WASHINGTON, DC, November 23, 2020 (ENS) – President-elect Joe Biden today announced key members of his foreign policy and national security team including, for the first time, a Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. To fill this new role, Biden has chosen former Secretary of State John Kerry.
In his new position as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Kerry will fight climate change full-time, and he will sit on the National Security Council. This marks the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting the president-elect’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue.
“America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,” Kerry said on Twitter soon after the announcement by President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team. “The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck.”
Along with Kerry, Biden announced his choices for a slate of cabinet-level positions: Antony Blinken, Secretary of State; Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security; Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence; Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; and Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor.
Biden said, “We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy. I need a team ready on Day One to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face, and advance our security, prosperity, and values. This is the crux of that team.”
“These individuals are equally as experienced and crisis-tested as they are innovative and imaginative. Their accomplishments in diplomacy are unmatched, but they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet the profound challenges of this new moment with old thinking and unchanged habits – or without diversity of background and perspective,” said the president-elect. “It’s why I’ve selected them.”
Kerry’s diplomatic talents have been tested. From 2013 to 2017 he served as America’s 68th Secretary of State in the Obama administration. He was the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to serve as Secretary in over a century.
As Secretary of State, Kerry elevated environmental challenges as diplomatic priorities, from oceans to hydrofluorocarbons. He was a key architect of the Paris Climate Accord, and signed the historic agreement to reduce carbon emissions with his granddaughter on his lap.
It was 2009 when Senator Kerry became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The first hearing he chaired was on climate change. He also negotiated bipartisan domestic climate change legislation.
Kerry won the Democratic party presidential nomination in 2004, but narrowly lost the election to incumbent President George W. Bush. Kerry stayed in the Senate and chaired the Committee on Foreign Relations from 2009 to 2013.
He earned a law degree from Boston College School of Law. After a period in private legal practice, Kerry was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1982. Two years later he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Earlier, as a Yale University graduate, Kerry volunteered for the Navy, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts.
Kerry’s 2018 memoir, “Every Day Is Extra,” was a best-seller. He has most recently been Yale University’s Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs and Visiting Distinguished Statesman at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace spearheading programming on climate change and oceans.
Kerry co-founded World War Zero to unite unlikely allies on climate change and is a Board Member of the American Security Project, a nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about “the changing nature of national security in the 21st Century.”
Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America director of the nonprofit climate advocacy group 350.org, said, “The appointment of John Kerry as a full-time international climate envoy aligns with the Biden-Harris team’s orientation to climate policy, and is a signal of commitment to collaborative action.”
“Secretary Kerry must prioritize working closely with Black, Indigenous, and communities of color around the world who are most impacted by the climate crisis, and young leaders calling for critical environmental justice and climate measures at scale of the Green New Deal,” said O’Laughlin. “We are ready to work with Kerry to sharpen the urgency and existential importance of the Biden administration’s climate plans, with emphasis on the Global South and commitment to advocating for the communities hit first and worst by the crisis.”
This summer, Kerry represented the Biden campaign in a unity council bringing together climate progressives like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sunrise Executive Director Varshini Prakash with more centrist voices around a shared climate platform, said O’Laughlin. “While this unity council strengthened Biden’s climate plan significantly around timeline and accountability for the fossil fuel industry, continued reliance on fracked gas, nuclear power, and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) remains a concern,” she said.