‘Green Oscars' awarded in London as UK announces climate emergency

Historic parliament ruling as leading international researchers commended in London ceremony at the Whitley Awards 2019

By Simon Ingram
Published 3 May 2019, 12:06 BST

In the same week the UK Parliament made history by becoming the first to declare an environment and climate change emergency, the Whitley Awards in London recognised leaders in conservation from around the world. The Princess Royal presented awards to seven individuals working on projects focussing on diverse animals from ‘whistling frogs’ and hammerhead sharks to yellow shouldered parrots and red- breasted geese. The Whitley Awards, also known as the ‘Green Oscars,’ are given to individuals working on wildlife conservation issues in biodiversity-rich, resource-poor countries and this year’s awardees are working on the frontline of wildlife conservation. The awards provide funding, training and support for the awardees.

You can see a full list of the 2019 Whitley Awards winners here

The winners of the Whitley Awards 2019.
Photograph by Whitley Awards

A reaction to action? 

The parliamentary announcement of 1 May follows a month of environmental activism in London, and across the world. Over 11 days of protests, the action group Extinction Rebellion blocked traffic in areas of the capital such as Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Parliament Square with the goal of raising awareness of the human impact on climate change, and compelling the government to act. The group called the action 'a full-scale festival of creative resistance'. While the protests were largely peaceful and garnered considerable high profile support, over 1,000 activists were arrested. One news outlet reported it as 'the biggest act of civil disobedience in recent British history.' 

MP's approval of the motion by Labour to declare a climate emergency does not compel parliament legally to act on climate change. But the move has been greeted with positivity from climate campaigners around the world, who hope it will compel other governments to follow the UK's lead. 


Extinction Rebellion activists in Oxford Circus, London.
Photograph by Kevin Grieve, via Unsplash

Responding to the news about the declaration of an environmental and climate emergency at the Whitley Awards, Jon Paul Rodriguez, the Gold Award winner, said ‘Having one of the worlds most developed economies recognise this environmental and climate emergency should open the eyes of other developed nations who are not yet acknowledging the impact of climate change on the planet’. Caleb Ofori-Boateng from Ghana said that this declaration will help NGOs in his country to raise the profile of the issue of climate change and environmental degradation. 

Vatosoa Rakotondrazafy from Madagascar said: ‘ Be responsible…think ahead to your grandchildren and their grandchildren – not just about your own desires in the here and now’. Ilena Zanella said: 'Every species on this planet is important as they are all connected – be a responsible consumer and ask where your food comes from – make sure it’s from a sustainable source’.

Past Whitley Award winners include National Geographic Explorers such as Olivier Nsengimana and Gladys Kalema Zikusoka


"This [declaration] should open the eyes of other developed nations who are not yet acknowledging the impact of climate change on the planet." Jon Paul Rodriguez, Gold Award Winner, with the Princess Royal.
Photograph by Whitley Awards
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