New campaign enlists women in boardrooms to tackle climate change

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UN-backed ‘Two Degrees of Change’ encourages female executives to demand action from their companies to stave off the threat of global warming.

Launched this week, the “Two Degrees of Change” initiative – named for the COP21 pledge by governments around the world to take action to limit global warming to no more than 2C – is being led by Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management and a long-time campaigner for women in boardrooms. The campaign will encourage women to raise climate issues with their company boards, and demand companies and investors take action to stave off the threat of dangerous warming.

Morrissey, who is also behind the 30 Percent Coalition, aimed at named for her target to see 30 percent of board seats in big companies going to women, told the Guardian: “This is about having more women in senior roles [in business] focusing on climate change and changing the narrative. We need female voices in our boardrooms on this.”

Shareholders would benefit, she said, as the risks of climate change are still poorly taken into account in many companies, and traditional financial services companies have yet to make the major changes likely to be necessary in strategy.

Morrissey added that many women were more aware of climate change as a pressing problem than men at the top of the financial services sector.

“Women are often interested in these areas more than men, and interested in a long-term view,” she said.

“Many women find themselves working within an established culture at old-fashioned companies.”

At the launch on Monday in London, Morrissey was joined by UN climate chief Christiana Figueres; and Rachel Kyte, former VP of the World Bank and now senior representative for the UN on sustainable energy, along with a who’s who of local women specializing in sustainability issues.

“There is a clear parallel between the progress we’ve seen on gender equality and climate change in the last six years,” Figueres said at the event.

“Evidence suggests a greater presence of women in the boardroom and in senior leadership can help increase the corporate focus on climate change.”

She also called on companies and leaders of all kinds to participate in the movement: “Just as political will brought an agreement in Paris, so the collective will of the right people in business can create momentum around the actions needed to tackle climate change.”

The Two Degrees of Change group will face a major task, however, as women are still poorly represented in politics and in most major international forums.

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