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An interview with Yvo de Boer, the United Nations' former climate-change chief

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It's hard to imagine how he could have gotten more curveballs in the first two years of his administration, with the economic crisis and the health-care issue. What gives me confidence is there's lots of people with their heart in the right place. I also think he has his brain in the right place.

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Where do you think the environmental movement is at this point?

At the end of the day, if the situation is that a significant portion of the people in the environmental movement believe the green [economic] growth story, but an even more significant number of people outside the environmental movement don't believe the green growth story, then it's just not going to happen. Very few governments are going to be willing to run their countries into the ground to save the planet.

What I am hearing more and more out of the private sector is they are willing to help shape the policies -- feed-in tariffs, tax incentives -- to do this. They're saying, "We can help you to design this in a way that works for us."

You got a send-off in Bonn in June from people in the nongovernmental organization community. They sang a song to the tune of "My Favorite Things" that included lines such as "Keeping Al Gore out of the Bella Center" -- where the Copenhagen talks took place. Is that really one of your favorite things?

I certainly never kept Al Gore out in the cold, and I put a lot of effort into getting him in. There are a lot of people who talk over your head [in the climate debate]. He talks right in your face.

I was very touched by the NGO send-off, and it was really heartwarming to get the send-off I did from the small island nations and the smaller developing nations. I think there was a time where some countries did see me, as a Dutchman, as a representative of the industrialized world. At the end of a time like that, getting the send-off I did from the small island nations and the developing nations really gave me the feeling that maybe I did something right.

What do you miss about your old job? And what do you enjoy the most about no longer doing it?

I've been with KPMG for two days. What's really nice is running into people who say yes all the time instead of saying no most of the time. What I do miss is the politics of the process, the pressure of the politics, because there are very significant national politics at stake.

If I can play any kind of role in bringing those two worlds together, and making the case where yes, we can have green economic growth, that would be would be really important.

It would be pretentious to say I'm a marriage broker. But if I can take my understanding of the political essentials and requirements with the business essentials and requirements, and help to get those two aligned instead of opposed, that would be like launching a rocket in this arena.


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