Isabel Cavelier Adarve describes herself as a writer, potter, and explorer devoted to climate action and “regeneration of our world’s beauty.” She is also a veteran diplomat and scholar with a stellar track record of building consensus and raising ambition. Now, from her home base in Bogotá, she is creating a new model for transformation based on mutual care.
Isabel is best known internationally as a climate negotiator, but when she joined Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2011, her expertise was in human rights, gender, and social justice. As part of a woman-led team, she brought a holistic perspective to the climate talks, recognizing that climate action, healthy ecosystems, and human well-being were inextricably linked. She also played a key role in shaping Colombia’s concept for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which explicitly integrate human development with climate action and sustainability.
Model a shift from separation to integration and from extractivism to regeneration by creating holistic systems of care for climate activists and seeding new narratives based on mutual care and interdependence.
Together with like-minded women negotiators, she helped create the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), which put Latin American countries at the forefront of climate ambition in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement. After the passage of the landmark accord, Isabel served as a lead negotiator on the New Urban Agenda, representing both Colombia and the Group of 77 (G77) bloc of developing countries.
In 2017, Isabel teamed up with two fellow women leaders to establish Transforma, a Bogotá-based think tank devoted to promoting climate action and wider ecological transitions as key elements of building a sustainable, regenerative future. Their work, which takes a multidisciplinary approach, has been deeply influential in Colombia and across the region.
Now, with her Climate Breakthrough Award, Isabel has created another organization called Mundo Común or “Common World.” Its mission is to “seed a culture of care for our living planet” by restoring and nurturing change agents in climate and ecological transformation.
“The climate crisis reveals deep injustices and inequality, and an economy and society based on separation and extractivism,” Isabel explains. People are alienated from nature and from one another, and this has led to unsustainable resource extraction, pollution, and destruction. “Determining possible solutions thus requires an entirely new way of understanding ourselves as humans, interdependent with all of the Earth’s systems.”
Mundo Común, which was launched in January 2023, is designed to model the transformation that Isabel wants to see in the world, starting with women climate leaders in Colombia, but with the potential for global reach. Colombia is a good starting point for this endeavor because it has ambitious climate goals, including a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, but also major fossil fuel resources.
Isabel is not naïve about the enormous challenges involved, but she is confident that she can help accelerate the transition to a clean, just, regenerative economy in Colombia and beyond.
“We want to build a new civilization that is based on care and integration,” Isabel says. “There is still so much injustice, but I see seeds all around the world of a new culture, and it’s very powerful. So I am thrilled, and inspired, and full of energy to create the change we need.”
Isabel Cavelier Adarve is a Colombian writer, changemaker, and former diplomat with a long track record on sustainable development, climate change, and social justice. She began her career as a researcher, university professor, and consultant to UN agencies, focusing on human rights, justice, and racial and gender discrimination.
For more than six years, she served in different roles within Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including as part of the country’s delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), participating in negotiations that would culminate in the Paris Agreement in 2015. She also contributed to Colombia’s highly influential proposal for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Isabel co-founded Transforma, a prominent Bogotá-based environmental think tank, in 2017 and served as its director of vision, but stepped down to create Mundo Común after receiving the Climate Breakthrough Award in 2022; she still serves on the board of directors. She is also part of the 2023 cohort of Skoll World Forum Fellows. She holds degrees in law and socio-cultural studies from the University of the Andes and a master of law degree from the University of Cambridge.