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Building forward better: Accelerating business momentum toward a net-zero future

With a just over a year to COP26, business and governments are under increasing pressure to pair our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic with breakthrough actions to achieve net-zero emissions. Companies united as members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) will be supported in this critical agenda by Claire O’Neill, who has been appointed WBCSD’s Managing Director for Climate & Energy. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown our societies’ vulnerability to systemic risk. While the virus continues to ravage countries around the world, climate change remains the biggest threat to human lives and the economy. The longer we delay action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the greater the damage will be for people and planet. We need to build forward better to recover our economy while slashing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Neither governments nor business can achieve this alone, which is why WBCSD’s Climate & Energy program continues to pair principles for strong, transformative policy with credible, low-carbon business solutions. Launched earlier this year, WBCSD’s climate action project SOS 1.5 convenes business from all sectors to decarbonize their operations and scale impacts across value chains. WBCSD is also mobilizing private-public cooperation to scale up natural solutions to tackling the climate crisis through its joint leadership of the Natural Climate Solutions Alliance with the World Economic Forum. Investing in nature offers 30% of the GHG emissions reductions we need to achieve the Paris Agreement but we still lack the finance and policies to make this reality. WBCSD’s Climate & Energy program is committed to unblocking the barriers to accelerating our path to a resilient, net-zero economy.

​Claire O’Neill’s appointment as Managing Director of WBCSD’s Climate & Energy Program shows the organization’s commitment to mobilizing business to decarbonize globally and accelerate the shift to a sustainable economy. Claire joins WBCSD after leading the UK COP process as President-Designate of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference and as the former UK Minister for Energy and Clean Growth from 2017 to 2019, with a career in business and finance before she entered politics.

Claire brings a wealth of experience to help WBCSD members including spearheading the legislation that made the UK the first industrial economy to commit to net-zero by 2050; designing the ambitious action plan for a net-zero COP26; implementing the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy; forming the public-private Green Finance and Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Taskforces; creating the international Powering Past Coal Alliance; overseeing the deployment of almost £3 billion of international climate finance and driving the energy transition with the UK’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

Claire O’Neill said: “Throughout its 25 years of existence, WBCSD has been the organization tasked with harnessing and encouraging the private sector contribution towards a greener, more inclusive economy. We need clear national targets and policy guidelines from governments but to reach a net-zero future we also need the ambition, flexibility, investment, creativity, problem-solving and financial market signals that are hallmarks of the private sector. It’s clear to me that business ambition is accelerating and leading companies and financial institutions are articulating – and acting on – ambitious decarbonization targets, investment plans, risk assessments and governance that will be transformational and can help governments, cities and states accelerate their own plans. I am delighted to be joining WBCSD at such an important time and working to help our members lead this transformation, unblock barriers and mobilize more private and public climate action.”

Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD, said: “Claire is joining at a critical time for business to step up its commitment to net-zero. Her experience mobilizing both public and private climate action is very much welcomed and comes at a critical time. Entering the final quarter of 2020, set to be a milestone year on climate, we need ambitious climate leadership from governments, business, cities and investors to propel our journey to net-zero emissions.”

He added: “Business and governments need to work together like never before to commit to strong decarbonization policies, supported by renewed business ambition to accelerate climate action to net-zero: disclosing risk in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD); committing to electrify all energy uses with low-carbon power and investing in low carbon solutions which create sustainable jobs. With Claire at the helm, our Climate & Energy program will continue to scale credible solutions to decarbonize our economy – and bring the business voice to governments to guide a cleaner, just transition to net-zero emissions.”

Claire succeeds Dr María Mendiluce, who after guiding the organization’s more than 200 members on transformative actions across climate, energy circular economy, cities and mobility, assumed the role of CEO for the We Mean Business Coalition in June. WBCSD is a founding partner of the coalition, working together with other strategic partners and business to accelerate climate action.

Read original release here.

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