Maria José Sanz is Scientific Director of the Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3), a research centre based in Spain that aims to contribute to long-term research on climate change, while emphasising the importance of bridging scientific scales and languages to support policy and decision-making in an economically efficient and socially equitable way. Her own research programme focuses on how best to make land-use decisions, allocating land resources in an optimal way for sustainable and efficient development. 

Prior to joining BC3, she worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in support of negotiations on land use, land-use change, forestry and agriculture and REDD+ until 2011. Prior to 2007, she was the Programme Manager for Air Pollution and Atmospheric Chemistry at the Centre for Mediterranean Environmental Studies and an advisor to the Spanish Minister of the Environment.
She was lead author of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She holds a PhD in biology from the University of Valencia and has worked extensively on the feedbacks of air pollution and climate change in Mediterranean regions after her postdoctoral fellowship at Arizona State University.