Change of climate

Yvo De Boer

Yvo de Boer must long for a quieter life. The UN’s top climate change
negotiator is walking away from his spotlight job, for a sideline view from Big
Four accounting firm KPMG.

What’s happened

De Boer helped to popularise the climate change issue. The former Dutch
public servant said he was disappointed however at the failure to reach a
binding accord at the Copenhagen talks in December.

“We were about an inch away from a formal agreement. It was basically in our
grasp, but it didn’t happen… so that was a pity,” he said.

He reportedly walked off in tears after during the 2007 Bali conference after
China accused him of procedural irregularities.

He has been involved in climate change policies since 1994 and helped shape
European policy in the lead-up to their signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

Born in Vienna, the son of a Dutch diplomat, he was educated in the UK, later
gaining a technical degree in social work. He is married with three children.

On 1 July he will officially walk away from the job, five months before a
meeting of 193 countries in Mexico. De Boer said he wanted to give his
predecessor time to get his feet under the table.

What’s next

Competition between the Big Four is intense over climate change advisory
services, and de Boer’s appointment will be seen as a coup. In the past year,
PwC scooped up business Sustainable Finance run by Leo Johnson, brother to
Boris, and recruited Dr Celine Herweijer, a former advisor to the G20 Taskforce
on Low Carbon Economic Prosperity and the World Economic Forum. PwC and KPMG are
fierce rivals in the race to be the most authoritative voice in climate change

De Boer is one of the most high-profile figures to be lured by the Big Four
in recent years, and could give KPMG the edge. But de Boer’s frustration might
not end when he leaves the UN. The accountancy industry still lacks an
international climate change standard, and therefore clear direction in the

Much of what passes for sustainability reporting, can largely be grouped
under marketing, and de Boer’s challenge may well be trying to force business to
think seriously about climate change instead of viewing it as a chance to
release another flyer or press release. De Boer’s background will provide him
with the rigor to force big companies to address the fundamental challenges to
their business models.

He seemed enthusiastic, however, when asked about his new role.
“Sustainability is high on the agenda of investors, companies and governments.
Although it is the role of governments to provide the necessary policy
frameworks, I have always maintained that business will deliver the necessary
innovation and solutions, providing the right conditions are created. With KPMG,
I now have a chance to help make that happen,” he said.

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