An Indian organisation that leverages tourism and technology to help remote communities access solar energy has won a prestigious UN award for its efforts to combat climate change amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) is among the winners of the 2020 UN Global Climate Action Award.
GHE is one of the world's first organisations using tourism and technology to bring solar energy to remote communities.
The recipients of the 2020 United Nations Global Climate Action Awards, announced Tuesday, bring focus to the best examples of what people across the globe are doing "to combat climate change in a year that has cast darkness upon so many."
According to a statement on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website, GHE is the one of the world's first outfit using tourism and technology to bring solar energy to remote communities as recognised by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
In the Hindu Kush Region, there are more than 16 million people without access to basic energy mainly due to their geographic remoteness.
GHE conducts "Impact Expeditions" to remote Himalayan villages and uses a portion of the expedition fee to fund the capital cost of the hardware, transportation, installation and training of village-scale solar micro-grids.
The micro-grid infrastructure set up by GHE is owned and operated by the community.
To date, the GHE has solar electrified more than 131 villages in three regions of India, directly impacting the lives of more than 60,000 villagers. More than 1,300 travellers from 60 different countries have been a part of these expeditions. Enabling livelihood through homestay tourism has generated over USD 114,000 in income for the villages, which represents a 45 per cent increase in the annual household income, the statement said.
UNFCCC said this year's award-winning projects demonstrate leadership on climate change by nations, businesses, investors, cities, regions and civil societies as a whole. They range from the Caribbean's only carbon-neutral hotel to the world's first platform fully dedicated to green bonds to the first all-women solar team in Lebanon.
Congratulating the winners of the 2020 UN Global Climate Action Awards, UN Secretary-General Ant~CHECK~nio Guterres said the winners provide tangible proof that climate action is underway around the world.
"It is exciting to see these climate solutions, which reinforce my call for decisive leadership on climate change by governments, businesses and cities, and for a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us keep pressing ahead to build a more sustainable and equitable future for all," he said.
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said the last eight months have been a nightmare for many throughout the world.
"COVID-19 has altered lives, economies and the nature of business on every continent -- from the largest cities to the smallest villages. It is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term," said Espinosa.
Espinosa said the convergence of these two crises has opened a window of opportunity to build forward, to build cities and communities that are safe, healthy, green and sustainable.
"Nothing exemplifies this better than the efforts of our 2020 award-winning activities to address climate change."
The award announcement is part of the wider effort to mobilise action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN Global Climate Action Awards are spearheaded by the Momentum for Change initiative at UN Climate Change. The projects are recognised as innovative solutions that not only address climate change but also help drive progress on many other sustainable development goals.
The 2020 winning activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the UN Climate Change's Momentum for Change initiative.
"It is crucial we celebrate all actors who are leading the way," said Gabrielle Gin~CHECK~r, Chair of the Advisory Panel.
"The recipients of the UN Global Climate Action Awards send a strong political signal to all nations, and through their leadership and creativity, we see essential change."
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