United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed Christiana Figueres as the new executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), reports The Guardian. Figueres has been the head of Costa Rica’s negotiating team, and is the daughter of a former president of Costa Rica. She will replace Yvo de Boer, who will quit the post July 1. Some believe de Boer has left because developed and developing countries failed to reach an agreement in Copenhagen (see earlier post).
Figueres said: “There is no task that is more urgent, more compelling or more sacred than that of protecting the climate of our planet for our children and grandchildren.” Urgency will certainly be needed: Figueres will only have five months before before 193 nations meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in December for another attempt to reach a global, legally-binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Some experts see only a first outline of a global agreement taking shape in Cancun, and no real binding agreement.
Given she’s coming from a developing country, Figueres may help bridge the deep divide between developing and developed countries. She can speak from a position of legitimacy — Costa Rica is a leader among developing world nations in pushing for reduced emissions, and is actually practicing what it preaches. Costa Rica plans to be carbon-neutral by 2021. More than a quarter of its territory is covered in national parks and biological preserves. According to Reuters, trees now cover 51 percent of the country, a 10 percent increase over the last decade. Furthermore, the country generates 78 percent of its energy with hydroelectric power and another 18 percent by wind or geothermal power.
Wendel Trio, Greenpeace International climate policy coordinator, said: “Christiana Figueres has been lead negotiator for a country that aims to become carbon-neutral by 2021, the type of attitude we need on the global stage. We hope she can really engage all countries in a fast-moving dialogue to get agreement on a global deal that will save the world from dangerous climate change.”
In other climate change news, The New York Times writes that the U.S. Senate has finally released a new 978-page climate and energy bill. “The bill’s overall goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 percent (compared with 2005 levels) by 2020, and by 83 percent by 2050. The targets match those in a House bill passed last year and in the Obama administration’s announced policy goal.” The Senate will need to pass legislation complimentary to the House bill in order for climate and energy legislation to get to the President’s desk for signature.