Yvo de Boer officially steps down today from his post as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), making way for incoming UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres.
Mr. de Boer took over the position in September of 2006, shepherding the unwieldy international climate negotiating process through several landmark sessions, including Bali in 2007 and Copenhagen last year. Everyone, including de Boer, was disappointed by the outcome of COP15, yet he defends the work of his UNFCCC colleagues in the face of near insurmountable odds and relentless international acrimony throughout COP15.
And it was at the feet of the international community that de Boer laid some of his harshest criticism before stepping down from the UNFCCC.
The one thing that has appalled me most is to witness the degree to which the international community is cutting off its nose to spite its face,” de Boer said at a Hong Kong business conference last week.
“(The world) is behaving as though climate change is somebody else’s problem… This is in the collective interest and it’s a collective challenge” he said, adding that “Unless we deal with that challenge … we really are in big trouble.”
Yvo de Boer’s final round of international negotiations ended last month with the conclusion of two weeks of talks in Bonn, Germany in preparation for CO16 in Cancun, Mexico. Despite de Boer’s cautious optimism for progress as the outcome of the Bonn talks, few hold out the kind of expectations for a “fair and binding” climate deal at COP16 that haunted COP15.
Upon handing the reigns to Figueres, who shocked some last month with her assessment that a “final, all-ecompassing” international climate treaty would likely take decades to achieve, de Boer will take up a climate advisory job at consulting firm KPMG.