The head of the international scientific panel on climate change, which has called
for urgent action to curb global warming, was deposed yesterday after a campaign
by the Bush administration, Exxon-Mobil and other energy companies to get him
At a plenary session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in
Geneva, Robert Watson, a British-born US atmospheric scientist who has been its
chairman since 1996, was replaced by an Indian railway engineer and environmentalist,
R K Pachauri.
the most cynical would be shocked by the heavy-handed tactics of the US delegation's
bald display of their fossil fuel- backed politics.
Dr Pachauri received 76 votes to DR Watson's 49 after a behind-the-scenes diplomatic
campaign by the US to persuade developing countries to vote against DR Watson,
according to diplomats. The British delegation argued for DR Watson and DR Pachauri
to share the chairmanship.
The US campaign came to light after the disclosure of a confidential memorandum
from the world's biggest oil company, Exxon-Mobil, to the White House, proposing
a strategy for his removal.
This included the removal of President Bill Clinton's appointees on the US
delegation, and their replacement by officials more sympathetic to the needs of
Steve Sawyer, a Greenpeace climate change specialist, said: "Even the most
cynical would be shocked by the heavy-handed tactics of the US delegation's bald
display of their fossil fuel- backed politics."
Diplomats in Washington confirmed that the US had pursued an active campaign
against DR Watson.
Although he comes from an industrial background, DR Pachauri is one of India's
leading environmentalists and has supported implementation of the Kyoto treaty
on global warming - a treaty the Bush administration has rejected.
Environmentalists argued that the anti-Watson campaign was a show of strength
by the US, oil producers like Saudi Arabia, and oil corporations like Exxon-Mobil,
intended to cow the IPCC.
However, the head of the US delegation to the IPCC, Harlan Watson, denied claims
of a vendetta and said that DR Pachauri was both well qualified and the first
strong candidate put forward by the developing world.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002