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José María Figueres Speaker Profile
Chairman of The Carbon War Room
Former President of Costa Rica
Former CEO of the World Economic Forum
– The Economic Opportunity in Addressing Climate Change
– Sustainable Economic Development
– Attracting Foreign Investment
José María Figueres is currently the President of the Carbon War Room, a global initiative conceptualized by Sir Richard Branson and a select group of innovators towards the end of 2009.
The Carbon War Room accelerates entrepreneurial solutions to deploy profitable, scalable clean technologies across industries. José María came to the Carbon War Room as an experienced and internationally recognized leader in the achievement of sustainable development goals. After a successful business career, he entered public service in 1987.
Having held several cabinet level posts, he was elected President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998, becoming the youngest Latin American head of state in modern times. As President he created a comprehensive national development strategy combining sound macroeconomic policies, strategic investments in human development, and a strong alliance with nature. For his pioneering work he received the first ever Global Environmental Facility Leadership Award in 1998. Convinced that technology enhances sustainable development, he has made this linkage in the realms of business, public service, and non-profit organizations. He brought INTEL to Costa Rica, the only Latin American country with such a production facility and spearheaded the creation of a national cluster of high tech exports.
Together with Nicolas Negroponte, Founder of Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Jeffrey Sachs, the world recognized development economist, Figueres established the Digital Nations Programme with the objective of enhancing development opportunities through technological applications. In 1999, at the request of then Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations, Figueres established the Information and Communication Technologies Task Force (ICT), serving first as the Special Representative to the ICT Advisory Group and then as elected chair of the ICT Task Force for 3 years.
In 2000 President Figueres joined the World Economic Forum as a Managing Director, and later became the organization’s first CEO. During his tenure until the end of 2004, he strengthened the organization’s multi- stakeholder approach by identifying long-term objectives on which global corporations, government representatives, and civil society leaders collaborated.
As of 2005, Jose Maria became CEO Concordia 21, a social investment vehicle based in Madrid, Spain, that promotes development and democratic values around the world. In 2010 President Figueres returned to Geneva, Switzerland, as Managing Partner of IJ Partners SA, an investment and wealth management company with a specific focus on the real economy. Throughout his career President Figueres has served as a member of several company boards. These have included Terremark Inc. (USA), BT Global Services Strategy & Marketing Advisory Board (United Kingdom), Abraaj Capital Advisory Board (Dubai, UAE), and Grupo San Cristobal (Costa Rica). He has also served with distinction on the boards of several non-profit organizations: World Wildlife Fund (USA), The World Resources Institute (USA), the Stockholm Environment Institute (Sweden), and as International Advisor at the Global Environmental Action (Japan).
Today, President Figueres is the Chairperson of the Global Fairness Initiative (USA). He also serves as a Board Member on the Earth Council Geneva (Switzerland); DARA, an internationally recognized humanitarian organization; and FRIDE, the leading Spanish think-tank focused on European issues. In addition, Figueres is a Member of the Dean’s Alumni Leadership Council at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Fellow at the Thunderbird School of Management.
He received a degree in engineering from the US Military Academy at West Point, and a Masters in public administration from the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
President Figueres is a citizen of Costa Rica where he was born, and of the Kingdom of Spain.
He has two children, José María and Eugenia.
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2017 Nobel Prize Economics Science Winner
Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics