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UN “Dream Job” For Norway’s Former Environment Minister

Erik Solheim, UNEP's next executive director. Photo: Harry Wad
Erik Solheim, UNEP's next executive director. Photo: Harry Wad

Erik Solheim, Norway’s former environment minister, has been confirmed as the next executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Solheim tweeted that he is excited to take on his “dream job,” and said: “Together we will succeed!”

UNEP coordinates the UN’s environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It is headquartered in Kenya.

The news of the high profile appointment followed the announcement that Mexico’s former foreign affairs minister Patricia Espinosa is set to take over at UN climate change agency UNFCCC in Bonn.

Key Positions For Europe

Although Espinosa served as Mexico’s foreign minister for six years and worked at the UN headquarters in New York, she spent almost 20 years of her career in Europe.

With Solheim and Espinosa, two former government ministers with strong links to Europe will soon be running some of the world’s most important environmental organisations during a pivotal moment in the history of global cooperation on the environment, and climate change in particular.

Judging by Solheim’s enthusiam for social media, it looks like UNEP’s social media team may soon be getting some help in getting their message out. The Daily Planet can warmly recommend this overview of the EU’s 28 environment ministers and their social media accounts, should Solheim be interested in reminding them about the urgency of ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Solheim’s Experience

Solheim is known in Norway as the “green” politician, according to a UN press release, and held the combined portfolio of minister for the environment and international development between 2007 and 2012. He later served as minister for international development from 2005 to 2007.

Solheim currently chairs of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a post he has held since 2013.

Great Expectations

Achim Steiner, UNEP’s outgoing executive director, welcomed the news of Solheim’s appointment: “My wholehearted congratulations to Erik Solheim on his election by the general assembly to become UNEP’s executive director,” he said.

“Leading UNEP into the future at this critical juncture in history carries with it great expectations,” said Steiner, who is a Brazilian diplomat with German citizenship.

UNEP and Steiner recently collaborated with a number of organisations, including Climate-KIC, to produce an online course about solutions to e-waste. At current rates, an estimated 50 million tonnes of e-waste is set to be generated worldwide in 2018. E-waste includes used electronics ranging from mobile phones to refrigerators.

In a video message from UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi to support the project, Steiner said: “Together we can overcome this challenge,” and signing up for the online course “can be the first step.”

Participants also learn “how partnerships for mitigating climate change such as the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) Climate-KIC stimulate the transition to a greener, more inclusive economy,” Steiner says.

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