As director of climate finance at the Rocky Mountain Institute, Benjamin Bartle leads a global programme mobilising finance for energy transition investments.
At the age of 16, Benjamin Bartle set himself two big life goal options to have achieved by the time he turned 27: become a millionaire or work for the United Nations. Over a decade later, he admits he is far from having a millionaire status thanks to his healthy student debt. However, he is proud to say that he secured his first role at the United Nations Development Programme in Croatia at 27 years old – just as he had aspired to as a teenager.
Since that first role with the UN, Benjamin has had a rich and varied career working in the climate crisis space and remains driven by the "urgent need for transformative action" around the world. He now works as the director of climate finance, leading a global programme mobilising finance for energy transition investments at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a non-profit organisation dedicated to accelerating the clean energy transition and improving lives globally.
"My focus is on decarbonising energy systems through rapid, market-based changes in the world's most critical geographies and high-emitting sectors," he explains. "This crucial work aims to align these systems with a future that respects the 1.5 degrees Celsius target to effectively address the climate crisis." Until recently, Benjamin still held a role at the UN, working as Climate Finance – Island Lead supporting the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion.
Benjamin's drive to work in climate change was awoken in the most unlikely of settings: while on a gap year sailing yachts in the Mediterranean. He moved to the UK after graduating from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Arts (Geography) and PGDip (Environmental Management) and struggled to get work following the global financial crisis. Falling into yachting as a means to an end, he began reading fervently about climate change when he wasn't on deck.
"It completely changed my perspective," he says. "I became determined to dive into a career for the UN and support emerging markets to develop climate change projects. The catch? I knew I needed a masters degree for that."
He headed back to the University of Auckland in 2010 to do a Master of Science, exploring market-based instruments for environmental management in agriculture, land use and forestry. "The University of Auckland played a foundational role in understanding environmental science, environmental economics and management – skills I would then sharpen in the field for the UN and through my consulting gigs across the globe," says Benjamin. "It drove my passion for people and the planet."
The mentorship programmes offered by the University also played a crucial role in shaping both his personal and professional growth. "Having mentors who believed in me, my goals, and my dreams provided invaluable guidance and support," Benjamin says. He continues to support the University of Auckland mentorship programme and is always interested in hearing from young climate change leaders. "Don't hesitate to reach out," he says. "The world needs dedicated individuals like you."
Despite an impressive portfolio working for a wide range of climate-focused organisations around the world, Benjamin says the most challenging work is still ahead. "With just six years remaining to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the urgency of this task cannot be overstated," he says. "I cannot hammer this home enough: we must take immediate and decisive action to mitigate the impacts of climate change."
Now focusing on building strong teams, fostering partnerships and empowering those who will become climate leaders, Benjamin stresses that time is of the essence when it comes to the climate crisis. "I am fully committed to acting with a sense of urgency while inspiring and motivating others to join this critical mission," he says. "Together, we can strive for a sustainable future and make a meaningful difference in combating climate change."