We are very pleased to share the 2020 Ashden Awards finalists: 22 organisations delivering proven, ready-to-scale climate solutions. These are the pioneers offering hope even in dark times.
Like the coronavirus emergency, the climate crisis does not affect everyone equally – those already disadvantaged are most at risk. That is why our finalists include many organisations specifically helping the most vulnerable, from poorer families in the UK to refugees in the Middle East.
There’s another link between those two emergencies – they both reveal the uplifting power of communities. How all of us, whatever our wealth or status, can come together to create change that benefits everyone. This theme flows through our list of finalists, from women-led co-operatives driving up incomes in India and Yemen, to social enterprises powering up Uganda.
In fact, some finalists stand ready to aid the pandemic response. E-cargobikes, whose electric cargo bikes deliver goods for supermarkets and small businesses in the UK, has nearly 50 vehicles available to move vital food and medicines. Past winner Demand Logic is helping manage energy use in offices now standing empty because of the crisis.
Cool Cities, supported by K-CEP/Climateworks
Women-led architecture firm ECOnsult is keeping farm workers in the Egyptian desert cool. Their green village makes use of shading and natural air flows to lower temperatures. These passive cooling techniques are a more sustainable alternative to air conditioning.
NRDC’s Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan tackles deadly heatwaves in the Indian city – making sure citizens know when extreme temperatures are on their way, and what they should do in response. There’s support for health workers and public officials too. The partnership, which helps the city’s most vulnerable in particular, has been replicated across India and beyond.
Financial Innovation for Energy Access, supported by Citi
Solar home systems are common in off-grid communities around the world – but they often produce unused electricity. In Bangladesh, technology company MESolshare allows system owners to trade excess energy with their neighbours. Less energy is wasted, and more people are connected.
The Energise Africa investment platform allows anyone to buy bonds worth £50 or more in African solar businesses. There’s protection for your first £100 capital invested, and match funding from major development organisations. The platform has raised £13m of working capital so far.
System Innovation for Energy Access
In Togo, only 35% of homes have access to electricity. The Togolese Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Agency is working with the private sector to deliver on- and off-grid energy. Subsidies, training and new technology help the initiative target women and the poorest households.
New Energy Nexus Uganda helps the country’s community-based organisations distribute clean energy products and services including stoves, lights and water filters, bringing them to some of the country’s most marginalised people. New Energy Nexus provides finance, training and a catalogue of products for organisations to buy.
Energy Innovation (UK), supported by Impax
Open Systems Lab is the developer of Wikihouse system, which allows buildings to be designed digitally – parts are then created using simple wood-processing machinery and assembled like a jigsaw. South Yorkshire Housing Association has used the system to create attractive, low-cost, locally-made homes.
Guru Systems develops intelligent technology to make energy systems more transparent, lower cost and lower carbon. Delivering low-carbon heat is one of the biggest challenges in the transition to a net-zero emissions future. Their hardware and data analytics help to accelerate this transition by using AI-driven analytics to improve efficiency and change the future of heat for the better.
Natural Climate Solutions
In the Amazon, seed collection is key to reforesting degraded land – and creates a vital income for threatened agricultural and indigenous communities, those with the skills and knowledge to protect the rainforest. Seed collection business Rede de Sementes do Xingu co-ordinates seed collectors, administrators and buyers in the state of Mato Grosso.
Slash and burn agriculture has destroyed large parts of Cameroon’s rainforest. CAMGEW helps local people, particularly women, become bee farmers instead – a more sustainable way of earning a living. CAMGEW provides training, organisation and equipment, and helps farmers sell their honey at a fair price.
Jordan is home to more than one million Syrian refugees, most of whom live in poverty. This scheme supports refugees and host communities – by installing solar systems in schools shared by both groups, by bringing solar water heaters to homes rented by refugees, and by offering training to young people from both communities.
Community-owned solar microgrids have brought higher incomes and reliable energy to conflict-hit Yemen. The grids were created by groups of local entrepreneurs, thanks to grants and support from UNDP Now grid owners – including women – earn a better living, while their neighbours benefit from radically cheaper electricity.
Sustainable Built Environment (Global), supported by Grosvenor
Build Up Nepal, a social enterprise, helps women become construction entrepreneurs, by giving them machinery, training and support to build homes from compressed-earth blocks. The blocks are more sustainable than traditional fired bricks, and the scheme has already saved 17,600 tonnes of CO2.
This organisation’s Green Affordable Homes project has built new homes, improved old ones, and trained people – including Syrian refugees – in sustainable construction techniques.
Sustainable Built Environment (UK), supported by Garfield Weston Foundation
The UK’s Ecology Building Society has been providing mortgages for environmentally-friendly renovation and construction since 1981. In that time it has supported over 3,000 building projects; in 2018 alone, it lent £38.4m to 255 customers. The society offers discounts for energy efficiency and welcomes the use of natural and low-carbon building materials.
Passivhaus Homes supports the Passivhaus building method, a global standard that guarantees ultra-efficient homes needing minimal energy for heating and cooling. Passivhaus Homes cuts risk for builders through a standardised design and building process, and a store selling approved materials. The company also offers guidance and training.
Energy and Livelihoods, supported by the Waterloo Foundation
India’s S4S Technologies has developed a patented solar dryer for food products. It provides the machines, alongside tailored packages of finance, training and support, to a wide range of customers – including female smallholder farmers. This holistic approach helps even the poorest boost their income.
Harvesting salt is difficult and low-paid work. SEWA, an Indian trade union, is helping 30,000 female saltpan workers in the state of Gujurat form collectives and secure finance for solar water pumps. 1,300 pumps have been installed, boosting the earnings of some of the world’s most marginalised people by more than $10 a day.
Sustainable Mobility (International), sponsored by Bank of America
ITDP and the Greater Chennai Corporation are taking bold steps to promote walking and cycling in the Indian city – tackling deadly air pollution and creating more accessible public spaces. The results include 120km of improved pavements, a public bike-share scheme, car-free Sundays, and education and resources for policymakers.
Informal buses can be uncomfortable, unreliable and dangerous. In Kigali, Rwanda, RURA has replaced informal minibuses with less-polluting, better regulated buses. These offer ‘tap and go’ payment systems and serve more neighbourhoods. Ridership has doubled.
Clean air in UK towns and Cities
Electric bikes are an easier alternative to traditional bicycles – one that stills deliver great health benefits, and helps less active people get riding. Swytch’s e-bike conversion kit can be fitted to normal bicycles, saving carbon and money when compared to buying a new mid-range e-bike.
The rise of online shopping threatens to clog our streets with more polluting cars and vans. E-cargobikes have partnered with supermarkets and small businesses to deliver goods via electric bike across London.