An internationally recognized leader on worldwide climate change, Christiana Figueres was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010 to 2016. She is known for her immense stubbornness involved in leading the process as per the universally acknowledged regulatory framework.
Throughout her term of office, she called together various national governments, worldwide known corporations and activists, financial institutions, think tanks, NGOs, and even parliamentarians, to mutually deliver the groundbreaking climate change agreement. Christiana is best known for directing the successful Paris Agreement of 2015.
Having worked continually towards concerning global climate change, Figueres is also the co-founder of Global Optimism, co-host of the podcast ‘Outrage and Optimism’ and is also the co-author of the book, ‘The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis’.
One of the most significant conferences on architecture, net-zero, carbon footprint, energy, health, and wellness is the GreenBuild Conference held every year. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and keeping in mind the precautions, this year it was held virtually from September 10 to November 10 with Christiana Figueres as one of the keynote speakers. “When there is a convergence of crisis like we have now, there needs to be a convergence of solutions”, she said at the conference.
According to Figueres, our planet is the result of a continuous and progressing relationship between nature and humans, ever since the beginning of life. For many centuries, nature has maintained its superiority that benefited humans in manifold ways. This era, also known as the Holocene Epoch, helped us to flourish, develop, and multiply but a drastic change was observed during the mid-1960s. It was then that humans took the upper hand due to the increase in greenhouse gases because of industrialization, and this came to be known as the Anthropocene Epoch.
With changes taking place at an alarming rate, the world is becoming more dystopian. Human activities are releasing more harmful atmospheric gases that further add up to the warming of the planet. This temperature rise is causing unalarmed cyclones, wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding in various parts of the world.
With the growing air pollution and destruction of half of the original forests, there are more premature deaths and more exposure to new kinds of viruses like COVID-19. Despite all that is going wrong, Christiana Figueres believes that we can together change the course. As mentioned by her, this can be done by “adopting clean energy, designing buildings that produce their energy, and regenerating soils and oceans.”
In a recent study, as per UNFCCC, humans have only about a decade left to bring about a major transformation in what is happening globally. Livability will only get better if we reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50% by the year 2030 and completely eradicate it by 2050. Since renewable sources are already contributing to more than 25% of the global electricity, hence this user needs to be increased as renewables are the cheapest energy source.
Furthermore, major countries and unions are stepping up and are planning on how to move towards a green recovery. About more than 1400 major corporations are already headed to “diversify away from climate risks” and some 30 worldwide known institutional investors are now understanding climate risk as they are not willing to stand their assets.
Companies like Apple, Nike, and Starbucks have pledged to become net-zero by 2030 whereas Amazon has moved up its goal to 2040. Christiana Figueres seems to be very positive about these trends as they “normalize corporate responsibility and create new expectations.”
Regardless of these developments, Figueres also believes that it is the design professionals that play a crucial role in this change as they are in a true sense the “architects of the future”. It will be these professionals that will help us achieve the essential goals of new structures being net-zero in terms of energy use by 2030, says Figueres. To attain these goals, designers and planners must integrate human experience and direct the world towards “more low-impact materials that have a high impact on human livability”. Consequently, landscape architects, architects, and planners at large will be responsible for governing the right ways to live on this planet in the future.
To conclude, Figueres remains strong in her opinions on global climate change and mentions that to accomplish this new world in the future, humanity must shift its mindset as well. “We need to shift from thinking about ‘the other’ to thinking about ‘each other. We need to get away from thinking we have power over something or someone and move towards the idea that we have ‘power for’ someone or something. This will create a sense of collective agency.”
She further adds, “We can create a new relationship between nature and society. We can claw back nature in cities, creating a more harmonious and regenerative relationship. We must regenerate nature in cities for humans to thrive.”