The leader of the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change stepped down on Tuesday amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment in his native India.
R.K. Pachauri, 75, had chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 2002 and accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on its behalf.
The IPCC “needs strong leadership and dedication of time and full attention by the chair in the immediate future, which under the current circumstances I may be unable to provide,” Pachauri wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
He did not elaborate but pointed to his withdrawal from a meeting in Nairobi this week to attend to what the IPCC called “issues demanding his attention in India.”
Pachauri is being investigated in India after a 29-year-old woman accused him of sexually harassing her while they worked together at the New Delhi lobbying and research organization he heads, The Energy Resources Institute.
Pachauri denies the allegations and has said he is “committed to provide all assistance and cooperation to the authorities.”
The IPCC said vice chairman Ismail El Gizouli will serve as the panel’s acting chairman, and a vote on a new chairperson was already scheduled for October. Pachauri’s second term as chairman was due to end then, and he had said that he wouldn’t run for a third term.
Pachauri said in his resignation letter that he “would be available for help, support and advice to the entire IPCC in its future work in whatever manner I may be called on to provide.”