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John Kerry’s successor as US top climate envoy announced

John Kerry’s successor as the United States top climate envoy has been announced.

President Joe Biden has named senior adviser, John Podesta, as Secretary Kerry’s replacement, White House officials first confirmed to the Washington Post on Wednesday. Mr Podesta will begin his new role leading the Biden administration’s international climate policy in the spring.

Mr Kerry, who marked his 80th birthday at the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai in December, was reported to be stepping down from the role earlier this month.

The longtime senator and secretary of state played a key role in negotiations surrounding the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, or well below 2C. He is one of the better-known and most high-profile delegates at global climate conferences.

John Podesta, Senior Advisor to Joe Biden, is being elevated to the role of US presidential envoy for climate (AFP via Getty Images)
John Podesta, Senior Advisor to Joe Biden, is being elevated to the role of US presidential envoy for climate (AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Biden made the climate crisis a key priority for this administration and named Mr Kerry to the newly established envoy role soon after he won the election in 2020.

“In three years, Secretary Kerry has tirelessly trekked around the world – bringing American climate leadership back from the brink and marshalling countries around the world to take historic action to confront the climate crisis,” said White House chief of Staff, Jeff Zients, in a statement to The Independent.

“We need to keep meeting the gravity of this moment, and there is no one better than John Podesta to make sure we do. John has – and will continue to be – at the helm of driving the implementation of the most significant climate law in history.

“Having served the three most recent Democratic Presidents over three decades, he is an American statesman, a fierce champion for bold climate action, and a leader who without a doubt the world will know has the trust of and speaks for the President of the United States.”

A veteran Democratic operative, Mr Podesta, 75, oversees the $370bn investment in the clean energy sector from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

He is being elevated to the climate envoy position while continuing in his domestic-facing role. He will spend significant time working with the State Department on international climate issues, a White House official said.

However, he is expected to remain in an acting position as special envoy as a recent law made Senate confirmation necessary, The New York Times reported.

Mr Podesta was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, a counselor to President Barack Obama, and White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton.

Secretary Kerry called Mr Podesta “a longtime climate ally and advocate”, in an email.

“He will bring important expertise to the work ahead, particularly in respect to the down-to-earth challenges of implementing Cop28,” he wrote.

“We’ve made historic progress these last three years and I know that in his new role as President Biden’s Senior Advisor for International Climate Policy, John will continue to grow the momentum from Glasgow, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Dubai.”