In honour of David Attenborough’s dedication to research, documentation, and advocacy in protecting and restoring nature, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced on Thursday that he is the recipient of the prestigious Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award

“Sir David Attenborough has devoted his life to documenting the love story between humans and nature, and broadcasting it to the world,” said UNEP chief Inger Andersen.

“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.”

Ms. Andersen attested that “Sir David’s work will continue to inspire people of all ages to care for nature and to become the restoration generation.”

Advocacy to preserve

From a broadcaster to natural historian, and author to environmental advocate, for more than seven decades Sir David has kept his finger on the pulse.

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).

Upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, Mr. Attenborough reminded that “50 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.”

‘Unified action’ needed

Mr. Attenborough continued by saying that “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.”

During the 10th meeting of UNEP’s Governing Council in 1982, the long-time and staunch supporter of environmental multilateralism 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 50 years since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden.

That event was one of the first international meetings on the environment and 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.

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