Director for Strategic Partnerships, LEAD International
Founder and CEO, E3G (Third Generation Environmentalism)
After four years as the UK's most senior environmental diplomat,
John Ashton embarked in October 2002 on a period outside government
to explore these ideas further from the newly created position
of Director for Strategic Partnerships at LEAD International.
LEAD ( www.lead.org ) is
a non profit body providing high level training in leadership
for sustainable development for outstanding mid-career individuals.
It supports its graduates, known as LEAD Fellows, in working
collectively and in partnership with others to achieve sustainable
John's experience in government and at LEAD has convinced
him that activated networks of individuals, spanning cultural
and sectoral boundaries, can create powerful forces for change.
With a group of like-minded colleagues he is now developing
a new organisation, E3G (for Third Generation Environmentalism),
which aims to create projects, tools and processes to engage
the hundreds of thousands of environmentally aware power brokers
within various institutions worldwide to address the challenges
we face and implement sustainable solutions. John is Founder
and CEO of E3G.
John Ashton was born in London on 7 November 1956, and educated
at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle Upon Tyne and at Cambridge
University, where he read Natural Sciences specialising in
theoretical physics. On graduation in 1977, he spent a year
as a research astronomer at the New Cavendish Laboratory.
He joined the British Diplomatic Service in 1978. From 1981-4,
he served as Science Officer in the British Embassy in Beijing,
building bridges in science and technology between Britain
and China while Chinese science was recovering after the lost
years of the Cultural Revolution. From 1984-6, he was Head
of the China Desk at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in
London. He then spent two years seconded to the UK Cabinet
Office before learning Italian and serving in the British Embassy
in Rome from 1988-93. Here he carried out the first ever study
for the British Government of the Mafia and the dangers it
posed to British interests.
From 1993-7, he was seconded to the Hong Kong Government as
Deputy Political Adviser to Governor Chris Patten, dealing
with matters relating to Hong Kong's transition to Chinese
sovereignty. He was closely involved in all major dealings
between the UK and China concerning Hong Kong. During this
period, his interest in the environment drew him towards the
diplomacy of global change. Accordingly, he spent 8 months
from 1997-8 as a Visiting Fellow at Green College, Oxford seeking
a cross-disciplinary understanding of the science, politics
and diplomacy of climate change.
He then returned to the Foreign Office as Head of its Environment,
Science, and Energy Department. In that capacity, he advised
the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers on environmental
issues, and took part as a senior member of the UK team in
international negotiations on the environment, including the
climate negotiations and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
But his core aim was to build an environmental
perspective for the first time in to British foreign policy,
and thereby to unleash a stronger Foreign Office contribution
to the UK's collective effort on the environment and sustainable
development. This led in 2000 to the creation under his leadership
of a new Department in the FCO, Environment Policy Department,
with substantially enhanced human and financial resources;
and in 2001 to the establishment of a pioneering policy network
bringing together Environment Attaches from over 60 UK diplomatic
missions with key policymakers in Whitehall Departments.
During this period, he worked closely with the Rt Hon Peter
Hain MP, and contributed substantially to his pamphlet "The
End of Foreign Policy?", published in 2001 by a consortium
including the Royal Institute for International Affairs.
John Ashton is a Member of the Green College Centre for Environmental
Policy and Understanding. He also serves on the Advisory Boards
of the Climate Institute, Washington DC, and of the UK Tyndall
Centre for Climate Change Research. He is married, to Judy;
he has one son, John jr, and one stepson, Graham. He has a
passion for the game of cricket.