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Big Honours for Campaigners of the Environment

Grassroots activists who took on British mining giants and a serial plastics polluter – and won – are among this year’s recipients of the world’s most prestigious environmental prize. The environmental campaigns led by the six 2023 Goldman prize winners highlight the hurdles faced by some local activists, who are often on the frontlines confronting the toxic mix of corporate greed and systemic corruption that is fuelling the climate emergency, biodiversity collapse and increasingly forced displacement. In a David v Goliath legal victory, the African winner helped change UK law after the supreme court in London ruled that the British mining company Vedanta Resources could be tried in the UK court system, including on whether they owed a duty of care. Chilekwa Mumba worked closely with villagers throughout the protracted legal battle during which he was publicly criticised and harassed for his activism. The villagers claimed their crops, livestock and only drinking water source were for years poisoned by pollution from a huge open-pit copper mine, and in 2021 Vedanta settled the claim without admission of liability. The 2021 legal precedent has been used to argue a duty of care by British companies across the supply chain and has already been used to hold the fossil fuel giant Shell Global to account in the UK for pollution by its subsidiary in Nigeria.