North, South reach for new UN climate change chief

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, February 20, 2010
Adjust font size:

The search for a new UN climate change chief to replace Yvo de Boer who unexpectedly bowed out this week is expected to go far and wide, through the North and the South, as in developed and developing nations, UN officials told Xinhua in the United Nations on Friday.


Yvo de Boer [File Photo]

The Thursday resignation announcement of the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was a surprise to all but de Boer, UN Secretary-general Ban Ki- moon and perhaps a few people close to de Boer, the UN officials said. Ban was notified of the move a few days ago.

"De Boer spoke to the secretary-general in advance of his decision and was informed that, while the secretary-general regretted the decision, he would respect it," said a spokeswoman for Ban, Marie Okabe, adding that Ban had "expressed his appreciation to De Boer for his strong commitment and professional support to the UNFCCC negotiations, and for guiding the UNFCCC Secretariat since September 2006."


The resignation was not expected to substantially affect negotiations leading up to the climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico in December, Janos Pasztor, director of the secretary- general's Climate Change Support Team, said shortly after de Boer' s announcement.

Pasztor also said de Boer's resignation had nothing to do with recent controversies about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and allegedly hyped data on the melt rate of Himalayan glaciers.

"Absolutely nothing" had been produced that would call into question the fundamental IPCC conclusions on the issue of climate change and its impact, Pasztor said, although he acknowledged mistakes had been made and recognized, and needed to be corrected. Pasztor said the fundamental science of climate change, however, had not changed in any way.

The secretary-general already started the recruitment process, which would take some months, Pasztor said. In consultation with the Bureau of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP), he would choose the most competent candidate, not necessarily from any particular region.

He said the secretary-general had no names in mind yet, but was expected to identify a successor well by July. The resignation of de Boer took effect on July 1.


"It has to be an acknowledged expert, but also a political leader with immense diplomatic skills, someone of demonstrated expertise, who deals in common sense and uncommon diplomatic skills," a UN official in the know told Xinhua on Friday.

"It requires considerable organizational talent to help bring a conference together like this, negotiating a conference, and if you look at the divide you saw in Copenhagen (in December), which needs to be bridged, between developing nations and less developed nations, between North and South, that would argue probably for someone who moves pretty easily in both of those worlds," he said.

"I think that given the resistance we saw from those who felt excluded I would think you might want to look at somebody from Asia or southern hemisphere countries," the official said.

A candidate for the position should have "proven skills in management and capacity to provide leadership to a secretariat of over 400" people, Pasztor told Xinhua on Friday. "It is also very important to have the ability to collaborate actively with the United Nations and other international entities, also non- governmental organizations, private sector, civil society. These are all very important constituencies for the work of the UNFCCC."

Asked if it was a challenge to have someone named by the time de Boer left, Pasztor replied: "It is a big challenge but it is possible and the secretary-general intends to really get going with this. In fact, I just had a meeting with him (Ban) this afternoon discussing how we are going to proceed now."

"He already has written a letter to the president of the COP about these capacities that we are looking for," he said.


The timing of de Boer's resignation would allow the secretary- general to appoint his successor in time to ensure that the negotiation process for the Mexico conference would not be disturbed, Pasztor said.

Ban had full confidence in the competency of the Secretariat and the UNFCCC's deputy executive secretary, Richard Kilney, to support the preparations for the Mexico follow-up. Pasztor did not expect the resignation to cause the negotiation any substantial disturbance.

"De Boer's contribution during this crucial period, encompassing the negotiations in Nairobi, Bali, Poznan and Copenhagen, will be well remembered, and he will be difficult to replace," Okabe said.

De Boer spoke of his frustration at Copenhagen last December.

There, an accord on climate change was "noted" rather than formally adopted by all countries.

"We were about an inch away from a formal agreement. It was in our grasp, but it didn't happen, so that was a pity," said de Boer, a 55-year-old citizen of Denmark.

The outcome was unrelated to his decision to quit, said de Boer, who will be a consultant on climate and sustainability for KPMG, an accountancy firm. He also is expected to become involved in academia.

"The secretary-general expressed his intention to embark soon on the task of identifying and recruiting the new executive secretary," he said. "He will consult the Bureau of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) in that process."

The COP members represent Australia, Bahamas, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, Mali, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Sudan and Russia.

Their next meeting has been scheduled for Monday, Feb. 22, in Bonn, home of the UNFCCC.

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comments

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from