John Ashton: Just Another Jerk in the Circle

John Ashton has an article in the Guardian today, 2nd October,

in which he tells the BBC whom it can and can’t interview, describing the interview it accorded Australian climate sceptic Bob Carter as: “throwing .. a piece of its own flesh” to the “vultures [who] have been circling around it.”

Tomorrow he’s speaking at the Royal Society climate event on “Reality and its enemies: climate change and its implications for the contract between science and society.”

Here’s his biography, from the RS:

“John Ashton is an independent commentator and adviser on the politics of climate change.  Best known as a leading climate diplomat, from 2006-12 he served as Special Representative for Climate Change for three successive UK Foreign Secretaries, spanning the current Coalition and the previous Labour Government. He was a cofounder and, from 2004-6, the first Chief Executive of the think tank E3G. From 1978-2002, after a brief period as a research astronomer, he was a career diplomat, with a particular focus on China. He is a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College. He holds visiting professorships at the London School of Economics and the London University School of Oriental and African Studies. He is a Trustee of the UK Youth Climate Coalition and Tipping Point. He is also a non executive Director of E3G”.

gives a list of his works and speaking engagements.

The earliest work is a pamphlet: “The end of Foreign Policy? by John Ashton, Tom Burke, Nick Mabey” published jointly by the Fabian Society, the Royal Institute for International Affairs and the Green Alliance. (Its publication was made possible by generous sponsorship from Rio Tinto plc)

Strangely, the pamphlet is signed by Peter Hain, M.P., and on the E3G site it says:

“During 2001, the founders of E3G contributed to the influential pamphlet ‘The End of Foreign Policy?: British Interests, Global Linkages and Natural Limits’ published by Peter Hain MP…As a direct result two EU states restructured their foreign ministries.” 

Of his two co-authors, (both co-founders of E3G):

Nick Mabeywas previously a senior advisor in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit leading work on national and international policy areas, including: energy, climate change, countries at risk of instability, organised crime and fisheries. Nick was employed in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Environment Policy Department, and was the FCO lead for the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 where he established international partnerships on clean energy, tourism and environmental democracy. Before he joined government Nick was Head of Economics and Development at WWF-UK. He came to WWF from research at London Business School on the economics of climate change, which he published as the book “Argument in the Greenhouse”. This followed a period in the UK electricity industry working as a negotiator for PowerGen and an engineer for GEC-Alsthom. Nick trained as a mechanical engineer at Bristol University and holds a masters degree in Technology and Policy from MIT where he specialised in energy systems analysis. Among other appointments Nick has served on the advisory board of Infrastructure UK, the steering group of Norstec the industry-led alliance for offshore renewable energy, the independent commission reporting to the UK Conservative Party on the design of a Green Investment Bank, and the Advisory Council of the European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power.

while Tom Burke is:

currently an Environmental Policy Adviser to Rio Tinto plc and a Visiting Professor at Imperial and University Colleges, London… He is a member of the External Review Committee of Shell and the Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board of Unilever. He was appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to chair an Independent Review of Environmental Governance in Northern Ireland from 2006 – 2007. He was a member of the Council of English Nature, the statutory advisor to the British Government on biodiversity from 1999 – 2005. He was a Senior Business Advisor to the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative on Climate Change from 2006-12. During 2002 he served as an advisor to the Central Policy Group in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office. He was Special Adviser to three Secretaries of State for the Environment from 1991 – 1997 after serving as Director of the Green Alliance from 1982 – 1991. He was an environmental advisor (part time) to BP plc from 1997 – 2001. He was a member of the OECD’s High Level Panel on the Environment 1996 – 1998. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was a member of the Council from 1990-92 sitting on its Environment Committee 1988 – 1996. He also served on the Executive Committee of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations from 1984 – 1989. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Cranfield Institute of Management and a Senior Visiting Fellow at Manchester Business School. He was formerly Executive Director of Friends of the Earth and a member of the Executive Committee of the European Environmental Bureau 1988 – 1991. He was the Secretary-General of the Bergen 1990 Environment NGO Conference 1988-90. He was a member of the Board of the World Energy Council’s Commission ‘Energy for Tomorrow’s World’ 1990 – 1993. He currently serves on the Advisory Board for Conservation International’s Centre for Environmental Leadership in Business in the US. In 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the Energy Institute. He also serves on the Advisory Council of the Carbon Disclosure Project. He is a Patron of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association and a Vice-President of Environmental Protection UK. In 1993 he was appointed to United Nations Environment Programme’s ‘Global 500’ roll of honour.  In 1997, he was appointed CBE for services to the environment. He was awarded Royal Humane Society testimonials on Vellum (1968) and Parchment (1970).

(Yes, but what do they actually do?)

Well, one left WWF and another left Friends of the Earth to go and work in government and found a not-for profit charity which employs 26 people,

and is financed by the European Commission, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, The Department of Energy and Climate Change, The Department for International Development, The Rockefeller Brothers, Shell, EDF, Greenpeace, WWF, The European Climate Foundation, Climate Works Foundation, the Climate Group, Climate and Development Knowledge Network, Climate Strategies, The Energy Foundation (a partnership of philanthropic investors promoting clean energy technology) SouthSoutNorth (promoting sustainable development, addressing climate change)  Arcadia, AVAAZ (An ethic of servant leadership – We focus on tipping-point moments of crisis and opportunity), Blue Moon Fund (works to build human and natural resilience to a changing and warming world) Ecofin (workable solutions for a low-carbon future) The Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory (I kid you not), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, The Nordic Council (yerwhat?) and .. and..

(So what do they actually do?)

What they do is give talks, write articles in the Guardian, and get interviewed on the BBC. Endlessly. Financed by four government departments and a host of philanthropic and commercial organisations, including Big Oil, Big Mining, Big Nuclear, and Big Wind.

And they sit on the Board of Trustees of the UKYCC which brainwashes young people recruited by WWF and trained by Greenpeace, to go on trips to demonstrate at conferences to tell the delegates (who are there to tell governments what to do) what to do, financed by the same charitable trusts that pay their salaries, and when they’re not advising government ministers what to do, they are advising Guardian readers and BBC viewers (and anyone who’ll pay them to come and give a talk telling them what to do) what to tell their elected representatives to do.

Here’s Ashton talking to the Tyndall Open Forum at the University of East Anglia last month, from :

“Thomas Metzinger is a German philosopher, distinguished in his field of consciousness studies, based at the University of Mainz. You can find him on YouTube giving an excellent talk, explaining why in his view the self does not exist. 

In a recent essay, Professor Metzinger wrote this: 

“‘Conceived of as an intellectual challenge for humankind, the increasing threat arising from self-induced global warming clearly seems to exceed the present cognitive and emotional abilities of our species. This is the first truly global crisis, experienced by all human beings at the same time and in a single media space, and as we watch it unfold, it will also gradually change our image of ourselves, the conception humankind has of itself as a whole. I predict that during the next decades, we will increasingly experience ourselves as failing beings.’ 

“’We will increasingly experience ourselves as failing beings’. 

“Reflect on that for a moment. Resist the temptation to deconstruct it intellectually. Let it brush against what you already feel about your future and your childrens’ future, your idea of where you have come from and where you are going. Does it reinforce or conflict with your deepest intuition? 

“Could I ask you to raise your hand if you broadly agree with Prof Metzinger?” 

[80% of audience raised their hands] “

… Then they prostrated themselves to kiss Great Gaia’s benificent bottom, crying: “Holy, Holy Hansen, praised be thy name”

OK, I made the last bit up.

This is the person advising governent ministers, and telling the BBC who they can and can’t interview.

About Geoff Chambers

Retired illustrator (children's magazines, religious education textbooks, an Encyclopaedia of Christianity, gay contact and female fitness magazines, pornographic strip cartoons etc.) Retired lecturer in English and History of Art in a French University; ardent blogger on climate hysteria, banned five times from the Guardian and twice from the Conversation. Now blogging at
This entry was posted in Phantom Bodies & Zombie Blogs, Weirdos and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to John Ashton: Just Another Jerk in the Circle

  1. Geoff, let us not forget that Ashton not only floats effortlessly back and forth through the Govt/NGO revolving door, but he is also the chap who last April – while rallying the troops at the Met Office – had declared that this venerable institution is a “jewel in the crown, of British science and global science”

  2. soarergtl says:

    How is it that in these straightened times anyone can make a career out of being an activist – and get good money for spouting nonsense?

    It was an appalling article but, under its proud banner ‘Comment is Free’ the Guardian, as is usual, deleted many dissenting voices.

  3. alexjc38 says:

    “Then they prostrated themselves…” I am reliably informed by CS Lewis that the done thing is to chant “Ouroborindra ba-ba-hee!” on these sorts of occasions.

    There’s now a transcript of the offending Bob Carter interview last Friday, here:

    He’s pretty forthright – no wonder Ashton, Ward and the rest didn’t like it! Well worth a read, and to compare and contrast with the interview with Peter Stott that came after it.

  4. TonyN says:


    A good place to dig I think, and of course E3G was represented (Anita Neville) at the 2006 BBC climate seminar with ‘the best scientific experts’.

  5. TonyN
    Thanks for that information. All three founders have strange career patterns, with two deserting activist groups (WWF and FoE) to make spectaular careers in political advocacy (what’s the career ladder for becoming a special advisor to three ministers in a row?) and the other becoming a diplomat after “a short period” (what, one light year?) as an astronomer.
    There’s also the tangled web of funding. If anyone has any neat ideas for organising hierarchical information (for anyone computer-savvy I imagine it’s pretty basic) I’d like to know.
    I started thinking while I was writing it: “What do those who stayed behind think of people like these, who jump ship – poachers who within minutes of changing sides are already secretaries of the Gamekeepers’ Union?”
    There must be some bad feeling, surely, among those who are left to man the stalls and collect the signatures on petitions, not to mention those in Russian prisons.

  6. TonyN says:

    My main memory is of Tom Burke being wheeled out by the BBC again and again in the company of Rapley, Monbiot, and others as a ‘climate expert’, implying scientist, with no hint that he was an activist. From his appearance and demeanour I guess he would have little trouble attracting ‘bad feelings’. ‘Bruiser’ was the word that always sprang to mind.

  7. alexjc38 says:

    Last Friday there was an interview with Tom Burke on BBC TV in which he distinguished between the businesses that were “climate makers” (“the fossil fuel industries and their customers”) and the “climate takers” (“the rest of the business community, who have to live with the climate we end up with”.) A curious distinction, in my view, given that we are all (activists included) customers of the fossil fuel industries, in one way or another.

    When the BBC presenter asked him if being green actually featured very much in the business strategies of multinationals such as Rio Tinto, Burke’s reply was that yes it was, but not enough, and “that’s because the politicians are failing”.

    Basically, the businesses need to send a stronger message to the politicians, and the politicians then need to send a stronger message to the businesses… 😉

  8. NoFixedAddress says:


    Can you please start a corollary to Godwin’s Law for people who claim we have to do ‘something NOW’ for the future of the kids and/or the grandkids.

    Anyone who claims action NOW for their progeny should be immediately sterilised as they have demonstrated that they and their offspring are too stupid to survive in a changing world.

  9. Pingback: CAN of Worms (part 1) | Climate Scepticism

  10. stewgreen says:

    own bio “E3G is an *independent* climate change think tank accelerating the transition to a climate safe world”
    “independent” seems a PRtrick word there then
    The directors backgrounds are listed above and their other directorships cover firms that make money from environmental consulting and directing environmental investment
    So that seems to be a conflict of interest to me.

    Are they ethical ?
    Well they made their own Wikipedia page, and that is against the rules
    Quote the Wikiedia QC bot
    \\A quick review of the history of this page shows that user “Annaiglasser” added over half the content to this page.
    Anna Glasser is listed on their website as a communications associate with E3G (the subject of this article)//

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