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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Climate chief defends independence
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chairman
'Scientist not policymaker': Rajendra Pachauri
The new head of the world panel assessing the nature of climate change has rejected charges that his appointment is a victory for oil firms.

Everybody does realise that perhaps the Kyoto Protocol is not a perfect agreement

Dr Rajendra Pachauri
"If you go back to the record, I have been very critical of some elements of the oil industry," Indian engineer and economist Dr Rajendra Pachauri told the BBC.

He defends the Kyoto Protocol - designed to reduce human influence on the global climate - as being better than nothing, and says the panel's job is to provide compelling evidence for the need for countries to make new commitments to fight global warming.

Dr Pachauri was elected to his job in controversial circumstances last month. The result left green groups complaining of underhand tactics on the part of the US Government and its oil lobby supporters.

'Better than nothing'

"Everybody does realise that perhaps the Kyoto Protocol is not a perfect agreement, but it's a step forward.

"It's better to have it than not to have it," the new chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told the BBC.

He said he would not be too worried if the US did not ratify the protocol, as public pressure would play a part in shaping its policy.

"I think by and large the public in the US now certainly believes that there is climate change taking place.

'Countries must decide'

"It's ultimately civil society in the US that is going to determine what needs to be done. We haven't heard the last word on that."

Dr Pachauri said the IPCC's job was a scientific one, not a political one, but that its findings should provide impetus for policy makers.

"It's really for countries themselves to decide what is to be done."

There was a need for a dialogue on what commitments nations should make in a second wave after Kyoto, he said.

"I think that the science must provide a compelling reason and a logic to take those steps, and this is what I hope the IPCC will be able to do in the future," he added.

Election row

Dr Pachauri took over the chair of the IPCC from the outspoken Dr Robert Watson in April.

Dr Watson's removal sparked a huge row, with environmentalists accusing the US Government of conducting a campaign to have him sidelined.

They said the Bush administration was irked by Dr Watson's forthright views on human-induced climate change and the need for America to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

The green lobby claimed a memo passed by ExxonMobil to the Bush administration calling for Dr Watson's removal demonstrated the oil industry's influence in the White House.

The oil company said the memo had not been written by one of its employees and insisted it had no official position on who held the chair of the IPCC.

See also:

19 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Climate scientist ousted
05 Apr 02 | Americas
ExxonMobil hits back in memo row
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