Throwback Thursday: 2006 Prize Winner Yu Xiaogang, Then and Now

January 16, 2014

Dr. Yu Xiaogang was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2006 for his work to develop groundbreaking watershed management programs to protect China’s Nu River and riverside communities from dams and development.

In 2003, the Yunnan provincial government announced plans to construct 13 new dams on the Nu River, one of the Three Parallel Rivers – the Nu, the Jinsha (Yangtze) and the Lancang (Mekong.) The Three Parallel Rivers and surrounding watersheds are a World Heritage Site, the epicenter of Chinese biodiversity containing virgin forests, 6,000 species of plants and 79 rare or endangered animal species.

In 2004, thanks to Yu’s community empowerment and awareness building campaign, Premier Wen Jiabao suspended plans for the dams on the Nu River, saying more research and scientific analysis was needed.

Today, Yu is working with his team at Green Watershed to assess and monitor the performance of green credit policies in China’s banking system, in an effort to keep their activities transparent and accountable. Green Watershed’s program monitors 16 banks and publishes an annual report entitled, “Environmental Report of Chinese Banks.”

Banks use the report to keep track of their own environmental footprint and performance. Governments use it to monitor how well banks are implementing federal green credit policies, and the public can use it to put social pressure on banks to improve their practices.

When asked how winning the Goldman Prize has impacted his campaign, Mr. Yu stated:

“[Winning] the Goldman Prize encouraged me to do more work with strategic thinking… and scale up my environmental work from the local to the national level: we are now lobbying 16 big banks for green changes.”

Mr. Yu also said that since winning the Goldman Prize, he has been more empowered and has steadily received more attention for his environmental activities: “I am more respected by the local government and supported by more people.”

Over the next three years, Yu and Green Watershed hope to see China’s Bank Regulatory Commission develop green credit policies that meet international standards and they hope at least 30% of Chinese banks adopt those standards.