Prestigious 2020-2021 Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy Presented to Two Global Advocates During an Inspiring Ceremony and Panel Discussion

October 15, 2021
Haub Award
Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy Medal of Honor


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (October 14, 2021) – The Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University has conferred the 2020-2021 Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy on Ugandan climate justice advocate Vanessa Nakate and Professor Wang Xi, an environmental law scholar and advocate with Kunming University of Science and Technology in China.

(left to right) 2020-2021 Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy laureates Professor Wang Xi and Vanessa Nakate.
(left to right) 2020-2021 Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy laureates Professor Wang Xi and Vanessa Nakate.

The award ceremony was presented virtually on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 to participants from across the globe and was preceded by a panel discussion led by Smita Narula, Haub Distinguished Professor of International Law, with the distinguished laureates.

This year’s award highlighted the inter-generational nature of leadership in the environmental realm by showcasing the advocacy and impactful work of both award recipients, who have uniquely served to protect the environment and advance climate justice.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to award the 2021 Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy to two individuals who have worked tirelessly in different ways and in different parts of the world to defend the environment,” said Horace E. Anderson Jr., Dean of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law. “As the nation’s number one ranked program in environmental law, we are committed to training students to understand the intersection between climate justice, the environment and the law. These recipients serve as inspiring role models for driving global change in our environment.”

Twenty-four year old activist and author Vanessa Nakate has drawn global attention to the impact of climate change on poverty, hunger, disease, conflict, and violence against women and girls. She is the first Ugandan national to receive the Haub Award and also the youngest recipient of the award to date. Nakate has spearheaded climate change activism in Africa, green projects and education in schools across the continent, and led a global campaign to save Congo’s rainforest, which is facing massive deforestation. Through her innovative efforts on the frontlines, her work has inspired other countries in Africa and Europe to address the climate crisis.

Nakate addressed an incident that occurred early in her journey as a climate justice advocate when she was cropped out of a photo taken by the Associated Press at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The incident received global attention and, according to Nakate, pointed to a wider issue of erasure of African voices in climate action conversations.

“It wasn’t just about a picture being removed from the conversation,” said Nakate. “It was a message being removed – a story being removed. Every activist has a story to tell, every story has a solution to give, and every solution has a life to change. We can only have climate justice if it includes everyone. But erasure of voices and stories of activists will not enable us to have climate justice. We have to include every voice and every community.”

Asked what she would like to see happen at the next global climate summit set to take place in Glasgow next month, Nakate replied, “Leaders must understand that we cannot eat coal, we cannot drink oil, and we cannot breathe so called natural gas. What I would like to see is real action that prioritizes the lives of the people and our planet.”

Professor Wang Xi attributes his passion for the environment to his childhood, stating that his parents instilled in him the value to become a “person useful for society.” He refers to his discovery of comparative literature during his studies as an “aha moment,” driving his curiosity to study environmental protection.

After China started to reform and open up in 1978, Professor Wang Xi became an academic and was instrumental in the development of Chinese environmental law, a new area of growing importance. He has since been a key influencer in a  major revision to China’s framework environmental protection law, which was accepted and adopted by the Chinese National Congrass  in 2014. 

Professor Wang Xi notes that China must take immediate next steps in furthering the advancement of environmental law nationally and internationally, as a party to numerous multilateral environmental agreements. He shared that he is now currently engaged in advocating for a new version of the law on environmental impacts accessment, taking into consideration the unforeseen challenges that the climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. 

“This pandemic has reminded every human being to respect nature,” he said. “We need to update and revise our laws. We suggest that new environmental impact assessment (EIA) laws should cover the issue of climate change, biodiversity and pathologic disease.”

The Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy is the world’s most distinguished award in the field of environmental law. The award was created in 1997 by the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, in cooperation with the Haub Family, to honor the legacy of Elisabeth Haub (1899 – 1977), a noted philanthropist and advocate for strong laws for the conservation of nature. The award is chosen annually by an esteemed jury of leaders in environmental law and was first established to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Stockholm Conference and the 5th anniversary of the United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit.

“The Elisabeth Haub Award for Environmental Law and Diplomacy was established to recognize the innovation, skill, and accomplishments of lawyers, diplomats, international civil servants and other advocates who work to create the world environmental order,” said Liliane A. Haub, environmental advocate and Pace University Trustee. “We are pleased to honor two individuals whose inspiring work is making a global impact in our fight to create a more sustainable planet.”

Learn more about the 2020-2021 award recipients and watch the video of the 2020-2021 ceremony and panel discussion below.

About Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law offers J.D. and Masters of Law degrees in both Environmental and International Law, as well as a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) in Environmental Law. The school, housed on the University’s campus in White Plains, NY, opened its doors in 1976 and has over 9,000 alumni around the world. The school maintains a unique philosophy and approach to legal education that strikes an important balance between practice and theory. Haub Law launched its Environmental Law Program in 1978, and it has long been ranked among the world’s leading university programs, with a current #1 ranking by U.S. World and News Report.


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