Indian environmentalist Rajendra Pachauri dies battling poor health and controversy

Subhra Priyadarshini

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.28 Published online 13 February 2020

Rajendra Kumar Pachauri

© S. Priyadarshini

Former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, died in Delhi today (13 February 2020) following a prolonged battle with multiple heart ailments and charges of sexual harassment. He was 79.

Pachauri, founder of Delhi-based The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), was the IPCC Chairman from 2002 to 2015. He received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the IPCC, jointly with former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore in 2007.

Born in August, 1940 in Uttarakhand, India -- whereabouts he set one of his fiction novel 'Return to Almora' -- Pachauri co-majored in Industrial Engineering and Economics from the North Carolina State University in Raleigh, United States.

The India government conferred on him the civilian honours Padma Bhushan (in 2001) and Padma Vibhushan (in 2008). Known as 'Patchy' to colleagues, Pachauri rose to international fame through TERI's work on sustainable development and with his exceptional climate change negotiation skills. 

In 2015, however, he had to step down from the leadership of TERI and that of IPCC after a former woman colleague slapped sexual harassment charges against him. A Delhi court framed molestation charges against Pachauri in 2018. The case is pending in the court, though Pachauri continued to plead innocent till the end.

TERI's present Chairman Nitin Desai called Pachauri's contribution to global sustainable development "unparalleled". In a statement, Desai said, "His leadership of the IPCC laid the ground for climate change conversations today."

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