Christiana Figueres and the Importance of the Paris Climate Summit

Christiana FigueresThe upcoming U.N. climate conference in Paris will decide the fate of our planet – and its success depends greatly on the efforts of U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres. As this New Yorker article explains, she is responsible for convincing the nations of the world to move away from fossil fuels and make major commitments to reducing carbon emissions. It’s a very challenging role, requiring diplomacy and determination, but she believes a global agreement is now within reach.
 
Figueres is a strong supporter of the work we do here at ecoAmerica, and has opened two of our Leadership Summits with uplifting video speeches. She’s been tireless in communicating that the participation of all sectors – including business and communities – is necessary for the success of the Paris negotiations, and that the global economy can (and must) continue to grow as carbon emissions fall.
 
The article mentions a framed motto on the wall of Figueres’ office: “Impossible is not a fact, it is an attitude.” Her drive and optimism are an inspiration to all of us who are working to address climate change and empower climate leadership.
 
For more about what we can expect at the Paris conference, read this Q&A from our board member Frank Loy.
 

The Weight of the World

By Elizabeth Kolbert, contributor to The New Yorker
 
Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself?
 
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or U.N.F.C.C.C., has by now been ratified by a hundred and ninety-five countries, which, depending on how you count, represents either all the countries in the world or all the countries and then some. Every year, the treaty stipulates, the signatories have to hold a meeting—a gathering that’s known as a COP, short for Conference of the Parties. The third COP produced the Kyoto Protocol, which, in turn, gave rise to another mandatory gathering, a MOP, or Meeting of the Parties. The seventeenth COP, which coincided with the seventh MOP, took place in South Africa. There it was decided that the work of previous COPs and MOPs had been inadequate, and a new group was formed—the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, usually referred to as the A.D.P. The A.D.P. subsequently split into A.D.P.-1 and A.D.P.-2, each of which held meetings of its own. The purpose of the U.N.F.C.C.C. and of the many negotiating sessions and working groups and protocols it has spun off over the years is to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” In climate circles, this is usually shortened to D.A.I. In plain English, it means global collapse.
 
The Framework Convention on Climate Change is overseen by an organization known as the Secretariat, which is led by a Costa Rican named Christiana Figueres. Figueres is five feet tall, with short brown hair and strikingly different-colored eyes—one blue and one hazel. In contrast to most diplomats, who cultivate an air of professional reserve, Figueres is emotive to the point of disarming—“a mini-volcano” is how one of her aides described her to me. She laughs frequently—a hearty, ha-ha-ha chortle—and weeps almost as often. “I walk around with Kleenex,” another aide told me.
 
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Illustration credit: Ben Wiseman

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