Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
By Woon Tan and Adam Woodhall
Celebrating excellence in sustainable energy innovation around the world, the Ashden Awards 2018, now in its 18th year, continues to uncover sustainable energy heroes championing a brave new low-carbon world. Keynote at the awards ceremony was the well-known hero of the climate movement Christiana Figueres, whose unstoppable energy led to one of the most important climate deals of our time - the COP21 Paris Agreement.
Former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana explains that the once long- held mythical barriers to climate action are now collapsing. The carbon constraints of 2 degrees are no longer the limitation but now the huge impetus necessary for growth. Figueres reminded the attendees that old excuses such as “There is no solution!”, “It’s too complex!”, “It’s too expensive!” or “It’s already too late!” are no longer acceptable and the Ashden Awards is playing a key role in moving climate action forward.
Christiana pointed out that it becomes a “no-brainer” to take action when there is a such a compelling stack of moral, technological and financial imperatives. She said: “How blessed are we to be alive in this moment of the evolution of humankind when we can do the moral and right thing, the financially profitable thing, the technological advanced thing and be able to be put it together in coherent packages that is addressing climate change. That is a privilege”
Christiana reminded us that just a few short years ago, climate change had always been about doom and gloom. However, bottom-up innovations are appearing across all levels, and with this, we are shifting the narrative from the tragedy of the commons to the opportunity of the locals.
This year’s Ashden Award winners were described as ‘stubborn optimists’. She said: “To punch through the mythical barriers around climate change and work towards the common good it is necessary to be stubborn, optimistically stubborn. All of these fantastic winners have faced challenges, but their stubborn optimism in pursuing their goals is helping with the biggest challenge of all and that is climate change.”
The awards are the culmination of a rigorous judging process - involving a panel of industry experts and technical assessments. There were 10 awards across many areas, from a floor insulation robot to an off-grid clean energy pay-as-you-go solution.
One area of significant transformation is the transport and mobility sector; as Christiana declared, “Tonight we are all going to the inauguration of the Museum of Internal Combustion Engine.”
This is exemplified by winner of the UK Ashden Award for Clean Air in Towns and Cities, Chargemaster, the UK’s largest network of charging points. These are critical to powering electric motoring and encouraging the future uptake of EVs. Demonstrating that the Ashden judges had their fingers on the pulse, Chargemaster were bought by BP for £130m just after the awards.
Shuttl are worthy winners of the International Ashden Award for Sustainable Mobility as they are already taking 10,000 cars off the road each day in some of India’s busiest cities, and are rapidly scaling. The Shuttl app creates rush hour bus routes by responding to the demand from commuters. This provides affordable transportation on private, air-conditioned buses where seats are guaranteed, and safe for women to use. The Ashden judging panel said: “It is very rare indeed that sustainable transport interventions produce as many benefits as Shuttl, starting with the reduction in car trips which is a huge contribution to reducing congestion, pollution and improving roadsafety.”
Christiana’s keynote is a great rallying call for us to keep up the urgency needed for climate change action. Ashden Founder Director, Sarah Butler-Sloss concluded the event saying, “The winners of our Ashden Awards never fail to amaze and inspire our panel of judges, and the 2018 line-up is certainly no exception. The solutions, ideas and innovations that our winners have developed are already making a crucial difference in terms of creating access to energy, lowering carbon emissions, developing clean, sustainable solutions for cities and providing vital health and economic benefits. It is absolutely necessary for us to work together to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and every one of our 2018 winners is playing a key role in moving climate change action forward.”
Originally published on Ethical Performance.