Chair of UN climate science panel resigns after 13 years as sexual harassment investigation takes place in India
By Sophie Yeo
The UN’s climate science chief Rajendra Pachauri has stepped down after allegations of sexual harassment.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that Pachauri’s decision was effective immediately.
“The actions taken today will ensure that the IPCC’s mission to assess climate change continues without interruption,” said Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Pachauri skipped a key IPCC meeting in Nairobi this week after police started investigating claims that he had harassed a 29-year-old employee of TERI, the Indian organisation that he heads.
He will be replaced by Sudanese vice-chair Ismail El Gizouli.
Pachauri, who has been chairman of the IPCC since 2002, was due to step down in October this year, at a meeting where his full time replacement will be elected.
He denies the charges levied against him, claiming that his computer was hacked.
Pachauri announced his resignation in a letter addressed to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
“The IPCC needs strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the Chair in the immediate future, which under 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,” he wrote.
He said that he had intended to resign in November last year, following the release of the IPCC’s synthesis report – the fourth installment of its four-part assessment – but was advised by “close friends and colleagues…to continue with outreach efforts worldwide”.
He describes the protection of the planet as “my religion and my dharma” and offers to continue to support and advise the IPCC in the future.
Pachauri accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC in 2007.
However, he was enmeshed in another controversy in the same year due to a false claim in the fourth assessment report that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.
TERI followed his resignation from the IPCC with an announcement that he was also going “on leave for the time being” from the organisation.