Women are vital to the climate fight

| 12th March 2020
Christiana Figueres
An interview with Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary UN Climate Change Convention.

Most of the young leaders on climate change today, those who are taking kids out to the streets, are women. That is so exciting.

Christiana Figueres is one of the world's leading voices on climate change. She is credited as an architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Costa Rican took on the role of the UN's top climate negotiator in 2010, and has recently co-authored new book The Future We Choose alongside Tom Rivett-Carnac, a former climate and energy policy adviser, examining our prospects in the next 10 years.

In an interview with CNN, conducted ahead of International Women’s Day, Figueres discussed the reasons for optimism in the next decade - including the young women who are emerging as leaders in climate activism.


Figueres told CNN: “Most of the young leaders on climate change today, those who are taking kids out to the streets, are women. That is so exciting. 

"Young, brilliant women that I have the huge honour to have met so many of. I'm calling them women... They're not even 18, but they're acting like adults - and many adults are still acting like children.”

Figueres also spoke about the power of the individual in combatting climate change, whilst also translating self-interest into thinking about community-based initiatives:

“I have yet to meet a government in any country, city or state that is not made up by individuals. I have yet to meet a corporation that is not made out of individuals.

Most of the young leaders on climate change today, those who are taking kids out to the streets, are women. That is so exciting.

"So, to say that this is the responsibility of governments and corporations – as though they existed outside of the human race – is actually interesting, right? We’re all individuals… Some have more influence and have much more control over capital that is deployed or what policy is designed, but all of us have an opportunity to actually make a difference.”


Figueres writes in her latest book that if we do not correct course over the next ten years, the planet may survive in a changed form - but humanity will not:

“It sounds like a hyperbole, it sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. The fact is we now have ten years to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to one half of where they are now.” 

When asked whether she is frightened when people don’t seem alarmed by that fact, Figueres told CNN: “The frightening thing is that if we get to 2030 and we haven't done that, there is no way that we can put that destructive genie back in the bottle… The planet frankly doesn't care. It's about us. This is a very important opportunity that decides the future of humankind.”

For Figueres, gender equality plays an important role in the climate conversation, and she shares some advice for women looking to instigate changes in their lives:

“Figure out what your passion is. If you're into climate change, fantastic, join the pride. But wherever you want to go into - women's issues, health, industry, engineering - choose what your passion is and then pursue it with everything you have. Because honestly, our voices are being much more appreciated, and where they're not, that's exactly where we need to press more.”

This Article 

Zain Asher is a journalist with CNN. Christiana Figueres was speaking to CNN in New York as part of its Call to Earth initiative. Find out more about Call to Earth and the extraordinary people working for a more sustainable future.


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