In the eyes of many climate activists, Christiana Figueres is a legend. A fireball of unstoppable energy, she worked tirelessly to see the historic Paris Agreement on climate change ratified in 2015.
It was a major act of diplomacy: 195 UN member states agreed for the first time on a joint path forward to limit future global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. The speed with which the agreement entered into force broke all UN records.
As a result of her efforts, Christiana was credited with forging a new type of collaborative diplomacy. In her role as Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana channelled the efforts of governments, corporations and activists, financial institutions and faith communities, think tanks and technology providers, NGOs and parliamentarians into a Herculean and radical collaboration. Christiana was also able to balance the interests of developing countries alongside those of the big industrialised nations – no mean feat.
In her illuminating talk at the TED2016 conference, she recounts how she turned scepticism into optimism and, in doing so, helped the world achieve the most important climate agreement in history.
Armed with a love of the natural world, born from her childhood in Costa Rica, and her formative experience of consulting on small sustainable development projects in the Americas, Christiana knows how to bring about change at both a national and a local level and continues to use that knowledge to full effect in all of her work.
With such a legacy, she was an obvious choice for Ashden to approach to be the keynote speaker of our 2018 Awards Ceremony in June. And we are thrilled that she accepted. “Action on climate change is now global and unstoppable”, she said. “I am honoured to be a part of this year’s ceremony which recognises trail blazers around the world whose innovation and leadership in sustainable energy is accelerating the exponential shift to a low carbon world.”
Her schedule between now and then is a busy one. She is the Convenor of Mission 2020, a Climate Leader at the World Bank and Vice-Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, where her focus is on helping cities in the alliance to develop cutting edge solutions to the challenges of climate finance. Maybe the organisations on our 2018 Awards longlist, who were all selected for their innovation in the field of sustainable energy, will provide some inspiration!
The 2018 Ashden Awards Ceremony takes place on Thursday 14 June at the Royal Geographical Society.