U.N. climate chief de Boer to quit in July

LONDON/OSLO (Reuters) - U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said Thursday he will step down in July to join a consultancy group, saying a new era of diplomacy was starting after the Copenhagen summit fell short of agreeing a new treaty.

Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, covers his eyes as he attends a news conference at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen in this December 19, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/Files

Analysts said the departure of the energetic and often sharp-tongued de Boer was unlikely to dent U.N.-led climate talks meant to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol but stalled over sharing the cost of cutting carbon emissions.

The Dutch former environment official, who has run the Secretariat since 2006, will join KPMG in London. He was also considering part-time work at universities -- Yale in the United States and Maatstricht and Utrecht in the Netherlands.

“I’ve found this job incredibly challenging,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “It was a very exciting place to be but it also takes a huge toll on you personally.”

“I feel that Copenhagen has put a new era of climate policy on the tracks and that offers me an opportunity to come at this from a new direction,” he said of his shift to focus on business involvement in combating climate change.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would decide on a replacement in coming months to head the Bonn-based Secretariat of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). De Boer’s two predecessors were from the Netherlands and Malta.

Janos Pasztor, Director of Ban’s Climate Change Support Team, said: “There is no prescription about where the new executive secretary should come from, whether it should be from a developing or developed country.”


The Copenhagen meeting in December missed de Boer’s own benchmarks for success, neither specifying exact emissions limits for developed nations nor a timeframe to agree a pact.

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But it was applauded for harnessing pledges from both rich and poor to curb their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. And as part of a Copenhagen Accord, rich nations agreed to provide $10 billion a year from 2010-12, with a goal of $100 billion a year from 2020, to help poor nations deal with climate change.

De Boer said that meant the Secretariat would have to shift to help implement the national plans as part of efforts to help slow droughts, floods and rising sea levels.

A successor would have to be “someone sensitive to the concerns of developing countries,” he said. The shift did not mean giving up on securing more ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gases.

De Boer’s departure “won’t have any effect on the carbon market,” said Seb Walhain, head of environmental markets at Fortis Netherlands. Carbon markets depend on the U.N. talks to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol from 2013.

U.N. rules require consensus among all 194 countries, partly hampering climate talks and leading some analysts to call for a new approach, for example through G20 world leaders.

“We must quickly find a suitable successor who can oversee the negotiations and reform the UNFCCC to ensure it is up to the massive task,” said British Energy and Climate Change minister Ed Miliband.

De Boer said “it remains to be seen” if the next annual meeting in Mexico in November and December would agree a full treaty. He said there seemed to be support for an extra set of U.N. talks in April, perhaps in Germany or France.

“Yvo de Boer has been an enormously dedicated leader in the fight against climate change and has made a major contribution in advancing that effort,” U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said.

“I have always greatly appreciated Yvo de Boer; his engagement and his sharp tongue,” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said. She said he was “not always the perfect diplomat” but communicated the urgency of climate change.

De Boer, born in 1954, is known for his quips -- he compared his own large ears to those of Dr. Spock in the TV series “Star Trek” and compared the drawn-out process at the Copenhagen summit to cooking a Christmas turkey or baking a cake.

Additional reporting by Michael Szabo and Nina Chestney in London, Basil Katz and Patrick Worsnip in New York; Editing by Janet Lawrence