x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

IRENA head quits

Helene Pelosse, who has served as IRENA's interim director general for almost 15 months, will be replaced at a high-level agency meeting next week.

Helene Pelosse served as IRENA's interim director general for almost 15 months. Jaime Puebla / The National
Helene Pelosse served as IRENA's interim director general for almost 15 months. Jaime Puebla / The National

The head of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi has quit her post, it emerged yesterday.

Helene Pelosse, who has served as IRENA's interim director general for almost 15 months, will be replaced at a high-level agency meeting next week, according to a conference agenda. Member states will also use funds from Abu Dhabi to help to resolve a continuing cash shortage at the agency.

"Following the departure of the current interim director general, Helene Pelosse, a new interim director general will be nominated," the agenda said. "The procedure for the election of the director general will also be decided upon."

Agathe Remoue, an IRENA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reasons behind Ms Pelosse's decision to leave the agency. Ms Pelosse did not respond to a request for comment.

Her departure had been rumoured for at least a week in diplomatic circles in the capital.

IRENA has faced its share of challenges in its first year. A delay in financial contributions by the agency's biggest members, including the US and Japan, has left it with a US$8.4 million (Dh30.8m) budget shortfall, while member states remain divided over the agency's agenda, according to two diplomatic sources.

As recently as July 29, Ms Pelosse said she expected to remain in her position for years to come to encourage the growth of the nascent agency. She said she had a "mandate of four years" and expected to be confirmed as the permanent director general at the agency's annual summit between next January and March.

"IRENA is like a baby - it's an organisation that didn't exist so you had to build it up, you had to set it up, it's a long-term process," she said at the time. "We take years to get there."

Yesterday's agenda gave hope that IRENA will find a way out of its budget problems, which have resulted in a freeze on non-essential expenditure. A plan for next year's budget will involve 42 per cent of funds coming from the UAE as part of the bid it made to host the agency last year.

"An agreement will be reached on the 2011 budget and work programme," the agenda said. "The current discussions are based on a $18 million budget."

Thirty-eight per cent of the budget would be met with contributions by member states, with an additional 14 per cent and 6 per cent coming from special contributions from Germany and Austria, respectively.

Among countries that have ratified the IRENA treaty, Japan is the biggest state to have delayed contributing to IRENA, according to a document published on the agency's website last week. Japan is supposed to have contributed more than $2.1m, according to IRENA's estimates, which are based on a UN funding formula.

The US owes more than $3m, but it has not yet ratified the IRENA treaty.

Next week, member states also hope to finalise a headquarters agreement that will define the organisation's relationship with Abu Dhabi. By 2015, IRENA will take up residence in Masdar City, the carbon-neutral development at the edge of the capital. At present it is based at a temporary office near the Corniche.

The agreement's main clauses include "the diplomatic immunity of its staff members and the condition of the establishment of permanent representations", the agenda said.

Member states are expected to establish embassies and foreign missions to IRENA that will be wholly separate from their representation to the UAE Government, Ms Pelosse said in July.

cstanton@thenational.ae