UN climate chief stepping down

18 February 2010
Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

The top United Nations climate change official said today that he has made the “difficult decision” to step down from his position, citing his desire to pursue new opportunities to advance progress on the issue in both the private sector and academia.

The announcement comes just two months after the Copenhagen Accord was reached at December’s UN conference in the Danish capital.

The Accord aims to jump-start immediate action on climate change and guide negotiations on long-term action, pledging to raise $100 billion annually by 2020. It also includes an agreement to working towards curbing global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and efforts to reduce or limit emissions.

Yvo de Boer, who heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will stay onboard in his current position until 1 July, before joining the consultancy group KPMG as a Global Adviser on Climate and Sustainability and working with several universities.

“Working with my colleagues at the UNFCCC Secretariat in support of the climate change negotiations has been a tremendous experience,” he said today in Bonn, Germany, where the body’s Secretariat is based.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he was informed by Mr. de Boer of his decision two days ago and respected his decision, but “with regret.”

Mr. Ban thanked the Dutch official for his “strong commitment and professional support” in climate negotiations and for guiding the UNFCCC Secretariat since taking up the post in September 2006.

“Mr. de Boer’s contribution during this crucial period encompassing the negotiations in Nairobi, Bali, Poznan and in Copenhagen will be remembered, and difficult to replace,” said the Secretary-General, who will begin the process of recruiting his successor.

The UNFCCC head stressed today that he has “always maintained that while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business.”

Countries did not reach a clear legal agreement in Copenhagen, but, he noted, “the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming. This calls for new partnerships with the business sector and I now have the chance to help make this happen.”

In his remaining months as UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Mr. de Boer aims to move negotiations ahead before the next global conference to be held in Mexico later this year.

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

Janos Pasztor, Director of Mr. Ban’s Climate Change Support Team, said today that talks will be held next Monday in Bonn on the number of meetings to be held by the Conference of Parties (COP) this year ahead of the Mexico gathering.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that to stave off the worst effects of climate change, industrialized countries must slash emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, and that global emissions must be halved by 2050.

Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a new high-level advisory group, headed by the leaders of the United Kingdom and Ethiopia, intended to mobilize financing swiftly to help developing countries combat climate change.

“Let me emphasize the importance of rapid action,” Mr. Ban told reporters in New York.

“Developing countries need to move as quickly as possible toward a future of low-emissions growth and prosperity,” he stressed, noting that millions of people in Africa and around the world are suffering from climate change’s effects.

Additionally, the Secretary-General emphasized that assisting with adaptation efforts is a “moral imperative,” as well as “a smart investment in a safer, more sustainable world for all.”


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