His colleagues call him the "Flying Dutchman" because of all the time Yvo de Boer spends in the air, traveling from one world capital to another as he tries to stitch together a global deal to cut greenhouse-gas emissions--and possibly save the world. As executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), De Boer is the UN's point man for the ongoing global effort to plan a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The deadline for a new treaty is coming up fast: at the UN climate summit that will be held in Copenhagen at the end of the year. Though a much more climate-friendly Administration has just taken power in Washington, the main conflicts that have held up talks in the past - including the division of responsibility between China and the U.S., the two biggest carbon emitters in the world--remain deep. De Boer spoke to TIME in New York City just a few hours before he was to be back in the air.