Development & Alumni Relations Office 



GRADUATE WINS PRESTIGIOUS SHEILA MCKECHNIE FOUNDATION ‘DAVID & GOLIATH’ AWARD  Three images of Adam McGibbon with map in background, left and right blurred and in the middle in full colour.

13 May 2020

A campaign coordinated by double Queen’s graduate Adam McGibbon that ‘brought the end of the fossil fuel era a step nearer’, has won a prestigious national award (Thursday 13 May).

The UK Overseas Fossil Fuel Campaign, picked up the David & Goliath Award, which ‘celebrates individuals or small campaign groups that take on much bigger organisations and challenge vested power’, from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation.

The Campaign was coordinated by 2010-12 Students’ Union Vice President Adam McGibbon, who has a BA in History & Politics (2009) and a Master’s in Politics & Voting Behaviour (2010) from Queen’s.

Led by a small number of campaigners from a diverse range of organisations, the Campaign ‘used every tool in the box’ to bring taxpayer funding of fossil fuels to an end. The campaign evolved into a well-run coalition effort, which helped set a new global standard for climate action.

Speaking about winning the Award, Adam McGibbon, said:

“It's really exciting to have won the David & Goliath Award! In just three years, stopping the UK Government’s multi-billion taxpayer finance for fossil fuels overseas moved from being an ‘impossible’ idea to a reality.

“This was a campaign run on a shoestring budget, but with a massive global impact. It's been really encouraging to hear about other governments who are set to follow the UK's lead.

“The fossil fuel era is ending – this campaign hopefully will help bring that end date a little closer.”

In December last year, the Government announced that all taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas would end. The UK is the first major country to make this commitment and campaigners predicted that if the UK moved first other countries would follow. Within weeks, it was announced that the new Biden administration would follow the UK and end their overseas fossil fuel support. Several EU countries are known to be planning similar moves. The campaign has started a domino effect.

For decades, the UK provided billions in taxpayers’ money for fossil fuel projects all over the world. The UK taxpayer has helped support coal mines in Russia, oil refineries in Bahrain and gas projects in war-torn Mozambique. This financial support has made climate change worse, and locked developing countries into fossil fuel use instead of moving towards clean energy. 

By lobbying MPs, staging noisy protests, publishing media-friendly investigations, and allying with communities affected by UK-funded projects, the campaign turned a highly technical issue into a simple message that resonated across the political spectrum – ‘stop funding fossil fuels overseas’.

Organisations involved in the campaign are Global Witness, E3G, Tearfund, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth (EWNI), Greenpeace, Bretton Woods Project, Oil Change International and Global Justice Now.

The SMK National Campaigner Awards celebrate the best campaigns and campaigners, whether working locally or nationally, and from individuals and community groups to people working in large organisations. They recognise those who have made change happen most effectively, creatively and courageously.

The Awards are supported by Bates Wells, leading legal advisers to civil society, helping campaigning organisations go further.

To arrange an interview with Adam McGibbon, or any of the other Sheila McKechnie Foundation winners, please contact Emma Boyd on 07734 682 239.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast. 

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