Editor’s note: The world’s leaders are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the UN climate conference. On the docket: What global climate progress looks like a year after the Paris Agreement was ratified — and only months after the U.S. announced its intention to pull out of the agreement. As the first week of discussion wraps up, Human Nature revisits interviews with three leaders who are tackling the most pressing climate change issues of today as Lui-Walton Distinguished Fellows with Conservation International.
Seven years ago, Christiana Figueres was asked to do the impossible. Months after the failure of the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, she took the reins of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change with a mandate to rebuild the global diplomatic process on climate change. Five short years later, the world agreed to the first-ever binding global agreement on climate change in Paris, a stunning achievement for climate action. Now, Figueres is working to ensure that nature plays its part in making the Paris Agreement real. In this interview, Figueres talks cities, women and the climate change actions that must come next.
After 20 years as president of Iceland, Ólafur Grímsson stepped down in 2016 as the longest-serving democratically elected head of state in the world. Under his leadership, Iceland embraced its role on the world stage as a living example of both the impacts of climate change and the promise of climate action. Now, Grímsson is working to advance a new model of social change — one that relies more on mass mobilization than on government decree. In this interview, Grímsson discusses melting glaciers, 100 percent clean energy — and the changing nature of political movements and local action.
The island nation of Kiribati has a geography that boggles the mind. At 3.5 million square kilometers (1.4 million square miles), the country’s exclusive economic zone is the 12th largest in the world, just behind Brazil’s. And yet Kiribati is 99.98 percent ocean, with its total land area only about the size of New York City. With so much ocean, Kiribati is experiencing the future of our oceans now. Former Kiribati President Anote Tong is raising the global profile of Pacific Island nations and the effects of climate change they’re experiencing firsthand. In this interview, Tong discusses about storm swells, the Law of the Sea and what it means to be a “rational radical.”
Sophie Bertazzo is a senior editor at CI.
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