Five women who are getting stuff done for the climate

Helen Clarkson, CEO, The Climate Group
Reading time: 3 minutes
8 March 2019
Helen Clarkson IWD 2019

International Women’s Day is the only day of the year when I allow myself to quote Margaret Thatcher: In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman”.

In the field of climate action, women are definitely getting things done. Some of you have probably heard of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who is currently making the news with her climate leadership which has taken her from solitary school strikes to the UN and Davos. Christiana Figueres and Laurence Tubiana presided over the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and Mary Robinson has been campaigning for climate justice – and also hosts the wonderful podcast Mothers of Invention, showcasing extraordinary women driving climate innovation globally.

But behind the scenes there are scores more women who are working on solutions to climate change without much fanfare, taking action and getting things done. Here are five more that I find inspiring – and hope you might too.

Dr Debra Roberts IWD 2019

Dr Debra Roberts, Durban climate lead and IPCC lead author

In October last year, the IPCC Special Report shocked the world with the starkest warning yet of the impacts of global warming and the need to push for temperature rises of no more than 1.5°C.

Dr Debra Roberts is one of the lead authors of the report and co-chair of the IPCC working group on impacts. Her breadth of expertise across scientific, diplomatic and urban policy issues brings unparalleled expertise in finding solutions to the scale of the challenge laid out in the IPCC Special Report.

Dr Roberts also established and heads the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department of eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa. She sits on many other international advisory bodies and her passion in climate change adaptation for developing cities has ensured Dr Roberts’ reputation as a world renowned and highly respected figure in climate action.

Leeanne Enoch, Queensland’s Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef

Leeanne Enoch, Queensland’s Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef

The first aboriginal woman ever elected to the Queensland Parliament in Australia, Leeanne Enoch is Queensland's Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, and a Quandamooka woman from North Stradbroke Island.  

At the frontline of climate change impacts, with rising temperatures resulting in the mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian state is also at the forefront of action thanks to Enoch’s policies and leadership.

Queensland’s climate change initiatives include the world’s longest electric vehicle superhighway in a single state, and pioneering carbon farming projects – both introduced on Leeanne’s watch. The state has set the ambitious target of being net-zero carbon by 2050. As a member of the Under2 Coalition, Queensland is part of the largest group of state and regional governments taking climate action worldwide to cut carbon emissions and limit global warming to well below 2°C.

Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), Ingka Group (formerly IKEA Group) 

Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), Ingka Group (formerly IKEA Group) 

Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) at Ingka Group (formerly IKEA), Pia Heidenmark Cook has been a driving force in the company’s ethos of people and planet positive business.

The company currently has more wind turbines than it has IKEA stores, and has committed to produce as much renewable energy as the total energy it consumes in its buildings by 2020.

A founding member of The Climate Group’s electric vehicle initiative, Ingka Group has committed to switch its fleet to 100% electric by 2030 and install charging points at all IKEA stores and offices worldwide. Impressively, all IKEA home deliveries in the inner cities of Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York and Paris will be made in electric vehicles by 2020 – and this goal has already been reached a year early in Shanghai.

Through Pia’s leadership, Ingka Group is an ambitious retailer not only reducing its own emissions but taking steps to make everyday efforts by individuals easy, affordable and desirable.

Dr Alice Ekwu, Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry, Cross River State, Nigeria

Dr Alice Ekwu, Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry, Cross River State, Nigeria

The indigenous people of Nigeria's Cross River State are playing a central role in protecting local forests – largely in part to the leadership of Cross River State Commissioner for Climate Change and Forestry, Dr. Alice Ekwu.

Dr Ekwu is actively engaging the indigenous people who live in Cross River State’s forests in new methods of climate safe farming, knowing that the solutions to conservation are in their hands.

Cross River State is home to over 50% of the forest in Nigeria, and approximately 75% of Nigeria’s endangered tree species are found there. Dr Alice Ekwu has been instrumental in planning for the state’s future – within 10 years, Cross River State intends to have 1 million hectares of forest lands managed for climate change-friendly activities, including carbon, non-timber forest products, sustainable tree crops and ecotourism. Cross River State is also a member of the Under2 Coalition and is the only Nigerian state in the coalition, showing leadership in Nigeria and across Africa.

Jamie Callahan, Chief Executive Officer, Global Climate Action Summit

At last year’s Global Climate Action Summit, thousands of state and local leaders to businesses, investors, scientists, students and non-profits gathered together to showcase their commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement, and raise ambition to achieve its goals.

Behind all of this was Jamie Callahan, who took on the lead role in making it happen. From fundraising, working with NGO partners, securing incredible speakers and achieving an ambitious ‘stepping-up’ on a scale unseen before, Callahan was instrumental in the success of the summit.

Over 500 new climate commitments were made at the summit alone – and countless more since thanks to the momentum and energy created by bringing together states and regions, cities, companies, investors and civil society.  

Let's Celebrate

At The Climate Group we work with over 200 multinational businesses to reduce their carbon emissions across renewable energy, electric vehicles and energy productivity. Our role as Secretariat of the Under2 Coalition sees us driving the ambition of over 220 state and regional governments worldwide committed to climate action. There are so many women working front of stage as well as behind the scenes towards a prosperous future for all, free from the catastrophic events of climate change.

Let’s celebrate all of those women this International Women’s Day.

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