How this climate activist made Forbes 30 Under 30

27 Mar 2024

Alba Forns. Image: Blathnaid O'Dea

While still a student, Alba Forns co-founded Climatize to address the climate financing gap and to alleviate her own acute climate anxiety.

When Alba Forns was starting one of her master’s degrees – she has several – she did what a lot of civic-minded young people were doing at the time: she joined a climate strike.

She went with Will Wiseman, who is now her business partner. The duo co-founded Climatize shortly after their strike experience, spurred on by a desire to address the lack of climate-focused investment platforms.

Around three years on from the early founding days, Forns and Wiseman are busy establishing Climatize as a devoted platform for people who want to invest specifically in climate projects. It launched last year, but Forns’ career was off to a promising start long before then.

Her background is in engineering and renewables. The aforementioned master’s degrees are in renewable energy, energy engineering and sustainable energy technologies. She also has an bachelor’s degree in industrial technology engineering.

In addition to her studies, she has worked as an energy consultant on renewables projects and policy. That experience taught her that there weren’t a lot of avenues for climate projects to obtain access to financing. Hence Climatize.

‘I’ve always had a lot of climate anxiety’

As she tells, the business is her way of battling her own climate guilt. “I’ve always had a lot of climate anxiety,” she admits, adding that it is something she has learned to live with.

If she sounds a little bit like Greta Thunberg, the international inspiration for eco-warriors everywhere, it’s because she used to move in similar circles in her student days.

She studied in Sweden for a year and went religiously to the Thunberg-inspired Fridays for the Future protests in front of the Swedish parliament. “I went every single Friday,” she recalls, adding that she also became a member of a group dedicated to keeping Sweden’s lakes clean.

“I was very involved in activism; I went to the climate strikes, but I was also involved in beach clean-ups. It’s always been a passion of mine.”

Later, Climatize became a part of her efforts to address the climate crisis. As she says herself, she has made it her “life’s mission” to use her engineering and renewables knowledge to help others make a positive contribution to climate projects.

“I always knew I wanted to do renewable engineering. That was one of the ways I saw that I could fight against the climate anxiety that I was having. Investing in my education and my career path is one of the ways that this has taken shape. And that is how Climatize connects with this,” she explains.

‘A natural entrepreneur’

Lucky for her, she seems to be a natural entrepreneur, who excels at communicating her climate message in a relatable way. It’s not for nothing that she has been selected by Forbes as part of its 30 Under 30 Social Impact awards category. She was also nominated for this year’s EIT’s Changemaker Award and the Earthshot Prize. She does public speaking engagements on the need to engage investors to buy into technologies that could potentially mitigate the effects of the climate crisis.

‘The reason why I started Climatize is because of the climate financing gap’

The business streak runs in her family, she says. “My Dad is an entrepreneur also, and that’s what inspired me to pursue this path.” However, she admits she didn’t think her business career would take off quite so quickly. “I was always kind of open to the idea; I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur at some point in my life, but I didn’t know that it would come so soon.”

Although she is enthusiastic when talking about her love of renewables and grassroots activism, she is clearly – like most activists – driven by frustration. That becomes clear when asked about her views on policymakers and whether they are doing enough.

“There are so many things they should be doing,” she says emphatically. “The reason why I started Climatize is because of the climate financing gap. So, obviously, there’s a lot of money that needs to go into climate solutions – and when it comes to investing in these solutions we’re doing better but we’re not doing great either.”

What are the reasons for the lack of progress in her opinion? She says lack of cooperation and coordination among the private and public sectors and policymakers. All these groups need to align better to focus on the common goal of meeting climate targets. They also have a responsibility, in her view, to take the burden off developing countries that have not contributed to the climate crisis as developed nations have.

“From a big picture perspective, that’s what I think policymakers and private companies should be doing,” she says. “I do not expect people who are worrying about things like providing for their families … I don’t think those people are the ones to be fighting climate change. I think it’s a privilege problem and those who have the privilege to be actively caring and taking action, those are the ones who should be doing something about it.”

She includes herself in this category, by the way, adding that she feels a responsibility to do something about it. And she is.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.