The United Nations Environment Programme has announced the names of the 35 regional finalists, including Joy Egbe from Nigeria and four other Africans, competing for the Young Champions of the Earth prize – the UN’s highest environmental honour for young people.

The global competition aims to identify, support, and celebrate outstanding individuals, aged between 18 and 30, with big ideas to protect the environment.

Development Diaries observed that the 35 finalists were chosen from a total of 845 applicants across regions, and they were selected for their fresh approach to tackling the world’s most pressing environmental crises, with groundbreaking, scalable and innovative ideas.

From protecting indigenous Amazonian land through adventure travel, to converting harmful emissions into valuable commodities in the United States, to fishing for plastic in Greece and generating electricity from water in Nigeria, the finalists tackled a broad range of environmental challenges with the potential to drive real change.

Egbe, 28, developed Just Add Water – a device that uses conformer solar cells and water to generate hydrogen via reversible fuel cells.

‘The apparatus is designed to produce electricity and cooking gas for households without any cost of refueling, simply the addition of water. We understand that clean water is often scarce in Africa, especially in rural areas, so we developed our technology to perform better with household grey water’, she said.

‘Our solution is in its pilot stage, currently serving 26 households in Nigeria and five businesses. We believe this technology will revolutionise Africa’s energy and will help eliminate our heavy dependence on the fossil fuels causing so much damage to our planet’.

The other Africans on the list are Ghislain Irakoze (Rwandan), Fernanda Samuel (Angolan), Nzambi Matee (Kenyan) and Richard Kakunga Wambua (Kenyan).

It was gathered that a global jury made up of UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen; 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 will select seven winners, one from each region and two from Asia-Pacific, and the winners will be announced in December. The winners will receive US$10,000 in funding as well as tailored support to bring their ideas to life.

Andersen said, ‘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 is 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’.

‘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. We are committed to providing young change-makers a voice, a platform, and the opportunity to make their journey a success, while inspiring millions more around the world’, she added.

Source: UN Environment Programme

Photo source: IAEA Imagebank

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