Young innovators vying for top UN environmental prize

20 July 2020

Thirty-five young people with innovative ideas for tackling challenges such as protecting indigenous Amazonian land through adventure travel, converting harmful emissions into valuable commodities in the United States, and generating electricity from water in Nigeria, have been named as regional finalists for one of the UN’s most prestigious environmental awards.

Representing five regions of the world, they will compete for the Young Champions of the Earth prize, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) announced on Monday.

Pandemic no deterrent

“Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cutting-edge solutions presented by this year’s Young Champions finalists, are truly remarkable. It is clear that this pandemic did not shut down the fight for a better world. Instead, it has reminded us of what’s at stake in our battle for the planet, and highlights how building back better will help address the climate crisis and preserve human and planetary health”, said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

The Young Champions of the Earth prize is the UN’s highest environmental honour for youth.

The global competition celebrates outstanding individuals aged between 18 and 30 who have big ideas to protect or restore the environment.

The 35 finalists were selected from 845 applicants who presented groundbreaking and scalable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems. More information about them can be found here.

A global jury will choose the seven overall winners: one from each region, and two from Asia-Pacific. Their names will be announced in December.

Bringing ideas to life

Each Young Champion will receive $10,000 in seed funding and tailored support to bring their ideas to life, as well as access to powerful networks and mentors.

“Young people all around the world are raising awareness about the wrong choices we have made and the impact of environmental destruction on their future”, said Ms. Andersen.

“We are committed to providing young changemakers a voice, a platform and the opportunity to make their journey a success, while inspiring millions more around the world.”

The UN environment chief will serve on the jury to choose this year’s winners. Other members will include the UN Secretary General's Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake; UNEP’s Supporter for Creative Economy, Roberta Annan, and Chief Executive Officer of the UN Foundation, Elizabeth Cousens.

The prize is sponsored by Covestro, described as the world’s leader in polymer solutions. The company manufactures products used in many areas of daily life, serving the automotive, construction and wood processing industries, among others.


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.