Friday December 7th, 2001

UNEP Mourns the Loss of Special Envoy Sir Peter Blake

Nairobi, December 7, 2001 - Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), spoke today of his sadness and shock on learning of the death of Sir Peter Blake, the round the world yachtsman and environmental champion.

Mr. Toepfer said Sir Peter, who was appointed a Special Envoy to UNEP in July this year, was “a remarkable person, sportsman and environmentalist”.

“In a career littered with achievements, he reached the pinnacle of his chosen sport in 1995 and 2000 when he won the Americas Cup. Sir Peter brought the same determination, leadership, creativity and care to his activities with respect to the environment and we are all diminished by his loss,“ he added.

“One of Sir Peter’s special skills was to make the beauty of this planet and the environmental threats to it accessible to the scientist, the politician, business leaders and the ‘man and women’ on the street. This is a great and singular talent and one greatly admired by myself and the staff at UNEP who knew him personally and through his pioneering voyages,“ said Mr. Toepfer, who appointed Sir Peter at a ceremony at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland hosted by the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

“We are deeply saddened and shocked that the life of a person of so much ability, generosity and influence has been taken in this way. Our sympathy goes to his family and friends, and to the people of New Zealand. I sincerely hope that Sir Peter’s friends and colleagues can carry on his great work.“

UNEP supported Sir Peter’s latest ‘blakexpeditions’ project through provision of information and advice on environmental issues around the world.

In February, Sir Peter spoke to environment ministers gathered in Nairobi for UNEP’s Governing Council from his expedition yacht Seamaster in Antarctica. He had sailed further south along the Antarctic Peninsula than anyone had been before, due to the lack of sea ice and collapsing ice shelves, caused by changing climate conditions.

Last month, with hours of arriving at Manaus, the major Amazon port in central Brazil, he flew to Rio de Janeiro to meet Mr. Toepfer and Latin American environment ministers, to become involved in discussions about environmental protection and preparations for next year’s World Summit on Sustainable Development taking place in Johannesburg.

“In a lively and thought-provoking speech to the ministers, he talked about the great beauty he had seen on the Amazon and urged them to reflect on the importance and the need to protect these wonderful ecosystems,“ said Mr. Toepfer.

“Sir Peter’s vision, determination and actions were a great complement to the work of the United Nations. I hope that his message about the need to protect the world’s oceans and wild places will become an enduring legacy of this remarkable man,“ Mr. Toepfer said.