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The Climate Group welcomes Christiana Figueres as new climate chief

18 May 2010
The Climate Group welcomes Christiana Figueres as new climate chief

Leading Latin American climate expert and negotiator Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica has been appointed to the top UN climate post by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Ms Figueres will replace Yvo de Boer as the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC at the end of July.

The appointment came after a long period of speculation over who would take over from Mr de Boer after announcing his resignation earlier this year, with Figueres and early favorite South African Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk the main contenders for the position.

Figueres brings an insider’s knowledge to the position and is widely respected amongst both developed and developing countries. For the past 15 years she has been part of Costa Rica’s negotiating team, has already held positions on the UNFCCC’s Bureau and been a member of the CDM Executive Board. Importantly, the Costa Rican’s experience and knowledge of the often Byzantine workings of the UN negotiation process should help ensure a smooth transition from de Boer. This is likely to be vital given the complexity of the negotiations and with just six months to this year’s climate conference in Mexico.

Figueres will assume her new position at a demanding time. The need to rebuild trust following the acrimonious Copenhagen summit remains an ongoing task. Recent international climate meetings, such as the Major Economies Forum, have highlighted that key divisions still remain between developed and developing countries, which will need to be bridged if further progress is to be made in the international climate negotiations.

Ms Figueres' appointment is the first time a developing country representative has held the top UNFCCC position. Coming from a small but environmentally progressive country, which has committed to carbon neutrality before 2030, Ms Figueres is well placed to build ambition amongst all parties.

Mark Kenber, Policy Director at The Climate Group, welcomed the announcement. “Christiana Figueres is a fitting successor to Yvo de Boer. Her in-depth understanding of the negotiating process, the needs of both developed and developing countries, and a pragmatic approach to problem solving make her ideally suited to the role. We wish her every success.”

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