Christiana Figueres (left), executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, celebrates the historic adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change in December, 2015 with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left); Laurent Fabius (second from right), minister for foreign affairs of France and president of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris; and François Hollande (right), president of France. (© UN Photo/Mark Garten/Flickr Creative Commons)
Editor’s note: Seven years ago, Christiana Figueres was asked to do the impossible. Months after the failure of the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, she took the reins of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change with a mandate to rebuild the global diplomatic process on climate change. Five short years later, the world agreed to the first-ever binding global agreement on climate change in Paris, a stunning achievement for climate action. Now as a Lui-Walton Distinguished Fellow at Conservation International, Figueres is working to ensure that nature plays its part in making the Paris Agreement real. In this interview, Figueres talks cities, women and the climate change actions that must come next.
Question: Why is protecting nature important to fight climate change, and how are you using the Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship to further your work?
Answer: I come mostly from an energy background. My association with Conservation International and with this fellowship is giving me an additional window into everything having to do with nature-based solutions, because nature is 30 percent of the problem and hence 30 percent of the solution to climate change. If we do a much better job at land use, if we do a much better job at reducing deforestation in the next few decades, if we do a much better job in agricultural practices, then we can reduce emissions, and we can make land much more productive, and we can make our forests much stronger sinks, or absorbers, of emissions. Over