International climate change groups and influential advisers on the global shift from fossil fuels have written to the OECD expressing “grave concerns” over Australian politician Mathias Cormann’s bid to be its next secretary-general.
Former Australian finance minister Cormann’s record in a government that “persistently failed to take effective action” to cut emissions while blocking international action meant he was “not a suitable candidate”, the letter says.
Cormann is one of only two remaining candidates for the top OECD role after two candidates – Swiss banker Philipp Hildebrand and Greek politician Anna Diamantopoulou – withdrew earlier this week.
Corman’s move to place climate action at the centre of his campaign has come under sustained criticism from environment groups in Australia who have pointed to the record of the coalition government he was a minister in.
The OECD is expected to name its new secretary-general this month, with Swedish politician and former EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström the only other candidate left standing.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has promoted Cormann’s OECD credentials in calls with international counterparts in recent months.
Among the 29 signatories to the letter are the heads of Greenpeace International, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International and an umbrella organisation of climate campaign groups, Climate Action Network International.
Also among the signatories are Prof Rachel Kyte, a former special envoy on climate for the World Bank, and Farhana Yamin, a British environmental layer who is an advisor to a group of 48 countries highly vulnerable to climate impacts.
Several Australian groups are signatories, including Oxfam Australia, The Wilderness Society, The Australian Conservation Foundation and state-based conservation councils.
The letter to Christopher Shamrock, chair of the OECD’s selection committee, says: “As the world begins the monumental task of recovering from Covid-19 in the context of the need to take urgent systemic action to avoid a climate catastrophe that will further entrench poverty and inequality, we firmly believe that the public record of Mathias Cormann should preclude him from being selected as the OECD’s new Secretary-General.”
Cormann’s role as Australia’s finance minister between 2013 and 2020 made it “highly unlikely” he could play an effective role in advocating for ambitious action on cutting emissions, the letter says.
Cormann had been in a government that had abolished a carbon pricing scheme, persistently failed to take effective action to cut emissions and “acted as a blocker with international forums”.
The OECD needed to be a leader in tackling climate change, but Cormann had been part of efforts to thwart action, the letter said.
Earlier this week Shamrock issued a summary of the latest selection meetings. After OECD members had ranked their preferences for the role, the candidates from Greece and Switzerland withdrew.
Cormann has placed climate action and a “green recovery” from the economic downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic central to his campaign.
Last month he told the Guardian he would work with countries to deploy every policy and analytical capability available “to help economies around the world achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050”.