New Years Honours 2021: The sustainability champions on the Queen’s list

The outstanding achievements of dozens of people working across the UK's environmental sphere have been recognised by the Queen in this year's New Year's Honours list. Read on to find out more about the newly-awarded scientists, policy experts, green finance champions and conservationists.

New Years Honours 2021: The sustainability champions on the Queen’s list

Pictured (L-R): Dieter Helm

Knights Batchelor recipients for this round of honours include Dieter Helm, chair of the Natural Capital Committee (NCC). Helm took up the post at the NCC in 2012 and is regarded as an architect of the 25 Year Environment Plan, which formed the foundation for the Environment Bill. His approach to “public money for public goods” led to recent changes in agricultural policy that will see farmers rewarded for generating net-positive nature impacts. He also teaches and researches energy policy at the University of Oxford.

Nonetheless, Helm has proven a controversial figure over his multi-decade career as an academic, advisor and economist. He regularly spoke out against wind power in the early 2000s and is disliked in some farming circles for his view that food security should not be prioritised as a major risk for the UK.

Helm told the BBC that working at the “the intersection between academic research, government and business” is not only the area that interests [him] most, but where there is a chance to make things happen.”

Geoffrey Cox MP was also appointed Knights Batchelor, with the Honours list stating that he has been “keen to promote the environment, farming and fishing – issues which are of great importance to his constituency [Torridge and West Devon]”. Cox has served the constituency since 2005 and sits on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee.

While Cox has continually pushed for high farming standards post-Brexit, his broader voting record on environmental issues is mixed. He voted against a motion on the government’s promised green industrial revolution in 2019 and has generally been pro-fracking and anti-CCUS. 

Elsewhere, the Wildlife Trusts’ director of marine conservation Joan Edwards; Defra’s chief social scientist Dr Gemma Harper; the Port and City of London Corporation’s former chairman of health and environmental services Jeremy Simons and UKERC’s energy transition investment co-lead Kirsty Hamilton have been awarded OBEs, among others.

Edwards has worked in marine conservation for more than three decades and says her work to protect biodiversity from overfishing, pollution, acidification and oil exploration is “far from finished”. The Wildlife Trusts’ chief executive Craig Bennett described her as a “tireless campaigner whose passion for all things marine has won hearts and minds and has made a huge and positive difference for the level of marine protection that this country now enjoys.”

Perhaps the most heartwarming sustainability stories from this year’s New Year’s Honours list are those of Ray Marsh OBE, who recently retired after 60+ years as warden for Skippers Island, Essex, and of Environment Agency technical specialist Deborah Campbell. Campbell has led several flood protection schemes and relief efforts in Lincolnshire, including an evacuation of more than 600 homes in Wainfleet in 2019.

Not to mention… 

Other figures from the sustainability and energy space to have received honours on the 2021 New Years list include:

  • Former Royal Botanic Gardens Kew chair Marcus Agius, now philanthropist to the Aguis Evolution Garden.
  • Chair of the Government’s advisory committee on packaging, Philip Conran.
  • The University of Sheffield’s professor of environmental biology, Lorraine Maltby.
  • Defra’s deputy director Mark Sautereau.
  • Defra scientist Colin Weaver, who serves in the animal and plant health agency.
  • Environment Agency technical specialist Sally Gallagher, based in Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • Environment Agency coastal engineer John Lindsay, based in East Lothian.
  • Environment Agency technical leader Thomas Fowler.
  • Natural England’s principal specialist in water and pollution, Dr Alastair Burn, based in Cambridgeshire.
  • Freelance ecologist and species recorder Dr Judith Webb, based in Oxfordshire.
  • Zoologist, conservationist and author Steph Tyler.
  • New Forest ranger Paul Brockman.
  • Forestry England ranger Mark Warn.
  • Retired professor of earth sciences and former Natural History Museum curator David Waters.
  • Christine Campbell, of the Scottish Association for Marine Scientists.
  • Conservationist Michael Master.
  • Conservationist John Swan.
  • Conservationist and owner of Scotland’s East Lothian Estate, Robert Douglas Miller.

Sarah George

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