The US government lobbied the head of the UN climate panel to block the appointment of an Iranian scientist to a key position, saying it would be problematic, leaked US diplomatic cables show.
The revelations come amid a major UN climate change meeting in Cancun, Mexico, where negotiators are trying to work out a modest climate change deal after last year’s Copenhagen summit ended in a brief non-binding pact.
At a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2008, the US delegation told Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that the election of Iranian Mostafa Jafri as one of two co-chairman of a key climate group would affect US funding of the climate body.
The other chair was to be an US expert.
Jafri was a highly qualified scientist with research ties to the UK and Japan, the US delegation said in the cables released by WikiLeaks, but he was also a senior Iranian government employee and that complicated US efforts in the climate control body.
“USDEL [the US delegation] is working actively to prevent the election of an Iranian scientist to the developing nation co-chairmanship of the Working Group Two, a position which would pair him with a US scientist running unopposed for developed-nation co-chair of the same group,” the cable published by the Guardian said.
Sharing a climate control group with an Iranian official ran counter to overall US policy toward Iran, the cable said. The job involved travel to and extended residencies in each other’s countries.
Washington could also not withdraw its candidate because that would give Tehran a veto over future US nominees in UN bodies, it said.
“USDEL contacted Dr Rajendra Pachauri, who agreed to work on this issue to avoid the potential for disruption,” the cable said.
A spokesman for Pachauri refused comment on the report.
“It has just come to our knowledge. This issue is outside our purview and it would be best the IPCC responds to this,” said Rajiv Chibber, spokesman for The Energy and Resources Institute, a New Delhi-based think tank of which Pachauri is the director-general.
The US also worked on the governments of Argentina and Germany to build support against the candidature of Jafri.