Meet the Top 15 Female Climate Champions

February 5, 2016

Women have been severe­ly under­rep­re­sent­ed at high lev­els of pol­i­cy­mak­ing around glob­al envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns as well. In the cli­mate are­na, the need to improve women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in nego­ti­a­tions was explic­it­ly rec­og­nized by COP 7 in Mar­rakech in 2001 as the impact of gen­der bal­ance on deci­sion-mak­ing became more evident.

Why is this a prob­lem? Stud­ies show that col­lec­tive intel­li­gence ris­es with thenum­ber of women in a group. Engag­ing a crit­i­cal mass of women is linked to more pro­gres­sive and pos­i­tive out­comes and to more sus­tain­abil­i­ty-focused deci­sion-mak­ing across sec­tors.

Yet, women have remained a notable minor­i­ty in cli­mate nego­ti­a­tions at both the nation­al and inter­na­tion­al lev­el, in the glob­al sci­en­tif­ic body on cli­mate change, the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Pan­el on Cli­mate Change (IPCC) and in media debates about climate.

Women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in bod­ies and boards in the Unit­ed Nations Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change ranges from 36% to 41%. The num­bers drop to 26%-33% for female heads of nation­al del­e­ga­tions. Only one in five authors of the 2014 IPCC fifth assess­ment report, and eight of 34 IPCC chairs, cochairs, and vice-chairs are women. Impor­tant­ly, even though media cov­er­age of cli­mate change has increased sig­nif­i­cant­ly, only 15% of those inter­viewed on cli­mate have been women.

The top 15 female cli­mate champions

When it comes to the neces­si­ty of includ­ing women at all lev­els of cli­mate pol­i­cy, there is no bet­ter argu­ment than the sto­ries and suc­cess­es of the dynam­ic women who are already mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. As an aca­d­e­m­ic and mem­ber of the Sci­en­tif­ic Advi­so­ry Board of the UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al, I have draft­ed a list of 15 women cli­mate cham­pi­ons – from activists to artists.

The world’s top cli­mate pol­i­cy­mak­er today is a fear­less Cos­ta Rican woman, the daugh­ter of José Figueres Fer­rer, the pres­i­dent elect­ed to three non­con­sec­u­tive terms who abol­ished the stand­ing army and found­ed mod­ern Cos­ta Rican democ­ra­cy. Referred to as “cli­mate rev­o­lu­tion­ary,” “bridge-builder,” “advo­cate and ref­er­ee” and “UN’s cli­mate chief,” Chris­tiana Figueres, exec­u­tive sec­re­tary of the UN cli­mate change con­ven­tion, is “cli­mate change summitry’s force of nature.” A relent­less opti­mist, she reminds peo­ple that “Impos­si­ble is not a fact; it’s an attitude.”

Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice pres­i­dent and cli­mate change envoy, empha­sizes that we are at a point of inflec­tion because of the grow­ing pres­sure and moti­va­tion to cre­ate a more sus­tain­able econ­o­my. Kyte has cham­pi­oned ground­break­ing glob­al ini­tia­tives on car­bon pric­ing and per­for­mance stan­dards for sus­tain­able finance, cat­alyz­ing a race to the top among glob­al investors and shift­ing pri­or­i­ties in financ­ing institutions.

Ceres pres­i­dent Mindy Lub­ber leads a group of 100 insti­tu­tion­al investors man­ag­ing near­ly US$10 tril­lion in assets focused on the busi­ness risks and oppor­tu­ni­ties of cli­mate change. Through Ceres, she has changed the think­ing around cli­mate change by alert­ing cor­po­rate lead­ers about the risks to finance and busi­ness from cli­mate change.

A ven­ture cap­i­tal investor, Nan­cy Pfund, one of Fortune’s Top 25 Eco-Inno­va­tors, is lead­ing the impact invest­ment move­ment, hav­ing invest­ed in sus­tain­able ener­gy com­pa­nies such as SolarCi­ty, Bright­Source Ener­gy, Primus Pow­er, Pow­er­genix and Tes­la Motors. With oth­ers, she has demon­strat­ed that earn­ing mon­ey by invest­ing in social­ly ben­e­fi­cial enter­pris­es can be prof­itable.

To read the full arti­cle, vis­it Alter­Net.