The chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, resigned on Tuesday, following allegations of sexual harassment from a female employee at his research institute in Delhi.
The organisation will now be led by acting chair Ismail El Gizouli until the election for a new chair which had already been scheduled for October.
“The actions taken today will ensure that the IPCC’s mission to assess climate change continues without interruption,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which is a sponsor of the IPCC.
Pachauri, 74, is accused of sexually harassing a 29-year-old female researcher shortly after she joined The Energy and Resources Institute. Lawyers for the woman, who cannot be named, said the harassment by Pachauri included unwanted emails, text messages and WhatsApp messages.
Pachauri, one of the UN’s top climate change officials, has denied the charges and his spokesman said: “[He] is committed to provide all assistance and cooperation to the authorities in their ongoing investigations.” His lawyers claimed in the court documents that his emails, mobile phone and WhatsApp messages were hacked and that criminals accessed his computer and phone to send the messages in an attempt to malign him.
In his letter of resignation to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, he said: “The IPCC needs strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the chair in the immediate future, which under the current circumstances I am unable to provide.”
Pachauri thanked the thousands of scientists who had worked for free on the IPCC’s reports and made an “unmatched contribution to global society.” He added: “I will continue to [work on climate change] assiduously throughout my life in what ever capacity I work. For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than my mission, It is my religion.”