A Look Back at Some of the Climate Change Awards Presented in 2021

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Dec. 20 2021, Updated 2:22 p.m. ET

Climate Change Awards

David Attenborough speaks onstage during the Earthshot Prize 2021 at Alexandra Palace on Oct. 17, 2021 in London, England.

There are so many award shows for entertainment — and though the climate crisis is the opposite of entertaining (terrifying is the opposite of entertaining, right?), there are actually many awesome climate change awards that exist to reward those doing incredible things in the climate space.

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However, if you are a Greta Thunberg fan, you may not care — upon learning she had won the Nordic Council’s Environment Prize in 2019, the environmental activist promptly turned it down. In response, she wrote in an Instagram post: “​The climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power ... to listen to the current, best available science.” And, as Thunberg suggests, powerful world leaders need to use their money to make some serious changes to fight climate change, rather than hand out prizes.

That said, these awards can be game-changing in certain instances, especially when they give large grants to innovators who will use the money to create meaningful solutions to the climate crisis. Here’s a look into just a few of the climate awards presented every year.

The Climate Breakthrough Award

According to the Climate Breakthrough Project, its Climate Breakthrough Award is “the largest environmental award,” and is presented annually to “changemakers and leaders with bold ideas that could quickly and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.” On Dec. 7, the group announced the three awardees of the 2021 award, all of whom are incredible women environmentalists, and will be receiving $3 million each to help bring their visions to life.

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This year’s winners were: Denise Fairchild, an environmental justice leader working to undo the climate crisis’ root causes; Sara Jane Ahmed, a financial strategist who wants to make vulnerable countries more resilient against the climate crisis; and Kathrin Gutmann, who is working to power Europe with 100 percent renewable energy.

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Prince William’s Earthshot Prize

In 2019, Prince William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Sir David Attenborough founded the Earthshot Prize. Then in October 2021, the Duke presented the first annual series of Earthshot Prizes at a swanky London ceremony which featured appearances from Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, and David Oyelowo, and performances by Coldplay, KSI, and Ed Sheeran.

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There were five winners of the 2021 Earthshot Prize: the Fix Our Climate prize went to Enapter’s AEM Electrolyser technology, which converts renewable electricity into hydrogen gas; Costa Rica won the Protect and Restore Nature prize for its reforestation efforts; Milan, Italy’s food Food Waste Hubs won the Build a Waste-Free World prize; the Revive Our Oceans prize went to Coral Vita, a company that grows coral and then replants it in the ocean; and agricultural waste technology project Takachar won the Clean Our Air prize. Each winner received about $1.37 million USD to help their efforts.

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The UN’s Champions of the Earth Awards

Since 2005, the UN has annually presented multiple individuals with Champions of the Earth Awards, which is the UN’s highest environmental honor. On Dec. 7, the UN announced the winners of the 2021 awards, in four categories — all of whom were women.

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The 30-plus members of SeaWomen of Melanesia won the Inspiration and Action award, for their work documenting the coral reefs of Melanesia, a group of South Pacific island nations. The Entrepreneurial Vision award went to Maria Kolesnikova, the Director of the Kyrgyz Republic-b​​ased environmental group MoveGreen.

The Science and Innovation award went to Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a wildlife veterinarian who has dedicated her life to protecting rare and endangered primates in East Africa, via community-led programs that help people, too. And finally, Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados won the Policy Leadership award, in celebration of her work advocating for those most affected by the climate crisis.

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The EMA Awards

In October 2021, Jeff Goldblum hosted the Environmental Media Association’s annual EMA Awards Gala. Every year, the awards show honors the films, TV shows, documentaries, and creators that employ effective environmental messaging.

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This year, winners included the film No Sudden Move, the documentary I Am Greta, the Ted Lasso episode “Do The Right-est Thing,” and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee’s “Episode 6175 - Environmental Racism: How It Started vs. How It’s Going.” A lifetime achievement award was presented to Ed Begley Jr., and the EMA Global Justice Award was given to the Hip Hop Caucus. You can watch the ceremony and find the full list of winners here.

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The Green Awards

Barbara Wolff
Source: The Green Awards

The Green Awards, aka "The Oscars of Sustainability," has been organized annually by The Drinks Business for the last 12 years, awarding beverage companies that do their part to protect the environment. This year, the competition took place in London, doling out titles for The Water Management Award and Best Green Initiative.

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The winner of Green Personality of the Year was none other than Barbara Wolff, Göpfert, VSPT Wine Group’s Chief of Corporate Affairs and Innovation. VSPT Wine Group owns a wide variety of brands including: Altaïr, Cabo de Hornos, Sideral, 1865, GatoNegro, Viña Tarapacá and Leyda in Chile, as well as La Celia and Graffigna in Argentina

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“I regard this acknowledgment as great encouragement; encouragement to continue challenging ourselves, to continue proposing, to continue building. I am tremendously proud of VSPT and everything that our team has achieved over the past 13 years,” Wolff stated in a press release sent to Green Matters.

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“I am excited to look for more collaborative opportunities, such as our membership in the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) and our recent incorporation into the Sustainable Round Table as a founding member, so that our industry and country will serve as an example for others to follow. By focusing on wines that are produced and sold in an increasingly sustainable manner, we can carry the Chilean flag to every table in the world in the greenest and best way possible.”

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