Deciding to quit on a high note, the United Nation’s climate chief, Costa Rican Christiana Figueres, has announced her decision to step down in July following the 195-nation deal made in Paris late last year.
Paris deal the highlight of her career
Following a six-year term, Figueres said in a letter dated last Friday but made public today that she would not accept any extension of her term as the chief of the Bonn-based UN Climate Change Secretariat. Figureres, once a Costa Rican climate negotiator, took over the position in 2010 after a disastrous summit in Copenhagen fell apart in 2009 with no small amount of squabbling between nations. The split that saw the summit collapse highlighted the differences between wealthy and poorer nations.
American officials attempted to spin the deal (more accurately, a week outline )as a “meaningful agreement”, but President Obama was quick to say: “This progress is not enough.”
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“We have come a long way, but we have much further to go,” added the president.
Six years makes a big difference apparently as Figueres watched the leaders of 195 nations sign the Paris deal in December.
“I used to say: we must, we can, we will,” Figueres tweeted in December. “Today we can say we did.”
President Obama echoed her sentiments following the deal being reached.
The deal is “a tribute to strong, principled American leadership” and key to the planet’s future said Obama.
“This agreement represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got,” he said, but added that the deal “was not perfect. The problem’s not solved because of this accord.”
Figueres announces her “retirement”
“The journey that lies ahead will require continued determination, ingenuity and, above all, our collective sense of humanity and purpose,” she wrote in the letter made public today.
Following the Paris deal, Figueres certainly wouldn’t have struggled to receive either an extension of her term or another six-year term but clearly she’s not interested. It’s a bit like Stevie Wonder should have done, quit on top of an illustrious career instead of “just calling to say I love.” Whether he meant it from the bottom of his heart is moot, just a horrible way to end it.
Her achievements are noteworthy, it’s not easy to get China and the United States to agree much less handle OPEC nations that largely live on their oil reserves and little else. She also had a way of making small island nations feel empowered by the United Nations despite their small economies, limited populations and pesky rising sea levels.
Nicholas Stern, of the London School of Economics recently said that Figueres possessed an “outstanding ability to see where we need to go as a world and to bring people together.”
No word has been given about a potential successor, but the position has largely gone from developed nation to developing nation, so the new chief will likely come from a developed nation.
Figueres was not the only UN Climate head to step down today. Hela Cheikhrouhou, head of the UN’s Green Climate Fund announced that she would leave her post in September after serving in that position for the last three years. The fund as already seen $10 billion in pledges from 43 nations to help developing nations with their responsibilities under the Paris deal.