One of India’s most respected economists has resigned as chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) after allegations of sexual harrassment.
Rajendra Pachauri pulled out of an IPCC meeting Kenya this week after police in India launched an investigation into allegations that the 74-year-old harrassed a young female researcher at his Delhi-based think tank The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
Mr Pachauri, one of the world’s leading voices on the issue of global warming, has denied the charges.
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr Pachauri said that his inability to travel to Kenya showed he may be unable to ensure the “strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the chair” needed by the panel.
“I have, therefore, taken the decision to step down from my position as chair of the IPCC some months before completion of my term,” he wrote.
He collected the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC in 2007, when the panel shared the award with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Findings by the IPCC about global warming are the main guide for action by almost 200 governments which have agreed to work out a deal in Paris later this year to combat climate change.
Mr Pachauri said he had considered retiring in 2014 after the IPCC completed a series of reports that raised the probability that climate change is mainly man-made to at least 95 percent from 90 percent in its previous study in 2007.
He was previously criticized after an IPCC report exaggerated the extent of glacial melting in the Himalayas.
His alleged victim claims that Mr Pachauri began harassing her soon after she joined TERI in September 2013.
The lawyers for the 29-year-old woman, who cannot be named, said the harassment by Pachauri included unwanted emails, text and WhatsApp messages.
In a court order, Pachauri’s lawyers claim his emails, mobile phone and WhatsApp messages were hacked and that cyber criminals accessed his computer and phone to send the messages in an attempt to malign him.