Woman's Hour Power List 2020: The List
The Woman’s Hour Power List 2020: Our Planet has been revealed! This year we're celebrating 30 inspiring women whose work is making a significant positive contribution to the environment and the sustainability of our planet.
The problems our planet is facing can feel overwhelming, but these women prove that everyone can make a difference in their own way through creativity, optimism and enthusiasm.
This year's list is designed to reflect the huge range of roles that are essential to environmental work. Rather than a classic definition of power, the list is made up of an eco-system of women who have power in lots of different ways, but who are all essential in looking after the planet.
Everyone on the list is based in the UK and falls into one of five categories: Decision-makers, Innovators, Communicators, Campaigners and Volunteers. You can find out more about these here.
The Woman's Hour Power List 2020: Our Planet was decided by our judging panel led by journalist Lucy Siegle. She was joined by horticulturalist and garden designer Flo Headlam, climate and energy researcher Professor Alice Larkin, Action for Conservation's Zunaira Malik, and Chair of the Environment Agency Emma Howard Boyd. You can find out more about the judges here.
More from the Woman's Hour Power List: Our Planet
1. Caroline Lucas
Green Party MP
"Fearless in holding power to account" with "unparalleled experience" according to our judges, Caroline Lucas was the first Green Party MP in England and Wales and the only one to maintain her seat throughout the decade. She's been a constant advocate for the environment in the most powerful place in the UK - Parliament - as part of cross-parliamentary groups on fuel poverty and renewable energy, and committees that scrutinise government legislation. She’s shown consistent support for green issues like animal welfare, trade justice and green economics. Most recently, Caroline has been working to push through the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, which will build on the Climate Change Act of 2008 by forcing the UK to enact a serious plan, and examine the UK’s carbon footprint as a whole.
2. Farhana Yamin
Farhana Yamin is "a powerhouse of climate justice" according our judges, and has been advising leaders and countries on climate change and development policy for over 20 years. Her work as an Environmental Lawyer at the highest levels of climate negotiation is unparalleled. Farhana was an advisor to the Republic of the Marshall Islands for the 2015 Paris Agreement. She played a key role in building the High Ambition Coalition, which advances the climate-positive work of 35 countries, and founded Track 0 to provide strategic training and advice to government leaders, businesses and communities trying to become more sustainable. At the moment she’s working to empower people to bring about the changes they want to see at a local level, including setting up the Think and Do Community Climate and Eco Action pop-up in Camden where people can discuss ideas. She wants to prove that individuals really do have power when they work together.
3. Rosamund Kissi-Debrah
Founder of The Ella Roberta Foundation
Rosamund is a tireless voice for clean air following the tragic death of her nine year old daughter Ella in 2013, from a series of severe asthma attacks. Reports linked Ella’s death to dangerously high levels of pollution near their London home and Rosamund has since become a powerful grassroots campaigner driving real change. She’s now a World Health Organisation Advocate for Health and Air Quality, and works with the Mayor of London on the Healthy London Partnership. Her work has boosted the global conversation around air pollution, and has contributed to the Ultra-Low Emission Zone being expanded around London.
4. Mya-Rose Craig
Birder and Environmentalist
You might know Mya-Rose Craig better as Birdgirl – she’s been publicly sharing a passion for birds and nature her whole life. At age 9 she contributed to a BBC4 documentary, by the age of 12 she was writing a column about birding, and now at just 18 she’s working on her second book. A British-Bangladeshi, Mya-Rose is also the founder of Black2Nature, a campaign which aims to get children from minority ethnic backgrounds into the natural world. She speaks on climate justice and the necessity for diversity to work towards that goal.
5. Sophie Howe
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Sophie Howe is the world’s first Future Generations Commissioner – a role which requires her to hold the government and Welsh bodies to account on behalf of people who haven’t yet been born. This includes examining and advising on policy around transport, education reform and climate change. She’s already made a difference around the use of land, and how transport schemes are being developed. If real change comes by challenging the status quo, then Sophie isn’t afraid to do so – and she’s passionate about leaving the world better than she found it.
6. Ella Daish
Founder of #EndPeriodPlastic campaign
Ella Daish has been campaigning to eliminate all plastic from menstrual products since 2018, after noticing the amount of single use plastic on the streets during her postal worker shifts. When she realised that most tampons and pads can contain up to 90% plastic and take over 500 years to break down, she decided to act. Her award-winning campaign to end period plastic has had huge results in a short time, with major supermarkets and retailers removing plastic applicators from their own-brand tampons, and launching eco-friendly options instead. Ella estimates that this saves around 17 tonnes of single-use plastic every year, and she’s still working on other major brands and retailers to follow suit.
7. Joanna Haigh
Physicist and climate change researcher
Described as a champion of collaboration and an inspirational colleague, Joanna Haigh has been able to use her position and knowledge to influence people in power. It's long been known that the Sun’s activity – usually seen in the form of sun spots – increases and decreases in 11 year cycles. These natural fluctuations were (and in some cases still are!) given as being directly responsible for global warming. Joanna set out to see if this was true. Using data from satellites and modelling, she showed that variations in the Sun’s activity could not be the driver of global warming trends. Although we may feel the effects on Earth, they are extremely small. Sharing her findings has opened her up to abuse from those who disagree, but she persists in sharing her work, and the methods she’s developed are still used all over the world by climate and atmospheric researchers.
8. Beccy Speight
CEO of the RSPB
As CEO of the UK’s largest conservation charity, Beccy Speight has a powerful influence over the way people interact with and protect nature. The RSPB is best known for protecting birds but their outlook is much wider - fighting to help nature thrive for all species and people. Under Beccy’s leadership the organisation is sharing its intentions to deliver conservation on a bigger scale through collaboration, making it clear that environmentalism has to be inclusive and widespread. Beccy has previously held posts at The National Trust and The Woodland Trust, and is a passionate voice for biodiversity.
9. Minette Batters
President of the National Farmers Union
The first female President of the National Farmers Union in its 110 year history, Minette Betters is the most influential person in British agriculture. The industry is responsible for ten percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions but under Minette’s leadership, the NFU is pledging that farming will be net zero by 2040. She’s also spearheading a campaign to include better farming standards in legislation after the UK leaves the EU. As the vast majority of the UK land is agricultural, Minette believes passionately in helping farmers lead the way in looking after that land and the environment as a whole.
10. Carolyn Cobbold
Co-founder of the Manhood Peninsula Partnership
Dr Carolyn Cobbold has quite literally changed the shape of coastal defence in the UK. She’s been giving her time to the Manhood Peninsula in West Sussex since the late 90s, when she developed plans to protect the area from flooding. She formed the Manhood Peninsula Partnership, and the group has been responsible for securing funding, resulting in ‘Medmerry’. It’s the largest coastal realignment project in Europe, and protects 300 hectares of important and biodiverse habitats.
11. Gail Bradbrook
Co-founder of Extinction Rebellion
It’s hard to imagine the current discussion around climate without the controversial voice of Extinction Rebellion - and as co-founder, Gail Bradbrook has certainly driven the issue up the media agenda. As a promoter of large scale radical change, Gail has coordinated campaigns through mass civil disobedience, as the group demands a more ambitious target for net zero carbon emissions. Formerly an anti-fracking protestor, she is entirely committed to non-violence, and her passion and energy for demanding change by blocking streets, bridges and trains has become a huge global movement.
12. Judy Ling-Wong
Founder of the Black Environment Network
Judy Ling-Wong is the founder and Honorary President of the Black Environment Network, and is a major voice on social inclusion policy in the environment. Most recently, BEN have been working on strategy to engage ethnic minorities in the countryside, by opening up the environmental and heritage sectors to have better representation. Over 25 years, Judy has built a safe network of BAME contributors who are able to take part in important conversations around the planet and sustainability, making environmental work more inclusive and therefore more widespread.
13. Franny Armstrong
Documentary maker Franny Armstrong has dedicated her work to bringing climate issues to the big screen. Her multi-award winning films include The Age of Stupid, McLibel, and Drowned Out, and have been seen by millions of people worldwide. They led her to set up 10:10 Climate Action, now known as Possible, which aims to engage individuals, school, big businesses and the UK government with the climate emergency. More recently, she’s turned her attention to the state of British waterways, with her new documentary Rivercide coming out next year.
14. Brenda Boardman
Domestic energy efficiency researcher
You probably see Dr Brenda Boardman’s work every day, as she’s the woman who brought energy efficiency labelling to UK appliances. The EU-wide energy labels, with their rainbow colours and A+++ to G ratings weren’t welcome with retailers to begin with because "customers don’t care about energy efficiency". But it soon became clear that customers did care and that having the choice to buy an A-rated project was a positive selling point. Brenda’s wider research is focused on energy use in British homes, and the existence and growth of fuel poverty. She speaks passionately about what governments need to do to ensure the benefits of energy-saving are accessible to all.
15. Diane Gilpin
CEO of Smart Green Shipping
90% of everything we consume arrives in the UK via ships. But those ships are problematic for the climate because of their reliance on diesel as fuel. Diane Gilpin founded The Smart Green Shipping Alliance to turn that around, bringing together experts from different sectors and across 170 countries. They’re collaborating on finding renewable solutions for getting goods around the world, aiming for 100% renewable ships and fuel by 2030. It’s considerably more ambitious than the target the shipping industry has set of reducing emissions by 50% by 2050, but Diane’s persistence and enthusiasm is encouraging international companies to see this as a worthy challenge.
16. Caroline Mason
CEO of Esmée Farbairn Foundation
As CEO of the charity Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Caroline Mason holds the strings to one pretty big purse. The foundation allocates £13.6 million of grants and social investments a year to projects and causes that actively benefit the planet – be it through innovation, education, investment or governance. As the foundation is independent, they have the freedom to invest in funds, charities and organisations that are making tangible shifts towards becoming net-zero – which exerts pressure on others to consider the benefits of making a change. Last year the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation contributed money towards conservation work, community energy projects, national parks and biodiversity work, to name just a few.
17. Miranda Lowe
Curator at the Natural History Museum
Miranda Lowe is a curator for a wide range of historically important specimens from the world’s oceans at the Natural History Museum in London. Not many people will realise that they’re looking at her work, but for many children the museum displays are their first contact with the many weird and wonderful species living below the waves. Miranda is committed to communicating her passion with the next generation through outreach work in schools, talks and appearing on TV and radio. She is also an effective communicator of the importance of museum fossils and specimens to show us how animals are responding over time to a changing world.
18. Zarina Ahmad
Climate Change trainer at CEMVO Scotland
In her role at the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations, Zarina has been leading the charge for increasing participation in environmentalism in Scotland. Since being told that "ethnic minorities aren’t interested in climate change", Zarina has dedicated herself to creating pathways for under-represented groups to work in environmental organisations – increasing not only a diversity of people, but a diversity of ideas. She has supported 150 projects to successfully apply to the Scottish Climate Challenge Fund and has actively connected community groups with the Scottish government. In response to the lack of specific data about ethnic minority groups and environmentalism, Zarina is about to start a PhD focussed on researching sustainable behaviours within BAME communities in the UK.
19. Holly Gillibrand
Youth climate activist
At 15, Holly Gillibrand is the youngest person on this year’s Power List. She's one of the most prominent UK figures in the Friday’s For Future movement and every Friday she leaves school to strike for an hour – along with young people around the world – to demand urgent action on the climate crisis. She has gained considerable support on Twitter and is positive about the role social media can play in helping young people to understand the issues, spread the word, and connect with others that want to take action. In addition to climate change, Holly writes about the benefits of rewilding. She is also principled about reducing her own carbon footprint despite an increasing opportunity to travel to spread the message.
20. Amanda Absalom-Lowe
Founder of Pembrokeshire Care, Share and Give
Amanda Absalom-Lowe is a total recycling powerhouse. She initially set up Pembrokeshire Care, Share and Give in 2011 as part of a fundraising recycling scheme to raise money for the hospital where her premature baby was being treated. Since then, she’s rallied her local community to recycle as much as they possibly can and think carefully before throwing anything away. She’s been able to facilitate the recycling of old toys, crisp packets, bottle tops, coffee pods and so much more, and seeks to create a circular economy wherever possible. During the pandemic, she’s even branched out into meal delivery in a bid to reduce food waste from grocery suppliers.
21. Catherine Howarth
CEO of ShareAction
Catherine Howarth is changing the ethics of investment. As the CEO of ShareAction she encourages and advocates for long-term investments and pension funds to be more sustainable. This particularly means a move away from investment in fossil fuels - and she’s had huge success. The charity has recently persuaded Europe’s biggest fossil fuel investor, Barclays, to re-align its business with the Paris Climate Agreement, and Catherine is now developing a new stream of work to address biodiversity loss through investment.
22. Rebecca Willis
Expert Lead to Climate Assembly UK
Rebecca Willis was one of the driving forces behind Climate Assembly UK, which brings together over 100 people from across the country and all walks of life to discuss their thoughts on how we could reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A researcher with over 20 years’ experience in environment and sustainability practice, she also researched how MPs understand climate issues, later using those results to inform the Climate Leadership Programme. She is working hard to make climate solutions open to everyone, and include them in creating policy.
23. Kate Humble
It’s hard to imagine wildlife programmes without broadcaster Kate Humble. The presenter has been informing, enthusing and entertaining audiences about the natural world since 2000 on programmes including Springwatch, Lambing Live, Animal Park and Blue Planet Live. Her most recent series on Channel 5, Escape to the Farm, shares her passion for rural life through the day to day running of her farm in Monmouthshire. Kate’s prime-time programmes have found their way into millions of homes across the UK and helped people to understand and appreciate the world around them. Her name is synonymous with nature and wildlife for multiple generations of viewers.
24. Fiona Harvey
Environmental Correspondent at The Guardian
Award-winning journalist Fiona Harvey has been writing about the environment since 2000 and full time since 2004 – first for the Financial Times and then The Guardian. Since then, environmental issues have transformed from being a niche concern and lifestyle issue to hard front page news. She’s covered every major environmental issue out there, from carbon markets and ocean plastic to air pollution and species loss. Fiona’s articles have a wide reach and her work continues to be crucial as the environment maintains its position at the top of the news agenda. She’s reported from the Amazon and the Arctic and has challenged world figures about their policies and impact on the planet.
25. Judy Webb
Local Conservationist and Ecologist
Former biology teacher Dr Judy Webb has tirelessly dedicated her free time to local conservation around Oxfordshire for 25 years. Having become the unofficial ecologist of her school, she later campaigned to protect the same grounds after the school was closed down and has protected the area ever since. She’s also passionate about conserving the Oxford Fens and monitoring rare species of flies, fungi and mosses. In fact, according to Thames Valley Environment Records Centre, she’s contributed well over 37,000 records of local species and habitats, and she can identify what pollen a bee makes by looking at its back legs!
26. Yvonne Witter
Chair of the Peak District Mosaic Club
Yvonne Witter’s passion for being outdoors is infectious, so it’s little wonder she dedicates her free time to sharing it with others. As leader of the Peak District Mosaic group and an Ordnance Survey Get Outside Champion, she encourages Black and minority ethnic groups to get out of the city and into nature. She’s been joined by people from all walks of life, including professionals, students and refugees, mentoring and supporting them to become Peak District enthusiasts too. Yvonne is a strong advocate for the benefits of being outdoors for both physical and mental health, and believes a weekend spent walking is a weekend well spent. She constantly strives to learn more about the natural world and is passing on her knowledge for the benefit of others, the National Park and the wildlife within it. National Parks UK has described her work as "transformative".
27. Mikaela Loach
Climate justice influencer and podcaster
Influencer Mikaela Loach is a full time medical student, but dedicates her spare time to spreading the message of climate justice to more than 90 thousand Instagram followers. She shares tips on going plastic-free and moving away from fast fashion, facts and figures on the environmental crisis, and encourages discussion about the way social, racial and climate issues interact. Mikaela’s activism began after becoming aware of the rights of refugees and the realisation that climate change will create the biggest forced migration in history. As a result, she focusses strongly on inclusive, intersectional approaches that can encourage everybody to get involved in their own way.
28. Safia Minney
Founder of People Tree
Safia Minney began reshaping the mould of fashion when she founded People Tree in 1995 to meet the Global Organic Textile Standard certified by the Soil Association. The brand then became the first fashion company to be awarded the World Fair Trade Organization’s product label, and she was also the driving force behind World Fair Trade Day. She’s gone on to campaign for serious change in all areas of the fashion industry, writing Slave to Fashion which has become a blueprint for fashion businesses wanting to do better, and as a founder member of both the Ethical Fashion Forum and Fashion Revolution. She’s currently running an agency advising companies on building responsible supply chains.
29. Mandi Roberts
Hedgehog rescue volunteer
Mandi Roberts has been on a mission to save hedgehogs since she found one of the spiky animals injured in her garden almost 10 years ago. Initially working with another local hedgehog lover for 7 years, she set up her own hospital in her garden shed 2 years ago. Hedgehogs have been officially classed as vulnerable to extinction in the UK this year, but at Mandi’s hospital they receive dedicated care and rehabilitation. Her converted shed has already hosted more than 700 hedgehogs this year alone, as a sharp increase in injuries were caused by people staying at home and spending more time pruning their gardens and knocking down sheds. She aims to get at many as possible back on their paws and into the wild.
30. Christine Grosart
Team leader at Ghost Fishing UK
Christine Grosart is an ocean warrior who dedicates her spare time to working as a volunteer diver for Ghost Fishing UK. She organises the removal of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear – otherwise known as ‘ghost gear’ – from our seas. With 16 years diving experience and numerous hours spent gathering information and tracking down the lost nets, Christine is right at the heart of the team. Despite often tough diving locations, she has successfully removed heavy and lethal entanglements that threaten both marine life and scuba divers, and also co-ordinates beach clean-ups in her local Dorset.