ESG NOW! Finance Sector Can Drive Change, Says Former COP26 President O’Neill

Claire O’Neill speaks about the success of COP26 and the incredible opportunities and risks presented by the green energy transition

  • Risks include wild price spikes in carbon and old energy assets becoming stranded
  • The finance sector will play a crucial role in smoothing out peaks and troughs in prices
  • We are about to enter a period of radical transparency on climate disclosures

At ESG NOW!, Nomura’s global sustainable finance conference, Claire O’Neill, former COP26 president and Managing Director for Climate and Energy at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development emphasized the important role of the financial sector being aligned and efficiently allocating capital to create value in the green transition.

O’Neill explained how the UN’s climate summit in Glasgow, COP26, had been a success due to commitments such as phasing down coal for the first time, as well as agreements to reduce methane emissions and create an International Sustainability Standards Board to unify climate disclosures and create transparency.

O’Neill described the opportunity arising from the energy transition as on the scale of the industrial revolution, happening at the speed of the technology revolution underpinned by broadly aligned government policy and investment flows.

But there are risks too and O’Neill, who led the UK government’s net zero 2050 legislation, said that we will see wild price spikes in carbon assets and stranded assets from some traditional energy infrastructure becoming redundant. There will also be new political dependencies, she said, citing the example of our future reliance on batteries meaning China may control 80% of critical components.


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