Ashden is delighted to join the Rapid Transition Alliance – a network of campaigners, academics, businesses, NGOs and others sharing stories of climate action. In this feature for the alliance’s ‘meet the member’ series, Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb explains why we’re taking part – and reveals some of her favourite climate inspiration.
Why did you join the Rapid Transition Alliance?
We know the value of strong networks in tackling the climate crisis. The challenge ahead is so enormous that we need every corner of society working together, sharing best practice, nicking each other’s ideas and showing what’s possible. The alliance is a great example of people coming together. And we love its focus on ‘removing excuses for inaction’ – brilliant!
What for you is the biggest challenge of rapid transition?
Making sure it’s done in a fair way, so we don’t replicate the old inequalities that have plagued and divided the world for too long. Carbon-cutting technology must be used to empower marginalised people – from communities in rural Africa living without electricity, to jobseekers here in the UK. The risk is the disadvantaged communities whose livelihoods depend on coal or oil and gas are simply left high and dry as we shift away from fossil fuels. What jobs will there be for South African coal mining communities, for example?
Globally, those least responsible for the climate crisis are most at risk from its effects. It’s really tough to be sure that the transition is not just rapid but also genuinely fair.
What is your organisation doing to encourage rapid transition?
Our mission is to accelerate transformative climate solutions and build a more just world. We support trailblazing innovators from the UK and developing countries, connecting them with funding and investment. Our events, networks and analysis share their inspiring stories far and wide.
We find our innovators through the annual Ashden Awards – last year’s winners included seed collectors in the Amazon, community microgrids in Yemen, and smart tech that cuts energy bills in UK social housing by 50%. Entries for the 2021 awards are open now – including new categories for green communities and green skills in the UK.
What is your favourite example of rapid transition?
There are so many cracking ones, I’m going to cheat and pick two! The first is a Bangladeshi enterprise called Solshare. They’ve pioneered peer-to-peer energy trading in rural communities. People with solar home systems can trade excess electricity with their neighbours, bringing energy to even more people. An amazing solution that powers up villages, creates incomes, and builds a more inclusive and democratic energy network.
The second is the Let’s Go Zero campaign, calling for all UK schools to commit to going zero carbon by 2030. Currently our draughty school buildings cause huge energy waste, and there are big potential energy savings around school food, travel and procurement too. By taking action schools can lower their bills, inspire communities and drive really huge carbon reductions. We hope that school leaders will encourage the Government to really get behind this effort – what a great statement in the run up to COP26.
What one thing would best help the task of rapid transition?
Money talks – it’s time for all of society, but big corporations in particular, to get their cash out of polluting industries and into low-carbon solutions. There’s so much brilliant and proven innovation out there, but it won’t scale up fast enough unless investors are bolder and braver. Funders and philanthropists have an important role to play as investment pioneers – if they can get their money in first, more mainstream investors will follow. And we can all contribute by ensuring our pension funds divest from fossil fuels and back renewables instead.