The Risk-Monger was one of the unfortunate few to have attended the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) special event on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) during the European Commission’s Green Week celebration (it is the official UN International Year of SIDS). They brought in high ranking officials from Mauritius and the Organisation of East Caribbean States; they brought in a video to show their success stories; and they brought in a top UNEP director. They even brought in a camera crew to film this important event. But they forgot to bring in people (only about one in twenty seats were filled – see photo) and when one of the organisers asked me to move to the front to fill in the seats for the film they were making, I had to explain that I needed to be near the door (I knew Karl Falkenberg would be speaking and felt any sudden urge to leave should not disturb others).
As I listened to a sadly unprepared UNEP Principal Advisor to the Executive Director, Michele Candotti, fluff the question on why SIDS even matter, I began to ask myself if this is the best UNEP has to offer the world. What is the point of UNEP and why do we pay so much money for such an absolute global embarrassment? (By the way Green Week is no longer worth blogging on – this two day event is no longer a week, no longer green and only attracted a few hundred people brave enough to venture to a dodgy part of Brussels.)
A fish rots from the head, so let’s look at the top of UNEP, Achim Steiner. Formerly a scientist at the Geneva-based conservationist NGO IUCN, Achim apparently was chosen for this top position, not by his diplomatic skill and experience, but by his support in awarding the outgoing UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, with the Zayed International Prize for the Environment (and the personal cash award of half a million USD that goes with it). Kofi then turned around the next month and nominated Achim to head UNEP … sweet!
What did Kofi actually do for the environment worthy of such a prize (and $500,000)? How, otherwise, was Steiner the best person for the job? Seriously, I understand that Corporate Europe Observatory is only interested in corporate misbehaviour, but couldn’t they send one of their “bought and paid for” journalists to investigate this corruption at the head of a UN agency?
Then there is UNEP’s great success story: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), together with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and headed by the incorruptible Rajendra Pachauri. OK, that last part was a joke – Pachauri has long been an embarrassment to the international environmentalist community – see an earlier blog – these arguments haven’t changed – his sorry ass should have been kicked out long ago.
The only thing that has changed perhaps is the Risk-Monger’s sentiment – it is rather useful to keep a corrupt, ineffective and hopeless individual at the head of the IPCC. What would happen if the IPCC and UNEP actually had a successful leader who made inroads into achieving the naive green idealism that we could actually stop the world from warming? The havoc an effective leader could wreak on the world would be devastating!
The best chief scientist for UNEP?
When one thinks of corrupt green activists, one cannot do better than Ms Jacqueline McGlade, the disgraced former head of the European Environment Agency (EEA), who is now, I wish I were joking, the chief scientist to UNEP. How could McGlade possibly be the best person for this job – did she do a “Steiner”? She was kicked out of the EEA for outrageous misuse of public funds to support an NGO to which she sat on the board, flying EEA managers for training in the Caribbean (invoiced to an NGO to which she sat on the board – €2000 per director), housing NGOs in the EEA head office – a frightful litany that even green MEPs could not defend. Jackie should not be allowed to teach undergraduates, let alone be the chief scientist to a UN agency. See details in a previous Risk-Monger blog that the EEA had tried to suppress.
McGlade’s appointment is the latest and saddest episode in how UNEP, like other environmental activist brotherhoods, take care of their own and think they can operate according to different moral standards than the rest of the world. I think this has to do with the Machiavellian belief they have that saving the planet is far nobler a good than being upright, honest and forthcoming. It is not! As these ennobled activists feel they can criticise and lecture others for conflicts of interest or improper activities, their hypocrisy is glaring.
The question becomes more existential. What does UNEP actually do (besides corrupting useless officials and spinning clever acronyms)? Every summit or global gathering in the last two decades has been a resounding failure (please, name one success). Every convention, charter or protocol has been insignificant, toothless or misguided (has anybody else besides the Risk-Monger actually read the Nagoya Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity? I mean, seriously?). Their role is to try to bring nations together to sign conventions that are simple word-plays to allow everyone to go on doing what they were previously doing.
One thing they do actually do is create jobs in Kenya, from which they fly their executives to Paris and Geneva on a daily basis. (Don’t worry about the costs, I am sure these international directors fly coach! I mean, come on, UNEP is not at all like the European Environment Agency!) What would happen if we actually shut UNEP down and gave those billions from its budget to developing countries so they can lift themselves out of poverty and from that improve the environment? Sadly, it seems the best achievement for the environment would be to shut UNEP down.
As for all of those empty seats at their expensive special event at Green Week – I am sure their film crew will do a great job making it look like another great success.David Zaruk