Rajendra Pachauri, the controversial Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to face an international inquiry into the performance of his organisation
Environment and Climate ministers meeting in closed session in Bali last night insisted that an independent review should be carried out following the publicising of mistakes in its last report, and a row surrounding Dr Pachauri's robust response to his critics. If his management is found to be at fault his position could become untenable.
Participants in the unprecedented meeting – held at the annual assembly of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council in Bali – were sworn to secrecy over the decision and it is only expected to be announced after its detaled scope and composition have been worked out by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation, the two UN agencies that oversee the IPCC's work.
The ministers – led by Hillary Benn, the Environment Secretary,and his counterparts from Germany,. Norway, Algeria and Antigua and Barbuda – refused to allow Dr Pachauri to decide who would carry out the review, insisting it must be completely and demonstrably independent of the IPCC.
The two agencies are expected first to approach national academies of sciences and to ensure that it examines the management of the organisation as well as its scientific procedures.
The review is to report by August to allow time for its conclusions - and Dr Pachauri's position – to be assessed before the IPCC meets for its own annual assembly in Korea in October.
Achim Steiner, UNEP's Executive Director said that the IPCC faced a “crisis of confidence” with the public. , According to participants at the meeting, Dr Pachauri expressed regret for any mistakes that had been made, but stopped short of apologising for them. “He gave the impression of making an apology without actually doing so”, said one.
The participants add that he admitted only one mistake, a discredited prediction that the glaciers of the Himalayas would entirely melt away by 2035, for which the IPCC has already apologised. They say he described other alleged errors – such as a prediction that food production in parts of Africa might be cut in half by 2020 or the citing of studies by pressure groups rather than peer-reviewed research - as misunderstandings.
The ministers regard the mistakes as exaggerated, point out that they just concern a few sentences in a 3000 page report, and say they do not in any way undermine the basic science behind global warming. Their main concern has been over the aggressive way in which Dr Pachauri has responded to criticism, beginning with denouncing Indian research suggesting that the glaciers were not melting so rapidly as “voodoo science”.
Many wish he would resign,. But he was reelected unopposed less than 18 months ago,and has often rejected doing so. He refused to comment on the latest developments.