Christiana Figueres

France Climate Countdown
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, left, and United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, center, talk to the press while touring the conference room at the COP21 conference center in Le Bourget, outside Paris, Saturday Nov. 28, 2015. The site of Paris-Le Bourget will officially become United Nations territory for the COP 21 conference, where more than 100 heads of state are expected to attend and scheduled to start on Nov. 30. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)Laurent Cipriani — AP
  • Title
    Executive Secretary
  • Affiliation
    UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • Age

If Mother Nature held auditions for a guardian, Figueres, 59, would be first in line. The daughter of a Costa Rican President who led a landmark revolution in 1948, Figueres became the United Nations climate-change chief in 2010, tasked with nothing less than halting the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming. For six years she worked to convince governments that a binding agreement on limiting carbon emissions and slowing fossil fuel-led growth was in the world’s best interest.   Figueres’s efforts culminated in December at the Paris climate conference, where 195 countries signed a deal committing them to limit worldwide temperature increases to no more than 2° C above pre-industrial levels, a critical if hard-to-attain benchmark. “To bring all countries together on something everyone has been fighting on for decades, and to get them to agree, was brilliant,” says Jean Krasno, a political science lecturer at City College of New York and the author of The United Nations: Confronting the Challenges of a Global Society. Figueres is stepping down in July, and many believe she could become the first woman to be named UN Secretary-General.