With nominations for our Spirit of NI awards open, we talk to last year’s climate change hero Adam about his remarkable campaign to stop governments financing fossil fuel projects
A Belfast man who is devoting his life to saving the planet was the winner of the 2021 Climate Hero Award sponsored this year by Concentrix.
Adam McGibbon pulled off what many thought was impossible when he persuaded Boris Johnson to stop pumping billions of pounds into overseas fossil fuels.
And as nominations open for this year’s Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards in association with Ulster Bank, we want more people like winner Adam to be recognised for their good work.
Adam has made an immeasurable impact on limiting damage to the environment and the 33-year-old is only getting started.
He was horrified when he learned in 2017 that the UK Government was investing billions in taxpayers’ money in overseas fossil fuel companies.
He explained: “I was shocked it was happening and also shocked that no one else was doing anything about it. I decided to bring people together to do something about it.
“I got some global environmental groups on board and got MPs to ask questions about it and it just snowballed.
“Some (environmental) organisations were aware of it but most had decided it was too big and there was no way they were going to get the British Government to change its policy.
“I just felt that it was not good enough to say it is impossible because it just had to happen.”
His efforts turned this previously unheard-of problem into a major political issue.
Adam got people worldwide and national media on board to give a voice to the movement.
And it paid off in December 2020, when Boris Johnson announced that all UK taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas would end.
The UK was the first country in the world to make this pledge.
Adam’s strategy was that if he could persuade the UK to make the move, other countries would follow.
And he was right. Last November when Britain hosted the world Climate Conference in Glasgow another 20 nations agreed to also phase out their investment in fossil fuels. Since then an additional 19 have signed up.
Adam said: “It’s fantastic. We now have 39 countries pledging to phase out their financing of fossil fuels and I am really pleased that our campaigning has had such an effect.”
Adam first became interested in the environment while studying politics at Queen’s University where he set up the youth wing of the Green Party.
On graduating he worked for two years as vice president of Queen’s Student’s Union and then spent several years with the organisation Global Witness.
Currently based in Edinburgh, he is now with another major environmental company, Market Forces UK.
As the UK campaign lead for the organisation, it is his job to challenge banks and financial institutions that fund fossil fuel projects, persuading them to adopt more sustainable behaviour.
While campaigning in his day job he is also active outside work, where he is now determined to persuade the government to stop issuing licences for North Sea oil and gas drilling.
Since winning our award he believes that progress on this issue has been made — although the war in Ukraine is having an impact.
He said: “There was a lot of momentum last year in getting the government to stop extracting oil and gas within our own borders.
“The Ukraine war means we need our own supplies now because we relied so much on Russia so that has set things back a bit but I think it also shows that we need to get more into clean energy.
“We need a massive government programme of investment to make us energy independent. Every house in the country needs to be properly insulated and it would surprise you how many are not.
“We need more wind and tidal energy and heat pumps, all these things would create jobs and would be a massive boost to business
“I am aware that a lot of people work in North Sea oil and gas so we need to do this in a way that protects these people and provides them with new jobs.”
Since winning our award Adam has become equally dedicated to his job and his voluntary campaigning.
He explained: “Financial companies are at the heart of the climate crisis. We have been trying to move them away from dirty energy to clean energy. In the past year we have managed to get some of the biggest banks and insurance companies to move away from financing fossil fuels.”
Devoting his life now to protecting the environment, he added: “This is the cause of my life. I’m in this fight until I die.
“This is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me up at night.”
Adam’s view is shared by our category sponsor, Concentrix, which has a strong company ethos on protecting the environment.
Katrina O’Dowd, director of regional marketing, called on people to get nominating and said: “We are absolutely delighted to sponsor the Spirit of NI Climate Hero award again this year and to show our support for a cleaner and greener future.
“We recognise our responsibility but also know that no one company can solve these challenges alone. When we all work together collectively to make positive change, then we can build a greener, better world.”
AWARDS CATEGORIES AND HOW TO NOMINATE:
Unsung Hero (sponsored by The Boulevard)
Someone whose great deed or deeds have previously gone unnoticed, but who will have made a major contribution to your life or to your community.
Someone who has overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.
Spirit of Youth (sponsored by Better)
Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognised for their special achievements.
999 Hero (sponsored by Shield Accident Management)
A member of the emergency services who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their job.
Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or as a fundraiser for many years.
Spirit of Health
A medical professional who has gone the extra mile to improve the health and well-being of their patients.
Spirit of Education
This award recognises a truly inspirational teacher who has helped children and young people fulfil their potential.
Caring Spirit Award (sponsored by Power NI)
A person, young or old, who has dedicated their time to caring for a friend or family member.
Spirit of Sport
Someone who has made an exceptional contribution to local sport over a number of years.
Climate Hero (sponsored by Concentrix)
Seeks to recognise an individual or community group going the extra mile to care for and protect the local environment for future generations.
Someone who the judges feel represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.
Nominations will be received up until August 22. To nominate someone couldn’t be easier. Simply email your nominations to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us the story of the person who has made a difference. You can also post nominations to us at Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, 33 Clarendon Road, Belfast, BT1 3BG