Wang Wenbiao, Mobike and Saihanba Afforestation Community win as China dominates UN’s top environmental award
Nairobi, 5 December 2017 – Bike-sharing startup Mobike, Chairman of Elion Resources Group Wang Wenbiao, and the Saihanba Afforestation Community were among the inspirational environmental leaders to today receive the United Nations' highest environmental honour, the Champions of the Earth award, during the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.
President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, Paul A. Newman and his team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and American filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, were also lauded for actions that had a significant positive impact on the environment.
“As we face unprecedented threats to our environment, strong leadership at all levels is more important than ever,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “This year’s Champions embody the commitment, vision and energy we so desperately need.”
Wang Wenbiao, Chairman of Elion Resources Group, won a Lifetime Achievement award for a lifetime of leadership in green industry.
Better known in China as the “Son of the Desert”, Wang, 61, is the chairman of China’s largest private green industries enterprise, Elion Resources Group, with total assets of over USD 1.6 billion.
Wang bought the Hangjinqi Saltworks in the middle of the Kubuqi desert in 1988. He quickly realized that the saltworks’ financial woes, and the problems with livelihoods in the region, were down to the desert: sand interfering with production and making it difficult to transport products out.
He partnered with local communities and the Beijing government to combat desertification in the desert, which covers around 18,600 sq km in Inner Mongolia. Centuries of grazing had stripped the land, leaving around 70,000 people struggling to survive. Now around two-thirds of the desert has been greened and local communities have jobs and a more pleasant environment. UN Environment research estimated the project has a net value of $1.8 billion dollars over 50 years.
The project shows how private industry can both turn a healthy profit and make a massive positive contribution to climate change, sustainable development and many other environmental issues.
“My only life goal is to combat desertification for a greener world, with more lush mountains with clear water, which I always value as silver and gold mountains,” Wang said.
In November 2007, Wang was elected as the Vice Chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, and in 2008 won the China Charity Award. In January 2012, he won the title of ‘Chinese Model Worker in Green Work’ for the second time.
Mobike won in the Entrepreneurial Vision category for exploring market-driven solutions to air pollution and climate change.
Mobike is the world’s largest smart bike-sharing company. After two years of operation, the platform claims over 100 million registered users across more than 100 cities globally, servicing over 20 million rides a day.
Air pollution is a massive problem, particularly in countries like China and India, claiming an estimated 6.5 million lives each year. Bike sharing is a crucial alternative to motorized transport, and companies like Mobike are leading the way in cutting out journeys that contribute to air pollution and climate change.
According to figures collated by the company, Mobike users have cycled more than 18.2 billion kilometres, avoiding 4.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to taking 1.24 million cars off the road for a year.
Every Mobike bike has a GPS tracker, and the company collects bikes that don’t move or are unused – although they are designed to be maintenance-free for four years. The company also has an incentive/disincentive scheme, giving bonus points for proper parking to encourage users to leave their bikes in designated areas.
Mobike has also teamed up with US chemical firm, Dow, to conduct research on creating more eco-friendly bikes after reports of unsustainable manufacturing practices.
“It is a tremendous honour to receive this award,” said Mobike’s Founder and President, Hu Weiwei. “Combating climate change, through [pursuing] the United Nations sustainable development goals, is one of the world’s most important priorities, and we commit to using our technology and innovation to help governments and businesses join us in creating a pedal-powered green economy.”
Saihanba Afforestation Community won in the Inspiration and Action category for transforming degraded land into a lush paradise.
Saihanba, which covers 92,000 hectares and borders the southern edge of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, had by the 1950s become barren due to excessive logging, allowing sand to blow into Beijing from the northern deserts. In 1962, hundreds of foresters began planting trees in the area.
Three generations of these foresters have increased forest cover from 11.4 to 80 per cent. The forest now supplies 137 million cubic meters of clean water to the Beijing and Tianjin areas each year, while discharging c. 550,000 metric tons of oxygen. It has spurred economic growth with green sectors, generating USD15.1 million in 2016 alone.
“In the 55 years the farm has existed, people have been growing trees and protecting the forest like their own children,” said Liu Haiying, director of Saihanba Afforestation Community. “I believe that, as long as we continue to promote ecological civilization, generation after generation, China can create more green miracles like Saihanba and achieve harmony between humans and nature.”
About Champions of the Earth
The annual Champions of the Earth prize is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment.
Since being founded thirteen years ago, the awards have recognized 84 laureates – ranging from leaders of nations to grassroots activists – in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society.
Visit the website here: http://web.unep.org/championsofearth