Former US senator John Kerry, who was the secretary of state in former president Barack Obama’s administration, has been picked by President-elect Joe Biden as his climate envoy. Serving as the country’s top diplomat from 2013 to 2017, Kerry helped broker the landmark Paris Agreement from which President Donald Trump withdrew. Biden has vowed to rejoin the accord.
“Honored to be a part of this talented team. Let’s roll up our sleeves. Onwards!” tweeted Kerry on being appointed in Biden’s administration.
“It’ll be an honor to work with our allies and partners, alongside rising young leaders in the climate movement, to tackle the climate crisis with the seriousness and urgency it deserves,” he said in another tweet.
Kerry, a longtime Senate colleague, friend and political ally of Biden who stood by the president-elect when his candidacy was in crisis, brings to the table the clout and connections associated with being ex-president Barack Obama’s top diplomat.
Other than the Paris climate accord, Kerry was the chief architect of the Iran nuclear deal aimed at restricting the West Asian nation’s nuclear programme. Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018.
At the age of 76, the Democratic Party grandee who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004 has lost none of his zest for international affairs.
Last year he pivoted towards making climate his signature issue, launching a cross-party coalition called “World War Zero” that included top military officials, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Emma Watson.
“Things are getting worse, not better. So we have our unlikely allies coming together here… to treat this like a war,” Kerry had said, according to AFP.
Biden has set a goal for the US to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Back in 2015, setting a national carbon neutrality target of 2050 seemed radical. But since then, many have done just that, including the European Union.
China recently announced its intentions to get there by 2060, all the while scolding Washington for “obstructing” the global fight.
First on Kerry’s list, therefore, will be reassuring international partners whose faith was shaken by Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement and disdain for climate science, which in turn eased the way for countries like Australia and Brazil to weaken their ambitions, AFP reported.
It’s no small task, but Kerry has an established track record.
Beyond Paris and Iran, his diplomatic accomplishments include reaching a deal with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, and pacifying Pakistan in the wake of the Osama Bin Laden raid after the wayward ally protested it was kept in the dark.
That’s in addition to being a highly decorated veteran from the Vietnam war, which he signed up for while still a student at Yale University.
He later grew disillusioned with the futility of the conflict and became a nationally recognized anti-war activist who drew the ire of then-president Richard Nixon.
Kerry went on to become a lawyer, but was eventually drawn into the world of politics, becoming elected senator for Massachusetts.
The tall, patrician Bostonian, who sports a thick mane of gray hair and is known to speak French well, will need to hit the ground running.
Biden will be expected to unveil America’s new climate plan to the world ahead of a UN conference in Glasgow next November.