“Biodiversity loss is our shared burden. It’s also our shared responsibility.”

UN biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema awarded 15th Kew International Medal and delivers keynote lecture on make-or-break moment for biodiversity.

Release date: 1 April 2022

  • Tanzanian biodiversity leader, and Executive Secretary of the CBD, recognised in an event at Kew Gardens last night for decades of work protecting nature
  • Ms Mrema leads critical CBD negotiations ahead of biodiversity COP15
  • Mrema’s lecture “The Power of Collective Action for Biodiversity” highlighted importance of plant science to finding solutions to urgent crises in nature

Watch Ms Mrema’s lecture

RBG Kew is proud to announce the recipient of this year’s Kew International Medal is Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, a Tanzanian biodiversity leader and lawyer, and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Kew International Medal is awarded to individuals for internationally recognised accomplishments aligned with Kew’s work to protect biodiversity.

On learning of the award Ms Mrema said: “It is truly an honour to be selected as the recipient of the 2022 prestigious Kew International Medal. Biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, land degradation and desertification are the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Now, more than ever before, our partnership and combined efforts to tackle these issues are critical for achieving life in harmony with nature.”

Ms Mrema was selected for her vital work championing the importance of biodiversity conservation and leading the most important international law mechanism for sustainable use of biodiversity. For over two decades, Elizabeth has held various positions at the UN Environment Program (UNEP) focusing on the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, including multilateral environmental agreements at national, regional and international levels. Elizabeth will be leading efforts to secure ambition and agreement on a critical new framework for halting biodiversity loss and promoting sustainable development at COP15 later on this year.

The Kew International Medal was presented to Ms Mrema by the Chair of RBG Kew Dame Amelia Fawcett and the Director of Science Prof. Alex Antonelli, in a ceremony at Kew Gardens where she delivered a keynote lecture in which she addressed the scale of the challenge facing the planet, the value of Kew’s work in contributing to the implementation of a post 2020 framework on global biodiversity and called on everyone to work together as collaboratively as possible to a shared goal.

Ms Mrema said, “We all share a vision of a sustainable future where human activities support biological and cultural diversity to improve our livelihoods and wellbeing. Our collective action to improve the status of species, genetic and ecosystem diversity is what unites us. And our partnership will make our individual pursuits and collaborative efforts far more likely to succeed.”

In selecting Elizabeth for the 15th Kew International medal, Dr Olwen Grace, Head of Accelerated Taxonomy at RBG Kew said:Post pandemic and in the face of biodiversity and climate crises, the need to reset the global relationship with nature has never been greater. This is why we nominated Elizabeth Maruma Mrema for the 2022 Kew International Medal, to acknowledge her tireless commitment to fight to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and engage the world in the importance of nature, a mission at the core of everything we do at RBG Kew. The CBD is a critical convention to Kew and we will be following COP15 closely and calling for the crucial targets needed to help ensure the next set of ambitions for protecting biodiversity are actually achievable.”

First established in 1992, the prestigious Kew International Medal is an annual award given to individuals for distinguished, internationally recognised work aligned to the mission of Kew. Nominations are received from across the organisation and a selection panel decides the winner. Previous award winners include Sir David Attenborough (1996); Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, the then President of Colombia (2018); Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders and former President of Ireland (2019), Prof. Sandra Diaz, Co-Chair of IPBES and Sandra's Professor of Ecology at Córdoba National University (2020) and Sir Partha Dasgupta, world-leading economist and author of The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review (2021).

RBG Kew’s own work is aiming to help stop biodiversity loss and to promote sustainable use of nature. In 2021, Kew launched its 10-year strategy to help end the extinction crisis and protect nature, pledging to intensify efforts to understand and protect plants and fungi, for the well-being of people and the future of all life on Earth. In the wake of a global pandemic, and with the future of the planet in peril, the strategy represents a public commitment by Kew to do everything in its power to reverse the environmental devastation of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Dame Amelia Fawcett, Chair of the Board of Trustees of RBG Kew, who presented Elizabeth with her Medal at Kew Gardens, said: “As we lead up to COP15, RBG Kew is perfectly placed as a globally revered plant science institute to lead efforts in creating a world where nature is protected. Plants are the bedrock of biodiversity so we need to make sure they are featured in the discussions. Drawing on our scientific research, unrivalled collections of plants and fungi, global network of partners, and our gardens at Kew and Wakehurst, we will seek to shape policy and lead by example as an advocate for environmental sustainability.”


  • For more information or to request an interview please contact Heather McLeod, PR Manager at RBG Kew on h.mcleod@kew.org / pr@kew.org or +44 (0)20 8332 3703
  • To download images and a written version of Elizabeth Maruma Mrema’s lecture, please use the following link and credit to RBG Kew: https://we.tl/t-DN1isODU9r
  • To download the video of Ms Mrema’s lecture, please use the following link and credit to RBG Kew: https://we.tl/t-dZRYqKUYWb

About the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world-famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant and fungal diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew Gardens’ 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, attract over 2.5 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 260th anniversary in 2019. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world, as well as over 500 acres of designed landscapes, wild woodlands, ornamental gardens and a nature reserve. The Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre is Kew’s third research centre and only overseas office. RBG Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support RBG Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.

About the Kew International Medal

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); President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón (2017), Mary Robinson (2019), Sandra Diaz (2020) and Sir Partha Dasgupta (2021).