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World
21 Nov 2018

UN environment chief, under fire for travel expenses, resigns

Under-fire UN environment chief resigns

UN environment chief Erik Solheim resigned yesterday after an audit questioning his huge travel expenses triggered an outcry.

A UN audit found that Solheim had spent nearly $500,000 on travel and claimed unjustified expenses at a time when UN is struggling with shrinking budgets.

The former Norway Environment Minister had been at the helm of the Nairobi-based UN Environment Program (UNEP) since Jun'16.

In context

Under-fire UN environment chief resigns

Solheim accused of showing little regard for the environment

Solheim's globe-trotting raised accusations that he showed little efforts to reduce carbon emissions generated by air travel. He said that he had received the final report of the audit of his travel expenses on Saturday and that "after deep reflection" had decided to step down.

Today will be Solheim's last day in office

Resignation

Today will be Solheim's last day in office

"As I have maintained throughout this process - I have been and remain - committed to doing what I believe to be in the best interest of UN Environment and the mission we are here to achieve," Solheim said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had accepted his resignation.

Today will be Solheim's last day in the job.

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Solheim's last tweet as UN environment chief

Audit report

UN Spokesman hails Solheim's contribution, doesn't specify reason for resignation

Spokesman Dujarric said Solheim had been "a leading voice in drawing the world's attention to critical environmental challenges"; he, however, did not specify that the audit findings had led to his resignation.

"The Secretary-General is pleased to see that UNEP is committed to implementing the recommendations that are found in the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report on the travel office," he said.

UNEP deputy director Joyce Msuya to temporarily replace Solheim

Replacement

UNEP deputy director Joyce Msuya to temporarily replace Solheim

The United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services had questioned the need for such extensive travel by Solheim.

Solheim's resignation comes ahead of crucial talks opening in Poland on December 2 on implementing the Paris climate deal, in effect since November 4, 2016.

UNEP deputy director, Joyce Msuya, of Tanzania, will temporarily replace Solheim while Guterres begins a search for a new environment chief.

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