Climate experts have expressed dismay at the election of Mathias Cormann, a former finance minister in an Australian government with a history of strong hostility towards climate action, as secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). , an international institution. It advises rich countries on policies and poor countries on how to get richer.
Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, said: “We have little confidence in Cormann’s ability to ensure that the OECD is a leader in fighting the climate crisis, when it has an atrocious record on the issue. If the OECD is to fulfill its mandate, it must confront the climate emergency, possibly the greatest social justice problem of our time ”.
Nick Mabey, executive director of the E3G think tank, said: “The OECD countries have just sent a dangerous signal by appointing someone with a history of dismantling climate policy to head their main advisory body. This appointment will reduce pressure on the leaders of other international institutions to undertake radical reforms to address the climate crisis. “
Developing countries were particularly concerned. Saleem Huq, Director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, said: “The appointment of an Australian climate skeptic to head the OECD is very disappointing and will reduce the credibility of the OECD as an institution in the eyes of countries in developing.”
The UK government was also heavily criticized for its role in supporting Cormann’s election as it prepares to host the UN climate talks in Glasgow this November.
Mohamed Adow, director of the Power Shift Africa think tank, said: “It is appalling to see a politician with such a poor record on climate action win the position of OECD leader. What makes it worse is that his appointment was apparently backed by the UK, despite them. [being] about to host the crucial COP26 summit “.
Cormann opposed climate action on many occasions while he was minister of government between 2013 and 2020. He voted against motions to declare a climate emergency, calling the zero net goals “extremist”, “reckless” and “irresponsible”, he spoke out for the coal industry and against wind power, and was criticized for telling young climate strikers to “stick to school.”
However, some climate experts said Cormann could still continue the OECD’s work on climate action despite his track record. Some privately pointed to the World Bank, where climate advocate Jim Yong Kim was replaced in 2019 by David Malpass, a Donald Trump adviser with little prior enthusiasm for climate issues. Despite doubts, the World Bank has maintained a strong focus on climate action.
Climate economist Nicholas Stern said: “Cormann comes from an Australian government that has, at best, been ambiguous in its commitment to tackling climate change. [He] You must show the necessary commitment from the beginning of your term. The world must act now and the OECD must continue to lead ”.
The OECD decision goes against the flow of recent appointments of high-level personalities to the main international institutions. Officials with a history of advocating for strong climate action, many of them women, now lead several key organizations.
Kristalina Georgieva, a former member of the World Bank and the European Commission, is head of the International Monetary Fund, where she has made climate a focus. Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank, spoke of the urgent need for climate action when the UK launched Cop26 last year, and Odile Renaud-Basso took over last year at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, where she pledged to push forward climate action.
The World Trade Organization is led by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister who has long taken a strong stance on the climate.
One of Cormann’s key actions while he was minister of government was to nullify the carbon pricing plans. This is in stark contrast to the man who has succeeded at the OECD, Ángel Gurría, who had been a prominent figure in international climate forums since his appointment in 2006.
In one of his last interviews as secretary general, Gurria told The Guardian: “The most important intergenerational responsibility is to protect the planet. We are on a collision course with nature, and we have to change course for future generations; protect biodiversity to prevent its degradation; to protect the soil; protect land and water; to protect the oceans … and put a high price on carbon. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism