UPDATED: Norway’s former government minister for the environment is set to become chief of the entire world’s environmental program. As newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported on Monday, Solheim will take over as head of the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP), with the title of “executive director.”
The appointment was confirmed on Tuesday by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Solheim had made Ban’s shortlist after several rounds of job interviews, and said Tuesday that he was “humbled and honored” by his selection. He also said he would do his utmost to put the environment at the top of the international agenda.
“We live in a world with enormous economic progress, millions of people are emerging from povery, but we also have considerable environmental damage,” Solheim told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Species are dying out and ecosystems are being destroyed. Climate change is a threat to us all.” He added that “nearly all the solutions” lie within efforts to make business far more environmentally conscious, and willing to invest in a “green restructuring.”
Solheim, who also once served as a UN Special Envoy trying to broker peace in Sri Lanka, was a longtime politician for the Socialist Left party (SV) in Norway. He held ministerial positions in Norway’s former left-center government headed by Jens Stoltenberg, who now serves as Secretary General of NATO.
Solheim currently lives and works in Paris, where he’s the head of the development committee for the OECD. Now he’ll be moving to Nairobi, Kenya, where UNEP is headquartered.
The UN itself describes the UNEP as the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda. Its mission is to “provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.” UNEP assesses global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends, develops international and national environment instruments and strengthens institutions so they can better manage the environment. It was the UNEP that, along with the world’s meteorological organization, established the UN climate panel, that has set the tone for adressing climate change.
Solheim, age 61, was also heavily involved in foreign aid while still a politician in Norway. He served as government minister in charge of both foreign aid and the environment during the Stoltenberg administration.