Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate change official and lead negotiator in UNFCCC talks, has stepped down from his role just months ahead of the crucial year-end Paris conference.
Xie, who has been vice director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and in charge of climate policies since 2007, was removed from the list of NDRC leadership on its website along with two other senior officials, Zhu Zhixin and Xu Xianping.
Rumours have circulated in Beijing for months of Xie’s imminent retirement, but the NDRC has not made an official statement.
One new name was added to the NDRC leadership list – Zhang Yong, the former director of the China Food and Drug Administration. It is not clear which portfolio he will take over.
Xie’s retirement comes nine months ahead of the climate talks in Paris, where diplomates from over 190 nations are tasked with forging a new global pact to tackle climate change.
Although probably most famous for shouting at US President Barack Obama in backroom talks during the 2009 Copenhagen summit, Xie had built good relations with a number of other key delegates to the talks, including his US counterpart Todd Stern.
His retirement also comes at an important time for domestic climate policy.
The NDRC is currently designing China’s national carbon market, set to launch next year.
It is also finalising the climate policies that will be included in the next five-year plan, beginning in 2016, as well as drawing up China’s international commitments on curbing emissions.
Earlier this year, Sun Cuihua, the official in charge of designing China’s carbon market, also retired. The NDRC has yet to make an announcement about her replacement.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org