UN Global Climate Action Awards

The Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) was announced as a winner of the 2020 United Nations Global Climate Action Awards for their contributions to combat climate change in a year that has cast darkness upon so many. The International Astronomical Union, a partner of the Global Himalayan Expedition through the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), congratulates the entire team for this well-deserved recognition.

GHE is one of the world’s leading organizations that couples tourism and technology in order to bring solar energy to remote communities. Through “Impact Expeditions” to remote Himalayan villages, GHE funds the capital cost of the hardware, transportation, installation and training of village-scale solar micro-grids. The infrastructure set up by GHE is owned and operated by the community. 

UN Secretary General António Guterres in his message to the winners said “I congratulate the champions of the 2020 UN Global Climate Action Awards, who provide tangible proof that climate action is under way 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." 

To date, GHE has solar electrified more than 131 villages in 3 regions of India, directly impacting the lives of more than 60,000 villagers through its Impact Expeditions. More than 3,200 households are now CO2-free as kerosene oil has been replaced with solar energy. A total solar capacity of 360 kW has been set up in some of the most remote villages of India. This has cut an aggregate of 35,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from these communities by eliminating the need for kerosene. 

Beyond climate action, GHE creates livelihood opportunities where astronomy is now playing a significant role. In partnership with the IAU OAD, GHE is setting up ‘’Astrostays’’, a unique community-based Astrotourism initiative to ensure sustainable development in these villages. The project uses the public’s fascination with the night sky to promote these villages as off-beat tourist destinations, generating revenue for the local communities while being climate-friendly. Based on the enormous success of the first Astrostay established in India, plans are underway to develop others around the world. 

Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE)
Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) was established in 2013 and is the first of its kind social impact initiative that combines technology and tourism to create development initiatives focussed on providing clean energy access, digital education and livelihood generation, resulting in a positive social impact for the remote communities of India. This leads to creating a holistic development model for the upliftment and livelihood generation of the local communities of the region. 
GHE is currently working in Ladakh and Meghalaya on development initiatives spanning across Clean Energy, Education, Livelihood and Carbon Offset using Clean Cookstoves. 

International Astronomical Union (IAU)
The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together about 13 000 distinguished astronomers from around the world. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.

Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD)
The International Astronomical Union (IAU), through a joint partnership with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), and with strong support from the South African Department of Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), established in 2011 the global Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa. The OAD’s vision is simply “Astronomy for a better world!” and its mission is: “To help further the use of astronomy as a tool for development by mobilizing the human and financial resources necessary in order to realise the field’s scientific, technological and cultural benefits to society.”

About the 2020 UN Global Climate Action Awards
The UN Global Climate Action Awards are spearheaded by the Momentum for Change initiative at UN Climate Change. GHE has been recognized for its innovative solution that not only addresses climate change, but also help drive forward progress on many other sustainable development goals, for example, innovation, gender equality and economic opportunity. The 2020 winning activities were selected by an international Advisory Panel as part of the UN Climate Change’s Momentum for Change initiative. 

The award announcement is part of the wider effort to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. It also sets the stage for two upcoming events in the climate change calendar: the Race To Zero Dialogues from 9-19 Nov, which will serve as critical input to the UNFCCC Climate Dialogues from 23 Nov to 4 Dec, which are advancing work governing the rules of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. 


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