generation for the solutions we need to secure a sustainable future."

Patrick Thomas, Covestro CEO, remarked: “At Covestro, we feel strongly about giving young people opportunities to make positive changes that directly affect them and their own communities. Young Champions of the Earth has allowed this to happen via some amazing and exceptionally diverse ideas which help the environment and benefit the world we live in.

“Our employees have also embraced the competition by becoming mentors to our Young Champions, which tells us that securing a sustainable future is highly important for them personally and professionally. We are really pushing boundaries with this and will continue to support the great work of UN Environment.”

About Young Champions of the Earth

UN Environment and Covestro introduced the Young Champions of the Earth competition this year to accompany its long-running Champions of the Earth award, which recognizes outstanding environmental leaders from government, civil society and the private sector. This new, young competition recognizes the importance of supporting the innovation of the world’s newer generation to find lasting environmental solutions to the issues increasingly affecting them. 

Selected from more than 600 applicants, the six inaugural Young Champions represent each global region (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, and West Asia). Regional winners will be announced throughout November.   

What do the Young Champions receive?

Each winner receives the following: 

  • US$15,000 in seed funding;
  • Attendance at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, December 2017, and the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 2018;
  • An introduction to the world’s environment ministers at the Champions of the Earth Gala Dinner in Nairobi, December 2017;
  • Publicity and recognition through online and global media;
  • Access to high-profile mentors and customized training in communications, project planning, financial management and more.
  • Participation in an intensive, one-week entrepreneurship course in Europe in the first quarter of 2018.


About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages 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. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About Covestro

With 2016 sales of EUR 11.9 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and sports and leisure industries. Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 15,600 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2016.