Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen is an internationally recognised leader in the area of global climate change. Figueres Olsen is the co-founder of the social enterprise Global Optimism Ltd. and the co-host of the Outrage and Optimism podcast. She provides strategic guidance on climate change issues to several companies, including Amazon, Mastercard and MacQuarie, and is the co-author of the book "The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis”. She is the chair of the Earthshot Prize Foundation, created by Prince William of Great Britain.
Figueres Olsen was the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the under-secretary-general of the United Nations from 2010 to 2016. During her career, she has played a key role in international climate change negotiations, having directed the UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties of Cancun 2010, Durban 2011, Doha 2012, Warsaw 2013 and Lima 2014, and culminating in the historic Paris Agreement in 2015. Figueres Olsen was a distinguished fellow of the non-profit organisation Conservation International and leader of Mission 2020. Among other positions, she has been Climate Leader for the World Bank and member of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation.Before that, she was vice-chairperson to the rating committee of the Carbon Rating Agency and also member of the Carbon Finance Working Group of Project Catalyst.She was formerly director at the Technical Secretariat of Renewable Energy in the Americas (REIA) and, in 1995, she founded the Center for Sustainable Development in the Americas (CSDA), a non-profit organization which she directed for eight years.
She has been a senior adviser to C-Quest Capital, principal climate change advisor to Endesa Latinoamérica, co-chairperson of the Advisory Committee of Formula E, member of the Scientific Advisory Panel of the UNEP, advisory senate of the ICE Organization Limited, member of the technical advisory board of the Prototype Carbon Fund of the World Bank and an advisory board member at the Italian energy company Eni, S.p.A.
Figueres Olsen is a shareholder of Grupo Agrícola Industrial San Cristobal, S.A., which carries out its corporate activity in the agricultural sector in Costa Rica. She was also a member of the board of directors of the International Institute for Energy Conservation between 2006 and 2008, and of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) in 2008.
Figueres Olsen is an anthropologist, economist and analyst. She pursued her studies at the London School of Economics and Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) in 1981 and 1991, respectively. She was later granted honorary doctorates from several universities, including the Universities of Georgetown, Yale, Massachusetts and Bristol.