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2020 Hillary Laureate Named – Christiana Figueres

The international board of Governors and our Trustees in New Zealand are honoured and delighted to welcome in the Spring with the announcement of our 2020 Hillary Laureate, Christiana Figueres.

Ms Figueres, a citizen of Costa Rica, has received multiple honours and accolades from nations all over the world as a true hero of this ‘Blue Marble’ we all share. She is perhaps best known for her extraordinary leadership in delivering the historic Paris Agreement, the first unanimously agreed Climate Change treaty in December 2015. Most recently she is known for her best-selling book, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, co-authored with Tom Rivett-Carnac, and as co-presenter of the lively weekly podcast, Outrage + Optimism.

During her tenure (2010–16), at the UNFCCC, (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), Ms Figueres was credited with forging a new style of collaborative diplomacy, that gave rise to 195 sovereign nations agreeing to a collaborative pathway forward in limiting global heating to 1.5°C. Ms Figueres is a founding partner of Global Optimism Ltd, a purpose-driven enterprise focused on precipitating sectoral shifts towards halving emissions before 2030, to ensure the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is achievable. Under her leadership Global Optimism co-founded The Climate Pledge with Amazon, a collective effort of corporations committed to achieving net zero carbon by 2040. She is also a Board member of ACCIONA and of WRI.

In what has clearly been a year of enormous societal challenge on global and local stages, the Institute is marching on in very good heart, reflected in our 12th Annual Report which you can find here. COVID 19 has affected every aspect of our work however, including how we support and leverage Christiana’s focus over this next year. We have no doubt however that significant value will be added both to the urgency of her kaupapa/mission; and that of the Institute.

"I am honoured to be named as the 10th Hillary Laureate and intend to work with this group over the year ahead in the same spirit of compassion and commitment the nine previous Laureates and the Hillary organisation represents,” says Christiana.

It has never been more apt than at the start of this decisive decade for climate action, when human suffering has reached intolerable levels globally, to remind ourselves of Maori wisdom reflecting our shared mission – ‘Toitū te marae a Tāne-Mahuta, Toitū te marae a Tangaroa, Toitū te tangata’, which means that if the land is well and the sea is well, the people will thrive.

"We're very excited to be welcoming Christiana as a Laureate at this time of unprecedented need for bold, decisive action to avoid catastrophic climate change, and at a time when the Institute is strengthening its capacity to serve the Laureates and EHF Fellows." says Institute Chair Anake Goodall.

Ms Figueres as the 2020 Hillary Laureate is the tenth since the inaugural annual awardee, the UK's Jeremy Leggett in 2009 – all remarkable, mid-career leadership champions for environmental and social justice across five continents – see In what has clearly been a year of enormous societal challenge, "Christiana continues to be a beacon for relentless, inspiring, pragmatic optimism and at this time, not just acknowledging, but utilising this 'Covid re-set moment', to accelerate solving the climate crisis," adds Institute Founder, Mark Prain.

While the pandemic has affected every aspect of our operations including how we best support and leverage Christiana’s work over this next year, the Institute has no doubt that significant value will be added both to the urgency of her kaupapa/ mission, and our own. We look forward to the journey. Key dates involving Christiana in the next few months will be shared with you. Put a ring around Dec 12th right now and watch this space!

2020 is also a year of major development both at the Laureate level and in terms of the now 500 Hillary Fellows brought together by our subsidiary the Edmund Hillary Fellowship. The two wings of the organisation have decided in principle to consolidate their efforts to achieve maximum impact and moving the dial on major issues of our day. Operationalising these developments is our primary internal task as we approach a 2021 year which no doubt will bring more disruption to both the global arena and our own community here in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Hopefully that disruption will be positive, however the Institute is in the business of ‘making that so’ and we invite you as primary stakeholders in, and friends of our work, to join us in that endeavour.

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