The world's latest organization, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), got its official seat and director-general in the past week. To the dismay of many of my colleagues, the seat went to the United Arab Emirates; the position of director-general, to Frenchwoman Hélène Pelosse.
I won't go into why the world needs yet another org; that would be another blog post. But I would like to clear the air on a few things.
First, the election of Pelosse was not a "major coup for the French government," nor was it a "further snub" for Germany. Rather, the German government was complicit in the entire affair. Germany did not even nominate anyone as D-G. Instead (my sources on the ground tell me), an agreement was reached behind closed doors: Germany would support Pelosse, and the French would support Bonn as the seat. Tit for tat between Germany and France, the way EU politics has always worked. Most interestingly, Germany did not nominate Hermann Scheer, the founder of Irena. Leading German politicians apparently felt that having HQ in Germany was more important than having a German as D-G.
Unfortunately, the behind-doors dealings got nasty. One person spoke out against the UEA as the seat on the basis of human rights issues -- and received feedback from customers saying, "Shut up, or you'll lose our business." So we know that Irena will be like every other international organization.
Some are concerned that a French D-G will undermine Irena because the French are the world's major promoter of nuclear. Pelosse has also apparently done little to support renewables. Her appointment is thus mainly political.
Pelosse has said she does not intend to bring nuclear into Irena through the "low-carbon" door. Now, she gets her chance to prove it.
And while the UAE, like Pelossi, have little to show for themselves in renewables, how long have many of us waited for the oil-producing Arab world to discover solar and wind, which they have lots of? The UEA has pledged $136 million to Irena. Ok, so they bought the org -- let's see how they use the funds, and let's work to see that they use it well.
So while all of this may seem like utter defeat to many of my colleagues, I urge everyone to keep up the good work. Had Scheer become D-G in Bonn, we might have expected too much and contributed too little. That won't happen now, will it?