Biden Tabs John Podesta as Top Climate Diplomat

The outside of the White House with the Washington Monument in the background

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by | Feb 1, 2024

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President Biden has selected John Podesta to replace John Kerry as the United States’ top international climate representative.

Podesta is currently a White House adviser leading the clean energy elements of the Inflation Reduction Act and will remain in that role while becoming the senior adviser to the president for international climate policy. Kerry, who is the U.S. climate envoy, has said he will step down later this year but has not given an official date.

“As he assumes his new role, (Podesta) will bring both a deep understanding — and a proven model — for how countries around the world can enhance their ambition while unlocking a new era of clean, inclusive, and resilient economic growth,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “(Podesta’s) efforts and experience will be critical as countries around the world develop their next round of enhanced emissions targets, which are due early next year, as well as work to build out the global clean energy supply chains necessary for achieving our shared climate goals.”

Podesta, who joined Biden’s staff in 2022, will remain stationed at the White House. Kerry, a former secretary of state, was based out of the State Department. Kerry was the first special presidential envoy for climate.

According to a report in the New York Times, Podesta will not take on exactly the same role as Kerry because, under a new law, a special envoy needs Senate confirmation.

He told the New York Times that he plans to continue the momentum of Kerry’s work and that “I’m still 100 percent committed to making sure the IRA implementation goes right.”

The Inflation Reduction Act was passed in 2022 and includes nearly $370 billion in financing and incentives toward domestic clean energy projects and manufacturing. That piece of the legislation has been one of Biden’s big objectives in office, which includes the U.S. cutting emissions by at least 50% through 2030, using completely carbon-free electricity by 2035, and achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.

Kerry became climate envoy in 2021 and has been tasked with improving international relationships in the area as well as advancing U.S. strategy. He has been a key player in climate negotiations with China and developing rules on methane emissions.

At COP28 in December 2023, Kerry unveiled plans to advance international efforts on commercializing nuclear fusion energy. He also voiced concern about a lack of a clear decision on transitioning away from fossil fuel use.

Kerry has said he will now focus on helping with Biden’s re-election campaign.

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