UN climate change leader steps down to take up KPMG role

Fri, Feb 19, 2010, 00:00

UNITED NATIONS climate chief Yvo de Boer is to step down on July 1st to join the KPMG consultancy group as “global adviser on climate and sustainability” as well as working with a number of universities, it was announced yesterday.

Mr de Boer’s decision to resign as executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was greeted with dismay by Greenpeace and Oxfam International, who fear it will pose further problems for the process.

Greenpeace said his successor – possibly John Ashe, the Antigua and Barbuda diplomat who knows the climate talks well – would need to possess the same skills as Mr de Boer, who had “injected much-needed dynamism and straight-talking into the role”.

Oxfam’s Antonio Hill said his tenure at the helm of the climate negotiations “will be remembered as an extraordinary period, when climate change went from being one of many environmental concerns to a standing item on the agenda of political leaders”.

Mr de Boer, formerly a Dutch civil servant who took over as head of the UNFCCC in September 2006, is known to have been downhearted about the outcome of last December’s Copenhagen climate summit, saying it “did not provide us with a clear agreement”.

He added: “We were about an inch away from a formal agreement. It was basically in our grasp, but it didn’t happen . . . so that was a pity.”

Instead, countries were invited to subscribe to the “Copenhagen Accord” drafted by the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

“The time is ripe for me to take on a new challenge, working on climate and sustainability with the private sector,” he said. “I have always maintained that while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business.”

In 2007, after an all-night final plenary session at the Bali climate conference, Mr de Boer broke down after being accused by China of procedural irregularities – which he strenuously denied – and left the podium. Soon afterwards, the Bali action plan was adopted.

A statement from the UNFCCC said Mr de Boer was announcing his departure at this stage to give more time for the Bonn-based agency to find a new executive secretary in advance of the next round of climate change negotiations in Mexico City next December.