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Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appoints Indian Ovais Sarmad to high-level UN climate change post

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Antonio Guterres, Source: UN Foundation (Twitter)
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United Nations, May 16, 2017: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed Ovais Sarmad of India as the Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the forum where the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change was negotiated.

Sarmad’s appointment comes as the Paris Agreement faces a potential crisis if the US goes through with President Donald Trump’s threat to disown it.

Stephane Djuarric, the spokesperson for Guterres, said Monday that Sarmad’s position will be at the Assistant Secretary-General level.

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The highest ranking Indian in the UN bureaucracy is Atul Khare, the Under-Secretary-General, Department of Field Support, who plays a crucial role in the peacekeeping operations.

Sarmad is currently the Chief of Staff to the Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN body that deals with international international migration issues and assists migrants as well as governments.

Djuarric said that Sarmad “was a key team member negotiating the agreement” that led to the US joining the IOM.

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Now Sarmad’s diplomatic skills may be called upon as the landmark Paris Agreement is at risk of being reneged by its most important party, the US, which is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

A 1982 commerce graduate of Osmania University in Hyderabad, he has a chartered management accountancy qualification from London and is an expert in finance and management.

After a career in public and private sectors in London, Sarmad joined IOM in Geneva in 1990.

During his 27-year career at the IOM, he has also worked as Chief of Budget, Director of Resource Management, Director of the Global Administrative Centre and Chief of Mission to the Philippines.

He succeeds Richard Kinley of Canada. The UNFCC is headed by Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Director appointed by then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last year. (IANS)

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U.N. Chief Returns To Climate Talks To Hopefully Reach a Deal With Countries

One issue that has risen to the fore at the talks is the proposal by Poland for countries to back the idea of a "just transition" for workers in fossil fuel industries

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U.N. Climate Conference
In this Dec. 11, 2018 photo a participant in U.N. climate conference walks by a photo of a satellite in Katowice, Poland. VOA

The United Nations secretary-general flew back to global climate talks in Poland Wednesday to appeal to countries to reach an agreement, as some observers feared the meeting might end without a deal.

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres opened the talks last week, telling leaders to take the threat of global warming seriously and calling it “the most important issue we face.”

But as the two-week meeting shifted from the technical to political phase, with ministers taking over negotiations, campaign groups warned of the risks of failure in Katowice.

Harjeet Singh of ActionAid International said the main holdouts were the United States, Australia and Japan, while the European Union was “a mere spectator.”

U.N., Climate
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

“A new leadership must step up,” said Vanessa Perez-Cirera of the environmental group WWF. “We cannot afford to lose one of the twelve years we have remaining.”

She was referring to a recent scientific report by a U.N.-backed panel that suggested average global warming can only be halted at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) if urgent action is taken by 2030, including a dramatic reduction in use of fossil fuels.

Endorsing the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change became a crunch issue over the weekend, with the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait opposing the move.

Jean-Pascal Ypersele, a former deputy chair of the panel, said whether or not countries believe the conclusions of the report was irrelevant because the science was clear.

Fossil Fuels, Climate
Youth and indigenous groups protest against fossil fuels during US-hosted event at the UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 10, 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. VOA

“Nobody, even the so-called superpowers, can negotiate with the laws of physics,” he said.

Ypersele called for the 1.5-degree target — already mentioned in the 2015 Paris accord — to be recognized in the final text.

“It’s a question of survival for a large part of humanity, and many other species,” he said.

Poland, which is chairing the talks, was expected to circulate a condensed draft text Wednesday running to about 100 pages, down from about 300 at the start of the talks.

The Dec. 2-14 meeting is supposed to finalize the rules that signatories of the Paris accord need to follow when it comes to reporting their greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to reduce them.

Li Shuo, a climate expert at Greenpeace, warned that the current text was riddled with loopholes. “A Swiss cheese rulebook is unacceptable,” he said.

Pollution, Climate
Clouds of smoke over Europe’s largest lignite power plant in Belchatow, central Poland, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. VOA

Poor countries also want assurances on financial support to tackle climate change.

A third objective of the talks is getting governments to make a firm commit to raising ambitions in the coming two years, albeit without any precise figures.

One issue that has risen to the fore at the talks is the proposal by Poland for countries to back the idea of a “just transition” for workers in fossil fuel industries facing closure from emissions-curbing measures.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming, World Bank Doubles Its Funding

Germany’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, told reporters that her country is committed to phasing out the use of coal, though the exact deadline has yet to be determined.

But in a nod to the recent protests in France over fuel prices, Schulze warned against governments forcing through measures, saying they would lose public support “faster than you can spell climate protection, and then people pull on yellow vests.” (VOA)