President Tsakhia Elbegdorj of Mongolia led the peaceful democratic revolution in 1990 that ended the 70-year-long communist rule in the country. Since positioning himself as the “greenest” candidate in the 2009 presidential elections, Elbegdorj has taken steps to live up to his campaign promises including enhancing youth understanding of environmental protection through a “Citizens’ Education” project that educates young Mongolian students on the impacts climate change and the importance of environmental stewardship. As part of the project, his government has pledged to donate notebooks to students as an incentive to collect plastic bottles, plastic bags and other forms of waste for recycling.
In an effort to combat desertification in Mongolia, Elbegdorj declared, in 2010, the “National Tree Planting Day”, which takes place every second Saturday of May and October. The President appealed to individuals, communities as well as private sector representatives of Mongolia to make tree planting a habit and promote it throughout the nation. Also, a “National Tree Planting Fund” was created under the auspices of the President to offer support and training to NGOs and individuals actively engaged in green initiaties. Since 2011, over 2 million trees have been planted across Mongolia’s vast desert regions.
Besides this, Elbegdorj is exploring ways to utilize Mongolia’s solar energy, especially in the sparsely populated Gobi region. He has established the Gobitech, a research team that works in close contact with Desertech Project, whose main operations involve supplying the EU with clean energy by transferring solar energy generated from the Sahara Desert.
Elbegdorj has also directed his attention to to solving Ulaanbaatar‘s (Mongolia’s capital and largest city) long-standing air pollution problem which is triggered by over population and coal usage. As such, he initiated and submitted the draft Law on Decreasing the Capital City Air Pollution, which was approved by Parliament. At present, the National Committee on Decreasing the Capital City Air Pollution, established under the Office of the President, is working to implement the approved law.
In addition, Elbegdorj’s government is currently in the process of establishing a sub-city near Ulaanbaatar where a number of universities and state administrative offices will be transferred to, for the purpose of limiting coal burning in the capital city, transferring energy-saving technology, importing and increasing the use of thermal ovens that emits less smog and decreasing population centralization and imposing air-pollution tax in some regions of Ulaanbaatar.
In 2010, Elbegdorj called for the suspension of approvals of all new mining projects in Mongolia until fresh regulations were drawn up, citing the protection of the mineral-rich Asian country's environment and herdsmen's livelihoods. Elbegdorj said fish were dying off, biodiversity was threatened and the nomadic herdsman of Mongolia were suffering illness from drinking water polluted by mining.
In July 2011, Elbegdorj began a two-year term as president of the Community of Democracies, an intergovernmental organization of democracies and democratizing countries that works to strengthen and deepen democratic norms and practices worldwide. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change and has lectured on environmental protection abroad. He was instrumental in organizing the June 2011 international conference on water security in Mongolia.
President Tsakhia Elbegdorj was named as one of six recipients of UNEP’s Champions of the Earth 2012 award for leadership that had a positive impact on the environment.