Head of UN climate panel skips meeting amid harassment case

AP News
Posted: Feb 22, 2015 2:08 AM
Head of UN climate panel skips meeting amid harassment case

NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian leader of the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change has pulled out of a key meeting in Nairobi while pledging to cooperate with New Delhi police investigating allegations of sexual harassment.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said its chairman, R.K. Pachauri, would skip next week's plenary session in the Kenyan capital "because of issues demanding his attention in India."

While the organization refused to elaborate, Pachauri is being investigated after a 29-year-old woman accused him of sexually harassing her while they worked together at the New Delhi lobbying and research organization he heads, The Energy Resources Institute.

The 75-year-old Pachauri said he was "committed to provide all assistance and cooperation to the authorities in their ongoing investigations," according to a statement issued Saturday night.

News reports said New Delhi police also plan to question a second woman who made public allegations against Pachauri on Saturday but provided no evidence and filed no police complaint.

Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat had no comment Sunday, beyond saying "the investigation is in progress."

The case erupted over the past week after a court lifted a media gag order Thursday and allowed Pachauri to apply for anticipatory bail. Newspapers have since run full-page stories detailing alleged text-message exchanges between the IPCC chief and the woman.

In the past couple of years, India has seen a wave of public anger and protest over this socially conservative nation's chronic problem with sexual harassment and violence against women. While new laws have increased prison terms for rape and made stalking, voyeurism and sexual harassment a crime, new reports of abuse are featured by newspapers almost every day.

The IPCC said Saturday that one of its vice-chairs would lead the Nairobi meeting, which begins Tuesday. Pachauri has chaired the climate panel since 2002, accepting the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on its behalf. He has said he will not run for a third term after October.