Former secretary of state John Kerry helped broker the landmark Paris Agreement and signed it on behalf of the United States, a decision subsequently reversed by President Donald Trump.
Now, he is set to be President-elect Joe Biden’s climate envoy, in a clear sign of the upcoming administration’s renewed commitment to fighting climate change.
“I’m returning to government to get America back on track to address the biggest challenge of this generation and those that will follow,” Kerry tweeted shortly after his appointment.
“The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck.”
The announcement was welcomed by environmental groups such as the World Resources Institute, whose CEO Andrew Steer said: “There are few people in the world with as remarkable a track record on climate change.”
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.
The chief architect of the Iran nuclear deal will need all his skills as a statesman as the US looks to rebuild its strained credibility when it returns to the Paris accord, which Biden has vowed to do on the first day he takes office.
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,” he said.
The years of climate inaction under Trump have made the war harder to win.
Emissions from the world’s second-biggest polluter have been falling in recent years thanks to the increased contribution of natural gas and renewables – and this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the rate isn’t close to what is needed to achieve the goal Biden has set for the United States, of net carbon neutrality by 2050.