On March 21, Rajendra Pachauri, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, international climate change figure and founding director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute, was granted anticipatory bail after a sexual harassment claim was brought against him this winter.
According to the Economic Times, on Feb. 13, a 29-year-old female research analyst with The Energy and Resources Institute claimed that Pachauri had sexually harassed, stalked and intimidated her since September 2013. Following the report, 75-year-old Pachauri was able to obtain immunity from arrest, citing a medical condition. However, several weeks ago, Pachauri resigned from the Indian Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change and left his position as chairman of the United Nations Panel for Climate Change. In addition, he announced his leave of absence from The Energy and Resources Institute, where he serves as director-general. On March 21, Pachauri was granted anticipatory bail — a provision in Indian law that allows a person to seek bail in anticipation of arrest — by a Delhi court. The court ultimately granted Pachauri bail for 50,000 rupees, though the plaintiff’s counsel has stated that it will challenge the bail in a higher court.
The plaintiff, whose name remains unknown, has given the court two handwritten notes that she claims were written by Pachauri. She has also said she has thousands of emails from Pachauri that qualify as harassment. In March, the UN stated that it will not conduct its own inquiry into the allegations against Pachauri on the grounds that they do not concern the UN or its employees.
Until February, Pachauri served as the CEO of the New Delhi-based TERI, which has more than 1,200 employees to research solutions for global problems, such as energy and environmental development. In addition, he was the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 2002. From July 2009 until June 2012, Pachauri served as a founding director of the YCEI and a senior adviser to the organization until June 2014. During that time, he also served as a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science.
“There are charges being pressed against Pachauri that I heard from the news,” said Mark Pagani, current director of the YCEI and professor of geology and geophysics. “He has stepped down from the IPCC as well as from TERI. But other than that, there has been no personal contact [between Pachauri and the YCEI].”
Pagani added that Pachauri was selected by then-University President Richard Levin in 2009 to lead the newly established YCEI as its director, a position that Pachauri maintained until the 2012 change in leadership brought Pagani to the YCEI’s current directorship. Pachauri remained on the Yale team as a senior adviser until 2014, Pagani said.
According to Pagani, Pachauri contributed his name and reputation to the initial launch of the YCEI, but his presence on campus was minimal, as he was fairly occupied with TERI and the IPCC on the international front.
“He was busy with other things, and the [YCEI] was floundering a bit since there was no one really to care for it,” Pagani mentioned, adding that the YCEI mainly relied on Deputy Directors Gary Brudvig and David Bercovici to function effectively as an institution. Pagani was not involved in the administration of the YCEI for the first three years of its establishment, however, and he is unable to comment on the details of Pachauri’s directorship.
Chemistry professor Gary Brudvig, who was deputy director of the YCEI during Pachauri’s time, said Pachauri would come to Yale roughly once a month and attend various YCEI symposia and events. Brudvig added that, as chairman of the IPCC, Pachauri came to Yale with a high-profile position that contributed to the visibility of the YCEI at its inception.
Riddhima Yadav ’18, who worked with Pachauri as a part of the 2013–14 LEADearth Fellowship offered by TERI to support youth initiative in sustainability and environmental conservation, was surprised by the allegations facing the TERI director.
“It honestly came as a shock to me and to others involved with TERI. I don’t know if that’s something you could expect from a person like Pachauri — he has really strong work ethic and is very busy traveling all the time,” Yadav said.
Parker Liautaud ’16, who has met Pachauri through climate change activities inside and outside of Yale, said Pachauri is a quiet and soft-spoken person, but has impressive stage presence. He also said he and others have found these allegations especially surprising because Pachauri was so well-respected in his field.
TERI and the IPCC could not be reached for comment.
Pachauri holds a doctorate in industrial engineering and economics from North Carolina State University and also has over 20 honorary doctorates, including a Doctor of Humane Letters from Yale.