Christiana Figueres is an internationally recognized leader on global climate change.

Why you should listen

Christiana Figueres was the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010 to 2016. Assuming responsibility for the international climate change negotiations after the failed Copenhagen conference of 2009, she was determined to lead the process to a universally agreed regulatory framework. Building toward that goal, she directed the successful Conferences of the Parties in Cancun 2010, Durban 2011, Doha 2012, Warsaw 2013 and Lima 2014, and culminated her efforts in the historical Paris Agreement of 2015.

Throughout her tenure, Figueres brought together national and subnational governments, corporations and activists, financial institutions and communities of faith, think tanks and technology providers, NGOs and parliamentarians, to jointly deliver the unprecedented climate change agreement. For this achievement, Figueres has been credited with forging a new brand of collaborative diplomacy.

Since then, Figueres has continued to accelerate the global response to climate change. Together with Tom Carnac she founded Global Optimism, a purpose-driven enterprise focused on social and environmental change, under which run various initiatives including the podcast Outrage and Optimism.

Figueres has a long trajectory in the field of global climate change, having been a member of the Costa Rican negotiating team 1995- 2009, and having played a number of key roles in the governance of the UNFCCC before formally joining the secretariat. She initiated her life of public service as Minister Counselor at the Embassy of Costa Rica in Bonn, Germany in 1982. Moving to the USA, she was Director of Renewable Energy in the Americas (REIA) and in 1995 founded the nonprofit Center for Sustainable Development of the Americas (CSDA) which she directed for eight years. She designed and helped to establish national climate change programs throughout Latin America and served as high level advisor to both governments and private companies. In 2001 she received the Hero for the Planet Award from National Geographic.

What others say

“I don’t want to put people into a black box and say, ‘You’re the culprits,’ and point a blaming finger. It just helps absolutely nothing. Call it my anthropological training.” — quoted in the New Yorker, August 24, 2015

Christiana Figueres’ TED talks

More news and ideas from Christiana Figueres

Live from TED2016

Impossible isn’t a fact; it’s an attitude: Christiana Figueres at TED2016

February 17, 2016

In 2009, six months after a spectacularly failed climate change summit in Copenhagen, Costa Rican diplomat Christiana Figueres was appointed executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Her job: Leading the next round of international climate change negotiations. At that time, no one believed that we could ever get a global climate change agreement. “In fact,” Figueres says, […]

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