“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors, we have little time left."
We have compiled a list of 25 inspirational female climate leaders who will be shaping the climate agenda in 2019 to mark International Women's Day.
We have consulted close to 100 people in the field to compile the definitive list.
We feature some well-known activists such as Greta Thunberg and also place the spotlight on people such as the Vietnames activist Nguy Thi Khan who are doing incredible work without the same intensity of media interest.
Student Activist, Sweden
This 16 year old Swedish student has sparked a global youth movement to take a bold stance on climate action. Greta has challenged world leaders with her powerful speeches, most recently at the World Social Forum in Davos in January and during the UN Climate summit in Poland in December 2018; “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes”.
US Congresswoman, United States
The youngest woman to be ever elected to congress, and an example of a millennial in power, AOC has been using her political position to draw attention to social and environmental issues as well as women’s rights and equality. Her work on and in promoting the Green New Deal in the U.S. has made her the voice of climate change concern in a political environment heavily criticised for climate change denial.
Executive Secretary of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Mexico
Espinosa was appointed the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2016, giving her a key role in designing the implementation processes of the Paris Agreement. As the highest diplomat for the UN climate space, she will be safeguarding the implementation of the Paris Agreement from 2020 onwards.
Former Executive Secretary of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Costa Rica
As executive secretary of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2015, Figueres was a driving force in the creation of the Paris Agreement. Since leaving office, she has continued throwing her diplomatic prowess in the balance through her organisation Mission 2020, pressing countries around the world to raise their climate ambition.
Executive Director of Climate Action Network International (CAN), South Africa
Tasneem was recently appointed as director for the largest network of environmental organisations in the world, CAN, bringing along her experience as provincial environment minister of South Africa and climate advisor at WWF. Essop is known for her work promoting the links between social justice and climate change, in her own words: “Climate Change is a Poverty Issue”.
Senior Associate at the World Resources Institute (WRI), Guadeloupe
Dagnet is a climate change scholar leading the research team on the implementation of the Paris Agreement at WRI, a leading environmental think tank. Dagnet previously worked as the manager of the UK greenhouse gas inventory (NAEI) and was the UK Deputy Focal Point for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Environmental Activist, India
As a Kawar Adivasi woman from Korba, an Indian coal mining district, Nirupabai has been displaced twice by coal mines in her region. She has lead dozens of legal battles to halt the expansion of coal mining activities in the region and has helped affected women gain recognition and compensation from several coal companies.
Activist and Primatologist, United Kingdom
World famous primatologist, Jane Goodall has worked for decades on the research of Chimpanzees and on forest conservation. At age 84 she continues to raise awareness and promote education and understanding of the environment and is in the running for the 2019 Nobel Peace Price.
Executive Director, 350.org, United States
May runs one of the largest climate change movements in the world, 350.org, and has helped shape, the People’s Climate March, the Keystone XL pipeline protests, and the global divestment movement. In 2019 her organisation will continue building bridges between movements to gather collectively behind the climate banner.
Prime Minister, New Zealand
Elected in 2017, Jacinda is currently the youngest female head of government in the world. She is known for supporting same-sex marriage, being an advocate for women in the workplace, and pushing for New Zealand to be proactive in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement: “Acting on climate change is about being on the right side of history.”
General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Australia
Recently re-elected for another 4-year term, Sharan will be leading the largest workers union in the world to promote a Just Transition for workers and their communities in the light of climate action. The theme of Just Transition has received renewed attention since the UN climate summit in Poland, and will be an important theme throughout 2019.
CEO of the European Climate Foundation (ECF), France
Laurence was the French ambassador for international climate negotiations in the lead up to the creation of the Paris Agreement and now runs the European Climate Foundation. She founded the Institute of Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in 2002 and currently advises French president Emmanuel Macron as part of the country’s High Council on Climate Change.
Nguy Thi Khanh
Founder and Director of the Green Innovation and Development Centre, Vietnam
Growing up in the shadow of a coal mine in rural Vietnam, Khanh has dedicated her life to developing networks of social and environmental organisations, as well as state agencies, that work towards sustainable energy solutions to meet Vietnam's rapid development. She strongly opposes the 16 additional coal power-plants the Vietnamese government is planning to build and is working closely with said govenment to achieve the goal of 21% renewable energy by 2030.
Public Health Director, World Health Organization (WHO), Spain
Maria has been spearheading the global fight against air pollution as director at the World Health Organization. In 2019 she will play a key role in achieving international political recognition of the links between climate change and human health.
Yeo Bee Yin,
Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Climate Change, Malaysia
The 35 year old Minister is one of only four women in the Malaysian Government. She is successfully implementing an ambitious plan to transition Malaysia from a fossil fuels based economy to renewable-energy: "affordable, reliable, sustainable, and also long term energy security for Malaysia”.
Program Coordinator at Plant for Planet, India
Yugratna has been a voice of youth engagement in international climate negotiations since she was 13 years old. She has led the UN Youth body at the climate negotiations (YOUNGO) for many years and is now a program coordinator at Plant for the Planet, an organisation that has already planted 14 billion trees, with the goal to plant enough to eventually offset as much as half of man-made atmospheric carbon.
A physician and former model, Stordalen is a Co-Founder of the Stordalen foundation, and founder of the EAT initiative, promoting the links between human health, diet, and sustainability. Most recently, the EAT - Lancet commision designed a planetary health diet, hoping to transform the way we consume food.
Climate Diplomat, Malawi
Stella is a gender advocate at the UN climate talks, and has helped create a Gender Action Plan as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She represents Malawi at the UN forestry program (REDD+) and coordinates the group of Least Developed Countries at the UN climate talks.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
Indigenous Peoples Leader, Chad
Hindou is part of a semi-nomadic community from Chad, and has experienced the effects of climate change on her community and way of living first-hand. She represents the interests of indigenous people at the UN climate talks and is Co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC).
Executive Director, Greenpeace International, United States
Jennifer has been leading the environmental organisation Greenpeace since 2016. A long-time activist and climate leader, she has previously worked at WRI, E3G and WWF, and is a member of Germany's Council for Sustainable Development; “When it comes to climate change, it's often the poor and marginalised who suffer the most. But we can change the rules of the global economy to benefit people and the planet alike.”
Environmental Sholar, India
Vandana is an author, scholar, environmental activist and food sovereignty advocate. She founded Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers’ rights, as well as the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy (RFSTN), an organization devoted to developing sustainable methods of agriculture. “I don't want to live in a world where five giant companies control our health and our food.”
Activist, Author, and Journalist, Canada
An award-winning writer and journalist, her 2014 book, This Changes Everything, has lead to a shift in discourse surrounding the interaction of climate change and economics. Klein continues to be a public voice on social and economic justice, women’s rights, and the importance of climate action.
CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, United Kingdom
Chief Executive Officer and Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), Kyte is also the Co-Chair of UN-Energy. Operating at the highest diplomatic level, Kyte’s work is instrumental to achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) for the universal access, efficiency, and sustainability of energy.
As a dedicated grassroots activist, Bhandari has worked hard to raise youth awareness for climate change in Nepal, particularly the effects of glacial melt on fresh water sources. She plays key roles in both the Integrated Centre for Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Wendy Global, a women’s leadership development program in Asia.
Can't get enough? Find and follow more inspiring women shaping the climate agenda on our Female Climate Leaders 2019 Twitter list.
Arthur Wyns is the proud son, brother, partner, colleague and friend to the most inspirational women he knows. He is a climate researcher at the World Health Organiztion and tweets at @ArthurWyns