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Posted on on April 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The final list of candidates to the office of Secretary-General of the UNFCCC – as submitted by the March 31st, 2010 deadline:

Barbados has nominated Ms. Elizabeth Thompson,

Costa Rica has nominated Ms. Christiana Figueres,

Ecuador has nominated Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinoza,

Hungary has nominated Mr. Janoz Pasztor,

India has nominated Mr. Vijai Sharma,

South Africa has nominated MR. Marthinus van Schalkwyk,

and Pakistan has nominated  Mr.Tariq Banuri.

One of these three ladies and four gentlemen, will be charged with taking over the helm of UNFCCC from wherever Mr. Yvo de Boer will leave it on the eve of July 1, 2010. We wish the unlucky winner – GOOD LUCK!


The great majority of these people are very well qualified and we are tempted to make the mistake of providing a first look at what an analysis of their chances when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sits down with this list and gets both-ears-full of advice from the 192 (or is it 194?) members of the UN, and the several hundreds of other would be helpers – from the UN staff, from International Organizations, from the NGOs, from the strong industry arm twisters (yes – there is a UN Global Compact that ranges from Coca Cola to heavy steel) and so on.

Let’s start!

The “North” has officially here just one name – Janos Pasztor from Hungary – all said he is from the North East. He is less of an affront to the G-77 then the previous two UNFCCC Chiefs that hailed from the Netherlands – a country very friendly to the South but geographically part of the UN North. Mr. Pasztor also has the inside track for another reason – he is the right-hand New York based Climate-man for UNSG Ban Ki-moon while having come to New York from the UNFCCC founding staff back in Bonn. We assume now that he and his staff will have to recuse themselves from the selection process. If the UN were to wish continuity – he would be the man – but will the 192 advise the UNSG to go for continuity? That is a very open question, as when the Copenhagen participants took their planes on the trip back home, they seemed to say that the process has changed, and it will revolve rather around that magic G2 + IBSA formula – (China, US) and (India, Brazil, South Africa) – to which the ALBA and others, including many members in what used to be the larger G-77 including the SIDS, had clear opposition.

There is no G-2 member among the 7 finalists, that would have been impossible, but two IBSA – India and South Africa are there. Will the rest of the G-77 agree to be lead by one of the newly created Super-group of 5 major emitters? Add to this the proverbial opposition of Pakistan to India, and the fact that some may say that a Dutchman from the South is not really different from a Dutchman from the North – sorry to make this remark but we read some internal opposition in South Africa to the nomination of Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk – justified or not – we do not know – but that this will be an argument about his confirmation – we are sure.

Pakistani Tariq Banuri is another UN insider as he is head of the Sustainable Development desk of UN DESA. He took over a moribund organization after the Zimbabwe debacle caused by a South African Government slap on the Sustainability concept, and revived  somewhat the deliberations of that body. He even worked nicely with the Israeli deputy Chair of the CSD. Will now the G-77 say – wait a minute – can we finally put climate into Sustainable Development? Just an interesting idea for an aside. Uniting back Sustainable Development with the UN efforts on Climate Change could be a welcome synergy – balsam to the G-77.

This leaves us with Latin America and the Caribbeans who might be over-represented. They have three candidates.

Let’s see – Costa Rica and Ecuador will split the Latin American interest – and it explains why the third IBSA – Brazil – did not present a candidate at all. On the other hand, the appearance of Barbados on the list of 7 is quite interesting. Besides having a good candidate, that has a track record of interest and involvement in the topics at hand, it seems they figured that a CARICOM endorsement of 14 countries of the Caribbean enhanced to the full figure of 43 when it comes to AOSIS, might amount to the beginning of a pressure group based on suffering rather then power – yes, we all know, the Island States will be the first to go under because of global warming – perhaps they indeed should be allowed to pull these negotiations out from the UN mud they are stucked-in at present time.

To the best of our knowledge – the UN upstairs still keep the information about the candidates close to their vests – no official announcement yet of anything we write here – but seemingly they will allow for a press conference this coming Thursday – April 15th – two weeks into the time that they should have released the above names according to minimum transparency – but did not release them as yet. Did you expect more transparency from the UN? You do not really mean that!


We have here some further information about the Candidate from Barbados:

Senator Elizabeth Thompson of Barbados has been nominated by the Government of Barbados because of her experience and qualifications, the importance of climate change to Small Island Developing States and the opportunity to place a well qualified Barbadian in a critical post.

While Ms Thompson is an Opposition Senator she has long experience in  environment having been a Minister of Environment since 1994. She  led the Barbados delegation to Kyoto and was one of the Ministers in the closed door negotiations who crafted the Bali Action Plan. At various times, along with the environment portfolio, she was Minister of Energy, Housing and Lands, Physical Development and Planning, and Health. She has also acted as Attorney General.
In recognition of her work in environment, in 2008, UNEP awarded her a prestigious Champion of the Earth Award as they did with with Prince Albert of Monaco, and several former high level leaders including Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Mikhail Gorbachev, Prime Minister Helen Clark, now UNDP Administrator, former Vice President Al Gore Now Environmentalisy Supreme, and former American Senator Tim Wirth Now Director of the UN Foundation.
Since leaving office Senator Thompson has led a legal and policy practice specializing in energy and environment in which capacity, working for agencies such as the OAS, Ms Thompson has reviewed energy and environmental legislation and developed national sustainable energy policies for 4 Caribbean countries.
She lectured on energy and ecology and has worked with NGOs world wide. She has been endorsed by the 350 NGO – Please see their website
Senator Thompson holds an LLM in energy and environmental law from the Robert Gordon University in Scotland, an MBA with distinction from the University of Liverpool, UK, the dissertation of which was in energy policy management, and an LLB from the University of the West Indies. She was admitted to the Bar in 1987. She is also trained in Economics, Renewable Energy, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Arbitration and International Petroleum Negotiations. She has been involved in negotiations involving legal matters since 1987 and matters involving policy, climate change, financing of projects and programmes and with trade unions  since 1994.

We were honored receiving today an e-mail from St. Michael, Barbados, starting:

“Dear Sir,

Your most recent posting which queries whether the Government of
Barbados would nominate an Opposition member for the post of UNFCCC
has been drawn to our attention. We can confirm that Senator Thompson
of Barbados has in fact been nominated by the Government because of
her experience and qualifications, the importance of climate change to
Small Island Developing States and the opportunity to place a well
qualified Barbadian in a critical post.

You may wish to note that while Ms Thompson is an Opposition Senator
she has long experience in  environment having been a Minister of
Environment since 1994. She  led the Barbados delegation to Kyoto and
was one of the Ministers in the closed door negotiations who crafted
the Bali Action Plan…”
When I contacted therefore the Barbados Permanent Representative, I learned that Barbados submitted the name of their candidate to UNSG Ban Ki-moon already March 18, 2010 with the belief that the submitted names will be released in one bloc by the UN Secretariat – something that obviously did not happen yet. Whatever campaigning that was done publicly, to the best of our knowledge, as we posted on our web earlier, was initiated by the Missions from India, South Africa, and Costa Rica only.
Ambassador Christopher Hackett of Barbados has now also prepared a press release and we wish him all the best.

In every regard, politically, professionally and academically, Ms Thompson seems suited to the job of Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. In addition the voice of SIDS has been an important one in the UNFCCC process, not only because of their peculiar vulnerability but because of the very high quality attitudes and perspectives they have brought to the negotiating table.

A female, developing country candidate from a SIDS, who is  knowledgeable and qualified as Senator Thompson is, would bring a lot to the table and could be a bridge builder between North and South, developed and developing countries.

We will continue to pursue the news from the UN – obviously.
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