John Ashton (diplomat)

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John Ashton CBE (born 7 November 1956) was the Special Representative for Climate Change at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from 2006 to June 2012,[1] Director for Strategic Partnerships at LEAD International, and is the founder and CEO of Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G).


John Ashton was born in London on 7 November 1956, and educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, 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.

Diplomatic career

John Ashton joined HM Diplomatic Service in 1978 and spent two years at the FCO in London. In 1980, he was sent to Hong Kong as a Language Student. From 1981-4, he was posted as Third Secretary later Second Secretary to the British Embassy in Beijing, where he served as science officer. He was China desk officer at the FCO from 1984-86. As First Secretary, he was seconded to the UK Cabinet Office from 1986-88.[2] Ashton was then posted to the British Embassy in Rome until 1993, where 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, John Ashton 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 climate change. In 1998 he became Head of Environment, Science and Energy Department (ESED) in the FCO; which he then took the initiative in 2000 to restructure as Environment Policy Department (EPD) in 2000.[3]

John Ashton left the FCO in 2002 to found E3G, an independent not-for-profit organisation that works in the public interest to accelerate the global transition to sustainable development. In June 2006, Ashton rejoined the FCO and was appointed Special Representative for Climate Change by Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett.

Ashton was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to international climate change.[4]

Climate adviser

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.[5]


Prior to the 2015 general election, he was one of several celebrities who endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas.[6]


He married Kao Fengning (Judy)in 1983. They have one son, John, b. 1986. Her son by her first marriage, Graham, is John's stepson.


  1. ^ "John Ashton". Retrieved 2016-08-08.
  2. ^ The Diplomatic Service List 1989 (page 108), HMSO, ISBN 0-11-591707-1
  3. ^ {pers knowledge as a colleague at the time.}
  4. ^ "No. 60173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2012. p. 23.
  5. ^ "John Ashton biography". Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  6. ^ Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 July 2015.

External links

  • John Ashton's biography at the FCO website
  • John Ashton's article on environment change at
  • Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
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