BBC Legend and UN Earth Champion – Global Issues

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“We need to feel that we are all citizens of this one planet, because unless we do that, we will not solve the problems,” Mr Attenborough said in an interview with the UN.

Over the course of his more than seventy-year career at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the legendary natural history broadcaster, who turned 98 last month, has managed to bring the farthest reaches of planet Earth into the homes and hearts of millions of people. , by Zoo quest in the 1950s to his Planet Earth trilogy in the 2020s.

Delivering a stirring speech at the opening of the World Leaders Summit on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow in 2021, Sir David addressed heads of state against the backdrop of stunning, cinematic images appearing on giant screens behind him. These were produced by Silverback Films, the production company that collaborated with him on many of his most celebrated natural history documentaries.

Watch his full speech below:

David Attenborough, People’s Advocate for #COP26, Speech to World Leaders | Climate action

He had a strong message for the COP26 summit on the state of the environment.

“In my lifetime I have witnessed a terrible decline,” he said. “In your country you can and must witness a miraculous recovery, ladies and gentlemen, delegates, excellencies. That is why the world is looking at you and why you are here.”

Much of his work focused on the wonders of the natural world and how to protect them. His profound stories reflect an ever-changing Earth, from restoring biodiversity and preserving natural landscapes to mitigating climate change and understanding the impact of human activities on the environment.

Watch his journey from zoologist to climate activist:

Sir David Attenborough, UN Champion of the Earth – Lifetime Achievement

In 2022, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) presented Sir David with the Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his advocacy within the global environmental movement.

“If we have a chance at preventing climate and biodiversity breakdown and cleaning up polluted ecosystems, it is because millions of us have fallen in love with the planet he showed us on television,” said UNEP Executive Director Ingrid Anderson at the time.

David Attenborough: Champion of the Earth

“If we can act together, we can solve these problems.”

Upon receipt of the priceMr Attenborough recalled that 50 years ago whales were on the brink of extinction worldwide.

“Then the people came together, and now there are more whales in the sea than any living human has ever seen,” he said. “If we work together, we can solve these problems.”

The script was then flipped, as Sir David, the interviewer, became the interviewee as he answered questions from the UNEP chief, Ms Anderson.

Watch part of that epic exchange in UN Videos Stories from the UN Archives episode about the Champion of Earth here.

A portrait of UNEP champion Sir David Attenborough.

UNEP/Lulu Kitololo

A portrait of UNEP champion Sir David Attenborough.

Sibling rivalry?

The Champion of Earth is not the first Attenborough at the UN.

In 1987, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) named his older brother. Ricardo, if Goodwill ambassador.

Film producer and director Richard Attenborough was introduced as the new Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on October 28, 1987.  (file)

UN photo/Milton Grant

Film producer and director Richard Attenborough was introduced as the new Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on October 28, 1987. (file)

Lord Richard Attenborough (1923-2014) was an actor, film producer and director.

During filming, he was introduced to UNICEF programs and staff Gandhi in India, where prime ministers’ special fundraising efforts helped raise more than $1 million for the agency.

In 1994 he undertook an extended mission to Africa, where he campaigned for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2000, just after Mozambique was devastated by floods, he visited the country to launch a joint appeal between UNICEF and the British organization Observer newspaper.

UN newsThe #ThrowbackThursday series showcases epic moments from UN history, curated from the UN Audiovisual Library‘s 49,400 hours of video and 18,000 hours of audio recordings plus hundreds of thousands of photographs and documents carefully managed by the UN archivists since 1945.

Watch VN videos Stories from the UN Archives playlist here and our associated series here.

Join us next Thursday for another dive into history.

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