Guest Post by Thomas Fuller
There is a core of uber-consulting professionals, jetting around the world advising companies, governments and NGO’s. They are well-educated, have impeccable resumes and travel more than George Clooney did in ‘Up in the Air.’ They work for companies like McKinsey, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and a handful of others.
Rajendra Pachauri is one such, coming from the Tata school of consultancy. He is charismatic, projecting leadership qualities and obviously considers himself a polymath, able to lead a secretariat of the UN, continue his professional duties and write a popular bodice ripper of a novel.
Sadly, like so many other uber-consultants, Pachauri’s leadership qualities have been more apparent than real. While others are using the current troubles at the IPCC as a reason to argue for his resignation, they are really more of a symptom of the real problems.
Because the IPCC is very small and its primary mission is to produce a report once every five or six years, it is vulnerable to the type of leadership Pachauri apparently provides–detached, aloof, hands-off. That Pachauri had time to write a book during the firestorm of Climategate and COP-15 is evidence that, whatever his capabilities, his performance at the IPCC was not sufficiently engaged. His shabby treatment of IPCC scientists regarding the error on Himalayan glaciers is more of an exclamation point than anything else.
Roger Pielke Jr. and others are saying Pachauri should resign because of conflicts of interest. Pachauri is director of TERI and advises third parties on energy policy and investment decisions. Pielke is right in saying that Pachauri would not meet the standards for avoiding conflicts of interest in many other organisations, including other UN bodies. But those standards are not in place at the IPCC, although they are recommended in yesterday’s report from the InterAcademy Council.
I also think Pachauri should resign. But not because of conflicts of interest. His continued involvement with TERI, his taking time to write a book, his hectic social schedule all point to another, more serious problem. His detached style of leadership has coincided with a period of continuous problems at the organisation he leads. And I’m not referring to the occasional error that inevitably slips into their huge assessment reports. The IPCC has not moved with the times during Pachauri’s tenure. They have not adapted to an age of the Internet in facilitating communications.
They have not recognised the political pressure that environmental organisations are trying to put on national and international governments and institutions. This has led to a careless over use of ‘grey’ literature, which is not peer reviewed and often has a clear point to push. The IPCC has not instituted a clear and effective way of dealing with mistakes, despite it getting ever easier to do this. Perhaps most damaging, the IPCC has adopted a view on communications that is from another century, focused on getting their message out, as opposed to listening and responding.
These are classic failures of leadership. Nobody but Rajendra Pachauri is responsible for these problems. Good leadership would have corrected them years ago. Detached leadership smiles and writes a book. Pachauri played socialite while his organisation stagnated. He received awards–not just the Nobel Prize, which he shared with Al Gore, but also the French Legion of Honour, Order of the White Rose from Finland, and the Padma Bhushan from his native India. He is apparently his organisation’s chief press officer, and its ambassador as well, flying all over the world to meetings and conferences. And yes, he does have other interests, including the Tata Energy Research Institute.
The IPCC’s–and Rajendra Pachauri’s–real problem is not a conflict of interest. It is a lack of interest. Pachauri fiddled while the IPCC foundered. He should go.
Thomas Fuller http://www.redbubble.com/people/hfuller