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Meet Nguy Thi Khanh, Vietnam's First Goldman Environmental Prize Winner

Late last month Nguy Thi Khanh, an environmentalist based in Hanoi, became the first Vietnamese national to win the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.

The award, now in its 29th year, is given out to grassroots advocates by the San Francisco-based Goldman Environmental Foundation. It is considered one of the highest honors in the environmental community. Each year, awards are given out to one winner from each of the world's six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.

Khanh, the founder of the Green Innovation and Development Center, or GreenID, an environmental NGO based in the capital, was recognized for her work on Vietnam's energy policy at both the governmental and grassroots levels. Upon hearing that she had won, Khanh tells Saigoneer in an email that she "was very surprised, and then asked for verification of the news. Knowing about the prize history, I felt super happy that my work was recognized at a global level."

Since late 2011, when GreenID was established, Khanh and her organization have focused on methods to make Vietnam's energy production more sustainable, most notably by advocating for a reduction in the use of coal-fired power plants.

"I found that the air pollution and environmental degradation are seriously threatening our people's health, community well-being and sustainable development of the nation in the long run," she says of her line of thinking at the time. "I just want to contribute as much as possible as a citizen and as a mother who wants to create the best living environment for our kids."

According to the Goldman Prize's website, Khanh "used scientific research and engaged Vietnamese state agencies to advocate for sustainable long-term energy projects in Vietnam. Highlighting the cost and environmental impacts of coal power, she partnered with state officials to reduce coal dependency and move toward a greener energy future."

Of course, Khanh's win doesn't mean that her work is complete. "I will continue to collaborate with multi-stakeholders and state agencies to promote and support a just energy transition, clean air and water and green growth in Vietnam," she explains. "We propose alternative power scenarios which can help Vietnam to strengthen its energy security, reduce coal power and increase renewable and energy efficiency and improve the health of our people."

She also hopes that the fame which accompanies a Goldman Prize win will help both her work and Vietnam in the future. "It is a wonderful honor for me, as it helps to connect our work with the global community," she shares. "It brings important international recognition for sustainable energy development in Vietnam."

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