Charlotte Pera is President and CEO of the ClimateWorks Foundation, a leading philanthropic organization that works globally to mobilize philanthropy and advance climate solutions. ClimateWorks collaborates with funders, regional and research partners, and other climate leaders to strengthen philanthropy’s response to climate change. Charlotte previously held leadership roles for more than a decade at the Energy Foundation, including Senior Vice President and Director of US Programs, and US Transportation Program Director. She helped launch the Energy Foundation’s program in China and supported the creation of the European Climate Foundation.
In the ’90s, you worked on reducing vehicle pollution. What are the most important innovations and evolutions you have noticed in this area since 2000? What are your thoughts about the future of vehicles and their impact on the environment?
Charlotte Pera: The level of innovation over the last two decades has been dramatic. For the first time in more than a century, we have the opportunity to completely transform how we move people and goods around the world. In particular, recent advances have made electric vehicles—from two-wheelers to cars, trucks, and buses—more available, appealing, and affordable for consumers than ever. But progress isn’t inevitable. We need to continue to push for stronger commitments and more innovation from the public and private sectors to accelerate the uptake of zero-emission vehicles around the world. We also need to keep in mind the bigger picture. For example, zero-emissions vehicles will deliver the biggest public benefits when combined with better transit systems, smarter urban planning, and a continued rapid shift to renewable electricity. Success will bring enormous gains, including healthier air, more livable cities, and big reductions in climate pollution.
You also worked at the Energy Foundation where you launched the organization’s program in China. Could you briefly describe the program and explain why it is important to implement climate actions in China?
Charlotte Pera: It was a privilege to help establish the Energy Foundation’s groundbreaking program in China, which has since become an independent, China-based organization with a strong track record of helping the country advance and achieve its environmental goals. China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as the world’s leading producer of key technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. This makes Chinese leadership crucial as the world strives to reach international climate goals. The government continues to show leadership with new policies and technologies, but the climate crisis requires all major economies, including China, to take more ambitious action. Philanthropy can help unlock and support greater ambition and action in China, and this remains an important priority.
Now, you are the President and CEO of the ClimateWorks Foundation, an organization that aims to solve the climate crisis. What are the challenges we are facing in the short and long run in order to reach a stable climate? How do your action plans differ according to regions of the world?
Charlotte Pera: The world already has the knowledge and technology needed to solve the climate crisis. What’s sorely needed is faster action, greater political will, and more people committing themselves to solve the problem. In the short term, we need to help make low-carbon solutions more attractive to consumers, businesses, and investors. Then we have to rapidly scale up the most promising solutions in a way that helps create a more equitable and prosperous world. It’s important to tailor solutions and approaches for different regions of the world, rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach. For instance, in a large and rapidly developing country like India, it makes sense to identify and advance climate solutions within a wider frame of sustainable development.
You had leadership roles within the Energy Foundation and now you lead the ClimateWorks Foundation. What were the challenges you faced in reaching these positions? Are any of these challenges unique to being a woman? What advice would you give to women who want to follow a leadership path like yours?
Charlotte Pera: As a mechanical engineer I began my career at an engineering consulting company with very few women on staff. So it was refreshing to enter the world of philanthropy, where there are many more women, including in leadership roles. Women still face obstacles on the path to professional leadership; I would encourage women to find female mentors and to work on problems that they are deeply motivated to solve. If you really care about your work and know you are making a difference, it’s much easier to overcome the inevitable challenges that we all face—women and men. The world needs more leaders, especially leaders who are collaborative, courageous, and driven by a vision of a more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable world.
In relation to our Shape Your Future video series, I would like to ask you one more question, in fact, the one to top them all and to guide all of us:
“How do you shape your future?”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. “Shape Your Future” Video cover with: Charlotte Pera, President and CEO of the ClimateWorks Foundation – Edited by Impakter.com