Christina Voigt

Negotiator for Norway. Co-Chair of the Paris Agreement Implementation and Compliance Committee 2019-2024

Legal eagle Christina moved from Germany to Norway over two decades ago, for a PhD on climate law at the University of Oslo. She took time off from an academic career in 2009 to look for more action – and found it very soon. A week after getting a temporary position at the Norwegian Ministry for Environment, she found herself negotiating on REDD+ on behalf of Norway in Bangkok. By 2013, she was chairing the UNFCCC negotiations on REDD+ finance – and enjoying it! “It’s a bit like playing chess,” she says, describing the experience of chairing a UNFCCC negotiation. 

When she was offered a permanent professorship by the University of Oslo in Norway, she took it, mainly to make time for a growing family of two boys – Victor and Oscar. But she continued to be on the Norwegian delegation as Principal Legal Adviser, went on to negotiate many aspects of the Paris Agreement for Norway, becoming later Co-Facilitator of the compliance negotiations for the rulebook and is now inaugural Co-Chair of the Paris Agreement Implementation and Compliance Committee (2019-2024).

“I did sometimes wonder, during the interminable waiting periods during the negotiations, if this was time wisely spent, and if I was missing out on time with my kids,” she says, observing that the significant time commitment required by the UNFCCC process can be tough on women ­– especially if they don’t have Scandinavian childcare support, and supportive partners! Her boys are proud of what she does, but she still feels bad spending so much time away from them. 

Asked if she observes any differences in the negotiating styles of men and women, she says both can be equally difficult. “It does appear, though, that men have better support networks, and ‘buddy up’ more easily,” she observes. She believes the Network can help in this regard and get women the support system they need. Potentially, in the future, she hopes the Network will help overcome at least procedural obstacles to more ambitious outcomes. Chairs of negotiations have a responsibility to make the process more inclusive, transparent, effective, and solutions-oriented, she says, and this is where women can make a difference. “Huddles are not women-friendly, especially if you are not tall – all these people towering over you!”

She believes substantive obstacles to climate ambition, however, may be harder to overcome – because substance is often dictated by governments back home. Unless women are in positions of leadership back home, the Network may not be able to make a dent in the substantive priorities of the UNFCCC, she feels. 

Christina’s varied background in international environmental law has helped her bring in perspectives from outside the UNFCCC process, for instance in her work on safeguards for Indigenous Peoples and for biodiversity in the REDD+ negotiations. She is the current Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law.