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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

Environmental Leader in Antarctica: Women Are Key in Fighting Climate Change

MAXWELL BAY, Antarctica – Christiana Figueres, a Costa Rican environmental activist and diplomat who played a key role in the Paris Climate Agreement negotiations, told EFE in an interview on Thursday that humanity was living through a historical moment in which women were reaching the front lines of decision-making with regards to the crucial fight against climate change.

Figueres, who is currently taking part in an expedition to Antarctica within the Australian Homeward Bound initiative that seeks to heighten the influence and impact of female global leaders, served for six years (2010-16) as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and has dedicated her professional career to environmental efforts that culminated in the historical 2015 Paris summit.

“We are at a very important crossroads because it is the first time in human history that women are finally rising to the top decision-making positions in every country,” Figueres told EFE on the fourth day of the expedition, which has now reached the penguin-filled Ardley Island, located in Antarctica’s Maxwell Bay.

The group taking part in this third edition of Homeward Bound includes 80 women from 35 countries, most of whom are experts in fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.

The program’s goal is to promote women’s leadership in order to confront the looming threat of global warming and to boost sustainable development as an alternative to the current production models causing enormous damage to the biosphere.

“It’s important to be able to support so many skilled women who until now didn’t have the opportunity to be listened to – to lead – so as to achieve reference frameworks that are fairer, more balanced, and more sustainable for the planet,” Figueres said.

The veteran diplomat, who is also a trained anthropologist and economist, attributed the success of the Paris Agreement to collective leadership, which she said was intentionally created and motivated and included scientists, corporate leaders, politicians, non-governmental organizations, religious groups, young people and indigenous communities.

“The reality is we’ve progressed a lot when it comes to climate change,” Figueres said, in response to critics who allege that the recent UN COP24 summit tasked with specifying policy measures against climate change did not go far enough in scope and ambition.

“It will surprise many that we already have more than 50 countries in the world – including developing nations – who have reached their maximum levels and are now reducing their (greenhouse gas) emissions,” she added.

Figueres underscored that renewable energy sources were much more competitive than fossil fuels and stressed that 2020 would be a key year, as the commitments in the Paris Agreement set it as the starting point for an urgently-needed reduction in global emissions.

The Homeward Bound expedition, which started on Dec. 31 and is set to last until Jan. 19, will see participants sail on the B/M Ushuaia around the icy continent, with stops scheduled at the Argentinian Carlini Base, Paulet Island – a breeding colony for hundreds of thousands of Adelie penguins – and the United States’ Palmer research station.


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