Climate Leadership Cuts Across Generations

A couple weeks ago, I took the liberty on this blog to write a open letter in support of my good friend, Christiana Figueres to be the next Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.

While that selection process is ongoing for another couple weeks it appears, it’s been inspiring in its own right to see the grass roots Facebook upwelling for this truly remarkable woman. When everybody from market profiteers to left of left civil society to diplomats and bureaucrats trying to do implausible jobs in impossible situations are all consistently singing your praises, it has to mean something.

In any event, I was recently passed along a note from one of the creators of that testimonial FB page. I’m taking some liberties and copying it below because its quite inspiring in its own right. Eugene, I look forward to our paths crossing at some point soon – you have a great head on your shoulders.

Eugene Jinyoung Nho

I’m a college student who, like many others, has long felt passionate about tackling the climate change problem. To that end, I have been learning about climate change policy at school and involved myself in various sustainability initiatives. Last December at COP15, however, amid much frustration, I realized that as much as my small contribution might be valuable in the long run, what we needed the most at this moment to have a realistic shot at solving the climate crisis was a strong and effective leadership in the UNFCCC that could bring nations together.

I chose to start the campaign to reach out to youth and civil society in support of Chirstiana because I have been truly inspired by her. There is no question about her incredible professional achievement and qualifications, but what really inspired me was the genuine care she showed for youth and civil society. I met Christiana as a youth delegate at COP15. In the midst of the craziness of the COP second week, she still spent an hour with students to help us understand the issues and hear our thoughts. She is the kind of person who replies to a random student’s email asking about the Clean Development Mechanism with loads of helpful information and guidance faster than the student himself. It was after talking with my friends who received help from her similarly that I realized my case was not an isolated incident. How far she went to help each of us was incredible, and I believe it shows her dedication to youth development and her belief in the significance of a sound civil society.

The Facebook group in support of Christiana has attracted almost 2,500 members within a month since its start in mid March. Hundreds of people have left messages of support, encouragement and endorsement on the page. As the creator of the page, it was extraordinary to watch the group grow—reaching out to people from all walks of life from all corners of the world. Students from the U.S. and Latin America joined the group at first, but since then, students, youth activists and civil society members from all around the world have joined in.

One particular quote I found inspiring was from a student at Norwalk Community College. He said, “Christiana’s inspiring talk to over 400 students energized and mobilized our campus in a way that had seemed impossible before… At every step of their struggle to make the building green, Christiana was there offering astute advice and support.” This is exactly how my friends and I felt about her enduring help and support in our research endeavors. It takes true passion and dedication in the cause of fighting climate change to help people you barely know on a daily basis, and that is why I find Christiana simply inspiring.

The most incredible aspect has been the way this movement reached out to people around the world like a wild fire. People say the best innovations don’t need any additional effort to make them work because those innovations have a way of getting work done themselves. The youth/civil society movement to support Christiana happened in a similar way. The way it spread through different social networks and across different continents—with little effort from the center—has been truly remarkable, and I believe it is the testimony to the respect and hope people have for Christiana.

Last week, I had a chance to speak with Dr. Nafis Sadik, whose work in organizing Cairo Conference in 1994 marked a milestone in the empowerment of women and championing of family planning. I was curious how she was able to bring nations together to support this cause despite the existence of strong conservative lobbying forces, and she replied in one word “civil society.” Having civil society present in negotiations and recognizing their role in the process, she said, kept negotiations on track and moving forward. Having witnessed the frustration at COP15 in person, I sincerely hope to see the UNFCCC that recognizes the important role of civil society, and hope that the civil society’s support for Christiana is heard at the highest ranks within the UN.

If you would like to take a look at the Christiana Figueres Facebook group, please visit and join

Eugene Jinyoung Nho

Stanford University, Class of 2010 (senior), major in Economics, minor
in Environmental Engineering. Study focus on climate change and energy

Co-founder & Co-executive director of IDEAS, an environmental
non-profit working with college students in the developing world to
tackle environmental/sustainability problems in their communities.

Born and raised in Korea.

1 reply
  1. SMU Cox Web Site
    SMU Cox Web Site says:

    This earth day, I've been urging companies to post the hard figures for their green initiatives. That way businesses can see what works and what doesn't and we can at least get things started. I invite you to join me in urging businesses to post actual figures for costs, expenses, and savings (if any). It's great to go after the "feel good" part, but unless the numbers back it up, a lot of business just can't afford it right now.

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