The Race to Replace the Outgoing Top UN Climate Negotiator

The man who became the face of UN climate negotiations leading up to the December Copenhagen climate summit announced that he will retire in July. Now, the race is on to replace Yvo de Boer as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  

The decision is ultimately that of Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, but contenders must be nominated by their country. Conventional wisdom suggests that the next climate chief will come from the developing world, since each of the last three were westerners.  So far that CW is holding. 

India was the first out of the gate by nominating Environment Secretary Vijai Sharma.  India claims its pick is backed by China and Brazil. That’s significant because those three countries make up 3/4ths of the so-called BASIC group, an important negotiating bloc in climate change debates.  However, the fourth BASIC country — South Africa — has put forward its own nominee, former environment minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk.  Costa Rica may have eyed this split in BASIC when it nominated its top climate negotiator Christiana Figueres earlier this week. 

So these are the three currently in the running for the spot. According to a close observer of international climate negotiations who is not affiliated with the United Nations, “The front runners…the two most talked about are most definitely van Shalkwyk and Figueres. They both have a lot of experience in the negotiations [and] respect from parties.”  . 

The deadline for nominations is March 31, and Ban will make his decision at some point prior to Yvo de Boer’s july retirement.  Stay tuned. 

Image: Flickr (WorldEconomicForum)