New Delhi/Nairobi, Feb 24 Environmentalist R.K. Pachauri Tuesday stepped down as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) following charges of sexual harassment. Pachauri has denied the accusation.
Pachauri, who is also the director-general of New Delhi-based environment think-tank The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), has taken “leave” from the post.
In his resignation letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, he stated his inability to continue as the IPCC chair on the grounds that the international climate change body needed “strong leadership and dedication of time” that he was unable to commit to “under the circumstances… as shown by my inability to travel to Nairobi to chair the plenary session of the panel this week”.
“I have, therefore, taken the decision to step down from my position,” he said.
The bureau of the UN’s IPCC agreed Tuesday to designate Vice-Chair Ismail El Gizouli as acting chair, a press release said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, TERI, in a statement, said he has also proceeded “on leave for the time being” and adequate internal arrangements have been ensured for smooth operations in his absence.
The 74-year-old Padma Bhushan awardee is facing a complaint of alleged harassment by a woman research analyst who has also lodged a police case.
Citing several texts, emails, and WhatsApp messages as evidence to prove the claim of sexual harassment, the complainant accused the scientist of harassing her soon after she joined the TERI in September 2013.
However, Pachauri’s counsel refuted the accusations saying his client’s computer and phone were “hacked”.
Following the sexual harassment charges, Pachauri had already announced last week that he would skip one of the IPCC sessions in Nairobi due to “issues demanding his attention” in India.
His move from the IPCC assumes great significance at a time when India is being looked up to for leading the global negotiations at UN climate change conference in Paris in December.
Paris 2015 will serve as a global platform where world leaders would converge to hammer out a universal framework to roll back carbon emissions after 2020. The new framework would replace the current Kyoto protocol.
Pachauri, as the IPCC chair, was expected to play a prominent role in all the key negotiations in the run up to Paris 2015.
In 2007, the IPCC was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore for their part in galvanizing international action against climate change.
Pachauri was elected to the first of two terms as chair of the IPCC in April 2002 and had been scheduled to complete his second term in October, said the IPCC statement.