April 8, 2016 – U.N global climate change leader Christiana Figueres told a Georgetown audience today that “stubborn trust” and “relentless optimism” played an important role in last December’s Paris Agreement among 195 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Figueres, who has served as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change since 2010, spoke at the university after receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
“The Paris Agreement is a living testimony of mankind’s ability to rise to unprecedented challenges because we have never faced a challenge as grand and as seemingly overwhelming as climate change,” Figueres said. “The six-year long road to Paris was paved with relentless optimism, stubborn trust … and the conviction that we do share the moral responsibility to protect the most vulnerable.”
Georgetown President John J. DeGioia lauded the Costa Rican diplomat’s achievements throughout her career at the United Nations, her public service as minister counselor at the Embassy of Costa Rica in Germany and her work as director of Renewable Energy in the Americas.
In 1995, Figueres founded the nonprofit Center for Sustainable Development of the Americas, which she directed for eight years.
“In challenging times, this is a moment that has tested the will of our international community, our individual communities and each of us around the world to address climate change,” DeGioia said. “How it’s changing our world now and into the future. This is a challenge that each of us and all of us have a responsibility.”
Former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, who now serves as executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, introduced Figueres as Georgetown’s newest alumna.
“An extraordinary global leader, Christiana Figueres exemplifies what it means to live in service to our planet and its people,” said Verveer. “A tireless and effective advocate for action on climate change, she has helped to inspire a collective sense of purpose as communities around the world seek to respond to this pressing and urgent global challenge."
Verveer described Figueres’ work as inspiring a sense of “urgency, optimism and collective responsibility,” and said the U.N. official has helped the world attempt to achieve the goals of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on climate change and the environment, which includes the phrase, “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.”
“She represents the kind of leadership that can transform our world, our relationships to one another and to our environment,” Verveer explained.