Christiana Figueres

Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC)


Ms. Figueres served as Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC for 6 years from July 2010 to July 2016.  She has a master’s degree in anthropology from the London School of Economics and a Certificate of Organization Development from Georgetown University. She has received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Boston, Concordia University and Georgetown University. She is fluent in Spanish, English and German, and is a widely published author and frequent lecturer.



Born on August 7, 1956 in San José, Costa Rica, Ms. Figueres started her career in the public sector as Minister Counselor at the Embassy of Costa Rica in Bonn, Germany in 1982, a role she maintained until 1987. On her return to Costa Rica, Ms. Figueres was appointed Director of International Cooperation in the Ministry of Planning. She then served as Director of Renewable Energy in the Americas (REIA), part of the Organization of the American States, and in 1995 founded the non-profit Centre for Sustainable Development of the Americas (CSDIA), which she directed for eight years.



Minister Counselor at the Embassy of Costa Rica in Germany 1982-1987
Director of International Cooperation in the Ministry of Planning in Costa Rica 1987-1988
Chief of Staff to the Minister of Agriculture 1988-1990
Director of the Technical Secretariat, Renewable Energy in the Americas 1994-1996
Founder and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development of the Americas 1995-2003
Vice President of the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties 2008-2009



Christiana Figueres was appointed as the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2010, and was reappointed for a second three year term in July 2013.  During her term, Ms. Figueres worked toward instilling optimism within the global community and changing the perception of global negotiations following the conference of the parties in Copenhagen in 2009, adopting the mantra “impossible is not a fact, it is an attitude”. Throughout her term she focused on engendering multilateralism in the UN system, and sought active engagement in the climate change discourse from all sectors of society.

Ms. Figueres received numerous accolades in relation to her work with achieving the Paris Agreement, including the Legion of Honor in France, the Grand Medal of the City of Paris and the National Guayacan Medal of Costa Rica. She was also a member of the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism.





Ms. Figueres held the lead role in achieving agreement amongst 195 nations in Paris in December 2015.  She has emphasized that “we tackle climate change not as an end in itself, but as a means to a resilient society, to sustainable development and to more fulfilling and enriching lifestyles and livelihoods.” On several occasions she has stated that “more carbon means more poverty”, and the simple challenge she advocates is to decouple growth from our reliance on fossil fuels. Ms. Figueres has spoken at length of the imperative elements to the Paris Agreement, mainly renewable energy technology and climate neutrality. She has emphasized the need for policy that changes the growth narrative towards low-carbon, green growth and has emphasized how the Paris Agreement should be complimented by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Statement by Christiana Figueres, Chatham House, London, October 21, 2013)

Address by Christiana Figueres, GLOBE International 2nd Globe Climate Legislation Summit, (Washington DC, February 27, 2014)

Statement by Christiana Figueres, High-Level Event on Climate Change,  (New York, June 29, 2015)

TED Talk by Christiana Figueres, The Inside Story of the Paris Agreement, (Vancouver, February 17, 2016)

Lecture by Christiana Figueres, The Power of Policy: Reinforcing the Paris Trajectory, (Boston, April 6, 2016)

High-Level Debate on Climate and Sustainability Goals (April 21, 2016)

Interview with Christiana Figueres, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (April 26, 2016)




Ms. Figueres views migration as fundamentally interrelated with peace and security, human rights, and development, and not just as a humanitarian issue.  Those subject to enforced migration should be respected with dignity… She has emphasized that migration in any region or state is a global responsibility and should be tackled by examining and addressing the root causes.


Christiana Figueres, On migration and refugees issues, (July 2016)


Christiana Figueres, Restoring Hope, (July 2016)




Ms. Figueres recognizes that greater gender equality will lead to better outcomes for all, and strives to ensure that women and girls are at the center of the UN’s efforts.


 Christiana Figures, Climate deal must bring gender equality (April, 8 2014)

Christiana Figueres, Restoring Hope, (July 2016)




Ms. Figueres aims to ensure that, in order to better achieve peaceful settlement of conflicts, greater investment should be focused in preventative diplomacy, and in particular in early-warning and reports to the Security Council. She aims to ensure that peacekeeping missions are given clearer mandates, and considers that the Secretary General must be able to refuse to put personnel deployed under the UN control in harm’s way if they do not have the military or political support needed to succeed. Ms. Figueres has expressed a zero tolerance view on sexual abuse by peacekeeping forces, and has reiterated that “immunity is not impunity”.


Christiana Figueres, On sexual abuse issues in UN Peacekeeping Operations, (July 2016)


Christiana Figueres, Restoring Hope, (July 2016)





Ms. Figueres has expressed the importance of the UN’s role as protecting and promoting adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she describes as our “moral compass”. She has highlighted the need for the Human Rights Up Front Initiative to ensure the UN system takes early action is continued and strengthened.  In discussing the consequences of climate change, Ms. Figueres has emphasized how the threat of climate change impacts the poor disproportionately as it threatens food and water security along with other basic human rights.


Christiana Figueres, Why Climate Change Policy is Human Rights Policy – and Vice Versa, Video of speech at an event hosted by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (January 28, 2016)


Christiana Figueres, Restoring Hope, (July 2016)





In addition to structural reform in accordance with the three pillars, Ms. Figueres has highlighted the importance of ensuring that the UN evolves toward a culture of innovation and flexibility, stressing the need for the Secretary General to strengthen the esprit de corps of the organization. An organizational culture she aspires to is one that enables instead of constrains operational activities, is results orientated, delegates more authority to the field, and does a better job at managing performance in order to move toward stronger accountability.


Christiana Figueres, Restoring Hope, (July 2016)