|Press Conference to Announce Equator Prize 2015 Winners|
United Nations, New York, NY
United Nations leaders and Academy Award-nominated actor and activist Alec Baldwin came together on Monday, September 21st 2015 to announce the winners of the Equator Prize 2015, an award that recognizes outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty, protect nature and strengthen resilience in the face of climate change.
The press conference was moderated by Magdy Martínez-Solimán (Assistant Administrator, UNDP) and featured Helen Clark (Administrator, UN Development Programme), Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), Hans Brattskar (Senior Advisor to UNDP on Forests, Sustainable Development, Indigenous and Local Communities’ Issues), Alec Baldwin (actor and activist) and Hilaria Baldwin.
Local solutions to global challenges
Helen Clark opened the press conference by highlighting the importance of local climate and sustainable development solutions. “Local actions are an incredible part of the transition to more sustainable ways of developing. And they signal to the world that there is hope and there is leadership, and it’s coming from the local level.”
Ms. Clark noted that while there could only be 21 winners, there was a record 1,461 nominations from 126 countries for the Equator Prize 2015. She suggested that this demonstrated a global movement of grassroots innovation in addressing the challenges posed by poverty, environmental degradation and climate change.
Christiana Figueres also acknowledged the importance of community leadership in addressing international challenges. “It is at the local level that global action starts,” said Christiana Figueres, who went on to say that recognition was in order for all communities that applied for the Equator Prize. “We should while we celebrate the winners also celebrate everyone who put in their submissions,” said Ms. Figueres.
Alec Baldwin gave a personal reflection about the role that community-based action plays in meeting global challenges. “What I have come to realize,” said Baldwin, “is that the change we need is not going to come from governments alone. Leadership is needed at all levels. And there is power and creativity and ingenuity and vision and leadership coming from grassroots movements everywhere.”
Outsized consequences of climate change on indigenous peoples
A prevailing theme in the press conference was that indigenous peoples and local communities around the world are disproportionately impacted by climate change. From natural disasters to resource scarcity, all panelists acknowledged that indigenous peoples and local communities are particularly vulnerable. “I can tell you one thing,” said Hans Brattskar. “They feel the impact of climate change in a real and a big way, every day. They are vulnerable and they are suffering, and it is deeply affecting their prospects of sustainable development.”
Brattskar was quick to point out, however, that the story of indigenous peoples and climate change is not just one of vulnerability, but also of innovation and leadership. “Indigenous peoples are in no way only victims of climate change,” said Hans Brattskar. “They are an important part of the solution.”
The Equator Prize 2015 winners
This is the first time the Equator Prize is being awarded to groups from Afghanistan, Guyana and Iran. Winning organizations also come from Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia/Kenya, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia/Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, and Uganda. Several of the winning initiatives were referenced during the press conference. To read summaries of all 21 winners of the Equator Prize 2015, please click here.
Connecting the dots: community land rights, forests and climate mitigation
This round of the Equator Prize put a strong thematic focus on the protection, restoration and sustainable management of forests, securing and protecting rights to communal lands, territories and natural resources and advocacy for environmental justice.
“Some of our prize winners have succeeded in securing land rights and resource access for hundreds of communities,” said Helen Clark. “Between them…they have protected forests, fields and coastlines and waterways from degradation and destruction. This is the true face of sustainable development.”
“It is very important to secure their land rights,” Hans Brattskar said. “If those rights are weak, the forests tend to more vulnerable to deforestation. We must protect community land rights – they must be legally recognized and protected by governments. In that way, we can make a significant contribution to reducing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The importance of 2015
From left to right: Helen Clark (Administrator, UNDP), Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), Hans Brattskar (Senior Advisor to UNDP on Forests, Sustainable Development, Indigenous and Local Communities’ Issues),
The panel acknowledged the importance of the Equator Prize being awarded in 2015. Helen Clark in particular focused on the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development. “The achievements of the Equator Prize winners tell us something very fundamental,” said Clark. “That low cost, innovative and local solutions do help the world to battle climate change and realize sustainable development.”
Christiana Figueres focused her comments on the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), voicing her appreciation for having the Equator Prize held as a contribution to the summit. “We really stand this year in front of I think the most important opportunity we have had in decades of truly making a difference. Thank you very much for making an exception and being willing to have the Equator Prize this year,” said Figueres.
Alec Baldwin used the opportunity to make an appeal for action. “Paris is not mission impossible, it is mission critical. We need leadership now.”
In the News
UN, Alec Baldwin honor grassroots efforts to slow climate change, Al Jazeera America