Mary has been selected for her integral work on climate justice: the notion that the growing impacts of climate change are wiping out opportunities for the world's poor, when they have contributed the least to greenhouse emissions. This connects directly with human dependency on plants, especially in relation to agriculture, crops, and therefore food security in the wake of climate change.
On learning that she will be presented with this award in London in March 2019, and invited to deliver a lecture on climate justice and biodiversity, Mary Robinson said: "This is a great honour for me. We face unprecedented losses of biodiversity and rapid environmental change. The invaluable scientific work that RBG Kew does globally is helping to conserve and sustain the plants and crops that matter to supporting local communities for a sustainable future. We will only succeed in securing climate justice if we stay true to the science. We desperately need fact-based, evidence-based science to determine the global policy agenda."
It is the interconnectedness of science, policy, and people's lives that lies of the heart of Mary's work as both an esteemed member of The Elders – a group of global leaders working together for peace and justice - and as founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. Through her Foundation, Mary has been involved in projects in Malawi, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador and Ethiopia, transforming these areas of the world, influencing policy, and seeing real action taken to build climate resilience and enhance food security in communities most at risk.
Mary advocates strongly for climate justice to feature at the forefront of education, working to engage young people in pressing scientific issues to inform and inspire the thought leaders of the future. She is passionate about communicating and engaging with people on a humanitarian level, to increase awareness about the threats facing the environment, plant life, and the humans that depend on it: a mission that lies at the very heart of Kew's own ethos.
In selecting Mary Robinson, Richard Deverell, Director of RBG Kew said: "A charismatic and influential leader of our times, Mary Robinson is an international champion of climate justice, and an expert at communicating to a wide audience the importance of conserving the natural world. With this award we want to acknowledge the integral work Mary has done to advocate the pressing issue of food security, and to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on our planet."
Kew is actively working to raise public awareness of the actions needed to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 as they relate to tackling food insecurity, developing more sustainable agriculture, and protecting ecosystem services through cutting-edge research in partnership with hundreds of institutions worldwide.
The Kew International Medal was first established in 1992 by the Board of Trustees and is given to individuals who have made a significant contribution to science and conservation and the critical challenges facing humanity. Previous recipients include Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury (1994); Sir David Attenborough (1996); Stella Ross-Craig (1999); Margaret Stones (2000); Mary Grieson (2003); Peter H. Raven (2009); Jared Diamond (2012); E. O. Wilson (2014); Dr Kiat W. Tan (2015); Professor Sebsebe Demissew (2016); and President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón (2017).