Damian Ryan (Head Boy and Dux in 1992) recently returned to visit St Peter’s while holidaying here from the UK. He said it felt good to be back on familiar ground and although the school layout looked the same, there were many more facilities and he could sense a great cultural change. He was struck by the aspirations and achievements of today’s students, many of whom are featured in displays around the corridors.
Damian grew up on his family’s farm at Balfour and came to St Peter’s as a boarder and has especially good memories of his final two years in school. While here, he had the opportunity to take part in debating and public speaking sessions and the Bishop’s Shield competition and knew even then that he would like a career in diplomacy.
An agricultural science degree from Lincoln University, followed by a 4 year OE and then post graduate studies in International relations at Uni in Dunedin, led him to a job at the ministry in Wellington dealing with international trade and climate negotiations. After two years there, he left for the UK and was perfectly placed to take up a job with The Climate Group, newly formed by Tony Blair. This is an independent non-profit making organisation, working with governments and business leaders to help determine policies to alleviate climate change at a national and international level.
When asked if he was pessimistic about the effects of climate change, Damian pointed out that his organisation viewed it in a positive light – as an opportunity issue which can lead to better economies: Carbon down –Profit up. He highlighted examples of countries which were leaders in the field – Denmark with its pioneering of wind technology, Costa Rica, protecting 100 per cent of its rainforest, Scotland aiming for 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. He expressed a wish that the NZ government would be more ambitious in its aims to reduce carbon production, but conceded that there were special difficulties here as a large proportion of it was produced by agriculture.
As Senior Policy Manager of The Climate Group, Damian’s high powered job brings him into contact with many figures on the world stage, i.e. Ban Ki-moon, Helen Clark, Tony Blair and Richard Branson, but from his home in Oxford he takes part in the same outdoor pursuits that he enjoyed in New Zealand – cycle touring, skiing and running and he has taken part in marathons in both London and Edinburgh. He clearly finds his work both absorbing and hugely worthwhile and is happily settled in the UK for the moment, but he admits that one day he would like to return to New Zealand to carry on the good work here.