Green Star Awards: Environmental emergency “heroes” honoured

10 September, 2013
Fukushima mayor, documentary maker Sir David Attenborough and Hurricane Sandy Debris Removal Task Force among winners of the 2013 Green Star Awards.
Fukushima mayor, documentary maker Sir David Attenborough and Hurricane Sandy Debris Removal Task Force among winners of the 2013 Green Star Awards.

Individuals and organisations involved in responding to a range of environmental emergencies, including the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Hurricane Sandy, forest fires and climate change, have been honoured as recipients of the third Green Star Awards.

The awards recognize individuals, organizations, governments and companies that have made remarkable efforts to prepare for and respond to actions to prevent environmental emergencies. Held every two years, the awards are jointly hosted by OCHA, the NGO Green Cross International (GCI) and the United Nations Environment Programme.

“The Green Star Awards recognize people who are on the front lines of preventing, preparing for and responding to environmental emergencies, tackling life threatening pollution and other hazards, and helping people reconstruct their lives after a devastating forest fire or tsunami,” said UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos in a video message shown at the ceremony.

“We owe a particular debt of gratitude to people who work behind the scenes to prevent emergencies, and to help people prepare for their impact.”

“This momentum needs to intensify”

The six winners were the Kenya Red Cross Society; Professor Nikola Nikolov of Macedonia, Sundar Prasad Sharma of Nepal, and Professor Sergiy Zibtsev of Ukraine (who received a joint award); the Mayor of Japan’s Katsurao Village, Masahide Matsumoto; the New York City Hurricane Sandy Debris Removal Task Force; the World Wildlife Fund and the American Red Cross.

Over 250 people attended the event, including the former President of the Soviet Union and founder of GCI, Mikhail Gorbachev, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands and ex-head of the UN Refugee Agency, Ruud Lubbers, and French explorer and environmentalist Jean Michel Cousteau. Famed British environmentalist Sir David Attenborough, though unable to attend in person, was honored with a special lifetime award for his work on raising awareness on climate change, and his 60 years of dedication to the environment.

Wendy Cue, who manages the joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, said the 2013 Awards were the most successful since they were first launched in 2009, with more than 30 nominations being received.

“This shows how seriously people all around the world are taking the threats posed by environmental emergencies,” Ms. Cue said. “This momentum needs to intensify if the world is going to be able to keep pace with the increasing threats posed to communities and the environment by manmade emergencies.”

“True heroes”

GCI President Alexander Likhotal praised the Green Star Award recipients for their commitment to tackling threats posed by environmental emergencies.

“These people and organizations are true heroes who not only recognize the dire need to be able to prevent environmental emergencies and protect people from their impacts, but are actually doing something about it,” he said.

“Threats posed by unchecked industrial activities, or human-induced climate change, must be minimized. At the same time, taking measures to improve emergency preparedness, as demonstrated by the Awardees, needs to be expanded.”

In the past decades, the world has seen more and more devastating disasters. In 2011 and 2012 alone, more than 600 disasters were recorded, affecting over 300 million people and inflicting economic damages of US$500 million, according to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

About this year’s winners

Masahide Matsumoto, Mayor of Japan’s Katsurao Village, who evacuated 1,600 residents to safety the day before the second and third reactor explosions at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011.

The Kenya Red Cross Society, for its efforts in disaster risk reduction, especially in the context of the September 2011 industrial accident, fuel spill and fire in Nairobi.

Professor Nikola Nikolov of Macedonia, Sundar Prasad Sharma of Nepal, and Professor Sergiy Zibtsev of Ukraine for their leadership and work to strengthen national capacities to respond to the humanitarian and environmental impacts of wildfires.

The New York City Hurricane Sandy Debris Removal Task Force for their response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

The World Wildlife Fund and the American Red Cross for their joint development of the Green Recovery and Reconstruction Toolkit, following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, to ensure disaster recovery efforts are sustainable.

More about the awards>> 
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