President-elect Joe Biden announced his picks for a number of key Cabinet-level positions last week, and one major theme was a coordinated emphasis on fighting climate change.
Leading that emphasis was Biden’s creation of a new position, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, for which he tapped former Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry. Biden said of Kerry, “From signing the Paris Agreement on behalf of the United States as Secretary of State, to forming a bipartisan climate action coalition alongside the next generation of climate activists, his efforts to rally the world to combat climate change have been expansive and relentless. Now, I’ve asked him to return to government to get America back on track to address one of the most urgent national security threats we face—the climate crisis. This role is the first of its kind: the first cabinet-level climate position, and the first time climate change has had a seat at the table on the National Security Council. There could be no one better suited to meet this moment.”
Environmental advocates broadly praised Biden’s national security team selections. League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski said, “This is great news for international progress on addressing the growing climate and biodiversity crises. Former Secretary of State John Kerry will be a vital climate and conservation voice on the National Security Council and on the world stage. Antony Blinken as Secretary of State, Jake Sullivan as national security advisor, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as UN Ambassador further signal that this administration will bring a whole government approach to the climate crisis. They are all experienced leaders who will approach climate change in concert with our health, the economy, job growth, and racial disparities and will work to reestablish our nation’s international leadership.”
Other analysts made note of the new emphasis on climate, especially in Kerry’s new role. Washington Post analysts noted, “Installing the senior statesman into the newly created position gives it gravitas at a time when U.S. credibility abroad on global warming and other issues has waned under President Trump. The move also marks the first time the National Security Council, the main White House body for setting foreign policy, will include someone dedicated to climate change.”