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Climate hero Adam McGibbon secures Biden buy-in to $15bn green deal

States and Canada sign up for anti-fossil fuel campaign


Adam McGibbon with his Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland award

Adam McGibbon with his Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland award

Kevin Scott

Adam McGibbon with his Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland award

Climate hero Adam McGibbon has led a campaign which could see $15bn of funding removed from fossil fuel projects around the world following a breakthrough at COP26.

The Belfast man successfully lobbied the British government to stop spending taxpayer money on foreign fossil fuel infrastructure last year.

Last week as the COP26 summit was ongoing climate campaigner Adam (33) was informed 20 other countries, including huge polluters like the United States and Canada, had pledged to do the same by 2022.

Adam, who works for international anti-fossil fuel investment charity Market Forces, told Sunday Life it was surreal to see his campaign having such a huge impact. He said: “It feels a bit unreal, it’s such a huge deal that it feels a bit weird to think it began with a campaign I started.

“It was great getting the UK on board but adding the US and Canada to that makes it globally significant.

“The British government, through it’s various agencies, provided billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to help build oil fields in Brazil, gas plants in Mozambique, oil refineries in Bahrain, all these projects in far-flung places which contribute to climate change.

“So I led the campaign involving 16 organisations which got them to commit to no longer doing that which was great.

“Britain was the first country in the world to do it and behind the scenes it has caused a bit of a domino effect which I was hoping for.

“Once the British government moved on this I hoped other countries would feel the time was right to take the leap and follow them which is what happened during the week.

“It could potentially lift $15bn out of fossil fuels each year and divert that into clean energy instead with some major countries signing up.

“Some of our partner organisations have been working behind the scenes for a while spending diplomatic time and energy to make it happen but right up until the last minute it was a bit of a surprise as to who was going to come on board.

“You’re not talking about small countries here — these are really big polluters who have come on board and made this commitment, so it’s pretty significant.

“It’s probably the most significant thing I have heard out of Cop26 so far actually, particularly with the involvement of the US and Canada, that’s a really big deal, it’s massive.”

The joint pledge unites some of the largest historic providers of public finance for fossil fuels including Canada, the US, the UK and the European Investment Bank (EIB), however, other large financiers have yet to join them.

Adam, who now lives in Edinburgh, started his campaign against public finance for fossil fuels while in a previous role with the environment and human rights charity Global Witness. He says he was repeatedly told it would be impossible to change government policy but was determined to remove public money from the fossil fuel industry.

He continued: “We kept getting told it wasn’t possible and the British government would never go for it.

“So to be where we are now is great and hopefully we can build on that, there has been talk of Germany and the European Commission maybe signing up.

“We hope that it runs and runs, if you can keep the finance away from fossil fuels then it makes it hard to build new infrastructure.

“That’s our whole theory of change really, if you shift the money out of pollution then the pollution will stop.

“It’s probably worth saying this doesn’t mean the British government, or any of the nations who’ve signed up, are perfect but it’s a start.

“The next big thing we need is for those countries to move on phasing out fossil fuel extraction within their own borders.

“So no more oil fields, no more coal mines and so on, but it needs to be done in such a way that protects people who work in those industries. They are people and deserve well paying jobs which need to be transferred into clean energy, that’s something that needs to be really planned.” 

Adam was awarded the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Climate Hero award earlier this year for his work tackling climate change.

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