Dr Rajendra Pachauri has stepped down from his role as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), effective today.
After nearly 13 years in the job, Pachauri was due to step down later this year. However, his departure has been brought forward pending allegations of sexual harassment at the New Delhi-based research centre TERI, where he is director general.
Pachauri has strongly denied the allegations, saying his personal email account had been hacked to send inappropriate messages to a colleague.
Today’s press release from the IPCC doesn’t give a reason for Pachauri’s early departure, but says the decision has been taken to ensure the IPCC’s work “continues without interruption”.
Pachauri announced his resignation in a letter to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, citing concerns that he is no longer able to provide the “strong leadership and dedication” required from an IPCC Chair.
The IPCC has today appointed vice-chair Ismail El Gizouli as acting chair. Carbon Brief understands El Gizouli will serve in this role until the end of this week’s meeting in Nairobi.
This is the first meeting of the IPCC since the completion of the Fifth Assessment Report and will discuss the structure and internal workings of the IPCC, as well as changes to size or frequency of reports it produces.
“The IPCC needs strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the chair in the immediate future, which in the current circumstances I may be unable to provide, as shown by my inability to travel to Nairobi to chair the plenary session of the Panel this week.”
Appointing a successor
On Friday, a vote will decide on another temporary chair to hold the position until the official elections to appoint Pachauri’s successor take place at the next formal IPCC session in Croatia in October.
According to the IPCC’s stated rules for appointing a new chair:
“If the IPCC Chair resigns or is otherwise unable to complete the assigned term of office or to perform the functions of that office, a new IPCC Chair shall be elected at the next Session to serve the remainder of the term of office of the departing IPCC Chair. Until a new IPCC Chair is elected, an IPCC Vice-Chair as agreed by the IPCC Bureau shall serve as the Acting IPCC Chair.”
The decision to appoint El Gizouli today is designed to minimise disruption to the session in the Kenyan capital taking place this week to discuss the future of the IPCC.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who facilitated the Nairobi meeting, says:
“The actions taken today will ensure that the IPCC’s mission to assess climate change continues without interruption. We look forward to a productive session in Nairobi this week.”