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Biden picks climate action advocates for top jobs

President-elect taps former secretary of state and Federal Reserve chair

by Cheryl Hogue
November 24, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 46


Photo from 2016 shows then-US Secretary of State John Kerry holding his toddler granddaughter as he signs the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
In 2016, when he was US secretary of state, John Kerry signed the Paris Agreement on climate change while holding his granddaughter.

US President-elect Joe Biden is backing up his campaign pledge to strengthen US climate change policy through his nominations for top government posts.

Biden named former secretary of state John Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts who served as the nation’s top diplomat under former president Barack Obama, has long been an advocate for action to fend off human-caused climate change. Kerry signed the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change on behalf of the US.

President Donald J. Trump withdrew the nation from the deal, a process completed in early November. Biden promised to begin reinstating the US as a partner in the Paris Agreement when he takes office Jan. 20, 2021.

Photo shows Janet Yellen.
Credit: US Federal Reserve
Janet Yellen

“As the US seeks to reassert itself on the international stage among institutions and allies addressing climate, we anticipate Kerry will be a key player,” says Scott Segal, a partner at the law firm Bracewell, whose clients include those in the energy sector. “Those interested in a sensible climate policy should welcome a figure with political experience and substantive expertise.”

Kerry will also serve on the National Security Council, ensuring that climate change will be on the agenda in top-level security discussions, Biden said a news conference Nov. 24. Kerry will be “matched with a high-level White House climate policy coordinator and policymaking structure to be announced in December,” Biden added.

Separately, Biden is expected to tap Janet Yellen, former chair of the Federal Reserve, as his Treasury secretary. Yellen is a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council, an international policy group that advocates for national taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, with dividends distributed to citizens.

Yellen will need Senate confirmation to take up the Treasury post. Kerry’s position as envoy does not require confirmation.

Biden’s announcements came as the World Meteorology Organization (WMO) reported that the economic slowdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t slowing the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas says in a statement.



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