Tributes and concern as Yvo de Boer resigns

Posted: 18 February 2010

Warm tributes have followed today's announcement that Yvo de Boer is resigning from his role as Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC - tributes that are mixed with calls for renewed leadership and reform of the UN climate body.

Antonio Hill, Senior Climate Advisor for Oxfam International said: "De Boer's tenure at the helm of the UN 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 across the globe.

Yvo de Boer
Yvo de Boer
Yvo de Boer. Photo: UNFCCC
"Though de Boer moves on world leaders have barely started the job of tackling climate crisis. With the lives and livelihoods of billions at stake they could learn much from de Boer's perseverance as well as his uncompromising commitment to do what's necessary - not just what's easy."

Kim Carstensen,leader of WWF Global Climate Initiative said: "Yvo de Boer has put an enormous amount of work and devoted a significant part of his life to changing attitudes towards climate change across theworld. And he has succeeded. He has been a truly important guardian of a multilateral framework to reduce climate change." "Throughout the negotiation process Mr de Boer continuously worked to provide a platform for both rich and poor nations and tried to give themequal opportunities to express their views and speak out for their rights." "We are all disappointed with the results of Copenhagen, but we think Yvo de Boer did all that was possible to achieve a fair and bindingDeal. It was the lack of agreement between governments that led to the unsatisfying outcome of the COP." "Mr de Boer's resignation comes at a crucial moment for the political process of climate negotiations. We are confident that the talks can continue towards a global climate agreement, and that important results can be achieved fast in many areas, including finance, adaptation, and combating deforestation. It will now be up to Yvo de Boer's successor and the Mexican government to make it happen."

Millions frustrated

Friends of the Earth's International Climate Campaigner Asad Rehman said: "Yvo de Boer's departure will echo the frustration felt by millions around the world at the failure in Copenhagen.

"But the UN is the only legitimate body that can forge effective and fair international action to tackle climate change.

"De Boer's resignation must not be seen as an opportunity to strike weak and dangerous climate deals outside of the UN process as we saw in Copenhagen.

"What is needed now more than ever is a strong and fair global agreement in line with the very real risks we all face.

"Yvo de Boer's successor must not be afraid to hold rich countries to task for their failure to set real emissions targets - it is their legal and moral responsibility to cut emissions first and fastest."

Business view

James Murray, of BusinessGreen, said: "The well deserved plaudits for the departing Yvo de Boer may still be raining in, but that will not stop attention turning immediately to how the resignation of the UN's top climate change official will impact the on-going negotiations and, more importantly, whether his replacement will have more luck in Mexico than De Boer enjoyed in Copenhagen...

De Boer's replacement has quite an act to follow. For four years the Dutch diplomat has been a powerful driving force in the international negotiations, forcing climate change up the political, business and media agenda, frequently earning his soubriquet as the "conscience" of the increasingly fraught negotiations...

"He has earned the respect of his peers, effectively managed to balance the competing demands of politicians, businesses, NGOs and the media, and was instrumental in steering the Copenhagen Summit back from the abyss and towards an agreement that, while flawed, at least holds out hope of a stronger deal being reached in Mexico in November.

"And yet, De Boer is right, now is a good time for him to move on.

"Regardless of the recent formation of a new advisory body to investigate climate financing options and the repeated pronouncements from politicians that the talks remain "on track", it is clear all the momentum built up ahead of the Copenhagen Summit has dissipated...

"The Copenhagen Accord may look a little more appealing now all the world's top emitters have tabled emission plans, but there is still a huge amount to be ironed out and no new meetings have been scheduled beyond the Bonn conference in June and the Mexico Summit in November.

"Moreover, the mood music surrounding the process is looking more ominous than ever. China and India have both gone on the record criticising the stance of the industrialised nations, the US administration is bogged down in partisan warfare over its climate change plans, and the vast majority of poorer countries still feel as if they are being sidelined.

"There is an unmistakable sense of drift, and a new broom may be just what is needed to reinvigorate the talks in the build up to Mexico."

Reform needed

UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband, said: "Yvo de Boer's patient work helped produce the Copenhagen Accord which contains commitments covering 80 per cent of global emissions, something never previously achieved.

"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 of dealing with what are some of the most complex negotiations ever."

Liberal Democrat Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary Simon Hughes, said: "Mr de Boer's resignation is an indictment of the governments and international institutions who failed us at Copenhagen.

"Climate change is a grave threat to our future as the vast majority of scientists tell us and the evidence shows. Countries need to urgently respond with structures that work.

"That is why I have a called for the creation of a Climate Security Council to sit in permanent session and resolve the difficult political issues surrounding the climate crisis."