A small but potentially rather significant exchange in the UN Secretary-General’s spokesman’s press briefing on Thursday last week:
Question: India has said that it’s put forward a candidate to replace Mr. [Yvo] de Boer on the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. It’s named the individual, and said that it has the support of China and other BRIC nations. I just wondered, first, can you confirm that names have been received by the Secretary-General for that post? How many names and what’s the process for selection?
Spokesperson: I can’t confirm whether specific names have been given or not. Clearly, there is a process that’s under way. This is an appointment that is indeed made by the Secretary-General in consultation with the Board of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. There is still a way to go in that selection process, and I don’t want to get into details here
So who might India’s candidate be? Over to wire coverage a day earlier from Indo Asian News Service (which seems to have been barely noticed outside India):
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has written to the United Nations backing the candidature of Vijai Sharma, secretary with the ministry, for the post of executive secretary of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The minister said here Wednesday that China has already supported the move.
‘Vijai Sharma is our official candidate for UNFCCC executive secretary. I have written to the United Nations Monday and have also written to BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) countries seeking their support. We have got support from China already for his candidature and we will get support from other BASIC countries,’ Ramesh said at an interaction at the Indian Women’s Press Corps.
Ramesh said the time has come for the post to go to a developing country. ‘The first three secretaries have all been from developed countries and Vijai Sharma has long years of experience with UNFCCC. He was chief spokesperson for G77 for Kyoto negotiations. I am pursuing it. I am not sure as European countries and the US will prefer somebody from a smaller country and India is unarguably at a different profile but I would like to see him there,’ the minister said.
Sharma – a career bureacrat – is well-respected inside the UNFCCC process as far as I can make out. But I wonder whether India’s making a tactical error in equating “developing country” interests with those of the BASIC grouping of emerging economies. At Copenhagen, BASIC’s hardline position was conspicuously not in the interests of the least developed countries who stand most to lose from climate change. It’ll be interesting to see whether an alternative developing country candidate comes forward – one from the ‘survival’ rather than the ‘growth’ faction of the G77.