The outspoken chairman of the UN’s climate change body is to adopt a neutral advisory role and has agreed to stop making statements demanding new taxes and other radical policies on cutting emissions.
In an interview with The Times, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, apologised for his organisation’s handling of complaints about errors in its report.
He also apologised for describing as “voodoo science” an Indian Government report which challenged the IPCC’s claims about the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers.
But Dr Pachauri, 70, rejected calls for his resignation and insisted he would remain as chairman until after publication of the IPCC’s next report in 2014.
He claimed he had the support of all the world’s governments and denied that, by remaining in post, he was undermining the IPCC’s chances of regaining credibility with the public.
“It is not correct to say there are people who don’t trust me,” he said.
He admitted it had been a mistake to give the impression, in many interviews, that he was advocating specific actions to cut emissions. Last year, he called for higher taxes on aviation and motoring, said people should eat less meat, and proposed that hotel rooms should have electricity meters to charge people extra for using air conditioning.
Speaking in London yesterday, he said he would focus in future on presenting the science on climate change rather than advocating policies.
“I will try to clarify that I’m not prescribing anything as a solution. Maybe I should be more careful [in media interviews] in laying down certain riders. One learns from that and I’m learning.”
On the IPCC’s tardiness in responding to complaints and correcting errors — such as its claim that all Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 — he said: “Our response has been much too late and much too inadequate.”
Of his “voodoo science” comment, he said: “It was an intemperate statement. I shouldn’t have used those words. I have to show respect to people who have worked on a particular subject.”
However, he said that the review of the IPCC announced this month would not consider his role or his actions. The review, by a panel drawn from the world’s leading science academies, will only consider the IPCC’s procedures.
Dr Pachauri said he wanted more power over the IPCC secretariat and an extra $1million (£671,000) a year to fund its work, on top of the $5million it already receives. The IPCC is planning to recruit more spin-doctors to help it promote its work and defend itself against attacks by climate sceptics. Dr Pachauri said that at present the organisation is “terribly ill-equipped” to communicate with the world’s media.
He dismissed suggestions that he was too old for the job and said he would be playing cricket for his institute’s team immediately after landing back in Dehli.
“I open the bowling and I swing the ball in both directions. I used to be fast, I’m gentle medium pace now. I work 16-17 hours a day, seven days a week. If you can find someone 40 years younger to do it, I would salute that person,” he said.
He rejected claims that he had personally profited from the many contracts he has to advise companies on climate change. All the money went to the charitable research institute which he heads, he said. He gave The Times a copy of his 2008-09 income tax return which showed earnings of £44,600.
A KPMG report into his financial relationship with The Energy and Resources Institute concluded: “No evidence was found that indicated personal fiduciary benefits accruing to Dr Pachauri from his various advisory roles that would have led to a conflict of interest.”