After six years as the United Nations’ top global warming bureaucrat, Christiana Figueres is finally stepping down.
The 59-year-old Costa Rican may be done with the U.N., but she will long be remembered for her remarks castigating democracy and praising communist China’s progress on global warming.
“It is with deep gratitude to all of you that I write to formally announce that I will serve out my term as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which finishes on July 6, 2016, and not accept an extension of my appointment,” Figueres wrote in a public letter Friday.
Figueres’s decision to leave the U.N. comes after nearly 200 countries agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions in Paris late last year. The Paris deal was hailed as a major achievement by environmental groups, but there are already indications the deal may end up being more talk than action.
“The Paris Agreement is a historical achievement, built on years of increasing willingness to construct bridges of collaboration and solidarity,” Figueres wrote. “It has been an honor to support you along this path over the past six years.”
Aside from Paris, Figueres was also known for her comments about how democracy put up too many hurdles to fighting global warming. Figuerespraised communist China’s efforts to deploy more green energy and said it was “doing it right” when it came to fighting warming.
“They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” Figueres said of China in 2014. “They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest.”
Figueres also lamented that the deep partisan divide in the U.S. Congress is “very detrimental” to the global warming crusade.
Figueres doubled-down on her support for China’s central planning, telling reporters in 2015 that China “understands that this is what is coming down the pike, this is where job creation is.”
“Why would the United States want to leave that to China?” she said in a somewhat ironic speech since China had just announced its intention to use more fossil fuels as well as green energy.
In 2012, Figueres called for a “centralized transformation” of the world’s economy to fight global warming. Figueres told environmentalist Elizabeth Kolbert this “is a centralized transformation that is taking place because governments have decided that they need to listen to science.”
“So it’s a very, very different transformation and one that is going to make the life of everyone on the planet very different,” Figueres said.
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