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Six environmental leaders receive Champions of the Earth award –UN's top environmental prize

By United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Six inspirational environmental leaders representing government, research and grassroots action received today the United Nations' highest environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth award, during a global conference on biological diversity in Cancún, Mexico.

The annual award recognizes outstanding figures from the public and private sectors and from civil society whose actions have had a significant positive impact on the environment.

From an indigenous activist killed for protecting the environment, to the world's largest beach clean-up organizer, this year's awards recognize bold visionaries who confront the defining challenges of our generation, such as climate change, marine litter and the depletion of natural resources.

Each of the laureates, in different ways, shows how shifting the world onto a path that is low-carbon, efficient, inclusive, and socially, economically and environmentally sustainable is not only possible, but already in progress.

The 2016 winners are:

FOR POLICY LEADERSHIP

H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, for outstanding leadership in fighting climate change and in national environmental action.

FOR SCIENCE AND INNOVATION

Leyla Acaroglu, founder of Disrupt Design, New York, Eco Innovators, Melbourne, and UnSchool, for dedication to positive change through design, innovation, communication and human connection.

FOR ENTREPRENEURIAL VISION

Masen - the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy, for its commitment to advancing solar power, making solar energy affordable and innovative approaches to green financing.

FOR INSPIRATION AND ACTION

Afroz Shah, for outstanding leadership and initiative in mobilizing large-scale public support to remove 3000 tonnes of litter from Versova beach in Mumbai.

Berta Cáceres, recognized posthumously for her tireless campaign for the rights of indigenous people in Honduras and the protection of their natural environment.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

José Sarukhán Kermez, for a lifetime of leadership and innovation in the conservation of biodiversity in Mexico and around the world.

The head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said:

"All around the world, we have seen significant efforts to translate last year’s historic sustainable development agreements into action, from the ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the New Urban Agenda to the intensifying of efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.

"But governments know they cannot do it alone, and this year’s Champions have demonstrated the vision and engagement needed at all levels to improve our stewardship of the planet, to develop it sustainably, and secure the prosperity of all of its people.”