Belmonte among UN’s ‘Champions of the Earth’

Quezon City Mayor Josefina “Joy” Belmonte is the first Filipino elected official to receive the “Champions of the Earth” recognition from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP formally announced Belmonte and other individuals and institutions as laureates of the award on their official website at

UNEP has named Belmonte as one of this year’s “Champions of the Earth” for her leadership and effective climate actions to eliminate plastic pollution in the city.

“For her efforts to transform Quezon City into an environmental trailblazer, Belmonte has been named the 2023 Champion of the Earth for Policy Leadership, one of the UN’s highest environmental honors,” Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP, said.

“Mayor Josefina Belmonte’s passionate leadership and policy achievements exemplify how local authorities can solve global environmental problems. Cities can be the dynamic engines of change we need to overcome the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature, and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste — and mayors can help to lead that charge,” Andersen added.

UNEP’s past Filipino awardees are former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Elisea “Bebet” Gillera Gozun in 2007, human rights activist and environmentalist Joan Carling in 2018, and environmentalist Louise Mabulo in 2019.

For her part, Belmonte said that the award will serve as an inspiration to develop more sustainable initiatives for the benefit of every QCitizen.

“The people, especially the marginalized, is the city’s top priority in crafting just and effective climate action. I am very thankful to the UNEP for recognizing our programs,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte is the UN Champion of the Earth under the Policy Leadership category, which recognizes individuals and organizations in the government that lead their country in pioneering action for the environment. She joins over 100 Champion of the Earth awardees since its launch in 2005.

“This is a recognition of our unwavering dedication to environmental conservation and sustainability which has not only inspired our city but also set a remarkable example for the world. Quezon City will continue to lead the charge towards environmental protection through various means such as pushing for a circular economy, natural resources conservation, sustainable urban agriculture, green infrastructure, among others,” Belmonte added.

The Quezon City Government, under the leadership of Belmonte, has been implementing various policies to reduce the use of plastic in the community and prevent it from clogging the sewers and riverways.

QC enacted ordinances prohibiting the use of single-use plastic bags and disposable cutleries, straws, and cups in restaurants for dine-in customers and single-use containers and sachets in hotels.

In 2021, the city also established the Trash to Cashback program that recovers plastic waste in the communities, in exchange for environmental points (EP). The residents can use these EPs to purchase groceries and pay utility bills.

Through the “Vote to Tote” program, thousands of tons of campaign tarpaulins were retrieved to be upcycled and turned into bags.

In June, the city government partnered with Greenpeace to launch the “Kuha sa Tingi” program that establishes community-based refill hubs in sari-sari stores to help address plastic pollution. It aims to provide residents with more affordable and eco-friendly alternatives to products such as liquid detergent, fabric conditioner, and dishwashing liquid, which usually comes in sachets.

Since becoming the city mayor in 2019, Belmonte has declared a climate emergency in the city, prompting the creation of programs to protect the environment and allotting 11 to 13 percent of the city’s annual budget to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis.

Recently, Belmonte was also named by the National Resilience Council (NRC) as one of the country’s resilience champions for her initiatives to promote community-based urban farming programs as a response to food insecurity.