Who Ought to Be the Subsequent UN Local weather Change Head?

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With Patricia Espinosa as a result of step down in just a few weeks’ time as head of the UN’s local weather change efforts, who ought to take her place? Felix Dodds and Chris Spence assessment the choices and assess what kind of chief ought to fill the hole

UN Local weather Change Government Secretary Patricia Espinosa addresses the Bonn Local weather Change Convention. Her second, three-year time period as head of UNFCCC ends in July.

NEW YORK, Jun 20 2022 (IPS) – Patricia Espinosa’s six years as Government Secretary of the UN’s local weather change secretariat ends on July fifteenth. Throughout her time in cost, she has led efforts to operationalize the 2015 Paris Settlement and inject higher urgency into the diplomatic course of. Though progress has been tough, COP26 in Glasgow added some momentum and arguably introduced the UN course of to the beginning of its subsequent stage: implementation.

As ideas flip to this subsequent, essential part, a number of names are already circulating for who the following chief ought to be. These embrace the UK’s Alok Sharma, who chaired COP26, former GEF head Naoko Ishii of Japan, and Egypt’s Atmosphere Minister Yasmine Fouad, Sri Mulyani Indrawati of Indonesia Finance Minister and Ambassador Liz Thomson from Barbados amongst others.

So, who ought to step into Espinosa’s sneakers? And what kind of qualities will they should succeed?

Location, Location

Any chief who believes it’s all about them, or that they’ll appeal or compel governments to behave, can be doomed to failure. This can be a specific danger for candidates who’ve been senior politicians up to now. They must curb the intuition to garner headlines for themselves. On this position the flexibility to hear, not simply speak, can be essential

For any senior UN job there’s a geopolitical calculation in play. With extra being requested from the World South in combating local weather change, there’s an argument to be made that the following Government Secretary ought to hail from a growing nation. Some observers really feel this is able to assist construct belief within the local weather talks.

There’s an fairness argument in play right here, too. Traditionally, the primary three UNFCCC leaders have been Europeans: Michael Zammit Cutajar of Malta, then Joke Waller-Hunter and Yvo de Boer, each from the Netherlands. The subsequent two got here from the Americas: Christiana Figueres from Costa Rica, and Mexico’s Patricia Espinosa.

An argument might simply be made that the following chief ought to come from Asia-Pacific or Africa. Apparently, the following two COPs can be in these areas: COP27 in Egypt and COP28 within the United Arab Emirates.

However which ought to or not it’s: Africa or Asia-Pacific? On this respect, it’s price noting that two Africans already lead the opposite so-called Rio Conventions: Ibrahim Thiaw is liable for the UN’s efforts on desertification, whereas Elizabeth Mrema heads-up biodiversity. Based mostly on this, there’s a robust case for appointing a growing nation particular person from Asia or the Pacific or maybe from the Small Island Creating States as they’re hit worst by the impacts of local weather change.

Looking for brave, ego-free networkers

No matter geography, what kind of qualities would a future chief want? We imagine somebody with wonderful networking abilities is crucial, particularly as we transfer from negotiating into implementation mode.

A naturally-charismatic determine who can construct trusting relationships and convey folks collectively can be important. These are qualities Christiana Figueres deployed to nice impact to assist start the Paris Settlement.

Any future UN local weather chief can even want to concentrate on the necessity for subtlety. In actual fact, we’d recommend the following chief will should be virtually “egoless” of their pursuit of progress. The very best UN leaders know when to let their companions—the politicians holding the COP presidency, for example, in addition to different governments heads—take middle stage.

They know not solely when to step up, but additionally when to step again and share the limelight. On this respect, Michael Zammit Cutajar—who led the UN local weather secretariat in its early years—was a grasp, as was deputy chief Richard Kinley (2006-2017).

There is a crucial lesson right here: any chief who believes it’s all about them, or that they’ll appeal or compel governments to behave, can be doomed to failure. This can be a specific danger for candidates who’ve been senior politicians up to now. They must curb the intuition to garner headlines for themselves. On this position the flexibility to hear, not simply speak, can be essential.

The subsequent Government Secretary ought to ideally have been lively within the local weather negotiations for a while. This can be a difficult discipline and so they might want to have a superb understanding of not simply the problems or political positions of assorted nation groupings, but additionally the people who find themselves doing the negotiating.

Diplomacy is at all times a fancy internet of geopolitical positions, however beneath this are people. An efficient chief will get to know the folks concerned and search to construct private belief. Having somebody who already is aware of the important thing people concerned will assist them hit the bottom working.

The position can even require each braveness and persistence. These are qualities we imagine are important for any profitable chief on the subject of multilateral environmental agreements. It’s one thing we discover in-depth in our guide, Heroes of Environmental Diplomacy: Profiles in Braveness. Sure, the science is telling us we should supercharge our efforts and dash to the end line. Nonetheless, persistence and the data that every one diplomacy is a marathon can be wanted by whoever takes on this vital position.

Lastly, that is such an vital appointment that we’d suggest the hiring course of be undertaken within the open. What we imply by that is that there could possibly be “hustings” for member states and stakeholders to query the candidates, as there’s for the UN Secretary Common’s place. “City corridor” conferences with workers would even be helpful so their enter will be thought of.

It’s not hyperbole to recommend this appointment comes at a essential time for our planet. The necessity for impressed, brave and distinctive management has by no means been higher.

We want the selectors—and their selection—the most effective of luck.

Chris Spence and Felix Dodds are co-editors of Heroes of Environmental Diplomacy: Profiles in Courage (Routledge, 2022). Felix can also be Adjunct Professor on the College of North Carolina (UNC) and an Affiliate Fellow on the Tellus Institute. Chris is an environmental marketing consultant and award-winning author. Each have been concerned within the UN local weather negotiations because the Nineteen Nineties.


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