The Climate Pledge: It’s been two years since the Pledge was founded. Has it exceeded your expectations and how are those expectations changing for the future?
Christiana: I often talk about existing on a continuum that ranges from outrage to optimism. My particular brand is the stubborn kind, grounded in grit and determination. I know that we—as humanity, as The Climate Pledge, as individuals—have not yet done enough when it comes to what is still possible to do on climate. We’ve certainly not yet achieved what is necessary.
The commitments are there—yes—and that is critical, but the emissions now have to follow that trajectory and come down. That is what we must continue to pursue, without distraction. I am extremely encouraged by the progress and determination the Pledge is instilling in the business community to get emissions out of the equation, and I continue to have very high expectations about what it can collectively deliver.
We are not past the moment of anxiety, but the fact that 200 companies are on board already indicates that the moment is upon us for radical change. Now is the time to double down!
The Climate Pledge: The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued a somewhat devastating prognosis for Earth if we continue on our current trajectory. What is your response? How do you hold on to your optimism?
Christiana: Optimism is the attitude we bring: it’s how we can choose to respond to the hard hitting truths espoused in the IPCC report. Choose being the key word there. We know we don’t have a choice about the facts, about the science, but what we can choose is how we respond, and that gives each of us extraordinary power. That choice, and that power, is a responsibility now and one that’s unique to our generation.
Yes, the report was devastating. Yes, I feel grief for all we have lost and all we will continue to lose. I make sure to give myself the time to really feel that grief and fear: I’m certainly not immune. But I do not allow myself to stay in that place for too long—we simply do not have time for that luxury.
Optimism is how we show up to the challenge: it’s a determination to accept the challenge and keep going, increasing our efforts to make a difference over and over again. It’s accepting that we may not know what the outcome will be but we stay true to our vision for what it can be—and give that everything we’ve got.
I hold onto my optimism, because I am stubborn by nature, but also because I know that we’ve got what it takes to stave off the worst of the climate crisis. We have the technology, the will, the intelligence and the man & woman power we need. The science has made clear what we need to do and The Climate Pledge is one avenue for doing that. Let’s get to it.
"Be brave. The urgency of this moment calls for you to dig deep and leverage your agency to shape the future."
The Climate Pledge: Two years in, as climate change is ever more urgent, what’s the one thing you would tell every CEO/company in 2021?
Christiana: Be brave.
The urgency of this moment calls for you to dig deep and leverage your agency to shape the future. That means rapid cuts in emissions and massive efforts to protect and restore nature. Now is the time to break the mental boundaries of what you think is possible. Accept the challenge. Join The Climate Pledge.
Christiana Figueres is a Founding Partner of Global Optimism, co-presenter of climate podcast, Outrage + Optimism, and co-author of The Future We Choose: The Stubborn Optimist's Guide to the Climate Crisis. From 2010 to 2016 she was Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, leading the process that secured the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Learn more about Global Optimism at globaloptimism.com. Learn more about The Climate Pledge at theclimatepledge.com.