Photo credit: BBC
21 Apr 2022 Press release Environment under review

David Attenborough receives the UN’s most distinguished environment award

Photo credit: BBC

Nairobi, 21 April 2022 – The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today that Sir David Attenborough is the recipient of the Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to research, documentation, and advocacy for the protection of nature and its restoration.

“Sir David Attenborough has devoted his life to documenting the love story between humans and nature, and broadcasting it to the world. If we stand a chance of averting climate and biodiversity breakdowns and cleaning up polluted ecosystems, it’s because millions of us fell in love with the planet that he showed us on television,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director. “Sir David’s work will continue to inspire people of all ages to care for nature and to become the restoration generation.”

Attenborough’s career as a broadcaster, natural historian, author, and environmental advocate spans over seven decades. He is most famous for his work with the BBC’s Natural History Unit, including documentaries such as Life on Earth, the Living Planet, Our Planet and Our Blue Planet. In addition, his advocacy to preserve and restore biodiversity, transition to renewable energy, mitigate climate change and promote plant-rich diets contribute to the realization of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The world has to get together. These problems cannot be solved by one nation – no matter how big that single nation is. We know what the problems are and we know how to solve them. All we lack is unified action,” Attenborough said upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Fifty years ago, whales were on the very edge of extinction worldwide. Then people got together and now there are more whales in the sea than any living human being has ever seen. If we act together, we can solve these problems.”

Attenborough has been a long-time and staunch supporter of environmental multilateralism. In 1982, during the 10th meeting of UNEP’s Governing Council, he told UN Member States: “What you and I and other ordinary people around the world can do will not by itself save the natural world. The great decisions, the great disasters that face us, can only be dealt with by governments and that is why this organization is so important.”

This Lifetime Achievement Award is given in a historic year for the global environmental community. 2022 marks fifty years since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, which was one of the first international meetings on the environment. The conference spurred the formation of environment ministries and agencies around the world, kickstarted a host of new global agreements to collectively protect the environment, and led to the formation of UNEP, which is observing its 50th anniversary this year.

Previous laureates include environmental justice advocate Robert Bullard (2020), environment and indigenous rights defender Joan Carling (2018) and plant biologist José Sarukhán Kermez (2016). Recipients are selected by the Executive Director of UNEP, who also confers the award.



About the UNEP Champions of the Earth
The UN Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth honours individuals, groups, and organizations whose actions have a transformative impact on the environment. The annual Champions of the Earth Award is the UN’s highest environmental honour. It recognizes outstanding leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector.

About the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade and it is led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, including the building of political momentum for restoration as well as thousands of initiatives on the ground.

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

For more information, please contact:

Keishamaza Rukikaire, Head of News & Media, UN Environment Programme
Moses Osani, Media Officer, UN Environment Programme