Figueres to step down from UN climate post

Figueres to step down from UN climate post


United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres has announced she will leave her post in July after six years in charge of the diplomatic effort to fight global warming.

The Costa Rican diplomat’s announcement came two months after a historic international agreement on climate change was adopted in Paris.

UN-Paris-climate-applause-dealIn a letter to governments and observers of the talks, the 59-year-old Ms Figueres said she would “not accept an extension” when her term ends in July.

Ms Figueres helped rescue the climate talks after a tumultuous 2009 summit in Copenhagen, widely perceived to have been a failure, and put them on a path that culminated with the Paris Agreement, the first deal asking all countries to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions.

As executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, she played a key role in the talks that lead to the Paris Climate Agreement.

UN-COP21-Christiana-Figueres-ParisHer contribution to the negotiation process was praised as “really extraordinary”.

Over the past six years she helped rebuilt the momentum for a global compact, which saw 195 nations sign the Paris Climate Agreement after weeks of intense negotiations in the French capital last December.

In her letter to the UN confirming that she was standing down, Ms Figueres highlighted the importance of that deal.

UN-COP21-logo-Paris-summit“The Paris Agreement is a historical achievement, built on years of increasing willingness to construct bridges of collaboration and solidarity,” she wrote in the letter.

“It has been an honor to support you along this path over the past six years.”

Ms Figueres said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “will soon initiate the search” for her successor.

Alden Meyer Union Concerned ScientistsAlden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a veteran observer of the climate talks, said Ms Figueres would leave on a high note.

“She was an essential part of the success in Paris,” he said.

“She had the knowledge of the issues, the understanding of the politics and the willingness to engage with non-state actors and use them to build momentum.”

UN-SecGen-Ban-Ki-moon-US-Obama-Paris-climateSet to take effect in 2020, the Paris Agreement requires all countries to submit plans for climate action and to update them at regular intervals.

The plans themselves are not legally binding.

The UN’s expert panel on climate science says soaring emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, are the main reason for the rise in global temperatures since the middle of the 20th century.

Hela-Cheikhrouhou-head-Green-Climate-FundAt the same time the executive director of the UN Green Climate Fund, Hela Cheikhrouhou, said she will step down when her three-year term ends in September.

The fund is one of the main channels of climate finance to help poor countries reduce their emissions and adapt to rising sea levels, droughts, floods and other impacts of climate change.