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United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Yvo de Boer has announced that he will resign effective 01 July 2010 to join KPMG as global adviser on climate and sustainability. In announcing his intention to retire from the UNFCCC, De Boer emphasised the importance of business in developing solutions to climate change.

De Boer’s new role with KPMG will involve working with both business as well as research and development institutions. “I have always maintained that, while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business.

I now have the chance to make this happen,” De Boer said.

While COP15 did not result in the hoped for international climate agreement, De Boer remains positive about the UNFCCC process, explaining that “countries responsible for 80 per cent of energy related carbon dioxide emissions have submitted national plans and targets to address climate change. This underlines their commitment to meet the challenge of climate change and work towards an agreed outcome in Cancun.”

Response to the news of De Boer’s resignation has been mixed. Over the past four years De Boer has worked tirelessly to facilitate an agreement between governments on combating climate change, an enormously complex and often frustrating task. US Senator John Kerry said of De Boer, “(He) has provided years of global leadership and sound, science-based solutions to the international effort to halt the devastating impacts of global climate change. He brought the world’s major emitters, including China and India, to the table.” Some commentators have expressed concern about De Boer’s departure ahead of COP16 in Mexico, but others believe that some good may come from the change. “It is probably the right time to get a fresh face in. It has been a pretty gruelling two years from Bali to Copenhagen,” said Mark Kenber, the policy director for the Climate Group, an international organization pushing for a climate change agreement. “A fresh face would respark the whole process.”

De Boer’s move to the private sector perhaps reflects a growing recognition for the role business can play in combating climate change. Although businesses have emphasised the importance of an international climate agreement to establish a global framework and level the playing field among companies from various nations, the lack of an agreement at Copenhagen has not slowed down new research and development in the private sector. According to Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group and chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Climate Change, “the good news is that business and sub-national governments are not waiting for COP16. They are already moving because they understand people want to live in a better, cleaner, more energy independent world and the major opportunities for investment, growth and jobs in the low carbon economy are too exciting and compelling to ignore."