Former President of COP26 appointed as managing director for climate and energy at influential international business group
The former President of the COP26 Climate Summit, Claire O'Neil, has been appointed as managing director for climate and energy at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
The appointment represents the first major post for O'Neill after she stepped down as an MP last year and was then controversially axed as President of the COP26 Summit in Glasgow in January this year.
Welcoming the news, O'Neill said WBCSD and the wider business community had a critical role to play in accelerating global efforts to tackle the escalating climate crisis. "Throughout its 25 years of existence, WBCSD has been the organisation tasked with harnessing and encouraging the private sector contribution towards a greener, more inclusive economy," she said. "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."
She added that her role would be to help build on already encouraging trends across much of the global business community. "It's clear to me that business ambition is accelerating and leading companies and financial institutions are articulating - and acting on - ambitious decarbonisation 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."
Her comments were echoed by Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD, who said O'Neill was joining the international group "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," he added. "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.
"With Claire at the helm, our climate and 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."
As Energy and Clean Growth Minister, O'Neill led the development of the UK's decarbonisation strategy between 2017 and 2019, helping to secure the UK's position as the first major economy to adopt a legally-binding net zero emissions target.
She was also appointed as President of COP26 in 2019, only to be replaced in February by Business Secretary Alok Sharma, sparking a fierce row over the government's preparations for the Summit.
In a scathing attack on Number 10's handling of the crucial Summit, O'Neill warned the government was "miles off track" and alleged there had been a "huge lack of leadership and engagement" from the Prime Minister.
The Summit was subsequently postponed by a year as a result of the coronavirus crisis. However, some seasoned observers of UN climate talks have privately warned that preparations remain behind schedule, with allegations about a lack of engagement from Downing Street continuing to circulate.
O'Neill succeeds Dr María Mendiluce in heading up the energy and climate programme at WBCSD, after she was appointed as CEO for the We Mean Business Coalition in June.
Claire O'Neill and Peter Bakker will feature in BusinessGreen's Zoom in on Net Zero series of video interviews ahead of this month's Net Zero Festival. You can register for the world's first digital Net Zero Festival here.
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