UN Climate Change chief – Who’s next in line


After six years in the job, UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres is due to leave the post in July. The UN is currently on the hunt for an individual with ‘high professional standing and an intimate knowledge of the issues’.

The successful candidate can expect a salary in the region of £143,000, and the new UN climate change chief will we be expected to implement and enforce the COP21 agreements – a challenging, highly important task.

The team at Climate Home have gone out to the international climate change community to find the ten names that are being discussed for the top job

Pa Ousman Jarju (Gambia)

Pa Ousman Jarju is the environment minister of the Gambia. He lives on the frontline of climate change and is the lead negotiator and special climate envoy of the Gambia. He is also the chairperson of the National Climate Change Committee and has a history as a powerful advocate for investment in adaptation, and loss and damage. Jarju was chosen to be one of COP21’s president Laurent Fabius’ advisors in the closing stages of the summit.

Patricia Espinosa (Mexico)

Espinosa is currently Mexico’s ambassador to Germany and is highly regarded in climate circles.  She was president at the UN talks in 2010 and is known for her work in the rebuilding of diplomatic relations with Cuba and Venezuela..

Fatih Birol (Turkey)

Fatih Birol is a highly respected economist and is already on the UN’s Sustainable Energy 4 All panel. As executive director of the International Energy Agency, Birol is well placed to face the challenge of implementing the UN’s commitment to climate change.

Manuel Pulgar Vidal (Peru)

Vidal is Lima’s environment chief and this could be the perfect time for him to make the move to the UN. Vidal has an election coming up, potentially freeing him up for other pursuits. Vidal was asked to assist COP21 president Laurent Fabius in Paris and has since been credited with ensuring that the UN talks were more open and transparent in 2014.

Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko (South Africa)

During the UN talks through 2015, Diseko made a big impact by fiercely defending the 134-strong Group of 77 she was charged with leading. She’s knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to the UN and was one of the key advisors to the South African government during the 2011 COP17.

Dessima Williams (Grenada)

Williams is another candidate that is no stranger to the UN. An experienced diplomat, Williams was the former chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, Grenada ambassador to the UN, and Oxfam climate advisor. She’s another potential candidate who has the experience and the know-how to claim the hot seat.

André Corrêa do Lago (Brazil)

André Corrêa do Lago is the Brazilian Ambassador to Japan, as well as a curator and critic of architecture. Until 2012 he was head of climate negotiations, and chief negotiator at the Rio+20 talksl; it would appear that there is little that this highly intelligent and skilled diplomat cannot turn his hands too.

Teresa Ribera (Spain)

Ribera was the Spanish secretary of state for climate change between 2008-2011, and now runs the Paris-based IDDRI think tank, which played a key behind-the-scenes role helping the French government at COP21. Ribera is a well-established and respected name within the climate community and has also led IDDRI’s Latin American outreach program.

Laurence Tubiana (France)

Laurence Tubiana is credited with advising the COP president on the technical aspects of a climate deal and is seen as the brains behind the Paris success. A skilled and effective climate spokesperson, Tubiana has shot to fame and made many new friends in the past year.

Izabella Teixeira (Brazil)

Known for rarely smiling in public appearances, Teixeria is a seasoned diplomat with a name for being a tough negotiator and effective civil servant. She was the face of the Rio+20 talks and sits on the UN high level panel for post-2015 development. It was Teixeira who everybody turned to at Paris to resolve the developed V developing divide at the talks.


Photo Credit: The Climate Group from Flickr.