The Ocean Elders

José María Figueres

After a successful business career (1979-1987), José María Figueres Olsen served as Minister of State and was later elected President of Costa Rica (1994-1998) at the age of 39. As President he created a comprehensive national development strategy based on the tenets of sustainability: sound economics, investment in human development, and a strong alliance with nature.

José María pioneered the linkage between sustainable development and technology, which he continued after government by helping create and then leading the United Nations ICT Task Force as its first Chairperson (1999).

He was the first person to become CEO of the World Economic Forum (2003), where he strengthened global corporate ties to social and governmental sectors. Later, he was named CEO of Concordia 21 (2006), dedicated to supporting organizations that promote development and democratic values around the world.

Figueres joined the Carbon War Room in 2009, currently serving as its President. The organization accelerates entrepreneurial solutions to achieve profitable, gigaton-scale reductions of carbon emissions.

In 2013, Figueres helped launch the Global Ocean Commission to formulate politically and technically feasible recommendations that address key issues facing the high seas. He serves as co-Chair. José María holds an Engineering Degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.