Christiana Figueres, a former diplomat and longtime climate change leader, sees optimism as a key solution for climate change. In fact, her whole brand is optimism.
Figueres presided over the 2015 Paris climate talks for the United Nations. Since then, she founded a group called Global Optimism, and co-authored a book titled, "The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis."
Why does Figueres choose relentless, stubborn optimism to address climate change? She believes the only choice we have is to take a determined, optimistic mindset.
"It is only by doing something positive to contribute to the solution that you actually dispel the bubble of despair and move into a much more constructive frame of mind and a much more impactful space in which you can make a difference. Yes, we have a very difficult situation in front of us. But if we are negative about it, I guarantee we will not be able to get out of it," she explains.
The World's Carol Hills spoke with Figueres this week from the activist's home in Costa Rica, to learn about her philosophy of why optimism is imperative in the struggle for climate justice.
Christiana Figueres: I'm outraged at the fact that we have only started to address climate change. I am particularly outraged at those people who deny reality. That, I think, is really absolutely unforgivable.
I have been concerned about the fact that it was unavoidable that the first few months of tackling the pandemic was basically an isolationist approach — "let us build the walls around ourselves" — but, to really tackle the pandemic, we are going to have to develop a vaccine and the development of the vaccine, plus the production of the huge scale of vaccines that we're going to need, plus the distribution — all of that cannot be done in an isolationist way...it has to be done through collaboration across companies and certainly across countries. So, I think the biggest lesson for the climate is yet to come. The biggest lesson is going to be, do you really want to tackle this? Well, then the only way is radical collaboration.
To be very frank, I was against delaying because I have always felt that a timeline is a healthy pressure. However, after the decision was taken, we have now seen that there is incredible public finance mobilization that is occurring around the world. That financing is at such a scale and at such a speed that it will determine the carbon intensity of the global economy for at least 10 years, if not more. So, there is a huge opportunity here over the next 18 months, which are precisely the 18 months to COP26 [United Climate Change Conference]. For countries to really be very mindful about injecting that capital in such a way that it both gets the wheels of the economy spinning again and leads us to more carbon-efficient sectors and companies and an economy.
You know, that's probably the most important question. The mother of all injustices on this planet is climate change. Now, that is where our moral obligation to address climate change stems from. Because if we do not devote our energies, our thinking, our actions, our decisions, our finance, our policies, toward addressing climate change, we are implicitly, or in fact, even explicitly contributing to more inequality. It is precisely because of the inequality that we have to address climate change.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.