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Indian green economist wins 'environment Nobel'

By Yoshita Singh
January 28, 2020 18:27 IST
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Renowned Indian environmental economist and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) goodwill ambassador Pavan Sukhdev has won the 2020 Tyler Prize, regarded as the ‘Nobel Prize for the Environment’, for his ground-breaking "green economy" work. 

IMAGE: Pavan Sukhdev. Photograph: Courtesy Pavan Sukhdev on Twitter.

Sukhdev, 59, who will receive the award alongside conservation biologist Gretchen Daily, has been acknowledged for his work on bringing the economic consequences of environmental degradation and loss to the attention of corporate and political decision-makers. 

The duo will receive the award at a private ceremony on May 1 in the United Nations in the presence of the Tyler Prize Executive Committee and distinguished members of the international environmental community. They will each receive a gold medallion and share a USD 200,000 cash prize, it was announced on Monday. 

They will deliver a public presentation of their work at the New York Academy of Sciences in April. 


Sukhdev was the special adviser and head of UNEP's Green Economy Initiative, a major project launched by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to demonstrate that greening of economies is not a burden on growth but rather a new engine for growing wealth, increasing decent employment and reducing persistent poverty. 

Sukhdev was also appointed Study Leader (2008-2010) of the landmark initiative on ‘The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity' (TEEB), a global UNEP-hosted study.           The TEEB report became a foundation for the Green Economy movement - an achievement for which Sukhdev is being awarded the 2020 Tyler Prize. 

“This award is equally a recognition of UNEP and its vibrant and active TEEB community,” Sukhdev said. 

“You don't have to be an environmentalist to care about protecting the environment. Just ask a farmer who now must rent beehives to pollinate his crops, because there are no longer enough bees in wild nature to do the job for free. But bees don't send invoices, so the value of their services is not recognised,” he said. 

The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement is one of the oldest international environmental awards, recognising individuals who have contributed in an outstanding manner to the scientific knowledge and public leadership to preserve and enhance the global environment. 

Often described as the "Nobel Prize for the Environment', the Tyler Prize is administered by the University of Southern California. 

Achim Steiner, former UNEP chief, said Sukhdev and Daily have “generated ground-breaking insights into the economic value of our natural environment -- prompting decision-makers to implement new measures to protect our planet's ecosystems and biodiversity.” 

Having worked closely with Sukhdev over many years, Steiner, who is currently the Administrator of United Nations Development Programme, added that he considered his work on the TEEB to be “truly transformative -- it has generated a new narrative on the economic and social importance of nature's services, and a new community of practice.” 

Sukhdev currently serves the World Wildlife Fund as President and Chairman of the Board as well as Board Member for TEEB Advisory Board, Stockholm Resilience Centre, and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Yoshita Singh works for PTI. She can be contacted at

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