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QC Mayor Joy Belmonte awarded top UN environmental honor

MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations’ environment agency named Quezon City Mayor Josefina “Joy” Belmonte a “champion of the Earth” for her efforts to transform the Philippines’ most populous city into an environmental trailblazer. 

The UN Environment Programme recognized Belmonte in the policy leadership category of the 2023 Champions of the Earth award, which is the intergovernmental organization’s highest environmental honor.

Belmonte received the award for her initiatives aimed at combating plastic pollution, addressing climate change, and greening Quezon City.

“Mayor Josefina Belmonte’s passionate leadership and policy achievements exemplify how local authorities can solve global environmental problems,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said. 

“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,” she added. 

Belmonte told UNEP that good governance “involves good stewardship of the environment.”

Under Belmonte’s leadership, Quezon City has focused on reducing plastic pollution, which is a major environmental problem in the Philippines. 

Quezon City has banned single-use plastic bags, cutlery, straws and containers in hotels, restaurants and fast-food chains for dine-in customers, as well as single-use packaging materials.

Since 2021, a scheme called “Trash to Cashback” has allowed residents to exchange recyclables and single-use plastic items for environmental points that can be redeemed to purchase food and pay electricity bills. 

In 2023, the city government launched an initiative to establish refill stations for basic commodities such as liquid detergent, fabric conditioner, and dishwashing liquid in sari-sari stores.

“Sachet culture really gets to me. It really is something that makes me angry because it is there because we are a poor country. Major manufacturers need to do their part and change the way they package products to make them more environmentally friendly,” Belmonte said.

Quezon City has also developed a plan to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% in 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.