TORONTO (AP) — Maurice Strong, whose work helped lead to the landmark climate summit that begins in Paris on Monday, has died at age 86, the head of the U.N.'s environmental agency said Saturday.
"Strong will forever be remembered for placing the environment on the international agenda and at the heart of development," Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said in a statement.
The statement did not provide details of Strong's passing.
The Canadian-born Strong, the first UNEP chief, organized the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which led to the launch of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Christiana Figueres, the current head of the U.N. climate agency, tweeted Saturday that "we thank Maurice Strong for his visionary impetus to our understanding of sustainability. We will miss you."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will be attending the climate summit in Paris, said in a statement that "Mr. Strong was an internationally recognized environmentalist and philanthropist who used his remarkable business acumen, organizational skills, and humanity to make the world a better place."
Steiner said Strong's work helped usher in a new era of international environmental diplomacy at the 1972 Stockholm Conference, which saw the birth of UNEP, the first U.N. agency to be headquartered in a developing country.
As head of UNEP, Strong convened the first international expert group meeting on climate change.
Steiner urged the international community to honor Strong's vision by adopting a climate deal in Paris.
"The sustainability roadmap which started in Stockholm, continued in Rio, Johannesburg and Rio+20, must now become a reality in Paris," Steiner said. "This would indeed be the most fitting tribute to the legacy of Maurice Strong; leader, mentor and friend."
Strong held several other positions at the U.N., and earlier in his career he led the Canadian International Development Agency.
Author Felix Dodds issued a statement saying that he worked with Strong on his last book, "Only One Earth: The Long Road via Rio to Sustainable Development."
"It seems impossible to think that he is no longer with us," said Dodds. "That we will not have his good council when we lose our way."