Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the United Nations ‘Champions of the Earth’ award, the world body’s highest environmental honour, from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday.
On September 26, Prime Minister Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron were recognised in the Policy Leadership category of the Champions of the Earth on the sidelines of the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York.
Dedicating his award to all Indians, Prime Minister Modi said that the award recognises a rich culture that has always seen God in nature.
He said that the award recognises the Adivasis of India who “love their jungles more than their lives”, the fisherman of India who only takes as much is required for sustenance, the farmers whose lives depend on the changing seasons and the women who are mindful about “reuse” and “recycle” and have lived by it every single day.
“Climate and calamity are directly related to culture, if climate is not the focus of culture, calamity cannot be prevented,” the Prime Minister said in his acceptance speech.
He further said, “The world is recognising India’s dedication towards nature today, but this has been a part of our lifestyle since time immemorial. When I say ‘Sabka Saath’, I also include nature in it.”
In his speech, Guterres said: “A green economy is a good economy. Technology is on the side of those who believe in a green economy. Those who have a green economy like India will have a dominant role in the global economy in the decades to come.”
Hauling up leaders who did not take aggressive steps to address climate change when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, Guterres remarked that “those who believed in a grey economy have a grey future”.
Lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s active efforts, Guterres elucidated: “We are recognising a statesman who embodies true leadership. In Prime Minister Modi, we have a leader who realises the issue of climate change and understands the benefits of climate action. He knows the problems and also works to solve them.”
Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Erik Solheimtoo lauded Prime Minister Modi’s visionary leadership for making efforts to realise a clean and green India.
He said: “Climate change poses an existential threat to the planet. Many leaders recognise this threat, but India and Prime Minister Modi are acting on it with enormous energy. We need more of this leadership.”
Solheim termed Prime Minister Modi’s pledge to eliminate single-use plastics by 2022 is a “brave effort”. He added that the UN is in collaboration with the government to look for ways in transforming agricultural waste in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana into biofuel.
Furthermore, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj underscored that honouring Prime Minister Modi with the ‘Champions of the Earth’ award is a fitting recognition of his leadership towards making the planet a cleaner place.
Hailing the Prime Minister for his vision of a clean environment, Swaraj recalled that when countries tried to back out from the Paris Agreement, Prime Minister Modi was firm that the pact has to stay to safeguard 5,000 years of Indian tradition and the world must come together.