Thursday, 18 February 2010

U.N. Climate Chief Resigns

source: New York Times
by: John M Broder

WASHINGTON — Yvo de Boer, the stolid Dutch bureaucrat who led the international climate change negotiations over four tumultuous years, is resigning his post as of July 1, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In a statement announcing his departure, Mr. de Boer expressed disappointment that the December climate change conference of nearly 200 nations in Copenhagen had failed to produce an enforceable agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that climate scientists say are contributing to the warming of the planet.

He also said that governmental negotiations could provide a framework for action on climate, but that the solutions must come from the businesses that produce and consume the fuels that add to global warming.

“Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming,” said Mr. de Boer, whose formal title is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “This calls for new partnerships with the business sector, and I now have the chance to help make this happen.”

Mr. de Boer, 55, will join the consulting group KPMG as global adviser on climate and sustainability and will also work in academia, his office said.

Those who worked with Mr. de Boer were not completely surprised by his resignation. He was known to be exhausted and frustrated by the task of trying to bring together developed and developing nations with widely divergent interests to address a global problem that he believed threatened the planet’s health. But the timing was somewhat unexpected.

Mr. de Boer will be leaving his post a few months before nations meet again under United Nations auspices in Cancún, Mexico, to try to move toward an enforceable global climate treaty.

The Copenhagen conference left all the parties frustrated, and none more so than Mr. de Boer, who had traveled incessantly for four years trying to prod nations to produce a treaty by the end of 2009. In an interview with The Associated Press in Amsterdam on Thursday, he said that the high point of his tenure was the agreement in Bali at the end of 2007 under which nations agreed to a December 2009 deadline to produce a worldwide treaty on global warming.

That treaty was to have been signed at Copenhagen, which produced instead a much weaker political agreement after nearly two weeks of bitter and largely fruitless argument.

Mr. de Boer highlighted the concrete achievements of the Copenhagen meeting, a statement by the parties that global temperatures should rise no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pledges by nearly 100 nations to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

“Countries responsible for 80 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions have submitted national plans and targets to address the climate change,” he said. “This underlines their commitment to meet the challenge of climate change and work toward an agreed outcome in Cancun.”

Before joining the United Nations climate secretariat, Mr. de Boer was deputy director general of the Dutch environment ministry, vice chairman of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and an adviser to the World Bank and the Chinese government.

His successor is expected to be named in the next few months.

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