Denmark’s Inger Andersen is new head of UN Environment Programme

The new Executive Director promises to prioritize greater action on climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution during her four-year tenure

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Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme
Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

Inger Andersen, a Danish economist and environmentalist, today took up her new role as Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. Writing in her first blog post for UN Environment Ms. Anderson said there is a growing sense that humanity needs change to address pollution, climate change and other environmental challenges, which have placed our planet and societies in imminent peril.

Ms. Andersen said people everywhere are demanding a fundamental redesign of how we – as individuals and as a society – interact with the planet. The need to live within the limits of the natural world is driving human innovation and imagination turn towards finding solutions.

“Never before has the environmental mandate been more visible, recognized and acted upon. But then again, never before have the stakes been higher.”

“I am proud and excited to begin work at the UN Environment Programme in beautiful Kenya at a critical time for humanity,” Ms. Andersen said. “Good environmental stewardship has never been more important. Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution in all its forms pose a clear and present danger to human and planetary health, and to prosperity.

Ms. Andersen said global unity was key for success: “With challenges as monumental as those we all face, we will succeed together or we will fail together. I will be looking to deepen collaboration with the UN Environment Programme’s partners, old and new, to work towards a healthy environment that allows all of humanity to thrive.”

“In the coming weeks and months I will work with the committed and excellent staff of the UN Environment Programme, and all of our partners and donors, to define the priorities of an organization that is central to our aspirations of a sustainable and equitable world.”

Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the UN Environment hosted Climate and Clean Air Coalition welcomed the new Executive Director on behalf of the Coalition’s 137 partners.

“The Climate and Clean Air Coalition shares the same goals and sentiments as Ms. Andersen. We believe that fast action to reduce climate and air pollutants will provide immediate benefits to humanity, ecosystems and our future prosperity,” Ms. Molin Valdés said. “Our partners appreciate the UN Environment hosting of the Coalition secretariat and look forward to working together to deliver solutions for a healthy and prosperous planet.”

Ms. Andersen was nominated for the post by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and approved by the General Assembly in February 2019.

Ms. Andersen brings to the role a passion for conservation and sustainable development, demonstrated throughout over 30 years in international development economics, environmental sustainability and policy-making, designing and implementing projects and generating on-the-ground impact.

Between January 2015 and May 2019, Ms. Andersen was the Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Prior to joining IUCN, Ms Andersen held various leadership roles at the World Bank: she served as Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa, Vice President for Sustainable Development and Head of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) Fund Council.

Prior to her time at the World Bank, Ms. Andersen worked at the United Nations for 12 years. She started in the UN Sudano-Sahelian Office, focusing on drought and desertification issues, before being appointed as the UN Development Programme’s Water and Environment Coordinator for the Arab Region.

Ms. Andersen’s educational background includes a BA from London Metropolitan University North and an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, with a specialization in development economics.

She takes over from Joyce Msuya, of the United Republic of Tanzania, who has served as acting head of the organization since late last year. Ms. Msuya will continue as Deputy Executive Director.

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