16 Sep 2019 Press release Climate change

Canadian Professor Katharine Hayhoe named UN Champion of the Earth

  • Canadian climate scientist Professor Katharine Hayhoe awarded United Nations’ flagship environmental honor in science and innovation category
  • Hayhoe recognized for expertise and passion in communicating real effects of climate change

16 September 2019 -- Canadian climate scientist Professor Katharine Hayhoe has received a 2019 Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honor, for her stalwart commitment to quantifying the effects of climate change and her tireless efforts to transform public attitudes. 

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognized Hayhoe in the science and innovation category.

Hayhoe is a climate scientist, a professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas Tech University and director of the Climate Center. Her research has informed climate resilience and enriched climate policy at a federal and local level across the U.S. and beyond. 

She is also one of the world’s most influential communicators on the reality of climate change and is widely respected for her ability to help people connect the dots between what they already care about and how they will be affected by a changing climate. 

Hayhoe has served as a lead author for many key climate reports, including the US Global Change Research Program’s Second, Third, and Fourth National Climate Assessments. She has also led climate impact assessments for a broad cross-section of cities and regions that enable stakeholders to build resilience to climate impacts on food, water, and infrastructure and to quantify the benefits of climate mitigation at the local to regional scale.

“Professor Katharine Hayhoe has made it her life’s work to study the effects of climate change and communicate these as widely as possible in order to inspire action from both policy makers and citizens,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“As we redouble our efforts to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we need passionate, informed change-makers to guide us to a more sustainable future. With her expertise and indefatigable energy, Professor Hayhoe is already showing us the way.” Andersen said.

The need for radical global action on climate change will be highlighted at a pivotal United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged world leaders, businesses and civil society to come to the summit with concrete ideas of how they will cut emissions by 45 per cent in the next decade and achieve net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Hayhoe, who is married to pastor and author Andrew Farley, has won a host of awards for her work including the eighth Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication in 2018. She was also named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in 2014 and listed among Foreign Policy’s 100 Global Thinkers twice, in 2014 and again in 2019.

“I am truly honoured and humbled to receive this recognition from the United Nations,” said Hayhoe, who has also been named one of FORTUNE’s 50 greatest leaders and has received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service award. 

“The award offers real encouragement to those of us working every day to spread the message that climate change is real and that we need to act now to deal with it. Together, keeping up the pressure, we can prevail, because we already have the technology and knowledge to make the necessary changes, all we’re missing is the will” Hayhoe said.


Champions of the Earth is the UN’s flagship global environmental award. It was established by UNEP in 2005 to recognize outstanding figures whose actions have had a transformative positive impact on the environment. From world leaders to environmental defenders and technology inventors, the awards celebrate trailblazers who are working to protect our planet for the next generation.

Hayhoe is among five winners this year. The other categories are policy leadership; inspiration and action; and entrepreneurial vision. The 2019 laureates will be honoured at a gala ceremony in New York on 26 September during the 74th UN General Assembly. Also honoured at the event will be seven environmental trailblazers between the ages of 18 and 30, who will take home the coveted Young Champions of the Earth prize.

Previous winners of the science and innovation Champions of the Earth award include Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat in 2018 for producing a sustainable alternative to beef burgers; Australian designer Leyla Acaroglu in 2016 for her work on sustainability; and leading atmospheric chemist Sir Robert Watson in 2014.



About the UN Environment Programme

The UN Environment Programme 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.

About Weibo

The Champions of the Earth are organised in partnership with Weibo – China’s leading social media outlet for people to create, share and discover content online. Weibo has over 486 million monthly active users.

About Champions of the Earth

The annual Champions of the Earth prize is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment. Since 2005, Champions of the Earth has recognized 88 laureates, ranging from world leaders to technology inventors. 

For more information, please contact:

Keishamaza Rukikaire, UNEP News & Media, +254 722 677747