Ms. Figueres is the former Executive Secretary the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 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, before culminating her efforts in the historical Paris Agreement of 2015. Throughout her tenure Ms. Figueres brought together national and sub national 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 Ms. Figueres has been credited with forging a new brand of collaborative diplomacy. Ms. Figueres was awarded the Great Cross of the Order of Merit of Germany in 1985. More recently she has been widely recognized for her six year effort to construct the necessary collaborations to deliver a global legally binding agreement that had previously seemed impossible. She was chosen as one of five 2016 Global Leaders by the Talberg Foundation and decorated as Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau of The Netherlands, received the Legion of Honor of France , the Grand Medal of the City of Paris, and the National Guayacan Medal from Costa Rica. She received the Ewald von Kleist Award from the Munich Security Conference, the 2015 Medal of Honour from The Guardian, was named 2015 Hero of El Pais newspaper of Spain, received the 2016 Solar Champion Award from California’s Vote Solar, the British Renewable Energy Judges Award 2016 from the Renewable Energy Association, the Power with Purpose 2016 Award from Devex and McKinnsey, the 2016 Joan Bavaria Award from CERES, and the CK Prahalad Award 2016 from the Corporate Eco Forum. The Nature Journal of Science listed her first on the list of 2015 Top 10, Foreign Policy Magazine recognized her as the 2015 Global Thinker, and in 2016 Fortune magazine listed her number seven of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, the only female Latin American to be listed, and Time magazine included her in the top 100 influential leaders of the world .
In the natural world a newly discovered tropical moth (Struthoscelis christianafigueresae – soon to be published) and a wasp (Pseudapanteles christianafigueresae) have been named after her. She 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 non-profit Center for Sustainable Development of the Americas (CSDA) which she directed for eight years.
She has a Masters Degree in Anthropology from the London School of Economics, and a certificate in Organizational Development from Georgetown University. Ms. Figueres received honorary doctorate of law degrees from University of Massachusetts Boston in 2014 and Concordia University in 2015, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Georgetown University in 2016. She speaks Spanish, English and German.
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