HE Patricia Espinosa takes the helm at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Image: Chatham House CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Patricia Espinosa takes the helm at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Image: Chatham House

QCOSTARICA – Mexico’s former Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa has been selected by UN secretary-general Ban ki-Moon to head the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the collective of 194 countries tasked to coordinate the fight against global warming.

There had been intense lobbying for the post of the UNFCCC executive secretary after incumbent Christiana Figueres announced that she was stepping down soon after last year’s Paris summit

Because Figueres is from Costa Rica, some veteran UNFCCC watchers expected the job to move away from Latin America.

The climate agreement reached in Paris last December was seen as a huge diplomatic success. But, as Figueres herself has repeatedly pointed out, the deal she helped broker in the French capital falls far short of keeping average global temperatures within the 2 Celsius rise that governments have agreed to work towards. Instead, if the current pledges are carried out in full, average temperatures will rise anything between 2.7 Celsius and 3.4 Celsius by the end of this century.

Normally, the general secretary’s choice must be approved by an 11-member UN bureau that represents groups of governments around the world, currently led by French environment minister Ségolène Royal.

However, there is no record of the bureau having ever challenged the Secretary General’s choice, so the approval is seen as more of a formality these days.

“Patricia is precisely the right person at the right time for this job … The journey ahead will require an ample supply of commitment, ingenuity, purposefulness and a deft human touch, attributes she has often displayed in her many diplomatic roles,” said Andrew Steer, CEO of the World Resources Institute, in a statement.

Scientists are warning of the catastrophic impacts that will take place unless greenhouse gas emissions are reined in more effectively than has been the case.