Inger Andersen was appointed U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director United of the Nations Environment Programme in June 2019 in what she described as a “critical time for humanity.” Having built her career for more than 30 years at the United Nations and World Bank, hop-scotching between focusing on economics, policymaking, water management and the environmental sustainability, there was no question about her qualifications for this role as she slid into it with calm grace.
Which is precisely what makes it all the more eyebrow-raising when she does lift her voice. When Andersen’s seemingly unwavering composure breaks as she decries the lack of action on climate change – “We’ve been saying the window is closing, but now I really mean it!” – people know the situation demands attention.
“We hold in our hands this frightening responsibility, this awesome responsibility, to forever change the trajectory of our planet,” she says. Since assuming the directorship, she has already demonstrated her own sense of responsibility by pushing forward the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration; quickly boosting nature-based solutions on the global environmental agenda; and, perhaps most importantly, using her position to not only act but also to inspire.
“It’s critical that we think of nature not just as a carbon bank, but that we think of nature as this vibrant Mother Earth that gives us all our identity and our presence, because when we protect nature, nature protects us.”