UN Climate Chief Retires, as Reformers' Woes Continue

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The UN climate chief has jumped ship, abandoning global negotiations for the private sector. Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, announced this morning that he'll be heading to KPMG in July. This means he won't be leading the Cancun talks that have been scheduled for November as a follow-up to the unsatisfying summit he chaired in Copenhagen two months ago.


This defection is yet another blow for the UN's climate effort, which has come under attack recently for errors in scientific reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Stand by for more cheering from climate change deniers and more fretting from climate scientists and advocacy groups, who fear that a binding, intergovernmental treaty may have less than a snowball's chance in hell -- just like the Congressional climate bill.

Yesterday, three major companies dropped out of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of business and environmental interests committed to pushing a cap-and-trade bill through Congress. The companies said they could accomplish more through their own business endeavors than through legislation. De Boer has offered a similar justification for leaving the UN for his new post as climate and sustainability adviser at KPMG: "I have always maintained that while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business."

The UN has not yet selected a replacement, though the Financial Times speculates that de Boer's successor will likely hail from a developing nation. His seat will be a daunting one to fill given the challenge of coordinating the world's most powerful and most polluting nations on emissions targets, carbon markets, and aid for poorer countries. De Boer only lasted four years. 

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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