New Zealand’s climate change ambassador Adrian Macey has been nominated as a candidate for the chair of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) negotiations. This is one of the two key strands in the United Nations (UN) climatechange negotiations and includes negotiations on targets for all developed countries except the United States and the rules that will apply to countries like New Zealand in future.

It’s a big role, and Adrian Macey has got the skills and experience needed to do the job.  But whether Adrian Macey gets it may depend on wider international political concerns than just whether he is up to it. It’s no secret that Adrian Macey wants to stop being New Zealand’s climate change ambassador. The last couple of years have personally been extremely tough for the New Zealand negotiators because of the workload and travel involved. Many changed jobs after Copenhagen. But the Government has failed to find a replacement climate change ambassador so Adrian Macey hasn’t been able to retire and is here in Bonn as New Zealand’s representative.

The current KP chair is John Ashe from Antigua and Barbuda. He was elected into the position in April 2009.

Earlier this year, in anticipation that John Ashe would step down from the role, the Umbrella Group of countries (most non-European Union (EU) developed countries, including New Zealand) and the EU met in Madrid in March 2010 and agreed that if John Ashe stood down Adrian Macey would be the developed countries’ nominee.

At a climate change meeting in Bonn in April, it emerged that John Ashe wasn’t standing down after all – and so two names entered into the ballot: John Ashe and Adrian Macey.

Now, this is not like elections in New Zealand. Diplomats like things to be tidy and although there is a formal election for posts like these, there’s not normally a contest. Instead, the diplomats (on behalf of their governments) agree in advance on the candidate and the vote becomes a formality. Having two candidates is a bit awkward.

So rather than put it to the vote in April, the decision on who will be chair of the KP was put off until June, i.e. the meeting that started today.

Meanwhile, there’s been some scurrying around behind the scenes to sort something out. Rumours are that some developing countries are nervous about having a chair from New Zealand because of New Zealand’s perceived lack of commitment to tackling climate change and that the EU may be getting cold feet about the nomination. This is what you get when the Government has a weak climate change policy.

A summary of where things got to in April is given in the draft agenda for the current KP negotiation session.

Adrian Macey has definitely got the skills and experience for the job. We’ll have to see whether the politics plays out in his favour over the next two weeks. But what we do know is that his position certainly hasn’t been helped by John Key’s lack of commitment to tackling climate change.

Geoff Keey, currently in Bonn