What a beautiful day to welcome Adrian Ramsay, who today takes up his post as our new Chief Executive. In an interview with Paul Allen, Adrian shares his thoughts on CAT’s evolving role in climate change solutions.
Paul Allen: What was it that first gave you an interest in green issues?
Adrian Ramsay: I first remember learning about green issues as a child through programmes like Blue Peter and Newsround. I badgered my parents to get low-energy light bulbs and use unleaded petrol. As I learned more at school about issues like deforestation and acid rain, I felt a strong sense of responsibility to do something about it. As a teenager I became involved in various environmental, animal welfare and social justice campaign groups and have dedicated my working life and voluntary time to environmental campaigning ever since.
PA: When did you first visit CAT and what was your experience of it?
AR: I’ve been aware of CAT’s work for many years. At university I was involved in the student group People and Planet, and we used CAT’s resources for our campaigns. In my previous jobs I met many people who had volunteered or trained at CAT, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I first had the opportunity to visit CAT during a holiday with my wife Jenny in Aberdyfi.
My first visit was a beautiful sunny day and I remember immediately being impressed by the water-powered cliff railway. Coming from the flat-lands of Norfolk, I found the views over the valley from the Centre simply stunning, and I still enjoy the tremendous natural beauty of the surroundings. On that first visit we spent the whole day exploring the various interactive displays and gardens and enjoyed a delicious lunch at the restaurant. We left feeling uplifted and motivated by the many practical demonstrations of sustainable living and green technologies.
PA: Why did the new CEO role appeal to you?
AR: I’ve had huge admiration for CAT’s work for many years and have been privileged to work as the Social Sciences Lecturer at CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment for the past 18 months. Working at CAT is inspiring and fulfilling, and I was attracted to a role where I could use my experience and skills to take forward CAT’s vision and goals. The urgency and importance of CAT’s work has never been greater – CAT has a crucial role in presenting solutions to environmental challenges and equipping people with the skills and passion to make a practical difference in their personal lives and wider society.
In my previous role as Deputy Leader of the Green Party, I greatly enjoyed the challenges and rewards of leading an organisation with a strong vision for a sustainable society. I was keen to bring my experience of environmental campaigning, media work, building membership, fundraising and leading change to such an innovative and inspiring organisation as CAT. The commitment and passion of the staff, volunteers and members of CAT is vital to the future of our planet and I know that together we can bring real and lasting change for the better.
PA: How do you see CAT evolving in the future?
AR: CAT has a crucial role to play in promoting practical solutions that enable us to reduce carbon emissions and protect natural resources, whilst adapting to a changing climate in sustainable and positive ways. CAT’s courses and consultancy work are crucial in equipping people and businesses with the necessary skills and knowledge to make sustainable living and working a reality.
In its 40-year history CAT has played a pivotal role in raising the profile of environmental issues and demonstrating green technologies and sustainable living. Moving forward, I see CAT having a greater role in lobbying industry and government to implement the crucial changes needed to move towards a Zero Carbon Britain. Working alongside other green-minded organisations and campaign groups, CAT can be part of a national movement to inspire the public, businesses and decision-makers with a positive vision of a low-carbon and sustainable future.
PA: How do you balance dealing with the causes of climate change with reacting to the effects of it?
AR: This is one of the most important questions that society faces today. We are already seeing the initial effects of climate change (in the UK and particularly in many poorer countries in the world), and we need to be prepared for inevitable changes that will be caused by emissions already in the atmosphere. However, this doesn’t mean we should give up on tackling the causes of climate change – quite the contrary. It is more crucial than ever that we dramatically cut further emissions to limit warming and prevent ‘runaway’ climate change that would have catastrophic and irreversible impacts.
With increased storms and flooding already evident in the UK and world-wide, governments are starting to talk about adaptation, but they don’t always have the right solutions. Some short-term fixes may be more damaging to the environment in the long term and may even exacerbate climate change and its impacts. CAT has a crucial role to play in promoting the right kinds of adaptation. We need sustainable solutions that benefit people and the environment – protecting homes, lives, wildlife and the natural world. In many ways we can choose win-win solutions that help to curb emissions and adapt to the changing climate – the innovative design of buildings and cities to reduce emissions and stay cool in heat-waves; the protection and restoration of natural areas that serve as floodplains and carbon sinks; less concrete in buildings and gardens; more carbon-sequestering materials and techniques; and improved land and water management. CAT will be leading the change in promoting these innovative, win-win solutions through our Changing Planet campaign.
PA: How do you see the role for CAT’s members developing over the coming years?
AR: CAT’s members are the life-blood of the organisation. It’s thanks to our members that we can fund and promote our education and research work, while spreading innovative solutions into workplaces, buildings and communities. With the growing urgency of CAT’s work and the rising challenges ahead, members will be more vital than ever in helping to encourage new members to join and helping with fundraising.
CAT’s members have a crucial role to play in spreading the word about how we can achieve a Zero Carbon Britain, helping us lobby for change, and promoting the courses and facilities at CAT to friends, families and work colleagues. Members can also contribute to the future of CAT by sharing their skills and experience, for example at the annual Members’ Conference or through residential or day volunteering. I look forward to meeting many members at the 40th birthday celebrations this year.
PA: And finally, what are your favourite ways to relax?
AR: My ideal way to relax is a quiet walk in beautiful countryside with my wife. We both love nature and wildlife, and we’re greatly looking forward to exploring the hills and woodlands around our new home in Machynlleth.