UK Communicators of the Year 2021 (number 5) revealed by PRWeek

Who got their message across most effectively in this tumultuous year? Today, we profile the individual ranked fifth in our top 20.

UK Communicators of the Year 2021 (number 5) revealed by PRWeek

Read on for the latest instalment of PRWeek's countdown of the UK's best communicators of 2021, compiled by the editorial team. PR professionals are excluded – our focus is individuals from other walks of life, whether that's politics, entertainment, business or something else.

The list is, of course, entirely subjective, but we hope it contains a few surprises and plenty to think about. The remainder will be published in the days ahead, so stay tuned…

5. Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster, naturalist and environmentalist

An electrifying speech at COP26 in November will be one of the most-remembered moments of the year, when the veteran naturalist and filmmaker told world leaders at the climate summit that we must “rewrite our story”.

Using his position as a highly respected and internationally renowned broadcaster, Attenborough urged world leaders to think about how future generations would judge them for the success or failure of the conference in Glasgow.

The 95-year-old delivered an emotive speech alongside a film illustrating 300,000 years of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

It showed variations in average global temperatures over time, alongside messages of concern and hope from climate activists from around the world.

Attenborough also revealed a graph tracking the rise of carbon concentration in the Earth's atmosphere pointing to a number that showed "the clearest way to chart" the story of humanity.

That figure now sits at close to 414 parts per million – 149 per cent of the pre-industrial level, according to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

“Our burning of fossil fuels, our destruction of nature, our approach to industry, construction and learning, are releasing carbon into the atmosphere at an unprecedented pace and scale,” Attenborough said.

"We are already in trouble."

The naturalist also told delegates that richer nations must do more to address the inequality that means "those who've done the least to cause this problem are being the hardest hit."

He called on leaders at COP26 to think about the younger generation as they work to address climate change.

"If working apart we are a force powerful to destabilise our planet; surely working together we are powerful enough to save it," he said. "In my lifetime I've witnessed a terrible decline. In yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery."

Earlier in the year, Attenborough spoke of the "tragic, desperate mess" human beings have turned the planet into as he launched a natural history series.

“We all live on the same planet,” he said at the launch, “and we are dependent on it for every mouthful of food we eat and every breath of air we take."

Seven Worlds, One Planet, which was four years in the making, broke with the tradition of the highly influential and widely watched BBC Studios Natural History Unit programmes by putting the message about conservation “at the heart” of every programme.

It was a change from the previous format, in which warnings about the environment and the impact on nature were tagged on to the end of each episode.

Back in April, Attenborough met perhaps the most famous member of the current generation of climate activists, Greta Thunberg (who might well have made this list). Her reverence for Attenborough was as apparent as his mutual respect, careful listening and shared concern.

A founding member of WWF in the 1960s, the filmmaker spent most of his career capturing the wonders and mysteries of nature rather than its destruction.

But by the end of the millennium, Attenborough began to turn the later part of his career in a new direction as he became an active environmentalist, increasingly bringing the message of conservation, environmentalism and climate change into his films and documentaries.

Read: UK communicators of the year 2021 (numbers 20-16)

Read: UK communications of the year 2021 (numbers 15-11)

UK Communicators of the Year 2021 (numbers 10-6) revealed by PRWeek

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