John Kerry, the former US secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee, has been named as a special envoy on the climate crisis under Joe Biden’s incoming administration.
Biden’s transition team said Kerry would “fight climate change full time” in the role, which for the first time will include a seat on the national security council.
This elevation shows the president-elect sees the climate crisis as an “urgent national security issue”, the Biden transition team said.
Kerry tweeted that “America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is.” The former Massachusetts senator, who ran for president in 2004, added that he will work with Biden, US allies and the climate movement to address the “crisis” of global heating.
As secretary of state, Kerry played a prominent role in the international effort to craft the Paris climate agreement, which commits countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid disastrous storms, heatwaves, flooding and other looming climate threats.
Since leaving government in 2017, Kerry has been sharply critical of Donald Trump’s dismantling of climate policies and the decision to remove the US from the Paris agreement. Biden has vowed to re-enter the Paris deal.
Over the summer, Kerry was part of a climate taskforce the Biden campaign used to develop its carbon-cutting policies.
The appointment of such a heavyweight political figure to a newly elevated climate position was warmly welcomed by environmentalists.
“John Kerry’s appointment is an encouraging signal that the US will make the climate emergency a matter of national security, but it’s only a step in what must be a bold new strategy,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Because Trump spent four years boosting fossil fuels and blocking solutions, the new administration must prove its commitment to drawing down fossil fuels and treating this crisis with the life-and-death urgency that it deserves.”
Seen as a moderate among climate campaigners, Kerry will probably be tasked with gaining support among Republicans for Biden’s sweeping $2tn plan to drastically cut emissions by generating millions of new jobs in renewable energy and other climate-friendly activities.
It is unclear how much success he will have if, as anticipated, Republicans remain in control of the Senate.