WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will name former Secretary of State John Kerry as special climate envoy, his transition team said on Monday, a sign that Biden views diplomatic skills as vital to the job.
Kerry will have a seat on the National Security Council in the White House, marking the first time an official will be dedicated to the issue in that organization, Biden’s transition team said in a statement.
Biden has pledged to reverse course on climate from President Donald Trump who doubts mainstream climate science. Trump yanked the United States out of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate, and dismantled Obama-era climate and environment regulations to boost drilling, mining and manufacturing.
While secretary of state under former President Barack Obama, Kerry, 76, called climate change “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” In travels from glaciers in Greenland to the Solomon Islands, Kerry emphasized cooperation on tackling climate change.
He will face a challenging task of gaining the world’s trust on climate after Trump’s rejection of climate diplomacy. As Trump blasted the Paris agreement as being too expensive for U.S. citizens, China, the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter, positioned itself as a catalyst on climate, announcing new targets in September.
Before the landmark Paris agreement Kerry pushed for China and the United States, the world’s second-leading emitter, to agree targets on emissions and work toward a global deal.
Kerry, who was also a longtime liberal senator from Massachusetts and 2004 presidential candidate, will likely get a quick start as Biden, who believes climate is an urgent national security issue, has pledged to rejoin the Paris agreement soon after he comes to office.
But Kerry’s role will be wider than advocating for the world to act under the United Nations framework for climate. Kerry will also likely work with a counterpart, expected to be announced soon, focused on domestic climate issues.
“The challenge now is to really amplify and supercharge climate diplomacy not through negotiations, but making sure it is part of every country’s recovery from COVID and making sure it is a central pillar of policy,” said Nat Keohane who heads the climate program at the Environmental Defense Fund nonprofit.
Appointing Kerry as climate envoy “sends the strongest possible signal about the importance of climate action to the incoming administration,” said Paul Bodnar, who was a senior director for energy and climate under Obama.
Late last year, Kerry launched World War Zero, a bipartisan group of world leaders and celebrities to combat climate change.
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