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UN senior official resigns after spending nearly $500,000 in travel

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Erik Solheim
UN
Environment chief Erik Solheim in New Delhi, India, June 4,
2018.

Manish
Swarup/AP


  • United Nations Environment Program chief Erik Solheim
    resigned, after he was alleged to have accrued $488,518 in
    travel expenses in the course of nearly two years, according to
    a previous report from
    The Guardian
    .
  • Solheim, who was in charge of the “global environmental
    authority that sets the global environmental agenda,” was
    revealed to have traveled for 529 out of 668 days, Reuters
    reported.
  • Critics described the audit’s findings as “mind
    blowing” and “obscene CO2 hypocrisy.”

United Nations Environment Program chief Erik Solheim resigned,
after he was alleged to have accrued $488,518 in travel expenses
in the course of nearly two years. His resignation is effective
Thursday, according to Reuters.

Solheim, who oversees the “global
environmental authority that sets the global environmental
agenda
,” announced his resignation after a report from

The Guardian
shined a light on a draft internal audit of his
official trips. (A final version of the audit has not yet been
made available to the public.)

“On Saturday, I received the final report on the audit of
official travel undertaken by the UN’s Office of Internal
Oversight Services,” Solheim said in a statement. “As I have
maintained throughout this process – I have been and remain —
committed to doing what I believe to be in the best interest of
UN Environment and the mission we are here to achieve.”

“For this reason, after deep reflection and in close consultation
with the Secretary-General, I am stepping down,” he added.

Critics described the report’s findings as “mind blowing” and an
“obscene CO2 hypocrisy,” according to The Guardian, who first
reported on the internal report in September.

Solheim reportedly racked up numerous air miles and hotel bills
and was estimated to have been traveling 80% of the time. The
UN’s internal audit said Solheim had “no regard for abiding by
the set regulations and rules,” and prompted countries like the
Netherlands, Sweden, and Demark to withhold funding for the UN
Environment Program.

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UN Secretary General António Guterres is believed to have asked
Solheim to step down, according to The Guardian.

“The secretary general, I think, is pleased to see that UNEP (the
UN Environment Program) is committed to implementing the
recommendations that are found in the OIOS (Office of Internal
Oversight Services) report on the travel office,” UN
spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

A
statement
 from the UN said the secretary general
appreciated Solheim’s service in “transformational change needed
to make a real difference in the lives of people and promote the
cause of the environment.”

“The secretary general is grateful for Mr. Solheim’s service and
recognizes that he has been a leading voice in drawing the
world’s attention to critical environmental challenges, including
plastics pollution and circularity; climate action; the rights of
environmental defenders; biodiversity; and environmental
security,” the secretary general’s office said in a statement.

Solheim, who reportedly claimed to have reimbursed some of the
travel expenses, appeared optimistic and said he would continue
to fight for environmental causes.

“I am sad to be leaving @UNEnvironment as we have achieved so
much together,” Solheim said in a tweet.
“I will continue to champion the cause of the environment!”

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