News24

New climate change chief

2010-05-17 20:07

Oslo/London - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has chosen Costa Rican diplomat Christiana Figueres as the new UN climate chief to head stalled, international talks, sources close to the matter said on Monday.

Figueres, 53, beat fellow short-listed candidate former South African environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, to a role meant to rally global agreement on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol after a disappointing summit in Copenhagen in December.

UN officials would present Ban's decision to a high-level meeting of climate negotiators in Bonn on Monday.

Figueres was Ban's only recommendation to replace Dutchman Yvo de Boer as head of the UN climate secretariat from July, sources said.

"The Secretary-General has basically made a decision and it's just a courtesy (to present it on Monday)," a source said.

The scale of Figueres' task is underscored by a Copenhagen summit where 120 world leaders failed to unblock a binding deal, pledging instead to mobilise $30bn from 2010-2012 to help poor countries deal with droughts and floods, and to try to limit warming to less than 2°C.

This year, negotiators have agreed little except to hold two extra sessions in the run-up to a meeting in Mexico that begins in late November. 

Kyoto

Many policymakers expect the Mexico meeting also to fall short of a binding deal, looking to 2011 for agreement on a successor to Kyoto whose present round expires in 2012.

Some analysts are doubtful of any new formal, binding pact beyond Kyoto, expecting instead a patchwork of national targets and schemes.

Figueres has been a member of the Costa Rican climate negotiating team since 1995 and has held many senior posts in the UN climate process. Her father, Jose Figueres Ferrer, was president of Costa Rica three times.

"If they wanted a technical bureaucrat, she's probably as good as you'll get," a source said.

Business and those involved in the carbon market would welcome Figueres, said Andrei Marcu, head of regulatory and policy affairs at oil trading firm Mercuria, and an established business advocate at the UN talks.

"If true, this is a great challenge for her, and from a business point of view she has been willing to listen in the past and we hope she will continue to do so."

Smaller nation

Figueres has chaired talks to increase transparency in the global carbon offset market under Kyoto, which delivers about $6.5bn finance annually to help developing countries cut greenhouse gas emissions.

One source said that the small island developing states - among those most at risk from climate change - argued strongly for Figueres, saying they wanted someone from a smaller nation.

Costa Rica has one of the world's most environmentally friendly policies including a strong focus on eco-tourism and a long-term goal of becoming "carbon neutral", under which industrial emissions would be soaked up by forests.

"She has been negotiator for a country that aims to become carbon-neutral by 2021. This is what we need on the global stage," said Wendel Trio, Greenpeace International climate policy co-ordinator.