Climate change leader Christiana Figueres to deliver Wege Lecture


Christiana Figueres, a Costa Rican citizen recognized as the architect of the historic 2015 Paris Climate Accord, will deliver the School for Environment and Sustainability’s 2019 Wege Lecture on Sustainability on March 14.

Photo of Christiana Figueres
Christiana Figueres

While serving as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010-16, Figueres forged a new brand of collaborative diplomacy to help advance a carbon-neutral future and address one of the most pressing issues of our time.

She will discuss this “radical collaboration” among businesses, non-governmental organizations, universities, local and state governments, and communities during her lecture, “No Victory Without Optimism: Advancing Climate Action in 2019 and Beyond.”

The event begins at 5 p.m. in Hill Auditorium, and is free and open to the public.

A founding partner of Global Optimism, a purpose-driven enterprise focused on social and environmental change, Figueres embraces “stubborn optimism” as a critical force in confronting urgent environmental challenges.

“I believe in human ingenuity,” Figueres says. “That when we decide on a task to be done, no matter how daunting it may seem at the beginning, we are able to unleash human ingenuity and human innovative capacity that was unknown, and takes us to a solution.”

Currently, Figueres leads Mission 2020, a global initiative that seeks to ensure that the world “bends the curve” on greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 — in order to protect the most vulnerable from the worst impacts of climate change, and usher in an era of stability and prosperity in national economies.

Her Wege talk will reinforce recent developments at U-M, where President Mark Schlissel announced the launch of the Commission on Carbon Neutrality on Feb. 4.

Along with its advisory panels, the new commission will bring together the U-M community and regional partners to develop recommendations for reducing U-M’s carbon emissions to levels that are environmentally sustainable, and achieved in a fiscally responsible manner.

This event is sponsored by the School for Environment and Sustainability, the Center for Sustainable Systems and the Erb Institute, a partnership between the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and SEAS designed to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world through the power of business.

The Wege Lecture Series, now in its 18th year, honors Peter M. Wege for his outstanding contributions to U-M’s Center for Sustainable Systems and to the environmental field.

Each Wege Lecture has addressed a critical sustainability challenge facing society in the 21st century, from energy security and declining fossil resources to global climate change, freshwater scarcity, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, and sustainable development strategies.

As the 2019 Wege lecturer, Figueres joins former Vice President Al Gore, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, author and activist Bill McKibben, SEAS Dean Emerita Rosina Bierbaum, and other internationally recognized experts who have delivered past Wege Lectures.



  1. Noah Weaverdyck
    on March 1, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Hopefully she can convince the administration to not only catch up to other schools, but to be a leader in confronting the climate crisis.[1] To actually do that, we’re going to have to hold ourselves more accountable for how we make decisions[2] and, obviously, not *expand* the use of fossil fuels on campus [3].


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