UNITED NATIONS – UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday appointed Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica as the new U.N. climate chief. She is an expert on climate negotiations and the daughter of the country's former president.
Figueres, who has been a member of Costa Rica's negotiating team on climate change since 1995, will replace Yvo de Boer as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"I come to the secretariat with great respect for the institution and a deep commitment to (the) UNFCCC process," Figueres said in a statement issued by the U.N. "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."
De Boer, who has shephered troubled climate talks for nearly four years, announced his resignation in February, saying he will step down July 1 to work in business and academia.
Ban expressed gratitude to de Boer, who is from the Netherlands, "for his dedicated service and tireless efforts on behalf of the climate change agenda," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Nesirky said Monday the appointment was made after consultations with parties to the convention.
"(Ms.) Figueres is an international leader on strategies to address global climate change and brings to this position a passion for the issue, deep knowledge of the stakeholders, and valuable hands-on experience with the public sector, nonprofit sector and private sector," he said.
De Boer announced his departure two months after a disappointing climate summit in Copenhagen that ended with a nonbinding accord brokered by President Barack Obama promising emissions cuts and immediate financing for poor countries — but even that failed to win consensus agreement.
Figueres, 53, will take the helm just five months before 193 nations reconvene in Cancun, Mexico, in December for another attempt to reach a worldwide legal agreement on controlling greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for the gradual heating of the Earth that scientists predict will worsen weather-related disasters.
De Boer, European Union officials and others are cautioning that the Cancun conference probably will yield only a first answer on curbing greenhouse gases, and a legally binding climate change treaty isn't likely until next year at the earliest.
Figueres has a long history with the climate change convention: From 2007 to 2009 she was vice president of its bureau, representing Latin America and the Caribbean, and over the years she has chaired numerous international negotiations.
Her father, Jose Figueres, who led the 1948 revolution and founded modern democracy in Costa Rica, was president of the country three times. Her mother, Karen Olsen Beck, served as Costa Rican ambassador to Israel in 1982 and was elected a member of Congress from 1990-1994.
Figueres graduated from Swarthmore College in 1979 and received a master's degree from the London School of Economics.
In 1994, she became the director of the technical secretariat of the Renewable Energy in the Americas program, today housed at the Organization of the American States. The following year she founded and became executive director of the Center for Sustainable Development in the Americas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the participation of Latin American countries in the Climate Change Convention.
She is married, has two daughters and is based in the United States, outside Washington, D.C.