Joe Biden has been promising that he will make climate change a priority for his incoming administration, and on Monday he announced a major step forward in those efforts with the creation of the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, a new position that will be part of the National Security Council. Former Secretary of State John Kerry will fill the role.
According to the Biden-Harris transition team, Kerry's primary focus will be to "fight climate change full-time." The creation of the position marks the first time that the National Security Council will have an official who is dedicated entirely to addressing climate change and environmental issues. The creation of the new seat on the council suggests that the Biden administration intends to treat climate change as a national security issue.
"America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is," Kerry said on Twitter. "I'm proud to partner with the President-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the President's Climate Envoy."
The 76-year-old John Kerry has a strong track record on environmental issues and a considerable amount of national security experience. He served as President Barack Obama's Secretary of State from 2013 to 2017 and played a crucial role in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement. Kerry has a lifetime 91% approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters, which spans his 28 years serving as a senator.
Since leaving politics in 2017, Kerry has rededicated himself to climate-related issues. In 2019, he launched a climate change group called World War Zero. Made up of celebrities, politicians, and military leaders, the mission of the organization was to raise awareness about the threat of climate change and swing public perception to recognize the need to decrease carbon emissions. Earlier this year, Kerry teamed up with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to serve as part of the Biden campaign's climate coalition.
By bringing Kerry into his administration, and by creating an entirely new position to do so, President-elect Biden seems to be backing up his promise to keep climate change front and center for his administration. Biden has made it clear that he intends to take climate change into consideration with every hire, including treating it as the national security issue that it is — a fact that the Trump administration largely ignored despite piles of evidence suggesting that the warming planet will create a slew of new issues at home and abroad. Biden is expected to lead the US to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office and will likely execute a number of executive orders aimed at undoing the damage that the Trump administration did to the environment over the last four years. Not all of Biden's appointments have inspired confidence thus far, but carving out a role for Kerry to tackle climate change as a national security matter suggests that the incoming administration is taking the issue seriously.