Yvo de Boer’s exit shows business is key to climate
UN climate chief’s move to KPMG suggests big business can succeed where governments have failed
The departure of Yvo de Boer as the UN's top climate change official is seen by many as a severe blow to hopes of global action on cutting emissions. But others are taking it as a massive vote of confidence in big business to drive global action on climate change.
De Boer, who will step down as head of the Framework Convention on Climate Change in July in order to give his successor time to bed in before the next UN climate meeting in Cancun in December, has been in his post for four years.
During that time he has been a safe pair of hands. Don't forget that before 'Climategate' in November and the abject failure of Copenhagen in December, climate change sceptics had been reduced to the status of a lunatic fringe - partly thanks to de Boer's work in bringing countries together in regular climate meetings.
That all changed when hackers stole the emails of senior scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and uncovered evidence of the suppression of inconvenient data. The ensuing press coverage has reopened the debate into the validity of mainstream climate change science - and this December's climate summit in Cancun looks highly unlikely to deliver a binding agreement on cutting emissions.
However, far from being hounded out by resurgent sceptics, it is more likely that de Boer has simply lost faith in the ability of intransigent governments to 'seal the deal' on mitigating climate change.
De Boer's commitment cannot be questioned: he broke down in tears at the 2007 Bali climate talks after China accused his staff of ignoring protocols and he has warned that failure to agree on action could lead to wars.
De Boer apparently sees his move to a new role at the multinational consultancy KPMG as global adviser on climate and sustainability as perfectly consistent with his work at the UN. In announcing his resignation, he spoke of his belief that big business can deliver real action on climate change.
"I have always maintained that while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business," he said. "Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction towards 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."
The theme echoes the evidence of an International Monetary Fund employee who spoke to The First Post after attending the Copenhagen talks. Tired of his organisation being cast as the villain and regarded with suspicion by Third World nations, this insider expressed deep frustration at the collapse of the talks.
He told The First Post that NGOs were really to blame for the failure because they insisted on being present at meetings - and then frequently leaked sensitive information, undermining the parties' negotiating positions.
It's the kind of frustration that might have led a senior negotiator like de Boer to decide he'd done all he could with the United Nations. ·
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