Greg Barker key note address to the Ashden Awards

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Check against delivery Thanks very much. I’m delighted to be here tonight. I last attended the Ashden Awards in 2006. What struck me then,…

Check against delivery

Thanks very much. I’m delighted to be here tonight.

I last attended the Ashden Awards in 2006. What struck me then, and again tonight, was the dedication and passion - not just of the winners, but of everyone involved with this extraordinary set of projects.

This is a project that honours the very best in creative green thinking.

And in their own way, each of tonight’s finalists have met the defining challenge of our age. The challenge of delivering clean, sustainable energy, which is critical to cutting carbon emissions.

As a proud member of the coalition that has pledged itself to be the greenest government ever, that is a challenge that I am determined to rise to.

We must be honest: when it comes to climate change, the international outlooks is far from promising.

Emissions are on the rise. Trust in science is low. The international politics are tough.

There are no quick solutions. Yet the problem has not gone away, and urgency for a global deal is ever more pressing.

Tonight I want to recognise one undeniable truth. At this critical point in time, momentum is no longer with politicians at the top. It’s with entrepreneurs and businesses on the ground.

Unlocking change

Around the world, people are responding where politics have failed.

I want to encourage them to go further and faster, by making a greener Britain a model of a new low-carbon economy that others can follow.

We must break through the barriers holding us back from a decentralised, sustainable energy economy - and unlock transformational change.

That means getting the right framework in place to allow innovation to flourish:

  1. supporting low-carbon research - in microgeneration, marine energy, and more
  2. sparking supply-side innovation - with large-scale mechanisms like the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Green Deal
  3. building the supply chains and skilling up the workforce that will deliver our resource efficient, clean energy future
  4. and crowding-in investment to get emerging technologies off the whiteboard and into the marketplace

Looking abroad

We can do the same internationally - with the same effect. It’s about using public finance to unlock private capital at scale.

We’ve made a good start at home with the Green Investment Bank. And we’re looking to drive private sector climate investment into developing economies with the Capital Markets Climate Initiative, which is now partnering with the World Economic Forum.

As my colleague Andrew Mitchell said last week, the key to real success is building stronger direct links between donors and end users.

What’s true of aid money is also true of seed money. When both parties can see the benefits, it’s so much easier to unlock more ambition.

Changing up

The Ashden Trust knows this better than most. These Awards have been going ten years; identified 133 winners, given nearly £2.5 million in prize money, and leveraged £7.5 million in finance.

Now is the time for a change of pace and a step change in ambition. It’s time to scale up; proving up models that can deliver clean energy for the mass market.
That’s where we can help.

Worldwide, 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity. Kerosene and other lighting fuels consume around 440m barrels of oil a year, emitting 190mt CO2.

2.7 billion people still use wasteful traditional biomass for cooking. That’s more than the populations of India and China combined.

And there are major consequences.

Up to 2 million women and children die every year because of illness from indoor air pollution.

Clean energy can cut emissions. It can also save lives.

That’s why I am delighted to announce that we intend to work with the Ashden Awards and other partners to explore how we can support entrepreneurial SMEs to increase access to clean energy in developing countries - using funding from the Government’s International Climate Fund.

This is an opportunity to really scale up the exemplary work of the Ashden Award winners, and match your ability and reputation with our resources.


The Ashden Trust is part of a strong British tradition: of turning business success into a lasting legacy.

It’s not about static charity, but a dynamic philanthropy that engages the individual to benefit the whole. It is driving dynamic, positive change, not just abroad but crucially at home too.

It’s where the new energy economy meets the Big Society.
We see it in Totnes, a town that’s come together to make the transition to the low-carbon future.

We see it in Severn Wye Energy Agency, giving the next generation the skills and training to take us there.

And in Tough Stuff, bringing light to the lives in the most difficult conditions.

This is real clean energy excellence. It should shine out across sectors, and across borders.

We owe tonight’s winners our sincerest congratulations - and our profoundest thanks. But this is not a job well done, it’s a collective task we have only just begun.