Sarah Christiansen joined McKnight in January 2021 as Midwest Climate & Energy (MC&E) program director. The MC&E program aims to take bold action on the climate crisis by dramatically cutting carbon pollution in the Midwest by 2030.
With a career that spans more than 30 years, Christiansen is a seasoned philanthropic leader dedicated to finding multiple pathways toward achieving an equitable and carbon-neutral economy. She works closely with McKnight board members, senior leaders, and the MC&E team to use every philanthropic tool available to reduce carbon pollution in the transportation, buildings, power, and agricultural sectors.
Christiansen has experience with a range of climate strategies, from place-based approaches to global solutions. Notably, she served as a funder delegate for the Conference of the Parties (COP), the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In this role, she strategically supported leadership inside and outside the COP while bridging climate-resilient grassroots solutions with grasstops policy platforms in cities and rural lands.
Before joining McKnight, Christiansen served as program director for the Solidago Foundation of Massachusetts. There, she cofounded the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, which supports civic engagement, capacity building on climate equity policy, and narrative shift, and builds power in the communities most impacted by climate change. From Virginia to New Mexico to Minnesota and beyond, the work of her grantee partners has led to gains, including moving bold renewable energy portfolio standards, increasing energy efficiency for municipal buildings, and investing in climate-resilient public infrastructure, as well as other comprehensive shifts from government policymakers and business leaders forging a just transition to a clean energy economy.
A past Fulbright scholar in Cameroon, Christiansen holds an MS in sustainable development and conservation biology from the University of Maryland and a BS in ecology, evolution, and behavior from the University of Minnesota.