Klaus Töpfer, who is widely recognized as having spearheaded environmental policy as Minister of Environment in his home country, Germany, became Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in February 1998. Mr. Töpfer presided over a period in UNEP's history that has seen environmental sustainability become front page news and central to international development goals.
Among the milestones of his eight-year tenure are a number of important environmental agreements, including the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which addresses issue of genetically modified organisms, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Mr. Töpfer was also closely involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations in support of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which entered into force in February 2005.
His term at UNEP also saw the establishment of the annual Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which is tasked by the UN General Assembly to review important and emerging environmental issues.
In 2009, Mr. Töpfer was appointed founding Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany, which does research on climate problems and sustainable economics. He is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the German Foundation for World Population and on the Advisory Board of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction.