Influential women take action for the climate during COP 21

During COP 7 in Marrakech in 2001, the under-representation of women in the negotiations on climate change was specifically criticised and condemned. During the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris, DiscovHER looked at four influential women who are present at this international meeting.

Christiana Figueres 


First of all, we cannot help but include Christina Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As the person responsible for the COP 21 negotiations, she holds the keys to the “blue zone” badged area at Le Bourget in Paris, where the 195 Heads of State are meeting until 11th December 2015.


Highly involved in the negotiations on climate change, Christiana Figueres began her political career in 1982 in Germany, as Ambassador to Costa Rica, a country that is leading eco-tourism and environmental protection. In 1995, she founded the Center for Sustainable Development in the Americas, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging Latin American countries to participate in the Convention on Climate Change.


Convinced of the feasibility of reaching an agreement during COP 21, she said in an interview in The Guardian newspaper: 

We haven’t questioned whether we’re going to get an agreement [in Paris] for many, many months... Now the question is how ambitious is the agreement going to be. At the beginning of this year when I started talking about how we are going to get an agreement, people were quizzical. Now I think everybody has accepted that as a fact: we are going to get an agreement, because there is enough political will, increasing political will. It makes fundamental economic sense. It is in countries’ national interests to really spur up this transformation [to a low-carbon economy]


Rachek Kyte 


Rachel Kyte is Professor of Practice of Sustainable Development at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She holds a Masters degree in International Relations from Tufts University and a degree in History and Political Science from the University of London.

Currently Vice-President and Special Envoy for Climate Change at the World Bank, she manages the Climate Change team, whose objective is to ensure that all World Bank operations take into account the opportunities presented by inclusive green growth.


In an article for the World Bank published on 24th September 2015, she asserted the World Bank's economic and ecological position in the light of COP 21: 


From the World Bank Group's perspective, these steps require building climate-resilient societies through low-carbon growth, with the right financing in place. The scale of work needed to meet the challenge means transforming our economies. 


The World Bank has drawn up a financial initiative worth 500 million dollars in partnership with Switzerland, Germany, Norway and Sweden, which was announced on the occasion of COP 21. It aims to reduce greenhouse gases using new financial mechanisms. This new facility will provide financial support to policies and programmes that work to reduce emissions.



Fatima Nana Mede


This remarkable woman is a powerful public voice for justice. As Permanent Secretary, the Minister of National Planning and the Budget in Nigeria, Fatima Nana Mede discovered and exposed a network of corruption that was at the origin of an 5 million dollar embezzlement of Nigerian ministerial funds.


Achala Abeysinghe


Sri-Lankan in origin, Acha Abeysinghe is an expert on legal issues relating to international negotiations on climate change and financial mechanisms under the UNFCCC regime (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Highly committed, she has allowed the 49 countries who are most affected by global warming, included in the Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC), to benefit from technical and legal advice. As the head of the European Capacity Building Initiative, Acha Abeysinghe works to help negotiators from vulnerable countries to undergo legal training and assists them in coordinating their negotiations. Since 2005, the programme has run 76 events and worked with 1,626 negotiators and politicians. 


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