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A Clear Choice for the UN-FCCC

In the US and much of the developed world, it often feels that we are in a constant campaign for one seat of government or another. Whether it is President, Prime Minister, Senator, or Congressman, our airwaves and public spaces are littered with a campaign for this or a campaign for that. So campaign news is often not welcome news.

But there is a campaign going on right now that all of us interested in climate change should pay attention to, the campaign for the next person to head up the secretariat to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In many ways, this is not a great job: it requires herding political cats and the world's governments to try and get them to do the right thing (i.e. agree to limits on emissions of greenhouse gases). You are up against all kinds of political interests, you must balance diplomacy with wit, and at the end of the day, your work will be thankless. No one will ever give you much credit, and everyone will criticize and in hindsight point out how you might have done things better. So it is a wonder that anyone wants the job. Or at least it would be a wonder if the job weren't as important. It is important because this person is, in a way, the lynchpin for how our world deals with one of its most pressing problems.

Thankfully, though the campaign doesn't get much attention or notice, there is one excellent candidate for the post: Christiana Figueres. I have known Christiana for over a decade now and I can tell you that she has forgotten more about climate change than most of us will ever know. More importantly, she has the right mix of political, diplomatic, and technical skills to do the job right. And god knows we need the job done right! We are lucky that Christiana is willing to take on this thankless task. She certainly doesn't need it, though we certainly need someone like her in that post!

So the UN FCCC has, happily, a clear choice to make. I don't really know who else is up for the post (these campaigns are not usually very open), but I am certain that no one is better than Christiana for this job. Let's hope that the UN does the right thing in this instance. It is more important than most people realize.

Below I include two things, an endorsement for Christiana from a student, and a link to an article on her candidacy. I hope people will help her get the job. We need her.

Statement of Support for Christiana Figueres
by Eugene Jinyoung Nho

I'm a college student who, like many others, has long felt passionate about tackling the climate change problem. To that end, I have been learning about climate change policy at school and involved myself in various sustainability initiatives. Last December at COP15, however, amid much frustration, I realized that as much as my small contribution might be valuable in the long run, what we needed the most at this moment to have a realistic shot at solving the climate crisis was a strong and effective leadership in the UNFCCC that could bring nations together.

I chose to start the campaign to reach out to youth and civil society in support of Chirstiana because I have been truly inspired by her. There is no question about her incredible professional achievement and qualifications, but what really inspired me was the genuine care she showed for youth and civil society. I met Christiana as a youth delegate at COP15. In the midst of the craziness of the COP second week, she still spent an hour with students to help us understand the issues and hear our thoughts. She is the kind of person who replies to a random student's email asking about the Clean Development Mechanism with loads of helpful information and guidance faster than the student himself. It was after talking with my friends who received help from her similarly that I realized my case was not an isolated incident. How far she went to help each of us was incredible, and I believe it shows her dedication to youth development and her belief in the significance of a sound civil society.

The Facebook group in support of Christiana has attracted almost 2,500 members within a month since its start in mid March. Hundreds of people have left messages of support, encouragement and endorsement on the page. As the creator of the page, it was extraordinary to watch the group grow--reaching out to people from all walks of life from all corners of the world. Students from the U.S. and Latin America joined the group at first, but since then, students, youth activists and civil society members from all around the world have joined in.

One particular quote I found inspiring was from a student at Norwalk Community College. He said, "Christiana's inspiring talk to over 400 students energized and mobilized our campus in a way that had seemed impossible before... At every step of their struggle to make the building green, Christiana was there offering astute advice and support." This is exactly how my friends and I felt about her enduring help and support in our research endeavors. It takes true passion and dedication in the cause of fighting climate change to help people you barely know on a daily basis, and that is why I find Christiana simply inspiring.

The most incredible aspect has been the way this movement reached out to people around the world like a wild fire. People say the best innovations don't need any additional effort to make them work because those innovations have a way of getting work done themselves. The youth/civil society movement to support Christiana happened in a similar way. The way it spread through different social networks and across different continents--with little effort from the center--has been truly remarkable, and I believe it is the testimony to the respect and hope people have for Christiana.

Last week, I had a chance to speak with Dr. Nafis Sadik, whose work in organizing Cairo Conference in 1994 marked a milestone in the empowerment of women and championing of family planning. I was curious how she was able to bring nations together to support this cause despite the existence of strong conservative lobbying forces, and she replied in one word "civil society." Having civil society present in negotiations and recognizing their role in the process, she said, kept negotiations on track and moving forward. Having witnessed the frustration at COP15 in person, I sincerely hope to see the UNFCCC that recognizes the important role of civil society, and hope that the civil society's support for Christiana is heard at the highest ranks
within the UN.

If you would like to take a look at the Facebook group, please visit and join!/group.php?gid=392059726753.


Eugene Jinyoung Nho
Stanford University, Class of 2010 (senior), major in Economics, minor
in Environmental Engineering. Study focus on climate change and energy
Co-founder & Co-executive director of IDEAS, an environmental
non-profit working with college students in the developing world to
tackle environmental/sustainability problems in their communities.
Born and raised in Korea.

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