BERLIN, Feb. 19 (UPI) — The resignation of the U.N.’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, is a severe blow to ongoing climate negotiations.
His resignation, announced Thursday, takes effect July 1, five months before world leaders are to convene in Mexico to hammer out a binding global treaty aimed at combating climate change. And it comes as the United Nations is battling a public relations disaster related to its climate change science.
“It’s a setback for the process,” the Irish Times’ Frank McDonald, the journalist in Europe who probably knows most about the climate circus, told United Press International in a telephone interview Thursday. “Yvo was very much part of this. He knew where the bodies were buried.”
De Boer, 55, takes his hat after organizing a rather disappointing climate conference in Copenhagen, where 120 world leaders failed to agree to more than vague promises to limit carbon dioxide emissions.
Experts have blasted the so-called Copenhagen Accord, a text patched together in the final hours of the Copenhagen meeting. The non-binding text was merely noted but not adopted by the conference parties.
It sets the limit of global warming to 3.6 degrees F and provides short- and long-term finance to help poor nations cope with climate change; it also set 2015 as a review year to see if global action needs to be more urgent to meet the challenge. But it remains a voluntary text, and even if nations commit to it, they are not legally bound to honor their pledges.
Observers say time is running out for a binding deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012, to be agreed in Mexico — so de Boer’s resignation doesn’t come at a good time.
The Dutch diplomat during the past years jetted from capital to capital in a bid to bridge the trust gap between rich and poor nations. He was often frustrated by the pace of negotiations but never vented his frustration publicly, observers say.
The son of diplomats from the Netherlands, de Boer joined climate negotiations in the 1990s and has headed the United Nations’ climate brief since 2006.
He put in his most memorable performance at the Bali talks, when he broke down on the podium after being accused by China of mishandling negotiating arrangements, which he strongly denied.
The Bali Action Plan, which for the first time united the world on post-Kyoto climate change efforts, elevated climate protection to the global stage.
Experts, including McDonald of the Irish Times, point to John Ashe, the Antigua and Barbuda diplomat and an expert of the climate talks, as a possible successor.
De Boer will leave politics to advise the Dutch audit and consulting firm, KPMG, on climate change and sustainability.
“I have always maintained that, while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business,” he said in a statement. “I now have the chance to make this happen.”
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