Patricia Espinosa nominated to replace Christiana Figueres as UN climate chief

Mexican diplomat Patricia Espinosa looks set to replace Christiana Figueres as the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) after receiving the nomination in a selection process led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

A consultation process between Ki-Moon and the Bureau of the UNFCCC will now commence, with a further announcement expected to confirm the appointment. Current Executive Secretary Figueres, who will step down from her position in July, posted the announcement on Twitter this morning.

Figueres took over as UN climate chief in 2010 in the wake of the problematic Copenhagen climate summit. The Costa Rican diplomat was highly influential in structuring the historic climate deal agreed in Paris in December and ratified by 175 countries in New York last month.

During the two-week Paris talks, Figueres helped build the momentum for a successful global agreement, liaising with faith groups, businesses and NGOs on key climate issues.

In the weeks and months following the Paris climate summit, Figueres has remained one of the most vocal actors on climate change mitigation, calling for change from big business and governments. Earlier in the year, she stated that COP 21 was the easy part of the deal, and that the hard work to drive a low-carbon future had to start now.

‘Leader of our time’

Speaking in response to Figueres’ decision to step down, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Nicholas Stern said: “Christiana’s contribution to international climate negotiations over the last six years has been really extraordinary. She is gifted with an outstanding ability to see where we need to go as a world and to bring people together.

“Christiana is one of the great leaders of our time. She no doubt has much more to contribute in the coming years. The challenge for everyone is to build on her achievements, and I am sure she will be part of that.”

Figueres’ nominated successor Espinosa arrives into the new role with a wealth of political experience. Espinosa has been the Ambassador of Mexico to Germany since September 2013, before which she worked in several positions in the foreign ministry, focusing on multilateral organisations and global issues.

The Mexican diplomat, who chaired the 2010 Climate Change Conference (COP16) in Cancun, will have the task of putting the UN climate deal into action with the world heads of government.

George Ogleby

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