UNEP Champion Crosses United States in Solar Aircraft
Nairobi, May 22 2013 - A solar-powered aircraft piloted by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Champion of the Earth Dr. Bertrand Piccard and his colleague André Borschberg today embarked on the second leg of a coast-to-coast flight across the United States, aimed at highlighting the every growing possibility of a clean-energy future.
Dr. Piccard was in 2012 among six winners of the Champions of the Earth award, given to those whose actions and leadership have had a positive impact on the environment. He won in the Inspiration and Action category for raising global awareness of the possibilities of renewable energy-driven transport.
The ultra-lightweight revolutionary airplane, capable of flying day and night without fuel, completed the first leg of its flight from San Francisco to Phoenix, Arizona earlier this month. The rest of the journey will see it hop to Dallas, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; Washington DC; and New York City.
"Ten years ago, when we set out to build a solar-powered airplane that could fly day and night without fuel, many thought it was impossible," the pilots said in a statement. "Today with Solar Impulse, we have an incredible ambassador for clean technology."
"Now, it's time to take our project to the next level and create an influential global movement to promote the use of clean technology," they added. "As we fly across the United States, we're going to use every opportunity to encourage governments, CEOs, and other decision-makers to support and deploy clean technologies."
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The latest phase of the project comes in the wake of findings showing that greenhouse gas emissions hit 400 parts per million - the highest level for around three million years. While Solar Impulse is on track, the world-wide effort to keep a global temperature rise under 2 degrees C is not."
"Governments have agreed to a new, universal climate agreement by 2015 under the UN climate convention - Solar Impulse symbolizes a future where a transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient future is not a dream but a reality if the creativity of engineers and individuals like Bertrand Piccard and his team are unleashed on some of the greatest challenges and opportunities of this generation," he added.
The flight also officially launched the Clean Generation initiative - a movement of like-minded people ready for change and greater investment in technological innovation for a cleaner future.
Dr. Piccard, whose father and grandfather were both also renowned explorers and pioneers, created Solar Impulse in 2003 four years after his Breitling Orbiter project achieved the first non-stop balloon flight around the globe, capturing the records for the longest flight in the history of aviation in terms of duration and distance.
Solar Impulse in 2010 completed the world's first solar 26-hour day and night flight. In 2011, Solar Impulse flew to Brussels and Paris, and in 2012, the prototype completed the first intercontinental flight connecting Europe to Africa.
The project's ultimate goal is to fly around the world in 2015 with the second generation aircraft currently under construction.
Champions of the Earth, which was launched in 2005, is the UN's flagship environmental award. To date, it has recognized 51 individuals and organizations for their leadership, vision, inspiration and action on the environment.
Mongolia's President Tsakhia Elbegdorj was also honoured alongside Dr. Piccard for delivering on promises to put the environment at the forefront of policies. This holds particular resonance now, as Mongolia is the global host of World Environment Day (WED) 2013.
Taking place on and around June 5, WED this year is focused on the new UNEP and UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) campaign Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint, which is aimed at slashing the 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted or lost each year.
Visit www.unep.org/champions for more on Champions of the Earth, and www.unep.org/wed for more on WED.
For more information, please contact:
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Director of Communications and Spokesperson
+254 733 632 755, +41 795965737
UNEP Newsdesk (Nairobi)
+254 725 939 620